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Leading Edge/News (Spring 2009)

Engaging Managers Is Key to Weathering the Recession

Based on extensive research of the past and current recession, Sirota Survey Intelligence has concluded that the maintenance of leader and front-line manager engagement is critical to the morale, innovation and effectiveness of employees. “Their ‘lynch-pin’ role requires constant monitoring during these turbulent times,” says Douglas Klein, President of Sirota. For example, when managers become disengaged, their employees are over three times as likely to be disengaged; 12% less likely to stay (especially when the recovery occurs); 13% less likely to be innovative; and 33% more likely to be frustrated with the company’s systems and processes. And when managers become stressed, their employees are 7% less likely to feel valued (vs. employees working for unstressed managers); 6% less likely to feel recognized; 6% less likely to feel their managers are walking-the-talk during recessions.

Management can take the following actions to help mitigate the after-effects of layoffs on employees who remain.

  • Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. Most employees want to know what will be happening to them, especially whether they’ll they be laid off. Secrecy or lack of transparency will just add to their sense of powerlessness. Don’t delay in confirming whether there will be job cuts. Communicate why workforce reductions are necessary. Employees will understand if the workforce needs to be reduced as a last resort.
  • Allow for an emotional response. Anger, concern, insecurity and survivor guilt are all perfectly natural emotions for employees to feel. It’s crucial for managers to spend time assuring employees that it’s OK to feel this way. Otherwise, employees may release these feelings in non-productive ways or situations.
  • Support the Front-Line Manager Population. The front-line manager population is likely to feel the brunt of the pressure – from worried employees below them and harried managers above. Front-line employees perceive that their managers are in the know, but in reality they’re quite far down the organization with limited managerial experience and skills. Among the many ways organizations can help this sometimes beleaguered group is through mentoring programs – matching managers who are weak in certain areas with managers with demonstrated strengths in those areas.
  • Proactively address the negative effects of less staff for the same work. Increased workloads for employees who survive layoffs are inevitable. Often this has the added effect of negatively impacting teamwork during a time when all have to work together to rethink how tasks are done. But managers can choose to involve their employees in the search for solutions, thus addressing both teamwork and efficiency simultaneously.
  • Demonstrate continuing long-term interest in the careers of the survivors. Following layoffs is a good time to introduce ‘stretch assignments’ – those that will expand the skills of survivors and demonstrate your confidence in them. It’s also a good time to increase the frequency of discussions about career-related topics, including possible advancement opportunities.
  • Empirically determine how things are going – don’t just guess. Periodic, systematic, employee attitude assessments enable management to ascertain the impact of their actions on the day-to-day operations of the company. Employee attitude surveys also demonstrate to workers that they’re still an important asset. Even if budgets have been cut, an efficiently designed employee survey process can provide critical information for management.

The major results of Sirota’s surveys have been summarized in The Enthusiastic Employee: How Companies Profit by Giving Workers What They Want, available at: http://www.enthusiasticemployee.com

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Rymax Adds Aristica and Philip Stein to Exclusive Lines List

Rymax Marketing Services, Inc. has announced exclusive partnerships with Artistica, maker of exotic metal and elegant wood furnishings, and Philip Stein, maker of watches and wine wands that promote mind-body wellness. This is the first time Artistica and Philip Stein will be available exclusively through a single representative within the incentive industry. The current economic climate is dictating new trends in incentive merchandise redemptions, including an increase in popularity of everyday items like furniture and health and wellness-related products. “The state of the economy today is forcing incentive program participants to re-evaluate their priorities,” says Paula Ambrozic, Director of Strategic Relations and Compliance at Rymax, “and products for the home are becoming more and more commonplace as rewards.”

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Add a Custom Fitting Program to Your Next Incentive Travel Event

It’s common for companies to add a nice gift for participants of incentive travel programs or meetings. But a number of companies are now adding a little something extra to the experience by letting attendees choose their own gift or by providing extra “fitting” or consulting services to make sure individuals get something that’s special to them.

Companies like Maui Jim and Bulova, for instance, will set up a station at a meeting or event, and participants can come in for a “consultation” on what type of sunglasses best fit their face or what type of timepiece best fits their lifestyle.

