Tag Archives | employee retention

Don’t Hype Your Employee Branding…Make It Real

Earlier this week, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch managed to get his mitts on some rather juicy inside information from Google. Turns out that the tech darling isn’t the career paradise that it’s been made out to be. For all the gushing that us outsiders did over their innovative benefits and employment practices, perhaps it was all just hyperbole. From the post:

One message stands out though in most of the posts – employees thought they were entering the promised land when they joined Google, and most of them were disappointed. Some of them wondered if it meant they were somehow lacking. One person sums it all up nicely:

“Those of us who failed to thrive at Google are faced with some pretty serious questions about ourselves. Just seeing that other people ran into the same issues is a huge relief. Google is supposed to be some kind of Nirvana, so if you can’t be happy there how will you ever be happy? It’s supposed to be the ultimate font of technical resources, so if you can’t be productive there how will you ever be productive?”

There are some cautionary lessons to be extracted from this if you’re not only on the hook for your organization’s employer branding but employee engagement.

The reality doesn’t match the expectation. This is a failure of the brand to deliver the expected experience. Consumers rail against companies that deliver poor brand experiences, particularly when the brand has been hyped to the nth degree (e.g., Chevrolet, Sprint, Microsoft Vista). So, why does employer branding get a relatively free pass?

Individuals wanted to work for Google because it was supposed to be different than the norm, had innovative benefits, promoted a fun workplace, etc., etc. Turns out that maybe these were a clever facade masking a workplace and company that were just humdrum. If you want to sell the sizzle, that steak better not come out limp and soggy.

Professional failing is personal failure. It pisses me off when I hear stuff like this. Why? Because there’s a hellacious management problem here that no one is apparently trying to resolve. If a manager is going to wear the big hat and call him- or herself a leader, they better start with making sure that their people are getting what they need to be – and feel – successful. If an employee is struggling with their work, you better believe that’s likely going to get internalized as a “personal” problem. It’s a one-way ticket to not only poor engagement but a morale freefall.

When the going gets tough, uniqueness gets crushed. Yeah, I know…it’s tough out there for business. I get it. Now get over it. Everybody’s impacted so don’t think for a second that you’re special (hell, even Microsoft is laying folks off). So rather than curl up in a ball do something that none of your competition is likely thinking about right now: become even more unique and remarkable. Trust me, your competitor is hoping you’ll lay low like them. Instead, do something that will make their management wet themselves. Actually engage in employer branding. Build a workplace model where the people you have are doing their best not because they’re scared to death they’ll lose their job tomorrow if they don’t, but because they genuinely care about their work and their organization. Go out and look for the talent that’s looking for a place to make a difference (there’s plenty of good folks out there now).

Don’t waste this perfectly good opportunity. Be a leader, show some guts, and build something special when no one else appears to be doing it.


Five Ways To Treat Employees Like Customers

Do you treat your employees like your customers?

Perhaps that’s a bit of a loaded question. It could be that your organization treats customers like months-old rotted fish. If that’s the case your employees are the least of your problems so go and fix that…seriously, go and fix it.

Good. You’re still here. Let’s start by asking a few questions:

  • If you learn that a customer is dissatisfied with your service, what do you do to make things right?
  • If you learn that a customer is no longer buying your product or service and is now going elsewhere, what do you do to change that?
  • If you learn your overall customer satisfaction is lower than you want, how long do you take before you decide to do something about it?

Okay, now let’s swap out customer for employee and answer these questions again. Do you approach them with a similar mindset? What if your organization applied the same degree of focus on the internal retention of employees as it does on the external retention of customers? Stephen Covey wrote a few years ago:

Some organizations talk a lot about the customer, and then neglect the employees who deal with the customer. This mindset produces unmotivated employees, worker-manager disputes and poor business results.

If you’ve been unknowingly neglecting the folks inside your organization…it’s okay. You can begin to make things better right now with just a few bold changes.

1. Make employee satisfaction everyone’s job. Just as customer satisfaction should be owned throughout the organization and not the exclusive concern of one team or department, the same must be said for employee satisfaction. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is solely a human resource issue. Every single manager and leader must be responsible for the well-being and care of employees.

2. Find out how your employees are doing. Savvy organizations employ a wide variety of more traditional tools such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups to determine the state of customer satisfaction. Now, put these methods to work inside your organization. Start by having an open dialogue with employees (note that if this is something new in your organization, you’re going to also need to build trust in order to get candid responses). Schedule regularly occurring organization-wide town hall sessions devoted to workplace issues, successes, and challenges. And even though I’m not a fan of employee surveys, they can be effective in support of these other information gathering methods.

