Category: Employee Engagement


Camargo Pharmaceutical Services: Valuing Employees from the Get-Go

At Camargo Pharmaceutical Services, Erica Forrest and Stacy Schnieber have carefully cultivated a workplace culture in which a positive employee experience drives subsequent HR goals. In this edition of Core Shines a Light, we’re sharing a rundown of Camargo’s best practices.

Nurturing relationships with new hires: “We’re here and we care”

Camargo implements a 90-day onboarding strategy to engage new employees as they transition into the company. They’ve designed this strategy with a keen focus on the following attributes:

  • Relationship-building, identifying sources of motivation and expressing appreciation
  • Optimizing their HRIS system to streamline the employee experience and avoid disjointed and confusing paperwork
  • Creating checkpoints at two-week, sixty day and ninety day intervals to gauge progress, address concerns and give feedback

Camargo team members Andrea and Erica

The first two weeks at Camargo begin with honing in on customizing the employee experience with ‘get to know’ meetings/coffee breaks and networking opportunities with members from Senior Leadership (lunches and informal chat sessions.)

At sixty days, goals are set for the following quarter, to-date challenges are discussed and competency assessments are employed in order to identify ways to leverage employee strengths and areas of opportunity. Camargo has found that this gives direction and builds personalized strategies for achieving objectives.

At ninety days new employees benefit from an extended meeting with their manager, complete an employee onboarding experience survey with suggestions strongly encouraged.

Camargo knows that the path to success doesn’t end with recruitment and onboarding. Their continued efforts to fuel an engaged and productive workforce is evident in their strategies for nurturing ongoing relationships, such as:

Fostering positivity and productivity by understanding the importance of employee satisfaction through:

  • Wellness initiatives: fresh fruit provided, lunch & learns, flu shot clinic, mini-massages
  • Employee celebration for birthdays and achievements
  • Opportunities for ongoing feedback on a quarterly basis
  • Ongoing professional training and development

Finally, Camargo follows the onboarding process with a continual commitment to engage employees via:

  • Weekly all-employee, company-provided lunches
  • Philanthropic events (community 5K, Adopt-A-Family)
  • Regular team-building events and activities at local venues (the Camargo team strives to support small businesses in their local community. They support Pipkins for weekly fruit, holiday gifts from Benchmark and facilitate team building at Houdini’s Escape Room in Montgomery

We hope you’ve been inspired with the openness and commitment to team from our friends at Camargo! Their ongoing efforts to exercise effective HR practices while reflecting company values illustrate that their team really does walk the talk by recognizing that “your people are your core.”

Keep up the great work, Camargo!

Core Shines a Light is a periodic spotlight on Human Resources best practices in the Greater Cincinnati area. Interested in sharing your workplace’s best practices? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Amy Clark at

Core Shines a Light: Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs


isit-1First Impressions Count! Employee engagement starts BEFORE day one.

We recently dropped in on the folks at Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs to learn more about what they’re doing to support employee onboarding. New employee Kate Caldwell sat down with us to share what Donna Salyers’ is doing right.

Soon after accepting the position as Director of Operations-Wholesale, Kate received a welcome package, which included:

  • A personal letter
  • Her daily agenda for Week 1 on the job (including lunch plans!)
  • Detailed standard operating procedures
  • The company’s history
  • Luxe product fabric swatch samples

“When I came in the very first day, I had an idea of both what I’d be doing and expectations, and where I was going to fit into the Donna Salyers’ organization. There was a shared expression of excitement at my choice to join the organization. The investment in onboarding made a difference; I felt engaged before day one.”

What’s the best way to develop loyalty, excitement and organizational knowledge for new employees? Extending a warm welcome and investing in effective onboarding practices serve to ease the transition. At-ease, well-prepared, appreciated employees are positioned to do their best work for the company. Remember, your people are your core!

Thanks for sharing and keep up the great work, Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs!

Below: Kate, Amanda and Donna Salyers’ Fabulous-Furs product samples.


