Category Archives: Measurement

Missing the target on employee engagement? It could be your AIM…

Red and White target with three arrow

Much of what is written about employee engagement centers on metrics such as retention rate, turnover, employee satisfaction, loyalty, productivity and the like. These are quantifiable, measurable, readily extrapolated and analyzed for trends. The nature of outcomes is that they are dependent upon drivers, or causal factors which, in turn, influence or shape the numbers.

When it comes to engaging your workforce, there are three drivers I believe are particularly important. Remember the acronym “AIM”. They are:

  • Attraction
  • Inspiration
  • Mobilization

First, it is important to understand that you can’t directly create retention. Prisons can do that. Your company can’t. So if you wish to reduce defection, you need to improve those aspects of your organization that will continually, consistently attract your employees. Many firms seek to attract new talent to their ranks, but fewer recognize the need to make that a dynamic facet of the workplace experience. An employee who is emotionally connected to the mission, vision, values that are demonstrated (not just published, but routinely evidenced by the acts of leadership) will be less likely to seek other, more potentially satisfying, alternative employment options.

Take a critical look at your workplace, from the viewpoint of the employees. Are they empowered to feel as if they are “the most valuable assets” of the company? Are their needs, desires and goals heard and respected up the organizational chain? Do they trust that leadership has their interests atop the strategic priorities? Is there opportunity for growth and development for all employees?

Next, consider how your organization inspires the associates and managers to deliver innovation, balanced with compliance and the need to perform the perfunctory aspects of their individual roles. It is estimated that 80% of the knowledge within your company is tacit, existing in the ranks of the employees but not formally harvested or broadly accessible. How do you inspire your employees to look beyond the existing paradigms, to chart improvements that leverage what they know, individually and collectively, to help shape the processes and protocols that define the broad limits of your growth? Some firms, such as Coca Cola, provide for a percentage of the work week where employees are encouraged to pursue ideas, in tandem with others across the company, which they believe will deliver a more positive future. The freedom and permission to think bigger than their day-to-day responsibilities is a source of inspiration to the employees.

Finally, the very essence of engagement as a measurable objective is to create, sustain and accelerate positive change…to lead the company and the market, rather than follow or try to catch up. If engagement is the antecedent, then mobilization most certainly is the consequent. Alignment around a consistent vision along with adoption of values across the organization, fueled by an inspired workforce and enlightened leadership, is what overcomes corporate inertia. In an ideal world, positive change begets positive change. In reality, positive change will only bring more positive change if the environment (culture, workplace factors, and leadership) and the broader market direction are evolving at compatible rates. That will be a subject of a future post.

In business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve. You get what you AIM for.

A collaborative model for employee engagement initiatives…

employee-engagement1

One of the most talked-about challenges in business today centers on more fully engaging your employees. We have discussed this need on ideationz a number of times, and from a variety of perspectives. From increasing key productivity metrics, to reducing unwanted terminations, to improving the customer experience, to building a more nimble, innovative organization, there are myriad ways to measure the benefits of an engaged workforce.

Recently, I authored a White Paper, “A model for collaborative design, definition and implementation of an effective initiative to drive and sustain employee engagement.” That’s a long title! But there are a number of key factors that must be addressed, including:

  • Where do I start the process?
  • How will I set benchmarks for the current situation?
  • What are the “New Rules” of engagement?
  • How do I approach the definition and design process?
  • What are the most important variables that  make up an effective plan?
  • What about implementation? How do I approach that?
  • Where should I measure the effort and how?

You will find all these questions discussed in the White Paper. Would you like to receive a copy? Simple enough. Please just complete the form below and I will send you a .pdf. All I ask is that should you desire to republish it, that you ask for my permission and acknowledge the origin of the piece.

In 2013, virtually all of the biggest marketing and organizational challenges we face tie back, on some level, to the willingness and ability of our employees to create and deliver new value in the marketplace, and innovation within our firm. Failing that, it will be awfully hard to maximize our potential, and, in some cases, even assure the sustainability of the company over the long-term.

I hope to hear from you, and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the subject!

Why do so many engagement initiatives fail to launch..?

In an economy marked by slow/no growth, and rising commodity prices boosting raw materials costs globally, many organizations have bought into the benefits of reducing unwanted churn and improving productivity by better connecting employees to the company. At best, these efforts are complex, calling into review many facets of the relationship that associates have with their employers. Elements that may be considered include trust, alignment, perceptions (real and imagined), expectations, satisfaction, compensation, growth potential, culture and values, to name just a few.

