Posts Tagged ‘communicate with employees’


Although it was a cold day in winter, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling.  The CEO of the company where I worked pulled me aside during his annual Christmas meet and greet employee meeting, looked me straight in the face and said, “Thank you so much for all the great work you do for us, Camille.  We really value and appreciate your contribution.”  And for a few seconds after he said this, I felt as if I could have given the company back the bonus cheque I received a week earlier.  Personal recognition from the CEO was priceless.

So several years later, with most of them spent leading cross-functional teams and direct reports, I finally nailed down the real reasons why I entertained the absurd thought of refunding a hard-earned bonus cheque.

  • Essential alignment of personal values and corporate values

After a particularly unpleasant experience with a previous employer, I vowed never to work anywhere where management did not walk the talk of their corporate values.  More importantly, there should be no conflict between my core values of truth, integrity and respect and those of my employer.

Respect was listed among the company’s values.

Pulling me aside to say how much my contribution was valued was in my view, a genuine act of respect coming from the CEO, not just for my work, but for my personal and professional commitment to the success of the company.   I didn’t feel that he was being politically correct or doing his duty to be polite.

In later years when I did have to manage a department, I learned a very hard lesson.  If the personal values of a highly competent employee are not aligned with corporate values, the best designed bonus compensation plan is ineffective.

  • Personal recognition of a job well done is more impactful than a formal recognition program

The company had a formal recognition program, governed by a process of nomination and specific selection criteria.  Exceptional actions and contributions to special projects were recognized in the formal program.  The consistent delivery of good work was not.

Very often, the employee doing the most critical work is several steps away from the front line.  In my case, I was the one preparing the quotation and response to the request for proposal, and the data required for the finalist presentation.  This was my job.  My work was reviewed and approved through a long chain of command.  I felt honoured that the CEO had taken the time to find out who were the behind the scenes contributors.  His personal statement of appreciation meant more to me than seeing my name among the crowded list on the Recognition Program roster in the quarterly employee bulletin.

  • Fitting in & contributing to something larger than oneself

People need to feel that they are contributing to something larger than themselves, and that their contribution really makes a difference.  The CEO clearly made me feel that the company needed and valued my contribution.

Employee recognition and the employer brand

And this last point leads me, as a marketer, to make the connection between employee recognition and the employer brand.  The employer brand defines for employees, why the organization is a great place to work and sets expectations for employees’ experience throughout their career there.

Employee buy-in to the employer brand creates engagement, encourages discretionary effort and results in committed and outstanding performance, which is the basis for employee recognition programmes.  To be meaningful, the employer brand has to be brought to life, and if not, it remains an empty set of words.   

Bringing the employer brand to life is all about equipping employees to do their jobs with enthusiasm and building commitment to the company’s values.  To do this, I have three suggestions:

  1. Human Resources and Marketing should work together in the on-going management of the employer brand. When there are changes to business strategies, the employer brand must also be adjusted and communicated to employees.
  2. Business leaders and managers should commit to an on-going programme of internal, bi-directional communication activities so that employees understand the importance of the role they play in the success of the company.
  3. A mix of formal recognition programs and opportunities for leaders to give employees personal recognition goes a long way to motivate employees.


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important




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Consider this question: Whose needs must be met first for businesses to succeed – the shareholder, the employee or the customer?

For some people, the answer is clear cut, a no-brainer. Others will reply, “it depends” as the answer will be found in the most compelling case made by any of the three stakeholders. For me, the answer is obvious—it’s the employee. When it comes to creating the conditions for business success, the needs of the employee must always come first. Customers and shareholders ultimately benefit from the contribution of employees who either make or break the success of the business.

This way of thinking is quite similar to the philosophy of Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, a company that was consistently successful while its competitors endured bankruptcies and losses. Building a strong corporate culture that emphasized good, fair treatment of employees and making work fun has been the hallmark of Kelleher’s tenure and legacy. Southwest employees are treated well. They love their jobs and it shows in the way they treat their customers.

Treating employees well leads to “greater discretionary effort” – another way of defining employee engagement. Greater discretionary effort means that employees go way beyond their job description. Gallup reported that 71% of American employees are not engaged in their jobs. The Canadian Human Resource Centre reported that 75% of employees in this country are not engaged. The Centre estimates that unhappy, disengaged employees cost the economy $350 billion annually in lost productivity. No one can deny that low employee engagement adversely impacts productivity, innovation and business success. It’s time for companies to think differently about the ways in which they can instill and nurture an engaged workforce.

A new way of thinking
What if employers were to treat employees as customers? This is an idea worthy of consideration. If a company found that 70% of its customers were not engaged or loyal to its brand, this would certainly be cause for alarm and action. The high level of disengagement would certainly not augur well for the future success of the company. The marketing department would be mandated to immediately gather customer feedback, identify and understand the underlying causes of disengagement and dissatisfaction. Steps would be taken to communicate and engage with customers, in ways that build understanding and trust. Resources would be found to remedy deficiencies in product quality and service delivery.

Yet this is not the case with employees.

If employers were to see their employees as customers, they would take a similar approach to redress the adverse results revealed from employee engagement surveys. Correctly applying marketing principles and models would positively impact the outcome of internal communications efforts, the ways in which training and organizational development needs are met and the design of benefits plans and compensation programmes.

Taking steps in the right direction
Finding out what employees think, their values, preferred communication channels and styles are essential components in the development and delivery of every kind of employee programme. The following suggestions on how employers may treat employees as customers are similar to the way in which successful companies uncover customer needs and respond to customer concerns.

  • Listen, act and measure. Survey employees often to uncover sources of satisfaction and challenge to the way they do their jobs. Take action to respond to survey results. Measure satisfaction and engagement and track year-over-year progress.
  • Segment and adapt. Identify demographic groups and treat each group as a market segment in the same way that marketing does with the organization’s clients. Segmentation should guide the format of various programs and initiatives – e.g. the use of
    internal communication channels, the range of options in benefits plans and socially responsible activities.
  • Treat employees as adults. Empower employees to make decisions that meet their needs – e.g. provide sufficient information to support the selection of options for their benefit and pension plans.
  • Communicate clearly and often. Provide access to communication channels that allow for open and transparent communication and ensure that any promised follow-up action is taken and communicated. Town hall style meetings with senior executives provide forums for explaining in-depth the reason for changes in policies and programmes that impact employees.
  • Give employees reasons to be loyal. For example, implement career development programmes and encourage learning and innovation. Keep employees informed about the role they play in the company’s success and reward fairly those whose contribution impacts the achievement of corporate goals.

This post was published on Your Workplace, 3 April 2013.

See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.


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