Purple, Green, Golden, and Blue: Pal's is a Goldfish Paradise

Burgers, hot dogs, fries, and milkshakes. It’s the quintessential backyard American food and a staple of Americana fast food. But these establishment are a dime a dozen, aren’t they? Sure, there are the Chick-fil-A’s of the world. But isn’t it nearly impossible to carve out your own identity in this sea of sameness?

Pal’s Sudden Service, a double drive-thru fast food restaurant chain with 26 locations in Tennessee and Virginia, is certainly up for the challenge. Pal’s believe that an emphasis on its people, speed, customer service, and quality is what truly sets them apart.

Here are five quick facts about Pal’s Sudden Service that demonstrate that the proof is really in the pudding (or their milkshakes for that matter): 

  1. An astonishingly low turnover rate with the at the assistant manager level coming in at 1.4 percent, the hourly staff at 32 percent, and has only lost seven general managers in 33 years. In comparison, most fast food chains have an average turnover rate between 50-150 percent with management and hourly employees aggregated together.
  2. An average of 18 seconds at the drive-up window, and an average of 12 seconds at the pickup window to receive the order for a grand total of 30 seconds. That’s four times faster than the second-fastest quick-serve restaurant in the country.
  3. Pal’s makes a mistake only once in every 3,600 orders. That’s nearly ten times better the the second most accurate fast food chain, Chick-fil-A.
  4. 1,100-square-foot buildings accruing right around $2 million per year in sales. That’s just over $1,818 per square foot. The iconic Shake Shack and Chipotle restaurant chains come in at $387 and $250 in comparison, respectively. Remember, it’s not how high your sales are, it’s how much you bring home to the bank.
  5. One of two restaurant chains that has ever won the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. This prestigious award caused Pal’s to create the Business Excellence Institute (BEI) as a way to share best business practices with others. The other restaurant winner of the Baldrige award is a BEI client, Mighty Fine Burger.

By now you’re probably very impressed but this all begs the question, how does Pal’s do it? 

Here are seven differentiators that Pal’s has instituted that you can learn from:

  1. An emphasis on great people – Pal’s has developed and fine-tuned a screening system to evaluate candidates that includes a 60-point psychometric survey, based on the attitudes and attributes of Pal’s star performers, that does an unprecedented job of predicting who is most likely to succeed.
  2. Top-notch training – Once Pal’s selects its candidates, they put employees through 120 hours of training before they are allowed to work on their own, and must be certified in each of the specific jobs they do. Pal’s also has assembled a Master Reading List for all the leaders in the company and it includes 21 books that must be read. Every two weeks, the CEO, Thom Crosby, invites five managers from different locations to discuss one of the books on the Master Reading List.
  3. Ongoing training – Pal’s believes that all leaders are trainers and educators. They also believe that people educate by their attitudes, their behaviors, and by their focus. At Pal’s, every leader needs to have a coaching and training target every single day. Management and leadership asks their employees at random, “What’s your target for today?” Every single employee has to have a person and a topic every single day.
  4. Technology – Pal’s has a proprietary “training tracker” software system that manages all employees. The software quizzes employees at random every single day whether it’s their first day on the job or they’ve been there for 10 years. The software goes through the basics, the most critical parts of the operations with employees. Management then conducts an observation to make sure the employees are still adhering to the standard 100% without exceptions.
  5. Development of leaders – Employees who have scored 100 percent on four re-certifications are eligible to become coaches within their restaurants and help their colleagues consistently develop and adhere to their standards. According to the CEO, “We are looking to get people to this mastery level.”
  6. A commitment to staying top of mind – Pal’s recognizes that all restaurants are chosen from a defined mental rolodex by customers. and believe that customers only ever think about 2-10 establishments. This is the reason why Pal’s created their website to have a unique and inspiring thought of the day, local movie theatre showtimes, and the CEO answers every single question through the contact form. This is what keeps people coming back to Pal’s site and provides a useful service to the communities Pal’s serves.
  7. A focus on culture – According to the CEO, “Sometimes I get that itch that maybe it’s time to step up and expand faster. But we want to make sure that we hand off all the cultural pieces to each store. I see operations that outgrow their cultures. They can’t pass on their culture so they go from a really great concept with great people to weaker and weaker operations and people who don’t understand the origin of the culture.”