Core Shines a Light is a periodic spotlight on Human Resources best practices in the Greater Cincinnati area. Interested in sharing your workplace’s best practices? We’d love to hear from you! Contact Amy Clark at

Stop to smell the roses (literally)

We all get caught up in today’s pace. It’s a constant hustle and bustle. In many ways, this pace has brought about advantages for our companies. We’re pushing boundaries, innovating new and better ways of doing things, producing to higher standards. However, there are also clearly some drawbacks. Unfortunately many of these drawbacks are people-oriented: burn out and inattention to personal wellness, toxic relationships, and decisions often made without regard to the employees who execute your strategy.

RecognitionI’m writing this post as a reminder to myself and others to stop and smell the roses. We had a client last week do just that. After a multi-month project to digitize files, this rockstar team completed the final one. Was this the “sexiest,” most meaningful, or greatest thrill of a project? No, but it had to get done for the efficiency of their operations and the ultimate value they provide their clients.

It would have been so easy for them to check it off the list and move on (our lists are long, and there are always more deadlines looming!). Lucky for them, their CEO knew the importance of pausing for recognition and celebration. He surprised them with flowers and chocolates, and they recognized the achievement as a team during their morning huddle. Spirits were full and positive that day in the office (and I don’t think you have to be an I/O Psychologist to understand what that does to engagement and performance).

Moral of the story: I err on the side of idealism and tend to believe that we have the best of intentions, but unfortunately those intentions are often negated with the pace of our day. So let’s slow down when needed. Take a pause. Our workplaces are full of human beings – human beings with the need for connectedness, for appreciation, and for fulfillment with the hours they put in at work. And in fact, our business results are nothing (NOTHING!) without the hard work of the human beings who achieve them for us. So let’s not forget this.

Leading a Virtual Team: Part 2 of 4

Note: This is the second post in a 4-part series on Leading a Virtual Team. I’ve listed links below to the other three posts:

Part 2: Establish a Consistent Leadership Presence

simonI’m relaxing on the couch browsing my evening news feed, while occasionally peeping over at my youngest son (Jacob) who is playing the memory game Simon. I notice he’s not paying much attention, lacks engagement, and is only making it to Rounds 3 or 4 each time.

I put my phone down and lock eyes with him. Without exchanging any words, Jacob knows I’m going to give his next attempt my sole focus. He perks up, smiles and then the colors and beeps begin. He makes it 9 rounds this time! Granted, occasionally he asked me for help during those rounds, but he got there…we got there. During his previous attempts, I was there, but I wasn’t present.

Leadership presence. This is the focus of Part 2 of 4 in our “Leading a Virtual Team” series. As with all topics we are exploring during this series, they apply to all leaders – not just those of virtual teams; however, we are diving into them through the lens of a virtual leader.

What do we need from our leaders in the workplace? Historically, and now thankfully archaically, it was things like very specific direction, punch lists and tracking records, 1x per year reviews, etc. Luckily the workplace environment has evolved, and thus the role of organizational leaders has changed.

Let’s take a look at what your virtual team needs to “feel” from you as their leader and how you can establish a consistent leadership presence for them in these three critical areas.

  1. Vision
  2. Motivation & Recognition
  3. Support

Establishing a strong presence in these areas doesn’t get accomplished through regular conference calls where you punch through to-do lists and share updates. Below are a few things you can try to grow your presence in these three areas for your virtual team. It is then that you will become their valued leader and not just a manager who they have to dial into each week to touch base.


Regularly remind the team of the future vision. Articulate it in a compelling and inspirational way. I know, hard to do virtually, but entirely possible.

Time to tap into the right side of your brain! Rely on new media – infographics, video, images, audio. Start a virtual Vision Board that you and your team can add to whenever you come across something that speaks to where you are heading; what your ultimate aim is. Pinterest might be a good platform for this (read this article for more info), or you might already be using some type of online community with functionality that would enable you to create this.

You could also start a YouTube channel and/or blog that becomes an inspirational forum, where content is very much future-oriented. Quotes, little nuggets from a recent business trip, a TED Talk you want to share, etc. Just make sure you keep it focused on a consistent message of where you’re heading as a team or organization – to develop a belief in and excitement for the future.

