Connecting with Employees

There’s been a movement towards employee “pulse” surveys where the temperature of the workforce can be assessed quickly for leadership. Instead of waiting for the annual survey of employee satisfaction, leaders can get a quickie on how employees are feeling about the company and their jobs. These snap polls are a great idea because it is instantaneous and leaders can get feedback before a mutiny and massive disaffection is upon them. I imagine, however, that many leaders might be hesitant to hear the raw truth on a regular basis. It has been my experience that CEOs are very sensitive to feedback that is critical and harsh, especially when it comes to understanding corporate goals. One CEO had tears in their eyes when they received the verbatim results from a quarterly survey among employees. But given a choice between losing your best people and hearing bad news, most CEOs would opt for the latter. Actually, hearing bad news is the job of CEOs from what I was once told.

In an article on the increase in these kinds of surveys, one CEO – Henry Albrecht of Limeade, said he uses these mini polls to get quick anonymous answers to one-question surveys and uses the answers as discussion points in his biweekly company meetings. Albrecht uses TinyPulse.

I had not heard of this company so did some investigating and found an interesting article from Fast Company on TinyPulse and the popularity of their one-question weekly polls of employees for leaders. Interestingly, they caution leaders not to use TinyPulse if they are not committed to Change (It takes dedication and patience to improve), Sharing (You’ll share the good and the bad with your team) and Action (After engaging with your team, you take action). Good advice. You have to want to hear it and do something about it or else you will be wasting everyone’s time.

But what I also found interesting was how they can also use the poll for employees to anonymously call out colleagues who are doing a good job. After the one-question poll, an employee can fill in a peer’s name and what they did to receive recognition. Cool idea. Puts the leader in touch with the everyday happenings at the company and motivates employees to boot. Nice touch.

Below are some sample TinyPulse Questions if you are interested:

 (On a scale of 1-10):

·       How happy are you at work?

·       How fair and competitive do you think our benefits are here?

·       How would you rate the match between your personal values and the organization’s values?

·       How seriously and effectively does your company take your feedback and suggestions?


·       Is your promotion and career path clear to you?

·       Do you have all the tools you need to be successful in your job?

·       My role here has real purpose and is more than just a job.

·       Do you feel you’re in control of your career path and progressing in your personal and professional development in our company?

(Open Answer):

·       If you would give notice and leave our organization, what would your primary reason be?


Quotes for the Day

I found this article in my Google alert and thought it was very well written and thoughtful on the topic of reputation. Hard to find thoughtful pieces these days when everyone is in a mad rush. Just yesterday at lunch I was talking to several others about content fatigue which seems to be the malady of the season. Below is a good description of reputation from the author of the article, Bong Osorio. I recall someone, perhaps Warren Buffett, saying something similar about trust, "Trust is like the air you breathe. When it's present, nobody really notices. But when it's absent, everybody notices." Quote below:

"Reputation is like the weather. It exists, irrespective of whether you measure its effects. It dictates what activities and goals are realistic, and how you should package and present yourself to be believable, strong and supportable. It is prudent to check the weather before you go out, and even more helpful if you know how it is changing. So it is with reputation. The main disparity between the two is that while you cannot control the weather, you can design the course of your reputation. And that is a clear case for managing it."

Our Reputation as a Civil Nation

In our Civility in America survey this year, nearly three-quarters (73%) of Americans believe that the USA is losing stature as a civil nation. This is worrisome.  Although our survey was focused on Americans, I found it interesting to read this morning in the WSJ that the Chinese government is worried about their civil-nation reputation too and is intent on doing something about it. In Beijing, 40,000 people have applied to the "Be a Splendid Beijinger and Welcome APEC—Civilized, Polite Passengers” competition to honor the 100 best-behaving bus and subway passengers. [Not sure how that would fly in Manhattan] Volunteers or guides, 8,000 of them, await passengers at the stations and shout out “I try, you try, together we work hard for a civilized Beijing. I’m gifted, you’re gifted, together we make our harmonious society even more splendid!” The winners will get pre-loaded subway and bus cards worth $10. And this initiative is taken quite seriously. 

Beijing has a “civilization index,” which is conducted by the Office of the Capital’s Commission on Building Spiritual Civilization to help residents mind their manners. The index has been steadily increasing since its start in 2005. It includes whether people are littering or keeping the rings on silent on their cellphones. Examples of people behaving civil-ly cited in the article included someone helping to carry luggage and another who brings soup to give out to the volunteer guides who help keep order on the subway stations .

Just this week, I noticed an act of civility here in Brooklyn at the subway station. It was pouring down rain and I saw a man helping a woman carrying her stroller and child up the many stairs to the street. I figured it must have been the husband but then I saw him turn around and go back down to the platform to catch his train. He was pretty wet too. Impressive. 

But that was this week's exception. In the article, one of the executives at the Spiritual Civilization Office said he is proud of their progress but “continuous civilization efforts” are necessary. Same here. 