What’s preventing you from instituting world class principles just like Pal’s? Does your business do anything similar? Leave a comment below.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Be sure to check out this incredible overview about living your mission from the president of Pal’s BEI, David McClaskey.

Golden Goldfish – All Customer and Employees are not Created Equal

Here is a slideshare on the third book in the Goldfish Series, the Golden Goldfish: The book is based on the simple premise that all customers and employees are not created equal. For most businesses, 80% of profitability is driven by the top 20% of customers and employees. These are simply your “Vital Few.” The book focuses on nine different ways to do the “little extras” to promote customer advocacy and drive employee engagement with these key stakeholders.

Pareto’s 80/20 principle is brought to life by authors Yoon, Carlotti and Moore in a case study about Kraft Velveeta cheese. In 2012, sales of Velveeta cheese were on a downward trajectory. The brand managers were faced with a challenge. Should they focus on getting lapsed consumers to buy Velveeta again? Or should they work to get occasional purchasers to buy more frequently? Their research uncovered that the top 10% of Velveeta buyers account for over 50% of profit. Kraft decided to focused on this key segment of 2.4 million consumers. According to Greg Gallagher, Velveeta Marketing Director, “The previous thinking was that the quickest, easiest path to growth was to identify light users or lapsed users. But when we talked to superconsumers, we learned that in fact they wanted to use Velveeta more —they were starving for it.” Kraft went to work on creating brand extensions. Additional products that contained Velveeta. The results are anything but cheesy. New product spin-offs totaled over $100 million in additional sales.

GOLDEN GOLDFISH LESSON: Do more for your best ones. In the words of Yoon, Carlotti, and Moore, “Show the love to those that love you the most.”

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Speaking of a Golden and a Goldfish, here is a video of Rellie the Golden Retriever discovering a goldfish tank for the first time:

Why Do Good People Make Unethical Choices?

Guest Post by Chuck Gallagher

Is it safe to say that all organizations are expected act in an ethical manner when it comes to the legal, moral, and professional conduct related to the fulfillment of their professional responsibilities?  Who wouldn’t answer YES to this question? 

Yet, in my work as a professional ethics consultant and advocate, I have seen more examples of circumstances where good people, people that are well intentioned, make bad choices by taking one step on the slippery slope of unethical activity. 

The process of making bad choices, unethical choices, begins with a simple almost thoughtless decision.  How do I know?  Well, I am living proof that good people can make some really bad choices and the consequences most certainly can be devastating.  While not proud of this sentence, I have made unethical choices and spent time in federal prison as a result.  So, suffice it to say, I know a thing or two about the simplicity of making one step on the slippery slope that can lead a person to choices that are life changing.

The Three Components of Bad Behavior

If you look at any ethical failure there are three components that always are present in some form or fashion.  Need, Opportunity and Rationalization.  If one component is missing the ethical lapse fails or you can’t stand on the three-legged stool.

Need. Described as perceived pressure that a person is experiencing, is the first and critical component of what motives a person to stray from ethical to unethical. Need may come in a variety of forms. Typically need is triggered by financial issues, relationship issues or health concerns.  When life gets out of balance the NEED index rises dramatically.

Opportunity. It makes no difference what your need may be if you don’t have the opportunity to satisfy it then the unethical and potentially illegal choice fails. Without Opportunity there is no fuel for the potential unethical fire.

Rationalization. Need combined with opportunity provides a firm foundation, but the glue that holds unethical activity together is the ability to rationalize that what is wrong, is right.  If you ask most people found guilty of unethical/illegal behavior, they will tell you they felt their actions were legitimate.

The mind can be tricky and when you combine need with opportunity, and can rationalize bad behavior as good, you have the perfect storm to move from ethical to unethical, and potential illegal, behavior.

Your Ethical Culture

Every organization needs to remember that the creation of an ethical culture is exemplified in the actual behavior and attitudes of all team members.  The question is not so much whether you talk the talk (in policy documents, training materials or video or webinars), but whether you walk the walk. 