Linkages between employee loyalty and consumer preferences  (as well as employee loyalty and channel partner effectiveness) have been drawn. Satisfied, productive and committed employees are increasingly sought after as a source of competitive, financial advantage. One essential book on the subject is titled, “Employees First, Customers Second” (Harvard Business Press, 2010) by Vineet Nayar. The author focuses on transparency, trust, and top-down accountability as key factors in transforming the organization and engaging the employees. By accessing, nurturing and rewarding employees for bringing forward innovative ways to add value to their customers, Nayar believes he has found a new source of competitive advantage, in shifting the center of strategic thinking from the executive suite to those closest to the needs and opportunities of the marketplace.

A brand-new paper published this week by McKinsey is titled, “Finding The Right Place To Start Change”. Similar in some regards to the prescriptive messages of Vineet Nayar and other thought leaders, the McKinsey piece espouses that the first step in driving engagement is to identify those in the organization that are most connected, and to leverage their support to build momentum across the company. If you have read more than one or two posts on Ideationz, you will recognize that a number of the foundational elements in both the book and the McKinsey article center on factors that we have promoted as essential to corporate health and longevity. Specifically:

  1. The need to align your employees (or channel partners or consumers) with the mission and the values of the organization as well as their role in propelling the vision forward,
  2. The tandem aspects of willingness (to change) as well as ability to see, plan and act differently, and,
  3. Identifying and tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) to mark progress in critical areas.

I have seen this play out in many global organizations, particularly those who seek to capitalize on talent and innovation in far-flung geographies worldwide. It’s hard enough to capture and operationalize new thinking within a single corporate entity or on a headquarters campus. It is another story altogether to build not just the technology, but the connectedness among associates in different geopolitical  environments, cultures, and time zones.  Technology helps, but it takes more than that.

Those who are successful have a distinct upper hand on those that cannot implement the “one company, one world” credo. You never know where the next great idea, product/service, technology or scientific breakthrough is going to come from. As such, the strategic need for inclusion and connectedness transcends an HR practice or policy. The value of engagement reaches across disciplines, and demands a complex plan for execution. The rudiments to getting started, however, need to be simple and consistent. Everything begins with a vision for the future. From the vision will emerge a mission, or a purpose for being, which complements the future vision. The core values set the tone for marking off what are acceptable boundaries for the firm. Goals cascade into objectives, and those who are responsible for driving results must build actionable plans that address the four cornerstones of engagement which are summarized above (alignment, willingness, ability, and measurement).  These plans of action need to be designed with implementation in mind, and monitoring stations created to determine the operational success of the effort (i.e., is the plan being implemented across all key audiences, and where – if any – are the gaps), as well as the impact the initiative is having on behavioral outcomes. The impact may be cited in metrics such as enrollment, activity, milestones achieved, etc. The culmination of engagement efforts are the business results which are manifested (i.e., is the organization achieving the goals and objectives defined at the start of the process).

These are complex, big-picture aspects of a process that, if adhered to, will create forward motion while shedding light on those groups which lead/lag the middle of the organization. Those who are on the leading edge represent an emerging point of leverage, effectively opening up a broader base of engaged constituents to nurture and encourage.

More will come of this in future posts. For now, I would advocate that you examine how well aligned the executive team is, and to carefully consider the stated vision, mission, values, goals and objectives for the company as well as the plans that cascade from them. This will become your launching pad for everything which follows. From there, you can begin to assess how well you are meeting the needs of the four defined cornerstones, and then move deeper into determining where gaps or roadblocks may exist. Gaps are, on one level, simply unmet opportunities, often occurring as a result of misaligned expectations or processes. Roadblocks serve to define previously undiscovered synergies.  The value which comes from beginning with a broad coalition of executive support, encompassing HR,  operations, finance, administration, manufacturing, sales/marketing, r&d  and technology represents the fuel that will get your efforts off the ground. And that is, after all, the most basic requirement of a successful launch isn’t it?

On maximizing channel performance…

I had the pleasure of spending time this week with a high-tech client that is looking to build upon an already successful network of dealers, resellers and VARS. In our discussions, I introduced five considerations that are at the core of channel expansion, and thought they were worth sharing here. I’d love to hear back from you with additional ideas, thoughts and comments. 

