The Future Is Now…No Now

I recently spoke at The Learning Forum’s gathering called, The Future of Innovation and The Work of Innovation, held at Convene’s newest conference center in lower Manhattan . Key takeaway: The future is here. It used to be that the future was very far off, say fifty years down the road. Now, we invent the future every day and advancements are much quicker than ever.

I can’t think of a better organizer for this topic than my colleague, Brian Hackett. He brings executives together on key topics like analytics, innovation and learning, to discuss challenges and wins, directly with one another. His forum is effective because there’s nobody trying to sell anything, only meaningful dialog that adds value to what you’re doing.  As well, members join for a year or more at a time and meet three times per year, so when you attend a forum, you can continue conversations and check in on progress. This kind of format attracts those executives who make good peers. This means they are not only willing, but prepared to share their expertise to help others. As well, they truly want to engage, ask questions and gain insights from the rest of the group, as it relates to their current and future goals.

At the latest session, one participant commented that he has stronger relationships with peers at The Learning Forum than with his peers at his company. I’m not sure whether things are bad at his workplace or just exceptional at The Learning Forum, but it’s interesting to note.

Food for thought from the conference:

  • Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation in the future.

It has already been proven by neuroscientists that intrinsic motivation leads to better performance than extrinsic motivation.  This explains why there is a current shift toward culture as a key component of success. Traditional means of attracting employees with pay and incentives continue to be questioned as emphasis on culture, values and purpose continue to rise as top motivators of performance. This supports the brandful approach of employing people because of their genuine interest in the products and services, which expands the criteria for selecting and retaining employees. Having employees participate in the evolving brand is the highest form of intrinsic motivation, as they are creators of the success.

  • Employees versus contractors

Some discussion focused on the trend to hire more contractors and temporary workers as opposed to employees. What does this mean for the future workforce? How will this impact productivity and engagement? The ability to quickly integrate workers in and out of the organization seamlessly, regardless of their status will be critical.  As well, a strong brand (internally and externally) will be an important component of this process.

As a side note, I met with an executive at American Express this week who commented that LinkedIn’s talent brand index was unhelpful as it calculates the strength of your brand based on activity from your employees on LinkedIn. With 50,000 recruiters who are not employed by American Express, the index is not helpful.

  • Paying employees to learn versus hiring expertise externally

It’s not as easy as before to hire externally. Someone with a top track record at another company doesn’t necessarily spell success at your organization. As well, there’s not a lot of great talent pool out there as new skills are constantly needed. I learned from the Dell innovation team, in attendance, that it may be easier than you think to build the talent yourself. But it clearly takes a visionary and eye for potential talent within the organization. I was intrigued to learn that Dell pulled a team from across the organization (highly intelligent folks) and paid them to learn for the first number of months. That’s the investment part, however most companies pay as much to headhunters. Dell’s innovation team struck me as being on the forefront of innovation and they had only been in existence for four years.  Great example for anyone interested in doing the same.

  • Creativity and Value has no boundaries

Who could imagine that a global company like Lowe’s would hire a start-up science fiction innovation company to help plan their future? Kudos to Ari Popper, Founder of SciFutures, who spoke at the conference about his incredible approach to envisioning the future and creating it.  There are no boundaries to what might interest today’s CEOs as they are all challenged to maintain an edge on the competition. Watch the news to see the fruits of his work.

Finally, I can’t end this post without mentioning my colleague Andrew Tow, who shared some of his wine from The Withers Winery at the evening reception. For someone like me who cannot hold alcohol very well, I was able to enjoy his low alcohol-high flavor wine thoroughly. Now that I’m done with this, I think I’ll have a little more.

Send me your thoughts about the future of innovation and the work of innovation. Don’t forget to check out some other blog posts from The Brandful Workforce. Purchase the book.

AOL Has Guts. Do You?

We all know the story of the first day on the job, and things not seeming the same as they did in the interviews.

Is your advertised culture what it really is? It’s tough to compete for talent. Some companies try to be as hip and cool as their competitors, but are they really who they say they are?

Last month, I conducted a webinar with my colleague, Susan Amori, Senior Director, AOL Talent & AOL Cultural Ambassador Program. Susan and I spent an hour with our listeners, most of whom were recruiters. I shared my how-to approach on attracting and hiring employees who would best serve the brand. (See my book, The Brandful Workforce for more info on that.) Susan chimed in with specific examples from AOL.