From a business ethics perspective, do you want to create a culture of ethical behavior in your organization? It’s easy if you think about it. When you start by understanding how good people make bad choices, and follow it with an effective ethics-training program that reinforces ethical choices and accountability, you have a recipe for success. Every choice has a consequence. What choices do you make for your organization to help keep your most valuable assets between the ethical lines?

Chuck Gallagher is a business ethics expert, consultant, keynote speaker, and author of Second Chances.

Learning From Google: 15 Ways To Drive Employee Engagement

Portions of this post were taken from two Forbes articles on Cracking Google and Beyond Perks:

With more than two million applicants a year, it seems like everyone wants to work at Google. Perhaps it’s because the search giant has been crowned the “Happiest Company in America.”  In past years, has ranked Google No. 1 after more than 100,000 worker-generated reviews from more than 10,000 companies. Scores were based on such factors as work-life balance, relationships with bosses and co-workers, compensation, growth opportunities, a company’s culture and the opportunity for employees to exert control over the daily work flow.

Getting a job at Google is equivalent to running the gauntlet. It is nearly ten times harder to get a job at Google than it is to get into Harvard. Interested in navigating the application process and landing a job at Google? Here’s an inside look courtesy of


15 Ways Google Drives Employee Engagement

You don’t become the happiest company by chance. It’s a product of thoughtful design and ultimately culture. Let’s explore 15 reasons why:

1. Dollars and Sense – With billions of dollars in revenue every year, Google pays some some the highest average salaries in the tech industry. Takeaway: If you don’t want monkeys, don’t pay peanuts.

2. For-Purpose – Google has always pursued a noble cause. The company conducts business with a simple motto,”Don’t be evil.” Its mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.  Here is Founder Larry Page talking about both purpose and the theory of abundance, “We have somewhat of a social mission, and most other companies do not. I think that’s why people like working for us, and using our services…Companies’ goals should be to make their employees so wealthy that they do not need to work, but choose to because they believe in the company … Hopefully, I believe in a world of abundance, and in that world, many of our employees don’t have to work, they’re pretty wealthy, they could probably go years without working. Why are they working? They’re working because they like doing something, they believe in what they’re doing.” Takeaway: Purpose is becoming a main differentiator in business. By 2020, there will be little or no distinction between for-profit and non-profit businesses. Companies will only be seen as for-purpose or not-for-purpose.

3. Caring – No stone is left unturned in their quest to provide a welcoming work environment for employees. Actions speak louder than mere words. Why is caring so important to the company? According to Google’s Chief People Officer Laszlo Bock, “It turns out that the reason we’re doing these things for employees is not because it’s important to the business, but simply because it’s the right thing to do. When it comes down to it, it’s better to work for a company who cares about you than a company who doesn’t.  And from a company standpoint, that makes it better to care than not to care.” Takeaway: People in life don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care. To paraphrase the founder of SAS’ Dr. Jim Goodnight, “If you care and treat people like they matter, they will.”

4. Creative Outlet – Google allows its employees the option to use up to 20% of their work week at Google to pursue special projects. That means for every standard work week, employees can take a full day to work on a project unrelated to their normal workload. Google claims that many of their products in Google Labs (i.e. Gmail) started out as pet projects in the 20% time program. Last year Quartz reported that 20% time had been abolished, but Google responded saying it’s very much alive and kicking. Takeaway: Autonomy and ownership are powerful drivers of engagement.

5. A Voice – The Google-O-Meter gives all employees a voice on employee suggestions and potential cultural changes . According to a post by Diana Ransom: “Google’s Chief Culture Officer Stacy Sullivan implemented the company’s charting tool, the Google-O-Meter, to gauge the popularity of employee suggestions, such as housing more doctors on site or bringing overseas employees to headquarters for a visit. ‘It wasn’t something that we would just go and implement for them,’ she says. ‘Their suggestions had to be reflective of things about the culture that [many] people wanted to change.” Takeaway: Be transparent and give your employees a voice.

6. Benefits Beyond the Grave. There is a Google Perk that extends into the afterlife. Should a U.S. Googler pass away while working for Google, their surviving spouse or domestic partner will receive a check for 50% of their salary every year for the next decade. Even more surprising, a Google spokesperson confirms that there’s “no tenure requirement” for this benefit, meaning most of their nearly 40,000 employees qualify. Takeaway: Smart companies are invested into their employees and their lives beyond the workplace.

