Thursday, June 27, 2013

Zurich CFO Trots Globe To Hear, Engage Employees

Boosting employee engagement doesn't always require a top-to-bottom change in corporate culture or even in internal brand communication.

Sometimes it can be as simple as just letting staffers know you're listening to them--and that their input is valuable, whatever management actually does with their feedback.

Take, for example, what the chief financial officer of Zurich North America, an insurance company, recently did to foster employee alignment with her decision to reorganize the internal finance structure of the company. Instead of just writing up a plan and shipping it out to all of Zurich's regional offices around the globe, Dalynn Hoch opted to have 100 intense "interactions" with groups of employees in those areas before beginning such a move.

Using that format, reported, employees "felt empowered," Hoch said at a recent event hosted by CFO magazine. "They didn't feel like we dropped in." They saw a "global roadmap" of how they fit into the organization.

"You cannot just push transformation. You cannot just pull transformation. You actually have to go through a process that grabs the hearts and minds of your employees of your business. You have to do it in a way that they want to be engaged."

Hoch noted that employee engagement is her first priority. "Your employees need to be proud," she said. "They need to be attached to the mission, that strategic direction of your organization."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How One Company Is Turning Tables On Obamacare Grief

By now we've all gotten used to the fact that the requirements of Obamacare are driving a wedge between ownership and management of many American companies, and their rank-and-file employees.

Many organizations are cutting hours of their part-time staffers, for example, so that their work week doesn't exceed the 30-hour threshold that soon will require them to buy health-care insurance for these workers or pay a penalty to the federal government.

So it was refreshing to us to read of at least one company that is turning this challenge on its head and actually using the sweeping changes of Obamacare as a tool for promoting employee engagement and loyalty.

Cumberland Gulf Group announced that it will maintain or expand some workers' schedules to make them eligible for company-sponsored care even before Obamacare kicks in early next year. An executive told the Wall Street Journal that the increased costs for care will pay off in the long run with better employee retention and customer service.

And this isn't some initiative just on the company's fringes. The Framingham, Mass.-based owner of Cumberland Farms convenience stores and the Gulf Oil brand said that an additional 1,500 workers will be reclassified as full-time and become eligible for company-sponsored health insurance in advance of the Obamacare deadline.

These workers already were working more than 30 hours a week -- but not the 40 hours previously required for access to the company insurance plan, the newspaper reported. Because Cumberland decided to make employee satisfaction and retention a corporate priority, that meant expanding access to benefits.

That's pretty refreshing. While clearly the political battle over Obamacare will continue in Washington ad infinitum as the new law gets rolled out, savvy employers -- like Cumberland -- should be looking for ways to use the law's provisions, where possible, to gain the engagement and loyalty of their staffs, not only fret about the very real challenges in how Obamacare may diminish the company.

For each individual enterprise, that may mean something different. But Cumberland Gulf Group has found its own way to set an example.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Building the Case for Employee Engagement -- ASTD replay now available

Last week, Inward Strategic Consulting had the privilege of presenting a live webinar on Building the Case for Employee Engagement hosted by the Association of Training and Development (ASTD). Allan Steinmetz and Yash Chitre of Inward co-presented the live webinar with over 120 participants in attendance online. If you missed it, you can catch a free replay of the informative presentation, courtesy of ASTD at

By listening to the replay, you will hear how employee engagement is often thought of as a soft and non-urgent business imperative and why it is important for corporations to align the behavior of their employees with the brand and business strategy of the company, so that it provides better customer experiences and loyalty. See case studies and hear from the experts on best practices to inspire and engage your employees around your business mission and strategic goals.

In addition, if you enjoyed listening to this webinar, we'd be happy to provide you with a copy of the presentation by email; simply send a note to and request your copy today.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Highlights from Our Work at the Conference Board Event on "Extending Your Brand to Employees"

Just a few short weeks ago, Inward Strategic Consulting completed its third consecutive year as sponsors of the Chicago Conference Board Event – "Extending Your Brand to Employees". With each year of sponsorship, we see more and more organizations recognizing the power of their employees in delivering on their business strategies and brand promises. And it’s exciting to see how this increased interest in employee brand engagement is reflected through both the quality and the quantity of our event attendees. This year, nearly 150 senior communications, HR and marketing executives from top-notch companies and organizations participated.