Motivation & Recognition

Each one of your team members has unique motivators. Invest the time to learn what their “carrots” are and dangle them throughout the race. A few motivators and forms of recognition to consider for your virtual team are:

  • Sending hand written thank-you notes to their home (be specific about what behaviors you’re thankful for)
  • Sending gifts that are meaningful to them (hence the need to spend the time learning what they like) – flowers, tickets to a local sporting event in their city, gift cards, spa retreat day, charitable donation on their behalf, etc.
  • If you have a *healthy* competitive environment amongst the team, consider using a leaderboard or other digital gamification techniques for certain projects/initiatives
  • You’re not around to pop your head into their cube and say “nice job” after a presentation, so after you hang up with the client, pick your phone back up and call them to say “nice job.” Or use a team Chat forum to send the same message. Point being – take an extra minute of your day to reach out virtually with a simple pat on the back.
  • Take personal note of your employees’ birthdays and send birthday cake to their home. Make it a tradition to leave a voicemail of a version of Happy Birthday by an artist or music genre that would resonate with that person (click here for an example). It’s the little things. Make sure you send enough birthday cake for the entire family if they live with others.
  • After a long week, send them a note at 3:00 on Friday telling everyone to log off and that happy hour or Friday Night Family Night is on you. Allow them to expense their Friday evening shenanigans to the boss! (within reason of course)
  • Consider offering a Dream Manager program to your employees. This could easily be supported virtually.


Adopt a servant leadership mindset. Your role is to align, develop and engage your team members and ensure their ultimate success with the organization. Implement the following practices to serve as a constant source of support during their tenure:

  • Hold a weekly one-on-one via webcam with each of your direct reports. (I very much believe that using a webcam is critical in building a virtual leadership presence with your team.) Unless an apocalypse is upon us, don’t cancel these weekly touch points or move them around.
  • Always ask, “What can I do to help?” and/or “What do you need from me to be successful this week?” during your discussion.
  • Set aside separate monthly coaching calls (using webcam as well). Focus this time on discussing career development plans, performance feedback, where they want to grow expertise in their field, etc. Distinguish this from your weekly touch points. Make them feel different. If you worked in an office with your team, you might make your coaching sessions feel different by holding them at a local coffee shop. Virtually, you can make them feel different by holding them on a different day of the week and time of day than your regular weekly calls. You can even hold them in the morning from a coffee shop; you’ll just be at two different coffee shops. Point being – do something with the virtual environment that distinguishes these coaching conversations from your regular weekly dialogue. It will enhance the quality of the conversation.

They need to feel your presence in these three areas regularly…not just on “slow” weeks when you happen to have the time to focus on it (this is actually probably the least valuable time for them to feel your presence). Build it into your regular interactions with the team and watch performance BOOM! Jacob’s performance increased by nearly 200%. Imagine the possibilities.

Continue to follow along in this series and add your insights and experiences in the Comments section below. Here are the next two strategies we’ll explore, so stay tuned!

  • Perfect Team Communications
  • Acquire & Develop the “Right” Talent for Virtual Teams

Leading a Virtual Team: Part 1 of 4

networkIt has become the norm to find ourselves on a virtual team, and many of us are leading those teams. A friend of mine reached out recently asking for advice on this topic. She finds it challenging to inspire, engage and drive high performance from her dining room table. And I’d venture to bet she’s not alone.

As this is a highly relevant and critical topic for many, I have separated it into a series of posts over the next 4 weeks. I’ll focus on one overarching strategy per week, giving you time to devote attention to each one and consider how you might implement the suggestions with your team. Below are the four focus areas we’ll cover:

  1. Connect & Build Relationships
  2. Establish a Consistent Leadership Presence
  3. Perfect Team Communications
  4. Acquire & Develop the “Right” Talent for Virtual Teams

Please share your own experiences and advice throughout this series. I am certainly not the only one who can weigh in on this topic! Use the Comments section to connect with others throughout the series.

Here we go with Strategy #1 for acing your role as a virtual leader…

Connect & Build Relationships


First and foremost, it’s about relationships. Humans have an innate need to connect with one another, and this doesn’t go away when working on a virtual team. However, it is far too easy to treat relationships as transactional in the virtual world.  We can “hide” in our home office, complete our 5 tasks for the day, and then head out for happy hour with our local friends, who we don’t work with. This has created efficiencies in some areas, but any productivity gains you realize are at high risk of being reversed due to lack of loyalty and engagement.