7. Modern Family – Google gives employees in same-sex relationships extra cash to cover their partners’ health benefits. Currently, when receiving partner health care coverage, same-sex domestic partners are subject to an extra tax that straight, married couples don’t have to pay. Google is shouldering the burden of paying this tax by compensating partnered LGBT employees for the amount of the tax, which comes to a bit more than $1,000 each year. This benefit will also cover any dependents of the partner in the same-sex couple. Takeaway: Be ready to adapt to today’s modern family. You need to be proactive with your policies for issues such as eldercare, paternal leave, infertility, and adoption.

8. Bathrooms – Googlers have access to some of the most high-tech toilets around. These Japanese imports offer washing and drying of your nether regions as well as the mysterious “wand cleaning.” Both the wash water and the seat itself can be warmed or cooled depending on your preference. Takeaway: Find ways to make your workplace stand out from a sea of sameness.

Here’s Conan O’Brien and Andy Richter at Google talking about the toilets:

9. Kingpin – Google has a bowling alley for employees. Takeaway: The company knows how to roll.
10. Training & Development – Google’s “CareerGuru” program matches Google executives with Google employees to provide confidential, one-on-one career coaching  and guidance around the subjects of work-life balance, personal and professional development, communication styles and conflict resolution, among others. Takeaway: Invest in your people and develop a culture of mentoring.

11. Wellness – The Googleplex has some interesting lap pools. The outdoor mini-pools are like water treadmills: a strong current allows the Googler to swim and swim and go nowhere. Luckily, lifeguards are always on duty in case someone gets in over their head. Takeaway: Without health, we have nothing. A healthy employee is a basic starting point for a happy one.

12. Team Building – Google’s Conference Bike is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around. Takeaway: Find interesting ways to bring teams together. A team that plays together, stays together.

13. Collaborative Space – According to Jonathan Strickland, “Google’s corridors are designed and set up for impromptu information sharing. Offices don’t resemble a typical corporate environment. Google arranges the workstations so that groups of three to four employees who work together sit in the same area. During the design phase, architect Clive Wilkinson faced a challenging problem: how do you group people together and still give them an environment in which they can concentrate on work without distractions? And how do you do it without turning Google into a labyrinth of cubicles? Wilkinson decided to use glass walls to divide the space into clusters. This design cuts down on much of the ambient noise inside the office. It also allows sunlight to filter in through the entire office. Each glass enclosure has a tent-like roof made of acrylic-coated polyester which contains the room’s lighting and sprinkler systems. Google executives want employees to be able to bounce ideas off each other. It’s the c­ompany’s hope that by encouraging interaction, workers will have greater job satisfaction and may even create the next big Google product.” Takeaway: Space Matters. You physical space should reinforce the culture in your company, not dictate it by default.

Google Campus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

14. Food & Beverage – One of the most oft-cited perks of working at Google is the food. Google feeds its employees well. If you work at the Googleplex, you can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner free of charge. There are several cafés located throughout the campus, and employees can eat at any of them. The main café is Charlie’s Place, which takes its name from Google’s first lead chef, Charlie Ayers. Before creating meals for Googlers, Ayers was the chef for the Grateful Dead. Although Ayers left Google in 2005, the café still bears his name. The café has several stations, each offering different kinds of cuisine. Options range from vegetarian dishes to sushi to ethnic foods from around the world. Google’s culture promotes the use of fresh, organic foods and healthy meals. But when everything is free and you can eat whenever you want, it’s easy to go overboard. That’s where the Google 15 comes in. It refers to the 15 pounds many new Google employees put on once they start taking advantage of all the meals and snacks. Takeaway: Food is a communal activity. Perhaps the way to an employee’s heart through their stomach.