3. Make social media one cornerstone of your strategy. Don’t worry about whether or not you understand social media…I’m suggesting that you apply some guiding principles that drive it. These principles include authenticity, transparency, and shared ownership. Appreciate and encourage informal connections between employees and managers, particularly connections outside the more formal hierarchical lines. Lead the kind of change in how people within your organization relate to each other.

4. Communicate openly and often. If your customers hate being left in the dark about how you plan to improve their experience, your employees hate it even more. Don’t be a miser with information, even if you think it’s unimportant. Publish your plan for everyone to see, show the positive progress, show the places where things aren’t going as smooth, and be upfront with lessons that are being learned along the way. When there’s an absence of information, employees will definitely create whatever they want to fill that vacuum.

5. Finally, take decisive action. If you introduce these initiatives into your working culture, it’s absolutely necessary to take swift and consistent action. The key to success will likely rest in whether employees feel these changes are authentic and not just another “flavor of the month” activity from management. Empathize with your employees who may have been snakebit by change initiatives in the past and may view this with a wary and skeptical eye.

Remember that creating a passionate and remarkable customer experience begins with truly passionate and remarkable employees and working culture.


Hidden Talents Part 1: Talent, Retention, And The New Realities

Before diving into the idea of hidden talent, we should take a step back and examine the current understanding of talent. Before 1997, the concept of talent was pretty much exclusive to the entertainment industry. That changed when McKinsey published their seminal study called The War for Talent. Whether or not you buy into whether there’s continues to be a war or not (particularly with our current sensitivities toward actual war), I think we can agree with the central thesis: that a post-industrial era company’s most vital asset is not bricks, widgets, or equipment; it lies in the intangible qualities of the company’s people.

Yet, if that’s true then why do so many organizations typically do a lackluster job at attracting, managing, and engaging talent? The answer lies in the persistent use of old school human resource practices and industrial age thinking about employees.

The Struggle to Attract and Keep Talent
The interesting trend is that recruitment continues to outpace retention when it comes to attention and innovation. But then, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Getting something (or someone) new has always been sexier than trying to keep them. I learned that in a past-life working in nonprofit association membership management. When I compiled my monthly member data reports, my Boards and Executive Directors always asked first about the growth statistics. “How many new members did we get? Which recruitment effort worked the best? Etc, etc, etc.”

However, for all of this attention and innovation, employee recruitment often continues to be disconnected from the issues of retention. Think of the typical sales cycle within most companies: marketing creates a branding image and sales continues to build on this image to close the deal. What happens if this carefully crafted image turns out to be more myth than reality? You have some very pissed off customers on your hands (think: JetBlue, Microsoft Vista, General Motors for some recent examples of unrealistic branding). The very same thing happens in organizations. New talented employees are lured in by slick employer branding only to find that the reality of working there is quite different. Again, pissed off employees who are feeling disenchanted and devalued.

And this feeling isn’t exclusive to newer hires. If organizational changes are made that negatively disrupt that initial branding or a more recent employment experience (think job description changes or management shake ups), then you can expect a similar type of disengagement. The fact is that if left unengaged, your people will be shopping their themselves and their talents even in not so good economic times. Michael Gregoire, President and CEO of Taleo Corporation recently wrote:

Today’s workforce is in control. Employees want to understand how they are connected to the company. They want to know how they can progress. They want to work at a place that fits their lifestyle choices. As employers, we have been placed in the unenviable position of needing to market our companies to our employees each and every day. If we neglect to engage our own employees, those who are frustrated can surf hundreds of job boards to see what other opportunities await.

A Refreshed Look at Talent
While talent is often defined as a natural aptitude or skill, I take a wider view of it. It’s not just about raw intellect or strictly defined as having an Ivy League education. I see a talent as something unique to an individual. I also see it as a gift; a gift given to each of us that we can use in service to others. Some of these talents are immediately evident, particularly those that match up with our job descriptions. But we know that job descriptions, while necessary, can be limiting unless employees are given the room to explore outside of their boundaries. Each of us have been endowed with talents that not only energize us when we use them, they are an organization’s prime source of innovation, passionate enthusiasm, and competitive remarkability. In short, these hidden talents are one of the critical elements in creating a culture of high employee engagement that leads to long-term organizational success.

This week, I’ll be exploring hidden talents, why they are important, how to surface and use them in work, and ways to embed them in organizational culture. I’m looking forward to the rich dialogue we’ll cocreate together.