My favorite example from Susan was how AOL organizes informal events for employees to bring in friends and potential future employees. Being a content company, it aligns with the AOL brand to attract thought-provoking speakers and draw in top talent. These events create introductions and comfortable peeks into the AOL culture, for perspective workers. The AOL team maintains a contact list of everyone who attends their events and later can tap into that resource in their hiring efforts. According to the brandful workforce approach, this program simultaneously supports their business and their employees.

Later on in the webinar, I spoke about the importance of employee involvement in the continued evolution of the brand. Selecting employees who want to participate in shaping the future of the company is a win-win for any company and especially AOL. That’s when Susan mentioned the AOL hackathons. These are specific days in which employees are encouraged to think up and submit new ideas and collaborate across the company. If you don’t have this kind of program, you should think about starting one. Your employees may be sitting on your next big product or new service, and you don’t even know it.

But back to the employee promise.

Susan did something following our webinar that many corporate executives don’t have the guts to do. She put the AOL employee promise to the test. She asked her team to tell her the AOL employee promise to see if it was in fact what she thought it was. An employee promise is like a brand in a certain sense – you have one whether or not you know what it is. It’s a perception.

An employee promise answers questions like: “Why am working here?” What am I getting and what am I giving here?” or “Why should I join?” or “Why should I leave?”

Here’s how the test went according to Susan:

The experiment with our recruiting team was quite interesting. I asked them just to jot down their personal view of our employee promise. The top 6 consistent bullets that came up were summarized as follows:
• The opportunity to work in a great culture (Culture)
• The opportunity to work with smart, passionate and dedicated employees (People)
• You will have the freedom to be creative and create change (Culture)
• You will have the opportunity to grow your skills and manage your career with support from leaders and AOL University (Development)
• You will have the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technologies (Exposure/Tech)
• You will have the opportunity to get involved with community/volunteer initiatives to help others (Volunteerism)

Compare this to what I thought our employee promise was:
• Fast-paced, agile business – you will never be bored here (Business)
• Work with global brands that have tremendous reach and continue to grow (Business)
• Encouragement and support to help others – especially at the local community level (Volunteerism)
• Strong emphasis on personal wellness – ‘whole’ person wellness, not just fitness and nutrition (Wellness/Benefits)
• Company values that are ingrained throughout the business – and reinforced through recognition programs (Culture)
• Fun, creative working environment – you get back as much as you give (Culture)
• Structured training and leadership development programs – with special focus on training for people managers (Development)

This was just a quick experiment that Susan was interested in running to see if her team was on the same page. Any organization dedicated to building and sustaining a brandful workforce needs this kind of guts. And I mean the guts to continually check in to see if what you advertise is really happening within your organization. And if it’s not, do something about it. It helps with authenticity and sustainability of the culture and brand.

Yes, it’s sometimes easier not to ask any questions and plow full steam ahead. Of course, you risk having something unforeseen thrown in your path that you could have avoided, if you’d only asked. You might even be surprised at much more value your workforce can bring to your business in addition to their daily responsibilities. If you decide to do a similar experiment with your team, post it here. I’m sure Susan would love to see results from other organizations. And so would I.

Watch the webinar referenced above. See more brandful workforce blogs.

Top Brandful Organizations in 2013

Welcome to my final blog post for 2013. The following companies make the list of of top brandful organizations this year: Trader Joe’s, Netflix, Zappos, Starbucks, IBM, L’Occitane, Patagonia, Nick’s Pizza & Pub, Viking Cruises, Ikea, The Container Store, Wegmans, Rackspace, and Tesla. What sets these companies apart from others? It’s quite simple: the employees genuinely believe in the products and services they help deliver… so much so that they actually help promote them, voluntarily. Employees at these organizations are critical to current and future success of the business.

While many experts are now posting their recommendations for 2014, I believe one of the most strategic actions any company can make in the new year will be to connect employees meaningfully and authentically with the brand. For example, at Trader Joe’s, some of the employees spend most of their paychecks on purchasing groceries in the store. And most employees there can tell you their favorite products, if you ask.  Or employees at Rackspace may spend more time than necessary online interacting with each other and customers about optimizing the services they provide because they are just that passionate about them.  Brandful employees help to evolve the success of the business.