15. Openness and Transparency – One of things shaping culture at the search leader are “TGIF” meetings. They tend to happen most Fridays, said Craig Silverstein, who joined the founders as Google’s first employee in 1998. TGIF, where any Googler is free to ask the founders any company-related question, became a fixture of the culture. Takeaway: Be open by default. In the words of Louis Brandeis, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

More Than Just Perks

Anthology has been tracking the most admired companies by passive job-seekers in 2015-16, and every month Google has maintained its no. 1 spot. They recently asked 200 of their users the top three reasons for admiring Google. Out of five choices, perks were the least important. Here are the top four responses from passive job seekers at companies like Facebook, Microsoft, Snapchat, Amazon, Apple, and many others:

1. 71% said Positive Culture

2. 62.5 said Smart People

3. 58.5% said Cool Product

4. 57% said Success In The Market

5. 36.5% cited the generous benefits and perks employees

Words like meritocracy, inclusiveness, transparency, diversity, and empowerment are more than buzzwords at Google. They are part of the fabric that creates a positive culture. An environment of caring where your employer gives more than expected and allows you to do your best work toward a noble purpose. That’s a positive culture.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Many of these 15 ways to drive employee engagement were featured in the book, Green Goldfish. Here’s a slideshare on the concept:

We Mean Business Interview – Discussing the Power of G.L.U.E. to Win Customers

During a recent trip to DC I had the opportunity to be a guest on the TV show, “We Mean Business.” The show just aired on Channel 16 on MMC-TV.

Here is the conversation with Steve Dorfman from Driven to Excel:

Here are some of things we talked about:

  1. G.L.U.E. What does it stand for and how was it inspired?
  2. “GLUE” experience of a Target customer…
  3. You have another great story about Panera Bread …
  4. For those business owners who might be wondering, does this translate into dollars or is it just good will? Are the results quantifiable?
  5. Tell us about the role that employee engagement plays in all of this.
  6. What about the frontline employee who’d rather not give a little extra to that “rude” customer?
  7. You say that what we see as common sense is not always common practice. Why is that?
  8. You say that it’s all about reaching the hearts of our customers. Where does one begin, when it comes to developing this type of culture?
  9. Do you have a favorite interview question that helps to find a culture fit?
  10. Your background is in marketing – when and why did you pivot and niche?
  11. You say that nobody meets customer expectations?
  12. Some leaders are still of the belief that their employees should feel lucky just to have a job. What would you like to say to those leaders?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here is Daniel Pink on We Mean Business talking about his most recent book, To Sell is Human. I just mentioned Dan in my latest blog post in Forbes about purpose.

Does your company love you enough to deal with your dirty laundry?

nextjump_logo_blackEmployees at Next Jump in New York City are routinely asked the following question,

“How can we make things better for you to be happier at home or at work?”

Once a response shows up a couple of times, the company looks into the viability of the suggestion. A few years ago employees complained about the need to do their laundry on the weekends. It turns out that an afternoon every other weekend was wasted in laundromats around the city.

Founder Charlie Kim looked into the possibility and decided to offer wash and fold as an employee benefit. According to the Next Jump website:

laundrybagEmployees can drop off their laundry bag in the office on Fridays every week. Their laundry is washed, dried and folded over the weekend and can be picked up the following Monday. This program ensures maximum “strategic disengagement” for the employees. Instead of spending hours doing laundry every weekend, employees can have more time to rest and relax, ready to be energized for next week.

Next Jump came up with the motto: 

“My company gets my laundry, I get my weekends back.”

green-goldfish-15-ways-to-drive-engagement-300x248Next Jump also has a number of other (green goldfish) programs that work to reinforce the desired culture. Like Google, they hit on all cylinders whether its the Basics like recruiting, onboarding, food / beverage, space, wellness, modern family, time-away, Belonging like transparency, team building, recognition, flexibility, retirement and Building like training, pay it forward and empowerment.

I had the privilege of hearing Matt Tenney speak at a couple recent events. Matt is a thought leader around the topics of servant leadership and corporate culture. Here is Matt talking about Next Jump as part of a keynote. In addition to the laundry, Matt touches on Code for a Cause, The Avenger Award and Office Bedrooms and the amount of applicants at Next Jump:

ServeToBeGreatMatt is also the author of the upcoming May 5th Wiley release, “Serve to Be Great.”

