Brand Book Bites from ENGAGED

(“brand book bites” highlight the most interesting brand stories in the latest best-selling books.  For more bulleted briefings on the books I recommend, subscribe to my feed.)

–  the book:  ENGAGED! Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life – a practical guide about how to design and implement a sustainable culture and customer experienceengaged book

–  the brain:  Gregg Lederman, founder and CEO of Brand Integrity, a firm that helps clients deliver branded experiences that increase employee engagement, customer loyalty, and profitability.

Check out my interview with Gregg:

–  the best bits — Gregg’s first book, Achieve Brand Integrity, instructed readers well on how to operationalize their brands in their employee cultures. ENGAGED! picks up where it left off and focuses in on the tools and systems to manage and measure the employee experience and its impact on the customer experience.  Some of the key points:

“Company leaders continue to live on Hope Island, hoping that the minimal definition and deployment of their core values will create a culture of accountability and…more consistent customer experiences.  It won’t!” (Hope Island:  a magical, yet undesirable, place leaders go to when they define the branded experience, then sit back and hope that employees will live it.) – Employees need to be informed, inspired, and instructed how to deliver on-brand customer experiences.

The ENGAGED Index (indicators that measure employee commitment and motivation to act in the best interest of the company.)

  • Likelihood to recommend the workplace
  • Likelihood to recommend products and services
  • Likelihood to stay – even if offered a similar job elsewhere for slightly higher pay
  • Likelihood to go above and beyond the standard company practices and operating procedures

The net score is calculated by subtracting the least ENGAGED from the most ENGAGED. – This is a great framework for measuring what is often so elusive — employee engagement.

Rewards-focused programs don’t work to drive financial results the way many leaders think they do…Your company will get much greater value out of the power of recognition and much less form the actual rewards.” – Rewards aren’t as effective motivators for performance as are recognition, engagement, and clear communication.

–  the brand story:  ENGAGED! highlights several case studies that show why employee engagement is so critical.  The story about Busch’s, a privately held, independent supermarket chain with 15 locations in Michigan, is about the power of behavior consistency and its impact on customer experience and profitability.

Gregg explains that Busch’s had corporate values but they weren’t well-defined and employees had been struggling to understand and consistently deliver a solid, differentiated customer experience.  After refining the company values and establishing a more clearly defined set of simple and actionable behaviors, as well as integrating the branded experience into recruitment, hiring, on-boarding, performance conversations, and decision-making, and initiating other engagement programs, they saw behavior consistency scores increase in all stores and store traffic and sales by its most loyal customers increased.

I love how Gregg and his team are able to connect the dots between employee engagement and tangible business results.

–  the bottom line:  “There is really only one brand for the company based on an experience delivered.  And that experience must be managed if a company is going to achieve an ENGAGED status with employees and customers.”  AMEN!

Listen to my interview with Gregg to learn more about the proven tools and methods on the journey to more engaged customers with an engaged workforce.


***interview transcript:

Denise: Hello. This is Denise Yohn, and welcome to the Brand-as-Business Bites Podcast. The Brand-as-Business Bites Podcast gives you a taste of insights and information about brands, businesses, and the people who work on them. It’s available on iTunes. For more stuff for your brain to chew on, please visit my website at DeniseLeeYohn.com.

Today’s interview deals with the hot topic of employee engagement. Joining me is Gregg Lederman, the founder at CEO of Brand Integrity, a firm that delivers branded experiences to increase employee engagement, customer loyalty, and profitability.

Gregg’s first book, “Achieve Brand Integrity,” caught my attention because it so nicely dovetailed with my work helping business leaders operationalize brands and their culture, customer experience, and core operations.

Now Gregg has written “Engaged: Outbehave Your Competition to Create Customers for Life.” And so he’s obviously very well-suited to explain the why, what, and how of achieving extraordinary employee engagement.

Welcome, Gregg.

Gregg: Thank you for having me.

Denise: Let’s start with a fundamental question. We all know that employee engagement is important. So why do so many companies fail to do it well?