The organizations mentioned above do not necessarily depend on employee engagement programs or internal marketing campaigns or even employer branding initiatives, to create a brandful workforce. They rely primarily on the strength of their products and services and how they run their business from a people perspective. These are the principles of the brandful approach.

In 2014, more organizations will understand the potential of the workforce. And it will be great timing as we will embark on a project to design a measurement tool so organizations can understand the level at which their employees are truly behind the products and services they deliver every day. Once they receive their results, they can take necessary action to move the needle on building a more brandful workforce. Please stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the last few days of the year!

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Holiday Parties Turn Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

This is the time of year to focus on amplifying the fourth brandful channel: Celebration. What better time of year for employees to get behind your brand, than the holidays? It’s the perfect opportunity for your internal brand ambassadors to spread the love for your products and services to their friends and family as they gather together.  Is there a heart-warming story about one of your products or services that can be re-told across your organization as an example of your powerful brand? What accomplishments have the employees made during the year that can be celebrated as part of the holidays? By shining a spotlight on your workforce as an important part of your brand’s success, holiday parties can be transformed into truly engaging events that build a more brandful workforce.

Comment below if you attended a holiday party that made you more jazzed about the brand.  Did you share your enthusiasm on your social network? Did you donate anything on behalf of your organization to help others? How did your actions impact the brand? I’d love to include it among my brandful examples.

To read more about how celebrations can be an effective way for employees to advocate for your brand, please see my book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand. For previous blog posts or to share this post, click here.

 

Don’t Stop Saying Thank You After Thanksgiving

Some organizations have a culture of giving thanks, regularly. And it’s not just from the manager down to the front-line. It’s between peers who truly care about each other, as well as up the ladder from an employee to a boss. It’s just part of the regular course of doing business. Employees in these types of cultures don’t even realize how thankful they are because it’s just how they operate.

Do you have this type of culture? Leave a comment below and join in the discussion. Do you want to have this kind of culture in your organization? Check out my new book, The Brandful Workforce: How Employees Can Make, Not Break Your Brand, and find out more.

First Two Book Reviews For The Brandful Workforce

It’s quite exciting publishing my first book. I wanted to share the following two book reviews that came onto Amazon recently. Please add your comments or reviews and don’t forget to join in the discussion online. This is one of the first business books that’s meant to be read from a computer or mobile device as it’s packed with links and entries into discussion.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Heads of Marketing and heads of Human Resources, read and discuss this book!

By J. Shapiro, Executive Director, Talent Analytics, Morgan Stanley on November 18, 2013

OK, I need to be fully transparent. I know Julia and really respect her work. So, I downloaded her book and was expecting to read a well thought out argument on connecting employees to your brand.

What Julia did instead blew me out of the water. .. The book captures the essence of something we all need in organizations: authentic employee relationships that create great customer experiences.

Some examples you may know (Trader Joes) and others were novel. .. like a Stonybrook video about a Dunkin Donuts employees that will make you tear up.

This is a great read for marketers and managers alike, engagingly told.

A Must Read if You’re in the Business of People By Susan LaMotte, Former Leader of Global Employer Brand at Marriott on November 18, 2013

Julia Gometz nails it with her book The Brandful Workforce: from her opening story about working in a hotel in Canada to the direct learnings from her experience at JetBlue. She’s right–it’s not just about the consumer brand and the employer brand. It’s about making the most of your workforce. In my consulting practice we often talk about seeing the value talent has on the bottom line. Julia calls this “brandful.” The book is a delightful read with easy-to-understand anecdotes that are directly applicable to your business–whether you’re a B2B or B2C business. If you’re in the business of people you owe it to yourself to read this book and see how you can make your organization brandful.

To purchase the book on amazon, click the link below:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Brandful-Workforce-Employees-Break/dp/0989815900/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1383918396&sr=8-1&keywords=brandful+workforce

For more information on The Brandful Workforce visit www.brandfulworkforce.com

Facebook Not Good Enough for Marketing Execs?

Aside

This week Forrester,the marketing research group, released results from a recent  survey filled out by almost 400 marketing executives. The main question was:  How satisfied are you with the business value your company has achieved by using each of the following marketing channels? Executives were asked to giving a rating for each channel. You can gather from the title of this blog that Facebook did not receive the most favorable ratings. So, are we to conclude that companies should abandon marketing efforts via Facebook? I don’t think so.