TAKEAWAY – Take a cue from Next Jump, routinely ask your employees how you can better serve their needs at home or at work. Because happy engaged employees create happy enthused customers.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want to take a look inside Next Jump? Here’s a quick video by the folks at Wistia:

Looking back in pictures at the Top 10 posts of 2013

Here are my top 10 posts from 2013. Click on the pictures to read the posts.

1. Unlocking the Keys to WoM

the goldfish rule


2. Mind the CX Gap

mind the cx gap by renewal

3. Focus on the Funnel or Leaky Bucket?

retention versus acquisition

4. Are You Low or High Maintenance?

the cost of a bad customer experience

5. 15 Ways to Drive Employee Engagement


green goldfish 15 ways to drive engagement

6. The Goldfish Rule: Be Remark-able

the goldfish rule for customers

7. It’s More Than a Cookie

Doubletree Chocolate Chip Cookie

8. The Simplest and Greatest Marketing Story Ever Told


9. Service So Great, It’s Memorable


10. Pushing the Needle @Rackspace on Customer Experience and Employee Engagement 



Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here was my most popular Slideshare from 2013. Traditional Marketing is Dead… Long Live the Customer

An empowering employee program with No Boundaries @webershandwick

Last week I gave a webinar for the PRSA on driving employee engagement that was hosted by the Counselors Academy. We reviewed the 15 ways to establish a world class agency culture from my latest book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish.”

I shared the ingredients of a Green Goldfish and how these little signature extras for employees can reinforce culture. We discussed why:

  • Showing you care drives engagement.
  • Engagement is key to growth.
  • The ingredients of a “Green Goldfish” create a stable environment, build high-functioning teams and empower employees to do great things.

The fifteen ways to drive employee engagement are broken up into the three B’s:

Basics, Belonging and Building

green goldfish 15 ways to drive engagement

I shared a number of agency examples from the likes of Coyne PR, Weber Shandwick, Peppercom, The PR Freelancer, Allen & Gerritsen, PARTNER + simons and The Nerdery. One of examples of building during the presentation was Weber Shandwick Minneapolis. They were Green Goldfish #310 in the Project for a number of programs developed by their Employee Action Group (EAG). Each month the EAG sponsors fun events to celebrate successes and encourage teamwork. Previous events have included the annual “Shankwick” golf outing and their own version of “The Amazing Race,” appropriately renamed “The Shanmazing Race.”

One of the newer initiatives is the “No Boundaries” program. The program awards three employees each $1,000 and five days off to pursue a professional goal. Selections are made based on quality of the application essay, degree of professional enrichment and time of year requested for the journey.

weber shandwick no boundaries

Past program participants have:

  • swam with tiger sharks in the Bahamas
  • attended a writers conference
  • volunteered in a Nicaraguan health clinic
  • ran their first marathon
  • snapped a photo journey in South Dakota
  • took improv training lessons
  • embarked on a culinary tour of Tuscany
  • attended the Burning Man festival
  • traveled to Honduras to work for Soles4Souls

Participants in the program contribute to a blog so they can share their experiences with their colleagues.

Empowering Creativity

I love how “No Boundaries” gives a few agency folks each year the opportunity to pursue a passion. But why not push it further? The integrated marketing agency Fast Horse offers a similar program to all its employees. Fast Horse (#297) employees enjoy $500 a year  with a program called Muse It or Lose It. All employees are eligible for a stipend to help underwrite creative endeavors that spark creativity away from the office.

How are you driving employee engagement at your office? What’s Your Green Goldfish?

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Want some additional examples? Here’s a slideshare deck talking about the 15 ways to drive engagement and reinforce culture:

20 questions about employee engagement and the green goldfish

voiance employee engagement webinarEarlier this month I had the opportunity to be part of a webinar about employee engagement hosted by Voiance. The webinar was entitled, Driving Employee Engagement: 15 Keys to a World Class Office Culture

There were a number of questions that were posed by webinar attendees that unfortunately didn’t get addressed during the hour long session. As a little lagniappe today, I wanted to do two things:

What's Your Green Goldfish1. Give away free copies of the Green Goldfish eBook on Amazon. Click here to download your complimentary copy. The offer will expire at midnight PST on 10/24.