Any strategic effort to maximize channel engagement, productivity and overall performance should incorporate the following elements:

1. To align and complement the positioning of the both the OEM and the resellers. In other words, to the end customer, the promise of the brand must align with and be reinforced by the message of the dealer. If the brand is all about one set of values, and the channel is positioned in conflict or contradiction to the OEM, the customer will sense the dissonance and may elect to opt out of the purchase. If a manufacturer is going to build a long-term relationship with  “Certified” or other similarly-designated dealers, they must be tethered to a consistent promise.

2. Dealer or reseller salespeople generally gravitate toward what is “easiest” for them to sell, finding the “path of least resistance” to the customer’s solution. Example: If a customer has a competitor’s hardware already installed, the salesperson may choose to simply opt for selling additional product of the current vendor, rather than creating a compelling case for change. Only by training, role-playing, and coaching, will that salesperson elect to pursue a alternative, more challenging, path to the sale even if it is in the best interests of the customer to do so. It is not enough to simply make available product learning to the indirect salesperson. There must be a more robust and holistic approach to channel sales development. This implies ongoing, perhaps interactive, communications, training, measurement, coaching, leadership and behavioral reinforcement to drive positive change.

3. Both the manufacturer and their channel partners should have clearly defined and agreed-upon KPIs to target and deliver against. At a basic level, there needs to exist a “win/win/win/win” scenario that embraces the manufacturer, the reseller, the reseller rep, and, most of all, the end customer. Only by lining up all these considerations will the path to a more effective sales process be opened.

4. There must be economic compatibility, or, in other words, mutually attractive financials for both the manufacturer and the channel partners. This is really a specific subset to item #3 above, but requires that the profit and CLTV considerations be attended to and addressed. A dealer is in business to grow and seek maximum long-term profitability. The OEM needs to be competitive in terms of pricing and dealer margins, and bring a solution that maximizes customer lifetime value. This is basic, but too often overlooked in seeking a quick-and-immediate solution.

5. Finally, the manufacturer needs to be visibly present, with high top-of-mind awareness across the reseller organization. Only by effectively institutionalizing the channel relationship, making the value proposition, product mix, long-term vision, delivery and reliability promises, and the integrated “wins” visible on a real-time basis, will the OEM optimize the channel.

These are lofty and challenging objectives. However, by creating strategic “buckets” and identifying where/how each channel variable serves to address the big-picture, the manufacturer is moving closer to realising it’s goal of long-term expansion.

Would love to hear back from you with your thoughts and ideas on the subject.

Thanks for coming by today!

On the virtue of predictability…

It’s everywhere you turn these days… Stock markets rise and fall on rumors and perceptions… Economic forecasts are clouded with so much uncertainty as to render them useless… Politics and fiscal reality seem to collide over whose set of ‘facts’ you choose to align with…. There is nothing that seems to be reliable, consistent or, least of all, predictable.

Consider your own business. Absent sound market data, how much do you budget for advertising, promotion and media? With such a wide disparity between ‘worst case’ and ‘best case’, how do you know where to fix an estimate for what is ‘probable’? Lacking a sound revenue forecast and facing some uncertainty regarding operating expenses, will you fund new product development, or hiring, or for that matter, any variable cost?

Predictability has never commanded a greater premium. If I could prove that making an $X investment in sales effectiveness, marketing, or cost reduction processes will deliver a projectable and certain increase in revenue, or market share, or a drop in costs, you would have to look favorably upon that option. Particularly when so much has seemingly drifted out of our span of control.

The question you have to ask yourself and your organization is: When I present to a prospective customer (internally or external) do I support my proposal with a sound business case that is grounded in data? Or, do I lead the discussion with aspects such as product ‘features and functionality’?

It is commonly said that stock values “rise on rumor and drop on facts”. Success in the B2B market is exactly the reverse. Decision-makers respond to credible, data-driven assessments of outcomes that mitigate risk with certainty. Your bright, shiny personality (the old “warm handshake and a cool drink”) may help you get in the door, but you will need a sound financial scenario to get to the table and be seriously considered.

How will you build predictability into your customer acquisition and retention strategy? I can forecast with absolute certainty that doing so will positively impact your success!