Cybersecurity reputational risk

Just recently heard that our first US homeland security chief Tom Ridge is helping to launch an insurance product that specializes in corporate cyber security policies. In the article, I read that the global economy has lost more than $400 billion annually due to these cyber breaches that seem to be coming at us like a tsunami. Moreover, only one in four companies, if that much, have some form of cyber attack coverage.

I also learned awhile back when we did our Employees Rising survey on how employees were using social media to champion and possibly sabotage their companies, that one of the reasons that companies have chosen to train their work forces about being responsible social citizens was to caution them about how cyber hacking often occurs. And that is from employees themselves who can be unintentionally loose with passwords, clicking on errant links or not understanding well enough the safeguards of protecting confidential documents. Again, another reason for formal social media training at work and recognizing the importance of internal employee communications. 

Cyber breaches are clearly hurting the reputations of companies that find their customer data let loose online from hacking. This has become a major reputational issue and one that companies have to get smart about or they will be joining the ever growing long list of the largest data breaches. Plus the background stories in the media often reveal that companies and their leaders had some forewarning or were lax about privacy controls which only makes matters worse. Need I even add that CEOs have lost their jobs over cyber breaches! This is becoming a reputational issue of epic proportions.

Reading to lead

In a review of the McKinsey article on Management for the Next 50 Years, The Economist Schumpeter column had something particularly smart to say (as always).  Although they concede that machines can do a better job of data analysis and synthesis, they point out that executives can do some things better than machines. First, they can inspire and motivate employees and second, they can create "game-changing" ideas or valuable thought leadership. Then they quote Tom Peters, the author of In Search of Excellence and management guru, on the future of leadership. Peters said that the best future leaders will "spend half their time reading books." Hold that thought. It's a powerful idea. With all the data and information targeting us, no one can remember which way is up. The best way to learn and lead by reading is powerful. Because it is so hard to do and hard to find the time, it will be the answer to truly leading companies in the future. Machines can not do that for us.

Social Blogging for Fortune 500 Companies

There has been a lot lately about social CEOs and I have recently posted about the topic. Last night, I just had a chance to review the annual University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research study about how the Fortune 500 is using this not so new but ubiquitous medium and blogging, in particular. As the authors say, and I agree, "studying their adoption and use of social media blogs offers important insights into the future of commerce." The key findings are that Fortune 500 blogs are alive and well and serving as a means to promote thought leadership:

  • In 2014, 31% of the studied companies had corporate blogs, showing a slight decrease of 3% in use of this tool in the past year
  • In the 2011 Fortune 500 study, it called attention to the decline of blogging with only 23% hosting a public-facing corporate blog.  In 2012, there was a sizable increase to 28%. That surge surfaced again in 2013 showing 34% of these corporate behemoths creating and sharing content through blogs
  • The top 200 of the Fortune 500 are out-blogging the bottom 200  
  • These Fortune 500 blogs are for the most part (78%) are interactive, up-to-date, taking comments, offering RSS feeds and subscriptions. 

What is particularly interesting here is that corporate blogging is here to stay and has become a relevant means of content-sharing and thought leadership. It provides a smart delivery vehicle to talk about what a company stands for, what's on the minds of its customers, what its products and services can do and what's new and innovative in the field. And the authors agree that we might view this steadiness of corporate blogging as a signal to the marketplace that the time is ripe for thought leadership and in-depth content instead of short missives and pure promotional content that is less memorable. At Weber Shandwick, we see this in the high demand for Mediaco, a platform that helps companies publish and be their own media companies.

I see a surge in thought leadership being tied to the ongoing effectiveness of corporate blogging where ideas and insights can now be more easily shared with the general populace. And I believe that when companies blog on their websites or elsewhere, it leads to greater control over communications and their reputation. Companies can now join the conversation instead of just reacting to the conversation. Reputations have a better chance of stabilizing themselves when they have a hand in the dialogue. A good thing. 

de Blasio's One Year of Grace Closes In

In New York City, we have a new mayor, Bill de Blasio. He has been interesting to watch, especially as he exited his first 100 days and is moving into the last quarter of his first year. [Also because he is from my Brooklyn neighborhood where is a local figure.]

But this article in The New York Times this week was written almost as a mid year round up and makes it clear that the new mayor is still trying to find his balance. From watching CEOs, the first year is one of reckonings too. De Blasio, like new CEOs, has many more constituencies to worry about now besides rallying the troops to get out the vote.  The complexity of managing all those constituencies can be overwhelming and fraught with fault lines. As the mayor deals with racial tensions, police reform, availability of low income housing and budget constraints, he is disappointing the left who were his stalwart base. The alleged police-related death of Eric Garner on Staten Island does not help and heightens the scrutiny on the mayor's progress so far. The article interested me in particular because Bertha Lewis, former CEO of Acorn, is cited asking friends to give the mayor a full year before "discounting Mr. de Blasio as just another politician." From my work on CEO tenure, people begin to cement their impressions at about nine months. Luckily, mayors and CEOs do get a grace period when they first start but the mayor's next moves are critical to setting his legacy and reputation in stone.