As event attendees, we were treated to great presentations by leaders representing a wide variety of industries – from healthcare to consumer brands and financial services to academia. We learned about best-in-class practices for brand ambassador and employee advocacy programs, communication initiatives and company portals, building brand communities and how to utilize emerging gamification trends to engage employees in new, fun and innovative ways. 

From Inward, we were honored to have our own Whitney Cook co-present with our client Kurt Templeton, Director of Innovations from Walmart Stores, Inc., and share some of the unique work we are currently doing for them as their agency of record. In addition, we were thrilled to have another client of ours, Leslie Tiongco, Global Director of Internal Communications for McDonald’s, present the work Inward is doing for them on an exciting gamification program, custom-built to educate, inspire, drive changed behavior and reward and recognize their employees.

In addition, those who wanted to learn even more about improving upon their employee engagement efforts were invited to join us at our post-conference workshop. Here, 30 attendees were shown a codified, proven process for developing a comprehensive employee engagement program and driving internal alignment.

If you weren’t able to make it and would like to hear a summary of all the great information obtained during our two-day conference, please let me know. I welcome the opportunity to schedule a call to share these learnings and best practices with you. And I assure you, it will be well worth an hour of your time.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

'Inspected By': Could Signing Work Be a Difference-Maker?

Remember how every piece of clothing you bought had a little piece of paper in a pocket that said, "Inspected by No. 5," or whatever? While anonymous and sort of weird -- presumably the result of some strange regulation of the apparel trade -- it gave you at least a tenuous connection to the human beings who actually were making your clothes.

An intriguing article on Inc.'s web site this week raises this idea again and elevates it to a new level: What if employees all signed their work? Is this an idea that actually could work in some form to more actively engage employees in their tasks and, in turn, intrigue and attract consumers?

"Sort of like bylines on articles or employee-signed presentations, the Dodd-Frank mandate that CEOs attest to financial statements, the requirement that politicians 'approve this message' when they buy advertising," wrote Jeffrey Pfeffer in Inc.'s The Company Ethicist feature, "the very act of signing something creates a stronger psychological link between an individual's identity and their work. This connection will make them take the work and its integrity much more seriously."
 Pfeffer cited the example of Soichiro Honda, who once said during a presentation that one of the reasons his cars were of higher quality was that when they broke down, people were cursing him and his name.

Of course, having employees physically "sign their work" is impossible in many businesses. But in many others, it's not. And even where a real signature is impractical, maybe it would be an encouragement and incentive to employees if there were some other way for them to personalize their output -- to leave their initials on that idea on the PowerPoint presentation, for instance.

Or put a little business card in the pocket of the next shirt you buy.

We're wondering if any of you are intrigued by this idea as well and have notions about how it actually could take shape. Let us know.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Crave Creativity? Here's How Leaders Can Encourage It

Innovation and its close sibling, creativity, comprise the Holy Grail for companies worldwide that are trying to work their way out of slow and slowing economies and attract wary consumers.

But the only way to guarantee a constant stream of meaningful innovation and an environment that encourages creativity is for leadership to organize and plan for it. So it was interesting to see a piece in the Wall Street Journal the other day which offered ideas on how to do that.

"Creativity," wrote Justin Brady, a graphic-design-agency owner and speaker on the topic, "is not the product of gimmicks." Rather, he said a creative environment "comes from only one thing: leadership."

And in his experience, Brady found that creative environments are "cultivate by leaders" who do three things:

Listen: Actively listen, don't just "hear," Brady advised, "keep[ing] eye contact and strain[ing] to find meaning" in what the speaker is saying. "You discover insights that weren't obvious before."

Empathize: It "takes work" to "put [yourself] in the other person's shoes" but "this shift of focus is dynamic," he said, "and unlocks explosive creativity."

Trust: "Some ideas or concepts won't make sense to anyone but the innovator," Brady wrote, but "trusting is the final step of the creative process."

What do you think of these leadership criteria for "creating creativity"? Any that you would add?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Join us for a Webinar - "Building the Case for Employee Engagement" on June 13

Inward Strategic Consulting would like to invite you to join Allan Steinmetz, Founder & CEO and Yash Chitre, Vice President in their ASTD-sponsored webinar presentation of Building the Case for Employee Engagement.

Employee engagement is critical to business success. This webinar explores why it is important for corporations to align the behavior of their employees with their brand and business strategies and how engaged employees help businesses to maintain an advantage over competitors.  

