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Category: Loyalty in the Workplace

Chris Woolard

Business Impact of Eating Spam

March Madness is almost upon us, filled with employees watching games online, filling out brackets, and talking with friends about the games.  Every year at this time, I hear about the loss of productivity during the basketball games (see my blog on this from last year).  What I don’t hear about is how much employees enjoy some flexibility to watch the games and dare I say, have fun at work.  This can lead to improvements in employee loyalty and other correlated behaviors like being highly motivated, recommending the company to others etc.

A company I have worked with, eTapestry, was recently featured in an article on what they do during the games.  eTapestry has an amazing culture.  I attended an employee meeting a couple of years ago and it had to be the most fun all-employee meeting I have ever attended.  Not surprising, they have very high employee loyalty and are a very successful company. 

The days of the tournament games, they televise the games, have a cookout (including spam), and have games.  They make it —  I am going to say that word again — "fun" to be at work.  Do they probably lose a bit of productivity during the games, probably.  However, they trust that their employees are mature enough to know what needs to get done and manage their work accordingly.  They also know the long-term benefits having a great culture will have on the overall success of the organization. 

Chris Woolard

Pixar Culture

I have four kids from eight to two months.  We are regular watchers of the Pixar movies, not only because the kids enjoy them, but I do as well.  I laugh every time I watch The Incredibles and have probably seen it 10-15 times.  We saw Up last year and anytime we see a squirrel in our back yard, we all step and yell, "SQUIRREL!!!!".  If you have seen Up, you know what I am talking about. 

In my opinion, movies today lack creativity, many rehashing old ideas, updating previously made movies, and just very few, new creative ideas (keep in mind this is coming from the guy who did see Transformers 2 and G.I. Joe last year so take my comments about movies with a grain of salt).  That is why I am all the more amazed that Pixar continues to make highly creative and original works. 

This article provides a short summary of the culture at Pixar that has helped make it a force in the movie making industry.  The article shares three tenets to develop its creative culture:

1.  Place the creative authority for product development firmly in the hands of the project leaders (as opposed to corporate executives)
2.  Build a culture and processes that encourage people to share their work-in-progress and support one another as peers
3.  Dismantle the natural barriers that divide disciplines.

While this article is focused on creating a creative culture, I believe these principles would apply to any organization and are good lessons to incorporate into any organization. 

Just to note, as I was working on this over the weekend, Pixar won another Academy Award for Up.  Just another long line in a string of successes. 

Chris Woolard

Are you a sea lion?

"Once upon a time there lived a sea lion who had lost the sea.  He lived in a country known as the barren lands.  High on a plateau, far from any coast, it was a place so dry and dusty that it could only be called a desert.  A kind of coarse grass grew in patches here and there, and a few trees were scattered across the horizon.  But mostly, it was dust.  And sometimes wind, which together make one very thirsty.  Of course, it must seem strange to you that such a beautiful creature should wind up in the desert at all.  He was, mind you, a sea lion.  But things like this do happen.

How the sea lion came to the barren lands, no one could remember.  It all seemed so very long ago.  So long, in fact, it appeared as though he had always been there.  Not that he belonged in such an arid place.  How could that be?  He was, after all, a sea lion.  But as you know, once you have lived so long in a certain spot, no matter how odd, you come to think of it as home." 
-Quote from the book "Desire" by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge

Does this sound like anyone you know in the workplace?  I am a big John Eldredge fan and actually received three of his books for Christmas.  I came across this story in one of the books I was reading and thought, this really describes the trapped employee.  These are employees who aren't excited about the company but do not plan to leave.  Usually when I describe the trapped employee, most people can instantly picture a few of these people in their workplace. 

I do not think a lot of employees today start off their career hoping to be trapped, hoping to be in a job that leads nowhere in a company they do not care about and does not seem to care about them.  But, after time, many employees (20%-30% on average) fall into this category.  They do not plan to leave but aren't excited about staying.  

I think over the past couple of years, many companies have become that barren land.  A mentality of "let's buckle down and get through this" has prevailed, an attitude of "this is just a job" has resulted.  Now, I am not suggesting companies have keggers every Friday, although this would probably increase employee loyalty.  However, it would probably severely impact productivity.  What I am talking about is remember the employees, celebrate the success (even a flat year where the company made money is worthy of a celebration in today's economy), reward high performing employees, give access to training and development so employees feel you care about them.  Remembering the employees will improve employee loyalty, which will have a positive impact on the overall success of the organization. 

