Winning in the Workplace
Thoughtful interview in strategy + business with the former CEO of Campbell Soup, Doug Conant. His internal focus on the Campbell culture was refreshing. He realized soon after joining and surveying employee engagement that one out of every three employees was looking for a job. As he said, nearly 6,000 of the 20,000 employees at Campbell’s were dissatisfied. He knew what needed to be done with results like that. Here are two quotes that illuminate his thinking: “I also knew that you can only win in the marketplace if you win in the workplace first.” Also, “You can’t talk your way out of something you behaved your way into. You have to behave your way out of it.” He is dead right. Employee satisfaction has to be taken seriously if a company wants to succeed and build the best reputation that it can. When I was recently in Brazil, the head communications person at one of the largest banks in all of Latin America told us that they strategically decided to put employees first in their line of stakeholders.
I also wholeheartedly agree with Conant that leadership has to own its behavior. Words are critical today, especially when you have employees all over the globe, but if actions do not match the words of leadership, your employees will be the first to know and tell others that this is a company that does not walk the talk. Interestingly, Conant instinctively knew that to get the front-line engagement he needed to turn the company around, he would need it from his top people. So he set his sights on getting them “wildly engaged” in the work.
Conant has written a book titled Touchpoints. The basic idea is that every contact is a chance to make that tangible, meaningful connection with others. It is about that quality interaction that can advance the business and enhance satisfaction. Conant talks about the 10 to 20 handwritten notes he sent out as CEO every day – 30,000 over a 10 year tenure. I know about those notes. I got one. They made the connection and to this day, I have not stopped talking about my shock receiving his handwritten thank you note for spending time with me discussing CEO reputation.