Gregg: They know it’s important, but they tend to lack the systems required to truly create a workforce that’s operating in an engaged environment. And it’s led to quite a crisis in our country. I mean, two-thirds of the American work force, point blank, are either not engaged or actively disengaged. And that’s according to whatever market research study you might Google today. You’ll find the same thing over and over again. Companies tend to talk a lot about the engagement issues, but they don’t necessarily understand the systems they need to put in place to truly get their work force engaged.

Denise: Is it just a lack of know-how? Like, is the lack of systems just because there’s not the knowledge of actually how you go about doing this?

Gregg: Well, you know, I saw a study that shocked me, that said 84 percent of executives recognize the lack of employee engagement as a top threat, at top three threat, facing the growth of their business. They know it’s a threat. I think it’s a matter of they lack the systems, but they don’t know what to do. Companies need to stop just talking about culture change, and talking about their values, and figure out how to create an environment where they’re living it.

Denise: Amen. Well, so your book explains how to do that. And specifically, I was interested in the five dimensions of brand integrity, because I think it’s a very holistic view of employee engagement. So could you talk with us about those five dimensions of brand integrity, and the systems that are involved in them?

Gregg: Sure. Absolutely. This system is based on three components. We call it the Living the Brand System.

Part one is defining who you are and how, behaviorally, you do it. And that’s where those five dimensions come in. I’ll come back to those in just a moment.

Part two of the Living the Brand System is creating the necessary reminders. The big secret to success is that 1% or less of any company’s success in implementing an engagement program or a branding program comes from training. Ninety-nine percent comes from filling the manager’s toolbox with the tools necessary for creating day-to-day reminders about what our values are, what our brand is all about.

And then the third piece of the system. After you’ve defined it, created the infrastructure for reminding, now you must quantify it. And you can quantify your culture and your customer experience, and compare that to metrics that truly matter most around the boardroom table from a growing your business perspective.

Now, to the five dimensions. The five dimensions is the framework we use for defining the branded experience. That first step. It’s based on five behavioral areas: culture and team, leading by example, operational strength, products knowledge and expertise, and customer service. They are the five areas. No matter what industry you’re in, no matter what the economic environment, those are the five areas that the best of the best put behaviors behind that can be measured in an organization.

And that’s really the heart of the definition part of the Living the Brand System.

Denise: And I’m struck by this thought of reminders. And that’s something that you talked a lot about, that… is it just that we, that companies and business leaders, are forgetful about how to do employee engagement? Or is it the employees who are forgetful about what’s expected of them? Or both?

Gregg: It’s more management doesn’t understand the power of some simple reminders. I was just keynoting a conference last Thursday, when I brought a client along with me as a case study, and let him get up there and talk about the power of reminding. So I gave the philosophy of, look, at every team meeting, you should have 60 seconds where managers are talking about a captured success of someone in their organization demonstrating the values or… in a way that strengthens the culture and/or the customer experience.

I gave examples of how people should be reminding folks during the hiring process, during performance reviews, during… using strategic recognition effectively.

Then my client gets up there and talks about how he has 1,200 people in his organization, and in 20 months, has captured and shared 7,400 successes.

Denise: Wow.

Gregg: That’s 7,400 times that… in less than two years, among 1,200 employees, most of which are front line hourly workers, some of them not even speaking English as a second language, and they’re able to create, again, these 300 to 500 times every month, they’re capturing and sharing these successes. They’re very powerful reminders.

In the book, I list off essential habits that any manager should have in their toolbox for ways to remind the work force. That’s how you get the values off the wall and into the hearts and minds of people every single day.

Denise: Wow. Now, you used a term that was interesting. “Strategic recognition.” What’s that?

Gregg: Well, when we first launched our first definition of a brand for a company, we figured out a way to get that indoctrinated into the organization, was to create an employee recognition program that doesn’t depend on reward. Because the innate desire of all humans is to feel appreciated and respected. It’s to feel like I’m making a difference. I have a good relationship with my boss. I’ve just listed off the three top drivers of creating a motivated work environment, where people feel motivated and committed to acting in the best interest of their company.