I’m not defending Facebook. In fact, I don’t have any particular interest in any paid marketing channel. What rubbed me wrong here is the approach. Why is the conversation still around paid media, like advertising, when it’s the earned media, like employees or customers sharing content freely and genuinely, that can create longer-term business value.  Some of the marketing dollars should be allocated to improve the actual products and services so that marketing efforts can really pay off.

Message to Forrester: If you don’t ask the right questions, you will never get valuable answers. The biggest question that I’m focused on right now is: How can employees bring value to the brand?  By investing marketing dollars internally, it can pay off externally. The internal and the external organization cannot continue to exist separately. While it may not pay to invest marketing dollars directly in Facebook, but it may pay to invest these dollars internally with employees who spread your brand message through their personal Facebook pages. Don’t be fooled. Employees talk. Wouldn’t you rather them spread positive authentic brand messages? Not just Facebook, but any marketing channel, can stand to be leveraged by internal, engaged employees who truly love the products and services they deliver every day.

(see the article about Forrester’s research)

How Much Is a Brandful Employee Worth?

Never mind calculating your company’s brand value, let’s skip straight to your individual employees. Sure, they are hired to do a job, and getting that job done is first and foremost. However in this age of customer and employee engagement where success is built on authentic and on-going relationships, every employee can be doing more than getting their work done. That’s what a brandful employee is all about – being a part of the growing brand and adding value to it.

But how significant can one employee be to the brand? When you think about the thousands or millions of individual interactions that make up a company’s product or service offering, you can begin to understand and appreciate the value at the individual level. One employee can make or break the brand for any given customer. And this is where the focus should be.

Here are some questions to consider:

• Are your employees set up on social networks to best advocate for your brand? (either helping with recruitment or customer engagement)
• Do your employees participate in product or service innovation?
• Are your citizenship efforts integrated with your brand and the employee experience?

Once you know the value your workforce brings to your brand, you’ll also learn how to increase that value. The power of building a brandful workforce is that it simultaneously improves both customer and employee engagement. For more on this topic, follow my blog at www.brandfulworkforce.com/blog, follow me on twitter (@juliagometz) or join the LinkedIn Group (The Brandful Workforce).

Canadian Brandful Workforce

Having spent part of my summer in Canada, I have to include one of my favorite Canadian brands in this week’s post: Tristan, a men’s and women’s apparel company. I first discovered Tristan in about 1998 when I was working in Times Square in New York City. They had a location on Avenue of the Americas and 49th Street, that I would frequent in between meetings. And then one day, it was gone. This summer, while I was in Toronto having dinner at The Pickle Barrel across from The Eaton Center, my waitress started talking about her second job as an assistant manager at Tristan. I asked her why they closed the New York store and she explained: “We realized much of our customer base, not only loved our line of clothes, but were dedicated to buying Canadian. This didn’t necessarily work in New York.” I thought about Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and all the major clothing stores, and could understand the difficulties that may have hit Tristan.

But it wasn’t just the branding toward consumers that could have been tough. I wondered if it would have been possible for any non-Canadian employee -like an American – to be equally as passionate and proud. I could tell how passionate my waitress was about Tristan, and how proud she was that it was Canadian. She told us all about the new technology that Tristan was putting in its stores whereby customers could virtually try on different combinations of clothing to see how it would look instead of going in the dressing room. And she told us about the expansion of the company and her face lit up with excitement as she spoke. Could that have been the reason for the failure of the Tristan store in New York? That the employees were not as good brand ambassadors as those from Canada? Or was it that the competition of other international apparel brands was too fierce?

I guess I’ll never know for sure. But judging from the Tristan employee I met in Toronto, the company is alive and well – with a Canadian brandful workforce.

Even Google Is Stumped

In a recent article Google admitted that it could not predict who would be a good hire and who would fail. I’m not sure that anyone has figured this out and it’s certainly not due to lacking analytical capability.

I believe the starting point for figuring out who will succeed in your organization has to start with this question: What kind of an employee do you need to drive your organization’s success? If you don’t know the answer to this, then any analysis you conduct will go in circles. According to my brandful workforce roadmap which helps organizations build a workforce of brand promoters, the entire employee strategy must be driven by a successful business model. Under this method, there is no organization that boasts of having the “best” talent, yet instead they can boast of having a good match for what it is they need to accomplish.

For more information on Google’s point of view, click here to read the article. Or please send me your comments and join in the discussion.