One other question I think companies seem to forget to ask themselves is, "Do we have the right people in the right job or do we have people in a job because we are too busy with other things?"  Do we have sea lions in the desert and camels in the sea?  Take time to review the personnel, their skills and abilities, and what jobs they are in. 

Now I have some questions for the employee, "Are you just going through the motions?  If so, why?"  My blog last week spoke to this.  There is no reason to look back on your career and see most of it was spent in the desert.  Go find the sea.  The road will be difficult and treacherous but rewarding once you find it. 

Chris Woolard

Importance of Training

This month marks my 10th year at Walker.  Over that time, I have done hundreds of employee loyalty/engagement surveys on companies in a variety of industries, sizes, and parts of the world.  A fairly consistent area of weakness is long-term training and development.  Companies continue to ignore this problem in hopes it will go away.  Unfortunately, what usually happens is the employee is the one who goes away, to a company who cares about offering long-term training and development. 

Companies complain about providing new skills and abilities to their employees for fear they will be more marketable and leave.  A former colleague of mine always fought that argument by telling these companies they have two choices, they can train their employees and they might leave, or they can not train their employees and they will stay, leaving you with an untrained and unmotivated workforce.  

Cisco is a company that understands the importance of training and development and is willing to invest in it.  This article outlines their program for giving training and development to high performers.  The cost is about $10,000 per employee.  However, the program has already generated ideas that could net the company billions, not a bad ROI.  Also, only two of the 360 participants in the program have left the company.  That is a company that understands the importance of training and development employees rather than face the alternative. 

Chris Woolard

Goodbye High Performers

This article summarized a recent study that found high performers had a large drop in their levels of engagement compared to last year.  All employees had a drop in employee engagement but high performers dropped 25%.    I have written about this a couple of times before (herehere, and here).  Not only will there be a mass exodus when the economy turns around but many of those leaving will be the high performers that are critical to the success of the organization.  So what are companies doing about this? 


I have talked to several others in the employee loyalty/employee engagement/HR Consulting area and they are not seeing increases in activity.  I continue to hear from CEOs and heads of HR, "This is important and ‘ping’ me in 2010."  First, I hate the use of the word "ping", but second by 2010 it will be too late.  Companies need to take action now. 

Compounding the problem of high performers exiting companies when the economy turns around is many employees re-evaluate their careers at the end of the year and numerous employees will be setting goals to find a new job in 2010.  

Companies that are taking action now will be way ahead of the curve and in a better competitive position to take advantage of new opportunities versus those that are just thinking about planning something maybe sometime in 2010 (or so…maybe). 

Chris Woolard

Walker Makes Best Places to Work List

Walker recently made the list for the Consulting Magazine’s Best Places to Work for small consulting firms (20 to 499 consultants) in the U.S.  Often in my blogs, I focus a lot on what other companies do and industry trends.  I thought I would take a couple of blogs and turn the mirror on ourselves and focus on what Walker is doing that helped it make the Best Places to Work list.

First let me clarify the award.  Consulting Magazine is a magazine devoted to the consulting industry.  Over the past several years  Walker has shifted its focus from a research company to a consulting company.  This award is not only a recognition of Walker being a great place to work but also Walker is a consluting company.  We feel the award is more significant than the standard Best Places to Work in Indiana or wherever, as we were compared to our peers and came out as one of the best.  

One of the aspects where Walker excelled was Work/Life Balance, ranking second.  There are many pieces that go into Walker being excellent for work/life balance.  One of the biggest is the paid time off (PTO) policy.  Walker associates get over five weeks off a year, yeah that is right, I said over five weeks off.  This is an addition to the standard company holidays (Christmas, 4th of July, etc.).  They do not delineate between sick days and vacation days.  This eases the administrative burden of HR and management to deal with doctor’s notes and tracking if it was PTO or a sick day. 

I was talking to a friend of mine about work and we got to talking about vacation times.  He was telling me if he is sick, he has to take a vacation day.  He can only take a sick day when his vacation days are gone.  What a stupid, stupid policy.  This is not some small mom and pop shop he is working for either, it is a national engineering firm.  So let’s play this out, I am sick, do you think I am going to take a vacation day to stay home?  There is no way, I am going to come in, even though I am probably not going to be very productive and will probably infect the office with whatever bug I have.  Rather than stay home for a day and get the rest I need so I can come back to work at full strength, I am going to come into work and this bug will drag on for days.  What message does this policy send to the employees?  This tells me the company is going to penalize their employees for getting sick and staying home.  That is what this is, taking a vacation day for being sick is a penalty. 

This PTO policy is just one aspect, I will go into a few more over the next couple of days.