2. Answer those questions:

#1 – Coping with the cost

Q: We are a free transportation company. Being unique is hard to find and so is the cost. Any ideas? Also can i get a copy of this slide show?

A: Good question. I’d concentrate on simple elements like recognition and team building. Many times these things can be extremely low cost. Like one unique award that gets passed around. Or a fun team building exercise like a smoothie recipe contest.

Here is a replay of the webinar on Viddler an here’s a slideshare for the Green Goldfish.

#2 – What if we’re union

Q: We have a union here and as such my hands are very tied. Do you have any ideas in that area? We are no tallowed to just give extra time off or anything like that.

A: I think transparency is key when dealing with unions. Check out this post featuring a Brazilian company called SEMCO. They have unions, yet they go above and beyond to develop trust with their partners.

#3 – Dealing with Negative Employees

Q: How do you deal with a bad attitude? When you have tried numerous avenues, but they keep negativity on the workroom floor?

A: It’s always difficult with people who perpetuate a negative attitude. Hopefully you can try to manage the necessary behaviors. This was done effectively in the case of Sky Lakes. See this case study to see how they increased positivity with one simple rule:

#4 – Creating a recognition program that involves employees

Q: We currently recognize individuals for production-based metrics, but are considering a recognition program to reward those who contribute most to the morale of the call center. My first thought was that the winners should be voted on by their peers, but I’m concerned about it turning in to a popularity contest and missing the point. Can you suggest a better way? Or would the engagement be better by having direct input to who wins?

A: I don’t think there is a silver bullet here. You are correct. You don’t want the program to become a popularity contest, yet you want the employees to have input. It may make sense to have a bit of both. Whereby employees nominate other employees based on specific criteria and behavior that adds to morale. A manager or program director reviews the nomination for approval. This adds an element of control. Managers would also have the ability to nominate employees based on merit.

#5 – Making the time for employee engagement

Q: With a do more with less mindset how can you motivate and retain employees. Q: Our people are very busy and don’t have time to even complete their day to day tasks, how do we get them to make time for some of these fabulous “little things”?

A: Many of the ways you can execute green goldfish don’t involve $$$. But they do require time and commitment. Organizations need to make sure they put principles and culture above efficiency. Culture isn’t a campaign, it’s a commitment.

#6 – Empowering managers

Q: How do you get managers to trust and empower their direct reports?

A: The biggest mistake organizations make is not spending enough time to develop effective managers. 75% of employees that voluntarily leave an organization don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. You need to train effective managers and provide the necessary support systems for employees.

#7 – Overcoming skepticism

Q: How do you overcome initial skepticism that people will have when these new ideas are introduced?

A: There is always going to be a level of skepticism and in some cases, outright resistance. You can improve the implementation by sharing the reasoning behind new programs or policies. Creating alignment and getting employees behind new initiatives is key. Some companies have ambassador programs. The key employees (ambassadors) help lead the way with new changes.

#8 – The link between engagement and feedback

Q: One slide referenced the link between employee engagement and feedback – is the increased level of feedback the actual cause of the increased engagement or are they just related in the sense that companies that show higher levels of one tend to show higher levels of the other as well? Q: How do you engage employees when the “sticky” conversations seem to lean more towards the negative, even though the positive is constantly being reinforced?

A: This is a great chicken or egg question. I’m not sure if it’s the actual cause or just a behavior that correlates with engagement. There are two elements of feedback. How often it’s given and the ratio of positive to negative. Here are the takeaways from recent studies. The Losada line refers to the ratio of positive / negative. It typically needs to be at least 2.9 to 1 ratio for feedback to be effective. Employees that tend to get feedback more often, are more engaged. Accentuate the positive. To steal a famous line from Dale Carnegie, “A drop of honey gathers more bees than a gallon of gall (vinegar)”

#9 – Obtaining Feedback

Q: Have you found that leveraging employee surveys to find out what they want is valuable or is it better to communicate to them what the company is doing for them, or a combination of the two?

A: It’s probably a combination. It makes sense to do both quantitative and qualitative research. Surveys, focus groups and interviews. Sometimes you can’t rely on the employees to tell you what they want. To quote Henry Ford, ““If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Sometimes you need to roll things out on a test basis and see what sticks.