Make sure you are connecting regularly with your virtual team, and make sure your team is connecting regularly with one another. When I say “connecting,” I mean everything from asking about their weekend and engaging in friendly banter about the upcoming SuperBowl, to sharing client successes and challenges and ideating around future offerings.  It needs to be both social and work-related. Why? Because the stronger our personal relationships are with one another, the stronger our business relationships will be. It will increase levels of trust and the influence you have on one another.

Think about this – who would you bend over backwards for at work? It’s likely someone who you know on a deeper level, and not just superficially through occasional work-related encounters. You need to build relationships with one another. Real relationships. Have names, faces, likes, dislikes, strengths, limitations, emotions. It’s not just “fluff” to connect socially with one another; it’s a business imperative.

Here’s an experiment – watch the video below.


Has watching that video put a voice behind these characters on the screen? A passion for this topic, possibly luring you to read on? Think about how to create this same human connection on a consistent basis amongst the virtual team you lead.


Hopefully I’ve convinced you of the importance of connecting your virtual team with each other and building meaningful relationships. Below are a few ideas of how you can do that. Please share any others you can contribute to this discussion!

1. As just demonstrated, turn your webcams on! Google Hangouts and Chat make it very easy to connect via webcams throughout the day as needs arise. Take advantage of the free tools that are out there. 
2. Establish 1 hour each week in an informal “chat room” setting to share what’s going well, where people are having challenges, etc. Keep it a consistent, recurring appointment on everyone’s calendar and support its importance as the team leader.  Recognize and reward team members when displaying the types of behaviors you wish to gain through this forum (sharing resources, collaboratively solving problems, collectively ideating on a topic). I would not overly-structure this forum, but I would ensure that it’s valuable time spent. It might require some prodding and light structure initially, but then I think you’ll see it being largely self-run by the team once they get into a groove. Consider giving it a catchy title like Team60, Monday Round-Up, Hump Day Happenings… 
3. Create a private Facebook page (for use during the work day too…this is their water cooler!). Model the way by being an active participant on the page yourself. Alternatively, you could create a team-specific hashtag on Twitter. What’s important is that you use the social media channel that the majority of your team is already using and is most comfortable with. That way, team happenings and collaboration just become part of their regular news feed. Discuss with your team to determine the best channel. 
4. Spend the first 5 minutes of your weekly team meetings doing a “Round Robin” on a selected topic, such as:

  • Top 3 lists, similar to a Letterman Top 10 (best clients and why, ingredients on a taco bar, movies on-demand, industry blogs, ideas for child birthday parties, etc.)
  • If I could be anywhere right now it would be…
  • Best food I’ve had this week was…
  • New LinkedIn connections to share
  • What I did to continue to develop myself last week (either personally or professionally)
  • What I want to stop hearing about in the news
  • What I couldn’t believe I heard about in the news
  • New charitable cause I’ve been following/supporting
  • Share a recipe – quick and easy

Placing a time cap on this part of your meeting will help keep it efficient. You could even gamify it a bit by putting up a digital clock on your web conferencing screen.

5. Create greater awareness of and transparency around team members and team dynamics, using tools such as (just to name a few): 

  • Gallup Strengths Finder – Have each team member take this assessment and share their Top 5 strengths with the group. Discuss how to best leverage the individual strengths on the team for greater collective team results. It’s only $10.00 USD per assessment. Click here to get started.
  • Wiley’s “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” Assessment (for use on intact teams; not brand new teams). Learn more here. This is an assessment that must be facilitated by a licensed provider. Contact Maggie Frye at maggie.frye@contact-core .com if you’re interested in discussing the potential of working with Core on this effort. Great tool for team buildings and offsites!
  • DiSC®personal “workplace personalities” assessment. This tool helps team members discover and value their behavioral differences, providing recommendations on how to work best with one another. Greater awareness of self and others will result. Learn more here. Again, Core can facilitate this process for you, so contact Maggie Frye at maggie.frye@contact-core .com to discuss. Great tool for team buildings and offsites!

