Tag: employee engagement


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 amy.clark@contact-core.com

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.

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.

5 Lessons Business Leaders Can Learn From High Schoolers [Video]

What can business leaders learn from this 5 minute high school spirit video? A Lot!!!

Lakewood High School Lip Dub 2013 – Roar from Lakewood High School on Vimeo.

Lessons learned:

  • Team spirit leads to school spirit (i.e., engage at the functional/team level and advocacy for the broader organization will naturally follow). Students proudly displayed their unique Senate, Soccer, Tennis, Bridge, and Drama swag, but in unison for the greater good of the entire school and community.
  • Encourage affinity groups to convene. People like to connect with other people who have similar values, experiences, and interests. What are you doing to enable these connections at your organization? One of Maslow’s needs is Social/Belonging – it’s a human need that must be met before esteem and self-actualization can be reached. And HUMANS work for you, not ROBOTS.
  • Your employees have a life outside of work (crazy, I know!). Did you notice a few parents and younger children in the video? Do you host open houses or other family-friendly events at your workplace? Your employees will likely be proud to share some of their 9-5 with the other half of their life.  It will allow them to be more authentic in the workplace if they’ve shared the personal side of their lives with their teammates. Plus, you’ll only be gaining more ambassadors for your company!
  • Engagement doesn’t happen without leadership.  Someone had to “let” this happen. Students likely came to the “powers that be” with an idea, and luckily they listened, sought to understand, were open to trying new things, and were okay with taking a risk.
  • It’s okay to let loose, have a little fun, and let your unique personality shine through.  Be authentic and don’t be afraid of what other people will think (you might just be a male swimmer with a closet desire to shake your booty in your speedo on camera!). On a more serious note, let your guard down every now and then around your team and just be yourself.

And yes, these are the types of things that run through my head while watching clips like this – just trying to keep it real! Anything to add? Please share!


Back to School: Motivating the “Student” Spirit

Employee MotivationWhen we were young, our teachers rewarded us with things like pizza parties, “You’re Super!” stickers, and the privilege of lining up first for recess. Our friends motivated us by attending our theatrical performances and yelling our name from the audience or writing on our car windows with shaving cream the night before a big game.

We’re not in grade school anymore, but our need for motivation hasn’t vanished. According to Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett Packard, “Men and women want to do a good job, a creative job, and if they are provided the proper environment, they will do so.”

As a manager, how can I create a motivating environment?

Gone are the days of old-school management. It’s an individual choice to perform or not— it can’t be a directive. You need to create that environment Bill Hewlett referenced. How, you ask?

  • Catch your employees doing things right. Pop over to their desk and interrupt them to give thanks or say job well done…versus with a “fire” that needs to be put out.
  • Hand over the wheel. Empowerment builds excitement! 92% of employees want to be asked for their opinions or ideas, and 89% want to be involved in decision-making.
  • Don’t forget about pizza parties and stickers! The same simple and cost-effective forms of motivation work for adults too. Need ideas? Purchase the book 1501 Ways to Reward Employees by Bob Nelson, PhD.

As an individual contributor, how can I create a motivating environment?

Think you’re off the hook because you don’t manage people—wrong! We’re all responsible for creating a motivational environment, so do your part by:

  • Igniting energy in others. Raise your own energy level while at work – it will be contagious.
  • Sending along kudos.  Recognize individuals or teams for something awesome they’ve done. You can do this by sending an email to their supervisor, calling attention to them in a team meeting, or submitting a note to the employee newsletter or intranet editorial team.
  • Being nice and exuding positivity. Back to the basics on this one—please, thank-you, good morning, etc. People want to work with colleagues they get along with and will be motivated to work constructively with you if you’re pleasant.

I hope these “back-to-school” tips are a good reminder to us working adults that motivation drives performance!

photo credit: CanadianAEh via photopin cc

Engage Your Core…at the Gym AND at Work?


Photo credit: Gigi Yogini and Fluid Frame

In my yoga class last night, the instructor kept reminding us to engage our core. This is something she often says, but I really focused on it this time during a challenging balance pose. Wow – was I amazed by the impact it made on my ability to successfully sustain the position!

As an experienced talent management professional, this immediately hit me as a “duh” moment. I have been practicing yoga on and off for years – why in the world did it take this long for that simple piece of advice sink in? I preach this same concept day-in and day-out in my work life – the power of engaging your people “core” in the workplace.  After all, an organization’s people and people practices are core to its success.

The benefits gained by engaging certain muscles during exercise can be directly translated into the value gained from engaging your employees in the workplace:

  • It provides support by lessening stress from your sometimes over-worked primary “muscles.” Take the heat off your managers and executive team by engaging your individual contributors.
  • Just as it enabled me to sustain my balance for a longer period of time, engaging your workforce helps you move from short-term gains to longer-term, sustainable business success.
  • It leads you toward the achievement of desired results. Engaging my core in yoga helped me finally sustain a difficult balance pose I had been struggling with for months. Similarly, fostering a highly engaged workforce will not only help your company meet its annual objectives but also some of your more lofty stretch goals as well.

But (big but!)…

  • It’s not easy. It takes effort – real effort – so prepare yourself for a workout!
  • It requires the leaders of the company to make the conscious decision to commit. You can’t do engagement half-way and expect added value – you’re either in or out.

Ready to start increasing revenue, market share, and retention? Great! Here are three steps to get started:

1.     Conduct an assessment.

You need to establish a baseline. How engaged is your workforce currently? What key drivers of engagement are you excelling in and what others might you need to improve? Do your results differ per demographic – business unit, tenure, gender, age, role? In order to focus your efforts strategically, you need to know the answers to these questions.

Several vendors specialize in engagement surveys. I’d be happy to make a referral based on personal experience if you would like to reach out to me through the Contact page.

 2.     Research best practice.

Start eating up all there is to know about employee engagement by reading articles, attending webinars, and talking with members of your professional associations. Jot down ideas and key take-aways and think about how you could apply the concepts and sample programs/activities at your company.

3.     Develop a strategy and action plan.

Now that you’re armed with meaningful data from the first two steps above, begin developing your informed strategy and detailed action plan. Put metrics in place to monitor the effectiveness of your efforts. Continually revisit and adjust your plan as necessary.

So what are you waiting for? Start engaging your core today!