It has nothing to do with rewards. Yet most companies have this carrot on a stick mentality that is truly driven by the rewards industry. Who really are tricking a lot of people into thinking that rewards drive performance. Seven decades of research says no. What drives performance is what I just mentioned. Recognize me and appreciate me, and that’s typically number one. Show that you respect me.

So strategic recognition is nothing more than capturing a success of someone living your brand or living your values, demonstrating them, and having a way of strategically sharing that in the organization, and linking it to a business outcome. And then we developed some software to be able to do that. Because a lot of companies, we found, are spending a lot of money on rewards and not really effectively recognizing their people.

Denise: Wow. It sounds so fundamental.

Now, you have talked quite a few… you’ve made quite a few points already about measurement, and your book talks a lot about measuring employee engagement and the customer experience. Can you explain some of the tools that people can use to assess how well they’re doing today, and then whether or not they’re actually improving over time?

Gregg: Absolutely. There’s two specific ways I write about in the book for quantifying your culture. One is measuring the consistency of behavior. So as you had asked earlier about the five dimensions of brand integrity, and I said that’s a behavior-based framework to define the non-negotiable behaviors you want everyone in your organization to do, as well as there’s a framework in the book for how to build job-specific behaviors and leadership-specific behaviors. But just thinking about the behaviors across our enterprise that power our values.

The first metric is the behavior consistency score. And what I recommend in my book, and what our clients have been doing for years, that works phenomenally well, is to have employees rate, on a zero to ten scale, how consistently are each of these behaviors that you’ve created for your organization, how consistently are they being done by others around you. Of course this needs to be highly confidential.

However, when you ask people for their perspective on others around them, they’re going to give you the true image of what’s going on from a Living the Brand or Living Our Values perspective. They’re going to create an incredible amount of visibility for you using this instrument to which managers are managing the values, managing by the values, or managing branded experience, and which ones are not.

The second metric that I talk about in the book is called the engaged index. And we’ve actually decided to make that free for the public by opening up a site called EngagedIndex.com, where you can go and share how engaged you are at work. You can link your results to your company. And no one ever needs to know that you either took it, or… you never have to give up your identity, but you can link it to a specific organization and start to see how engaged your work force is.

And it’s an evolutionary approach to measuring how engaged groups of people are in an organization. All of our clients, twice a year, measure how consistently people are behaving, and they have every employee rate for themselves, on a zero to ten scale, four different questions.

First question is, “How likely are you to go above and beyond when provided the opportunity to do so?” So that gets at that discretionary effort.

Second question is, “How likely are you to stay with this organization if offered a similar job elsewhere for slightly higher pay?” That gets at retention which is a measurement of engagement. And then the two recognition questions. “Would you recommend the work environment? Would you recommend the products and service?” Which gets at pride and willing to advocate.

And then we have a unique formula that I write about in the book that tells an incredibly accurate picture of how engaged groups of people are in an organization. And our clients are doing some really meaningful things with those metrics. Every single one of our clients that uses it is able to compare their engaged scores to revenue generating metrics, as well as cost avoidance and cost reduction metrics that they commonly look at day-in and day-out.

Denise: That’s just so impressive, to be able to distill down into very specific metrics that really get at the heart of the issue, and that provide that visibility that you’re talking about. So that’s just wonderful to hear that you have those tools, and you have that framework to use, as well.

I always find it most helpful to talk about a specific example. So let’s discuss the large grocery store chain that you profiled in your book. Could you tell me what was the challenge that they were facing, and how did they address it, and what were the results that they got?

Gregg: Well, the challenge they faced, which is very common, especially in an organization that has 18 different grocery stores… so they were about a mid-size organization. They had about 1,200 employees. They had what I would consider, you know, what they consider a low-trust environment. It was impacting overall productivity. It drives turnover of staff. Which is never a good thing when it comes to trying to drive customer loyalty.