The most important piece here is that you are creating a greater awareness of individual strengths, communication preferences, conflict styles, thought processes, values, etc. and then purposefully modifying your interactions with one another accordingly to enhance overall team dynamics and outcomes.

6. Convene in person. I know this post is focused on virtual team leadership, but to have a really strong team you have to leverage face-to-face, live interaction whenever possible. I recommend doing this during the initial onboarding of a new team member, and then at regular pre-established offsites during the year. I would convene the entire team annually at minimum, but bi-annually if budget and logistics allow.I spent 2 days in Pittsburgh with a team from Australia that I was working with a few years ago. Those are the only 2 days we have ever spent together in person, but to this day my relationships with those colleagues are stronger than anyone else I work with in the APAC region. Trust me, it’s worth the time and investment.What should you do when you convene? Anything that is more effective in-person (i.e., leave day-to-day tactics and operations out of it):

  • Socialize and have fun
  • Strategize and plan
  • Team build
7. Virtual Philanthropy – Empower each of your team members to lead a philanthropic effort of their choice, virtually of course, and rotate on a quarterly basis.  This could be contributing to a team blog to raise awareness of a particular issue/cause; collecting videos from each team member to send into their local Children’s hospital to brighten someone’s day; organizing a food or toy drive with shipments all coming into their home address and sharing final stats and pictures of your drop-off; hosting a virtual walk-a-thon or 5K at lunch one day with everyone getting sponsors and then sharing pictures from their afternoon jog, etc. Possibilities here are endless! Leave it up to the creativity of your team to decide what they want to do.


Remember to continue to follow this series and contribute your expertise on this topic. I will post additional Virtual Leadership strategies each week for the next three weeks. Here are the next 3 strategies we’ll explore, so stay tuned!

Why Feelings Matter at Work: Being Intentional About Employee Experience

Employee Experience Blog popcorn1I like my V8 V-Fusion® + Energy pomegranate drink around 2:00 p.m. in my Bengals tumbler with ice (crushed, not cubed), with some Smart Pop on the side. It’s just what I need to plow through what would otherwise be drowsy afternoon hours and get some serious work done.

It makes me feel creative.

It makes me feel confident about the work I’m producing.

It makes me feel happy (…and sometimes feeling “happy” goes a long way).

At initial glance, it appears to just be some liquid, a cup, and a few kernels. But no – it’s so much more. It’s an EXPERIENCE, and an experience that actually alters my behaviors, attitude and output.

I’m sure everyone can think of a similar experience that makes you feel a certain way – maybe it’s that first sip of coffee in the morning, that brand new “A Game” outfit you put on to knock your sales presentation out of the park, or maybe it’s the tranquility of your favorite cocktail glass in front of the fire at the end of a long day.

Consumer Experience

We invest a lot into the experience consumers have with our products and services. There are entire marketing strategies designed around it, product and brand managers focused on it every single day (and whose bonus depends on it!), and researchers continuously testing to measure effectiveness and resulting consumer behavior.

Why? Because the way something makes us feel alters our behaviors, attitude and output. This includes decisions we make about the products and services we choose to engage with.

Employee Experience

Let’s switch gears now and think about the employee experience inside your organization’s four walls (or multitude of continents, or virtual platforms, or in whatever form your organization exists). What have you invested internally to support a positive employee experience? Have you developed a strategy (what kind of experience do you want them to have in the first place)? Do you have a team and budget to execute on the strategy? Who are your “researchers” and what continuous metrics do you have in place?

Being intentional about proactively creating the experience your employees have while working for you will result in the behaviors, attitudes and output you desire from your team. After all, our employees – just like our consumers – are human. The way they feel at any moment in time affects their behavior.

So how can you make sure they’re feeling the way you want them to? Follow these five steps:

1. Identify how you want your employees to feel at work. Every organization is different, so define what’s right for you based on the needs of your business strategy.

2. Audit current versus desired feelings to identify where there are gaps (this can be done a number of ways – via survey, focus groups, observations, interviews, etc.).

