Be Honest: Do You Have An Honest Culture?

Honesty: The Secret to Success and A Brandful Workforce

The success of an organization is closely related to an honest company culture. A 2010 Corporate Executive Board study found that companies encouraging open and honest feedback among its employees experienced superior shareholder returns over a ten year period, outperforming others by 270 percent. In the study, from 1998–2008, companies with honest feedback among their staff. Impressive numbers, but do they hold up?

To find out, Fierce, Inc., a leadership consulting firm, conducted its own research. The firm surveyed over 1,400 executives and employees, finding that the vast majority–99 percent–preferred a workplace where staff members were able to discuss issues truthfully.

Honesty may make a company a “happier” place to work, but the Fierce survey uncovered an even more important finding–70 percent of respondents believed that a lack of candor impacted their organization’s ability to perform at its best. There were various reasons for this belief, among them the argument that small problems could be identified early on, arming managers with the information needed to make decisions.

But, unfortunately, a culture of open and honest feedback doesn’t occur organically. In a recent article Halley Bock, the CEO and President of Fierce, provided four key tactics to improve your company’s communication and encourage open and honest feedback.

  1. Be Current and Brief. Resolve problems faster by addressing issues as soon as they arise.

  2. Don’t Sugarcoat the Issue. Don’t cushion confrontational situations with compliments or small talk, tell colleagues or employees what’s at stake and review the steps required to address the issue together.

  3. Keep Positives and Negatives Separate. Focus only on the positive or negative when it is warranted and don’t muddle the issues in a “compliment sandwich.”

  4. Use a Social Networking Approach. Enjoy higher employee morale, improved productivity, better retention and increased bottom-line success through candid dialogues between managers, employees and coworkers.

These tips might not be easy to implement, but they’re well worth it. In the end, nurturing a workplace culture of honesty and open communication will not only increase the level of happiness your employees experience in the workplace–it may also increase the value of your brand and your revenue. And what business wouldn’t want that?

This guest post was contributed by Erin Osterhaus of Software Advice, a firm that offers advice to HR professionals as they research new HRIS purchases, and provides reviews and buyers guides of HR software. Erin is the Managing Editor of The New Talent Times, a Software Advice blog offering tips on talent management and leadership skills to those in the HR space. To read Halley Bock’s original article, click here.

What Do Employees Do All Day?

When employees achieve progress at work, they not only feel valued, but they truly are valued.  They want to succeed and be part of the success, just like being brandful is being part of a successful brand. An easy way to help connect your employees to your company’s accomplishments is to find out what they actually do all day, and make sure they are able to make the greatest individual impact. You’d be surprised what you can uncover – that you didn’t know – especially the time-wasters and inefficiencies in your operation. When I was at JetBlue we conducted a project within one department to find out where employees were spending their time. And then we looked for inefficiencies. Usually these types of projects point out if there are duplications of effort (there were), processes that need improvement (boy- who knew it took so long to do a simple task?) or tasks that can easily be eliminated (we don’t need that anymore). This kind of work can be done every 2-3 years and can be very useful for organizations that experience change.

It can also be helpful to organizations who want to build a brandful workforce – a workforce that promotes the brand of the organization – because the more employees can directly connect their work to the products or services being delivered, the more likely they are to be brandful.


America’s Not Got All The Talent

This week I was in Las Vegas speaking at a conference on workforce planning. This topic explores how organizations can best plan for the right mix of talent competencies they will need in the next ten years to achieve success. Not easy with the retirement of many baby boomers. It was interesting to note which skills will be needed and where there are voids – for example: computer programming. We have to bring in computer programmers from outside the country right now to fill this gap. Some organizations are already beginning to take action to address the need for more computer programmers such as who produced this video, encouraging our youth to get involved.

One of the most compelling speakers was the President of Devry University, who seemed to be on the constant lookout for the latest talent needs of the nation’s largest organizations. He wants Devry to be able to provide employers with folks who are ready to take the company to where it needs to go. His team creates new programs specifically for organizations that are at a standstill in finding the talent they need. And they will take existing talent and give them new skills until a new talent pool can be created. I give him a lot of credit. While many educational institutions are struggling with ineffective business models instead of course content, his focus is on solving real issues with education.

And being in Vegas, I was expecting to see a couple of brandful employees from Zappos, which I did. So what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in girls

Should Every Employee Be a Brand Ambassador?

I’ve seen organizations designate certain employees (over others) to be brand ambassadors. They have a set of criteria and if the employee lives up to it, he is chosen. This doesn’t make any sense to me. What message does this send to the employees who are not brand ambassadors and doesn’t every employee represent the brand anyway?

Don’t worry about the potential bottom 5-10% of your staff who are underperformers or “problem employees.” These folks already suck way too much time and attention from your managers and should be held accountable.  It’s like the problem child that gets all the attention when the good kids are left alone because they are doing what they’re told to do. Keep the focus on the ones who deserve it. Having a brandful workforce simply means that you have employees who genuinely love your products and/or services. If this is true, they are more likely to behave in a way that promotes your brand. The level to which they actually do this may vary according to each employee’s personality and lifestyle, and it should be genuine.  I believe this simple concept has been left out of most organizational strategies and I do believe that employees are the biggest missed opportunity in branding today. Don’t miss the boat on this one.