They tended to have a misalignment between the corporate environment and the store environment. And they didn’t have a… they had a set of values that were posted to the wall, but they weren’t really defined.

Denise: The first thing they did is start putting the Living the Brand System in place. They refined the company values. They established very specific, simple, very actionable behaviors that would bring their desired experience to life.

So for instance, they have the brand integrity dimension of customer service. And of course one of the best things we love in a grocery store is when you ask somebody where something is, what are they going to do? They’re going to walk you…

Denise: Yes.

Gregg: They’re going to walk you to it, right?

Denise: Yes.

Gregg: They’re going to tell you… they’re not just going to say, “Over in Aisle 18.”

Denise: Right.

Gregg: They’re going to walk you to it.

Denise: Right.

Gregg: So they made these very specific behaviors like that. When you go to check out, they’re going to ask, “Did you find everything all right?” I mean, they’re going to ask very specific behaviors that would bring their brand strategies alive.

So that was the first thing they did, is they clearly defined what the behaviors are and the mindset behind the experience they desired to create.

Then from there, they launched the semi-annual surveys I just spoke about. They started measuring how consistently are others in your work area doing this, and how engaged are you in particular?

Because it’s confidential, they get some really interesting stuff, because even though you can’t tell what individuals say, you can now start to look at the produce department versus the cashiers versus the general merchandising department versus the fish, you know, and prepared foods market. They can start to look within stores and across the different… you know, within a store and across the different stores and geographic regions, they can start to see where is the consistency and where is it missing. And now management now recognizes that there’s way more visibility into where we’re living it and where we’re not. And in addition, they did two other things.

On the reminding front, they put in the strategic recognition program you were asking about. They capture anywhere from as little as 400 to 500, sometimes 600 or 700 captured successes every month. They have the great majority of their work force participating.

If I was to guess, their management’s well into the 90 percent. I think that about 70 percent of their managers month to month are participating in this program. Capturing successes, sharing them at team meetings, sharing them at daily shift huddles. Just keeping that reminding ending going. And that’s why they’re able to get probably anywhere from 20 to 30 times the amount of participation of a rewards program with a strategic recognition approach.

And then, lastly, you know, the lastly, and most importantly, they’re quantifying their experience. So they are looking at the sales of their top tier, most loyal customers. You know, when it came time to write the book, I just said to them, “Hey, give me the latest and greatest. What are the stats? What’s going on?” They said, “Well, platinum customers are up almost 12 percent. Our gold customers, over ten percent. Our silver customers are up over ten percent.”

Now, what’s interesting is they can compare the specific numbers to the engaged scores of their people. So they’re creating that visibility that we’re talking about here, where you can now start to look at where people are engaged and what’s the impact on store sales.

Denise: Right.

Gregg: And also compare that to… they can compare that to time to fill a job, employee turnover, absenteeism, safety issues, customer complaints. The list goes on and on. They can pick their top five to ten metrics that matter most, and they now can compare how engaged their people are in the results… in the financials that matter most to them.

Denise: Wow. What a terrific story and case study. I mean, that just really shows the power of employee engagement.

Gregg, you will be pleased to hear that my copy of your book “Engaged” is all dog-eared and underlined, because there are so many helpful tools and approaches in it that I’ve just studied it in-depth. So thank you so much for writing such a great resource.

And I encourage you, my listeners, to get your own copy. Go to the website EngagedBook.com, where you can buy the book, learn more about employee engagement, access a bunch of great tools and other downloads that really extend the knowledge of the book. And I’d also encourage you to go to the Facebook page for Gregg’s firm. It’s called Brand Integrity.

Gregg, thank you so much for spending the time talking with me. I’ve learned a lot, and I’m just so pleased to be able to share your book with my listeners.

Gregg: Denise, thank you so much for having me. It was a pleasure.

Denise: That’s it for today. Thanks for listening to the Brand-as-Business Bites Podcast. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes so your brain will always be filled with good stuff to chew on.  For more information or to contact me directly, please visit my website at DeniseLeeYohn.com. Take care, and thanks again.

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