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15 Minutes With...John Windolph

By William Keenan Jr.

One might say that John Windolph, recently appointed President of JWT INSIDE, the employee communications and marketing arm of JWT, the largest advertising agency in the U.S., has been polishing his skills with different communications and engagement tools for his entire career.

His first job out of college was in the field of crisis communications, working for Hill & Knowlton and assisting clients like the Kuwaiti government during the first Gulf War. Later he was the chief marketing officer for Motorola’s Iridium project, which aimed to set up a 66-satellite network to enable people to use hand-held phones anywhere on earth. Then he ran business development efforts for the wireless industry, before ultimately settling at JWT INSIDE and becoming its President about eight months ago.

Windolph’s experience with a variety of leading-edge technologies is sure to be helpful to him as he works to continue the evolution of JWT INSIDE, from what started as a recruitment firm to what has become an “employer branding firm” specializing in employee engagement.

Then and Now

“Forty-odd years ago, we were all about placing classified ads in print publications for jobs at large corporations,” says Windolph. These days, JWT INSIDE is participating in the much wider world of enterprise engagement and focusing on communicating the “company brands” of its clients to a variety of internal and external audiences.

“We really touch a candidate, a prospect and/or an employee at every stage of the employee’s lifecycle – from attraction through engagement – and we spend increasing amounts of time working to help companies tell their story, essentially from the inside out,” Windolph explains, adding that a good portion of the firm’s work today is about engaging employees and keeping them “enthused and excited” about the jobs they do in the organizations they work for.

While it still places the occasional print ad for a job opening, for some time now JWT INSIDE has worked on a much broader scale and with much higher goals. “We all want to be fulfilled in our professional lives, and that fulfillment is a crucial piece of engagement. Helping to tell that story – and helping employees to achieve that level of fulfillment – is what we’re all about.”

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The Engagement ‘Ecosystem’

For the most part, Windolph says, clients are ready to hear that message. “In fact, many are clamoring for it,” he says, noting that part of the credit belongs to the Enterprise Engagement Alliance for helping to support the “ecosystem” that makes the market. “It’s important to have an organization out there promoting the need for organizations to pursue engagement.”

Windolph adds that the need for enterprise engagement in the current economic climate should be fairly obvious to most companies. “Corporations are quickly realizing that cost-cutting and efficiency are great, but they’ve gotten to a point where they have actually burned out their staffs, and their best employees are finding that it isn’t difficult to find new opportunities,” he says. “The biggest issue for corporations now is engaging the workforce to keep them enthusiastic about their jobs so they don’t leave.”

What JWT INSIDE offers those companies is a way to create an organizational environment where people want to be a part of it, are enthusiastic and happy about the work they do and are out promoting the organization and encouraging others to join it. In essence, says Windolph, “We create what we call EVPs – employer value propositions – and then we help to activate the EVP within the enterprise. So we come up with the spine of the story, then we blow it out across a host of media – both internal and external – to bring the story to life in a creative and compelling fashion.”

The tools the company uses include interactive platforms – both intranet and internet websites, as well as social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and others. “We also build internal communities via intranets so that organizations and/or individuals can showcase products, services, mission/vision/values and almost any other type of information,” notes Windolph. “We can produce anything from an intranet site to a brochure to a brand film to an event to get the story across. It’s all about creating communities and providing the spark to generate an in-depth conversation of interest to all stakeholders.”

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A Shout Out

In fact, JWT INSIDE uses many of these same tools in its own organization to keep its own employees engaged and enthused, including what it calls a “Shout Out” platform on its own internal intranet. “It’s where anyone can go on our intranet site to applaud another employee’s contribution, and it is quite public and available for everyone to see,” explains Windolph. “People love to be patted on the head, and it turns out that people love to pat people on the head, so it’s a great tool, employees use it frequently and it’s pretty low-cost.”

As for the future, Windolph says the current marketing opportunity is largely precipitated by the economic climate, “but everyone realizes that communicating the employer brand is the Holy Grail. It’s the one tool that companies have available, both to engage current employees and project to a broader community what the organization is really about.”

And companies are embracing that tool. “It’s almost as if the light switch was off, and then it was suddenly turned on,” he says. “So I see nothing but an upside both for enterprise engagement and our organization.”

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June/July 2011

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