3. Develop a plan to create an employee experience that yields the desired feelings you’ve identified in Step 1, now being informed of the gaps via Step 2. Consider elements such as:

  • Physical office environment (colors, work spaces, lighting, wall hangings, furniture, etc.)
  • Management and leadership – what “type” of leaders are you acquiring and building in order to support this experience? (Watch this video to learn more about the vital role organizational leaders play in creating the “smell of the place.”)
  • Opportunities to connect/collaborate (both professionally and socially)
  • Levels of autonomy and empowerment to make decisions
  • Core values and how they’re brought to life during your daily operations
  • Flexibility in how work gets done
  • Continuous learning and professional development

4. Identify the resources (material, people, and financial) needed to support the plan.

5. Execute the plan, measure regularly, and tweak as needed.

Be Intentional

Don’t just let the experience “happen.” Just like you do with your customers, be intentional about creating the type of employee experience that is going to foster high levels of engagement, collaboration, innovation, loyalty, and ultimately performance and results. Otherwise, you can throw your best consumer experience strategy out the window! It starts at home.

The Bears vs. The Bengals: Tackle Engagement Head-On

Let me set the scene. 90 degrees. Loads of humidity. Not an ounce of shade on 100 yards of turf, encircled by a dark black track. Only four players on the Bears show up for a game against the #2 team, the Bengals. Oh…and they’re all 4 and 5-year-olds.

This was my view at McNich’s athletic field in Cincinnati on Sunday as my oldest son attended his final flag football game of the season. Little did I know that I was about to witness a classic case of DISENGAGEMENT and the effects it has on TEAM PERFORMANCE.

My son loves football…lives it, breathes it, says the words Who Dey more than any other term between September and January every year.  He looks forward to his flag football game each week and always gives it his all.

This Sunday was different. A few of the players on his team were just not feelin’ it…for whatever reason (remember – they’re only 4 and 5-years-old). Ben’s smiles and excitement quickly turned to a pretty grim looking face. He was starting to let the heat of the day and the morale of the team get to him, and it was changing the type of player he decided to be on the field that day.

FootballBlog2 FootballBlog3

Your disengaged employees will bring down your team far easier and quicker than your greatest cheerleader can ever build them up.

It’s just human nature. It’s easier for us to gravitate toward negativity. We get sucked in. That disengaged mindset can even creep over into the minds, and ultimately behaviors, of some of your most engaged employees. And it doesn’t take long. Eventually, collective team performance suffers.

The Bears lost the game against the Bengals Sunday. But it doesn’t have to end that way.

AllResponsibilityBlogI’ve written previously about how individuals can take ownership of their own engagement, and I’ve also written about what an organization can do to build an engaged workforce. There’s a third player in this mix though, and that’s the manager, or whoever is in that “team lead” role. It’s a shared responsibility amongst all three parties to build a culture of engagement in your workplace.

These tips are for that third party. What could you have done to turn that game around on Sunday and ensure a strong team performance in the end?


1. Identify the disengagement. Keep your eyes and ears open and know when someone on your team is disengaged. Acknowledgement is a critical first step.

2. Uncover the root cause. Identifying the disengagement only goes so far. It’s your job to understand what is causing it. You can do this through something as formal as an engagement survey or as informal as an open and transparent conversation. During this stage, make sure you seek to understand. Actively listen. Resist the temptation to jump to your own conclusions. The reason for the disengagement could span a large host of underlying causes, such as:

  • Poor job/role fit
  • A wavering trust in leadership
  • The perception of having no growth at the company
  • Not feeling recognized for their work
  • Lack of understanding of how what they do every day aligns with what the organization is trying to achieve

 FootballBlog 3. Address the root cause. Now it’s time to act. Once you identify the root cause, collaboratively build action plans around it that everyone has bought into and can own. One cause of disengagement on the football field that day was the heat. In response, we poured ice cold water over the players’ heads. Please don’t pour ice cold water on your employees, but hopefully you get my point.

4. Measure and re-assess. As with anything, monitor progress. Have check points along the way, and initiate more of that open and transparent communication about the results you’re seeing, whether positive or negative. Alter the course of action if it’s not working.

Bottom line – when you see disengagement amongst your team, tackle it head on (no pun intended!). Don’t let it fester. Your team will thank you.

Need help working through the four steps listed above? Reach out, and I’d love to help you and your team through the process.