#10 – Dealing with staff reductions 

Q: We have recently had to reduce our staff. Aside from being very transparent about our current financials, how can I help employees feel more secure and reduce the negative energy/fall out from that?

A: It’s difficult to reduce fallout. You do your best to communicate how the company is moving forward to meet the challenges. The biggest factor that impact engagement is when employees believe senior management cares and acts in their best interest.

#11 – Going ROWE

Q: I would love to implement the Results-Only-Work-Environment type of approach and allow employees to be responsible to get work done only/ no schedule, however we have scheduled customer service phone hours that constantly need coverage from 830-430p and a very small employee population to get this done. Do you have any suggestions how to implement the type of results only culture but ensure our phone hours are covered? Q: How do you add flexibilty in a call center?

A: A ROWE workplace doesn’t work for every organization. Especially those in retail or with coverage issues. If you are interested in learning more about going ROWE, I’d recommend checking out Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson’s site.

#12 – Getting Unstuck

Q: What is good way to initiate culture change within a “stuck” organization?

A: Here is a good post on how to progress through change: Measure, Manage and Monitor:

#13 – Connecting over the phone

Q: How do you engage in the two-foot area between business and customer when doing business over the phone?

A: In many ways it’s the same. The value is created between the front line employee and the customer. It’s about making a connection. Here’s a good post on the process of making that emotional connection:

#14 – The biggest “don’t do”

Q: In your experience, what is the biggest “don’t do” regarding employee engagement. Something we can stop doing today to help engagement?

A: Good point. Sometimes it’s a matter of stopping something you currently do. Try “killing a stupid rule.” Check out this article from Inc. Magazine on how to do so.

#15 – How do I impact a team?

Q: Many of these are company-driven which is great but not all companies have bought in to these ideas. How can I, as a manager, start implementing my own “engagement” program within my own team? Q: How do I impact a team on an individual level, versus an entire organization?

A: Focus on transparency, flexibility, recognition and team building.

#16 – Convincing senior management 

Q: How do you convince a very traditional, conservative management team to embrace or even consider these “small things” we have liability issues, workplace constraints and mostly, hesitant management….love all the ideas, wonder how to implement (caring versus business); we are 100K plus workforce company.

A: You need to make the business case for employee engagement programs. People are motivated by three factors in business: 1. Things that make them money, 2. Things that save them money, and 3. Things that make them look good. Here’s an example of how Aetna saved over a million dollars by doing a little extra for employees.

#17 – Empowering local offices

Q: When you have offices around a large geographic area – do you empower the locals with their own programs that work, or provide guidance from corporate?

A: You have to provide your offices with latitude and support. There is a great example from the South African Insurance provider Etana. They let innovation come from the bottom up and then do there best to support it.

#18 – Manufacturing Examples

Q: Do you have any ideas for techniques that may work in large manufacturing type workforces?

A: One of my favorite examples from the entire Project comes from a manufacturer called Semco. They are featured in this post.

#19 – Virtual teams

Q: Any suggestions for managing a virtual team that doesn’t have a lot of face time?

A: No easier answer here. You need to make the extra effort with remote staff. By virtue of being virtual, they are going to challenged when it comes to team building and recognition. Take additional steps to bridge the gap.

#20 – Being fair

Q: Sticky: Making a gesture “memorable” and “talkable” is great. But the team environment at my company is very “me vs them” – so much that giving to one employee and not all employees would (has) cause discord. Advice?

A: As a rule you don’t need to treat everyone the same, but you need to treat everyone fairly. I’d be sensitive to your team, but at the same time you should do what’s right for the organization.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Not sure if you’d like the complimentary eBook, here is a preview in Slideshare:

Driving Employee Engagement: 15 Keys to a World Class Office Culture – Webinar on 10/2 hosted by @voiance

voiance employee engagement webinar

I will taking part in a webinar hosted by Voiance, a leader in Language Services for both Business and Government. You can click here to register for the complimentary one-hour program. The webinar is on October 2nd from 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. EST. We’ll be talking about how to drive employee engagement and reinforce corporate culture through the Green Goldfish Principle.

Hope you can join in.

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Voiance interprets in over 200 languages, but can they interpret through dance like Dave Armand?