It’s not difficult to make the case that the ongoing financial mess on Wall Street and TARP payments to some of the country’s biggest banks have victimized smaller firms. One victim is the investment management industry. A big challenge becomes being able to assure clients they can continue to trust them with their money.
As we have emphasized in previous blogs, having a workplace that engenders a culture of respect, engagement, trust, and fairness will aid in empowering your organization to keep clients. And how do you do that?
By inspiring your most valuable asset—your employees. When individual employees feel a part of the whole, they will invest more of their efforts on your customer’s behalf. And your customers will respond positively. Often a customer’s only perception of your business comes from their interaction with your employees. That presents a wonderful opportunity for you to become remembered as the deliverer of a great brand experience. The perception of being a caring organization will resonate well within the marketplace.
The employee factor is a powerful asset you already have that can offset market conditions. So ask yourself—what is your client’s perception of your company? Is their interaction with your organization conducive to them staying? Is your customer’s recollection of their entire experience with you, at all touch points, a good one? Is your organization still cautious about implementing an employee recognition and rewards program? Do these programs really work? Here are some success stories guaranteed to reassure you of the value of employee interaction.
Companies that have embraced the power of engagement
Bailard, a financial advisory firm, is an example of a company that overcame the battle scars of economic crisis. Started in 1969 by three graduates of Stanford University (Tom Bailard, Larry Biehl, and Ron Kaiser), Bailard built their employee base to 49 employees. Due to tough economic times, they had to institute pay cuts across the board. However, they never lost sight of their most valuable asset—their employees. By recognizing their people and emphasizing collaboration, they achieved 97% retention and were named Top Small Workplace in 2009. At Bailard, a strong workplace culture is put top on the list.
“As we work with our clients, we wear this openness and trust on our sleeves in all of our daily actions,” says Burnie Sparks, who has been with the firm for 27 years and is currently their President.
Campbell Soup Co.
In 2001, Douglas Conant was brought in from Nabisco to be chief executive officer of the Campbell Soup Co. One magazine called Campbell “a beleaguered old brand.” Sales for its largest product line were way down. Eight years later, Conant is well on his way to fulfilling the mission he set out for himself. He took what others called a “bad” company and lifted its performance to incredible heights. Campbell’s success story is described in a book by Julie Gebauer, Don Lowman. Among other changes made by Conant were his efforts on behalf of workforce engagement and recognition.
According to Conant, “To win in the marketplace we believe you must first win in the workplace. I’m obsessed with keeping employee engagement front and center and keeping up energy around it.”
The research firm Gallup found in 2002 that 62% of Campbell’s managers considered themselves not actively engaged in their jobs and a full 12% felt they were actively disengaged. Conant notes: “Those numbers were the worst for any Fortune 500 firm ever polled.” Today, Campbell’s story has changed 180 degrees. Now, 68% of all Campbell employees say they are actively engaged, and just 3% say they are actively disengaged. That’s an engagement ratio of 23 to 1, and Gallup considers 12 to 1 to be world-class.
This turnaround has benefited Campbell’s employees and stock holders, and boosted customer loyalty.
At Johnsonville Foods in Sheboygan, WI, the annual across-the-board raise has been replaced with a pay-for-responsibility system. As people take on new duties such as training, they are recognized and rewarded. This encourages their people to seek additional responsibilities and job-related knowledge. Engagement encourages employees to contribute ideas and participate in learning about the organization. Using today’s tools to train, engage, and inspire provides additional support. Today, more than 65% of Johnsonville employees are involved in some type of formal education.
“Helping human beings fulfill their potential is a moral responsibility, but it’s also good business. Life is aspiration. Learning and striving people are happy people and good workers. They have initiative and imagination—and the companies they work for are rarely caught napping,” notes CEO Ralph Stayer.
Colin Service Systems
Recently acquired by ABM industries, Colin Service Systems recognizes and rewards employees with an exciting three-day seminar experience at Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida.
Valvoline Oil Company
Valvoline Oil Company rewards their top employees from around the country with a racing school experience. It’s a day of fun and participation at Road Atlanta to learn race car techniques such as handling, braking, skid padding, and heel-toe downshifting.
Mike Jay of Leadership Synergy, a medical billing company in Scottsbluff, NE, described a sales program that strove to break past sales records. When certain fiscal goals were met, the entire staff was sent to Las Vegas for 4 days and three nights, all expenses paid. The result was a unifying experience for all and increased overall performance.
Coopers & Lybrand
Consulting firm Coopers & Lybrand rewards its top professional and administration employees with travel to cities like New York and overseas.
Tandem Computers, Inc.
Now a part of Hewlett Packard, Tandem Computers was the dominant manufacturer of fault-tolerant computer systems for ATM networks, banks, stock exchanges, telephone switching centers, and other similar commercial transaction processing applications. Using a peer-to-peer recognition program, employees would nominate coworkers for outstanding performance achievement. The awards included events such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, special seating at a rodeo in Calgary, and numerous other free vacations.
American Academy of Opthalmology
Karen Nouchi, a director of personnel at American Academy of Opthalmology in San Francisco, recognizes and rewards exceptional employees with personal travel overseas that includes friends and family.
Steps you can take to improve employee engagement
• Install a recognition and rewards program that encourages teamwork,
learning, problem-solving, open and accessible communication, respect, trust,
• Maximize the ROI on your incentive plan with tools to measure the level of
engagement and then go forward to equip and train employees.
• Know your strategic metrics scores. For example, turnover and quality of hire
are two of the most common strategic metrics. They list on the top as factors
affecting your organization’s health. It cannot be over-stated that engagement
will assure you of an incentive program with the full potential for stimulating
improvement in all areas. Use an employee survey and institute the
latest reporting and management tools to track and score progress.
• Identify your performance drivers along with the critical attitudes, behaviors,
skills, and employee needs in order to think and act like a collaborator in
The present economic landscape raises the question—employee engagement, can we really afford spending time on this right now? The fact is and will continue to be that it is more important than ever to engage the hearts, minds, and efforts of your workforce. Don’t let your business get left behind.