Join us as we address the factors that motivate engagement and the importance of performance-based metrics in tracking progress. Learn from case studies and develop a roadmap for effective measurements, metrics, and processes to enhance your organization's commitment to engagement.

Below are the full details of the upcoming webinar. Please follow the link for more details and to reserve your spot today. 

Building the Business Case for Employee Engagement
An ASTD-Sponsored Webinar Presentation
When: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Time: 2:00 PM- 3:00 PM EDT
Presenters: Allan Steinmetz and Yash Chitre of Inward Strategic Consulting
Register through ASTD:

Thank you so much and we hope you can join us.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What Motivates Enterprise Gamers? You Might Be Surprised

As we work on "gamification" programs for top-notch companies that are seeking greater employee engagement, we've been learning a lot about what motivates people to want to do better, learn more and satisfy their customers.

And when it comes to playing digital games to learn more about their company's products, services and brands, you might be surprised to find what gets them to strive to do well and win at these activities.

It's not necessarily material gain or even tangible recognition. What we've found in this growing part of our practice, at many clients, is that employees just like to be able to say they beat their coworkers.

Imagine those player performance rankings that are part of every social video game, whether it's online or at the arcade: Employees participating in gamification activities mainly just want to sit atop those rankings. So providing simple bragging rights are a really important component of most successful gamification programs.

Sure, we're finding that some enterprises also want to offer prizes such as gift cards and branded t-shirts and other swag that recognizes and promotes the brand and the employer, and many employees appreciate that stuff.

So far, most employees don't seem to be interested in types of "badge" recognition that are big in certain forms of consumer social gaming. Badgeville and Bunchball have caught on in a big way in those formats, and maybe some day at least virtual badges will serve as a motifying force in internal gamification. But for now, they seem a little bit corny to most people as a tool for employee engagement.

In any event, neither badges nor prize hardware can hold a candle in enterprise social gaming to the notion that employees can trash-talk one another about their gamification performances. And that actually makes sense. As long as it's friendly competition, bragging rights are a great way for employees and management to spur one another to get the most out of today's increasing number of gamification platforms.

Monday, June 3, 2013

From Stretched to Strengthened: Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study

It’s no secret, the digital revolution is among us. The increasing influence of social media, peer-to-peer sharing, mobile marketing, and interactive advertising has changed business as we know it. So, how do we deal with the emergence of digital platforms? How do we manage the plethora of data available and use it to deliver value to customers? It begins with understanding the new realities of the marketing landscape.

In 2011, IBM published a study asking CMOs to address their take on the digital revolution and the fundamental shifts transforming organizations and the world. “From Stretched to Strengthened: Insights from the Global Chief Marketing Officer Study” presents the findings from face-to-face interviews with more than 1,700 CMOs across 64 counties and 19 industries. The survey revealed an overwhelming consensus about the following challenges facing CMOs and the general sense of unpreparedness to managing them:  

1.      Delivering value to the empowered customer - The customer has control over the business relationship. With the ability to shop around the globe, track the behavior of organizations, and share their opinions with millions in a matter of seconds, customers are empowered like never before.

2.      Understanding the individual not the market - Very few CMOs are fully utilizing the power of digital platforms to gain insight on their customers. Instead of relying on traditional sources of information to analyze markets, it is time to focus on what individual customers need and desire. In today’s digital world, engaging with customers through social networks is imperative for understanding what they value and what they expect.  

3.      Fostering lasting connections with customers - Customer loyalty is a powerful force. A disappointed customer can so easily go elsewhere whereas a satisfied one can be a tremendous ally and advocate for your brand. Building relationships with customers that last well beyond the point of sale is critical. Use social media as a tool to engage with customers and citizens at every stage of the customer lifecycle.

4.      Emphasizing corporate character - Customers can easily discover details about how a product is made, how a company treats its employees, and its stance on environmental and social issues. Align your corporate culture with your external brand to establish consistency and loyalty. Build a workforce that both embraces and exemplifies your corporate character.    

5.      Capturing value and measuring the results of marketing efforts - CMOs are under pressure to monetize the results of their marketing initiatives. Capture this value by hiring talent with a broader mix of skills. Partner with external agencies who specialize in digital data management and, most importantly, expand your own frame of knowledge and skills to avoid playing catch-up as the business world continues to move forward.   

The digital revolution is not slowing down. If anything, the future promises to be more complex and overloaded with data. By understanding the challenges of the shift to a digital world, we reveal the opportunities.