Adrienne Forrest, Assistant VP of Special Markets at Bulova, explains how it might work: “People get gifts as part of incentive events all the time, but what makes this a little unique is that you get to pick your own gift. The company sponsoring the event will pre-select an assortment – say six men’s and six ladies’ watches – and we put them out on display. We set up a table with a Bulova tablecloth and banners. Participants then get to pick a watch for themselves – to decide whether they want the bracelet watch, the strap watch, a white face or a black face, etc. And they get to try it on and see how it feels, so it becomes much more of a personal choice depending on their individual taste. It’s not like the company chose the gift for them. We also have a Bulova representative there to provide information on the features of the watches and make sure everything runs smoothly. The representative also puts the watch in a gift box and then into a small, upscale Bulova shopping bag participants can take home with them.”

That’s Bulova’s “Gift in Time Select-a-Watch” program. The company also provides a slightly expanded version of that offering called “Gift in Time Custom Sizing” that’s available in some locations. “This would be available where we have someone to do the sizing of the watch – in other words, add or take links out to make sure it fits each of the recipients properly,” says Forrest. “And with either program, the recipient is getting to personally select a watch and take it home with them from the event – right there – as opposed to having it drop-shipped to their home.”

Bulova currently offers the program through incentive travel distributors like Maritz, Carlton, and ITA for U.S. events. There’s a minimum purchase requirement that the trip sponsor would have to commit to, and the sponsor would also have to cover hotel expenses for the Bulova representative. Outside of the contiguous 48 states, sponsors would also have to cover travel costs.

Maui Jim has been doing custom fittings for its sunglasses at incentive travel and other events for seven or eight years now, and with a schedule of about 600 such events per year, it’s probably the current champion of custom sizing or custom gifting events.

What started as a way to make incentive program “pillow gifts” a more special experience has become a unique “white glove” experience for some Maui Jim clients. In fact, the customized sunglasses offering also works well as a “tee gift” for corporate golf outings.

“The cool thing is you can put something in the [attendee’s] room the night before – one of our sunglass cases, or a cleaning cloth – with a logo and a message that says, ‘Come down to our fitting table between 8 and 12 tomorrow and one of our trained professionals will fit you with a pair Maui Jim sunglasses just for you.’” says Maui Jim Global Corporate Gifts Manager Brett Hatch. “And it’s always one of our employees, so you not only get a professional fitting, you also get a little of our company culture – the aloha spirit – to go along with it. We’ll take it to any level the customer wants.”

Maui Jim also pays for its own travel, with the client usually picking up hotel costs, and can also offer the service at destinations outside of the U.S.

Forrest says that the Bulova programs have been well received. Corporate sponsors like the idea of offering something a little different to their program participants, “and for participants, it’s like they’re shopping, and they love it,” she says.

Hatch agrees that recipients like the approach. “It’s a high perceived value to that pharmaceutical rep or insurance broker or whoever the recipient is – a hot product,” he says. “Then you throw in the customization, the choice, and having people with a genuine Hawaiian aloha spirit pampering and personally fitting everybody – it’s very exhilarating.”

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Incentive Research Foundation Announces New Board Members

The Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) announced the new members of its Board of Trustees, while also introducing Rodger Stotz as its Chief Research Officer. With more than 25 years of business experience, Stotz is a leading authority on the subjects of performance management, performance improvement, employee engagement, employee recognition and innovative rewards plans. He was formerly a Vice President and Managing Consultant for Maritz, Inc., where he worked with Fortune 1,000 companies around the world on the implementation of sales incentives and employee engagement initiatives.

In addition to Stotz’s appointment, new IRF 2009 Board of Trustees members (and respective committee roles) are:

Alynne B. Hanford, Chair of the Nominating Committee

Matthew S. Harris, member, Research Committee

Patrick Pelischek, member, Communications Committee

Fran Schuster, member, Strategic Development Committee

Richard Weinstein, member, Communications Committee

For more information, go to: http://www.TheIRF.org

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Globoforce Debuts Podcasts on Recognition and Engagement

Globoforce, a leading provider of global strategic on-demand employee recognition solutions, recently announced the debut of a new weekly podcast series designed to offer educational information about the value of strategic employee recognition programs. The first podcasts in the series will have a particular focus on the importance of recognition during recession.

“We wanted to give human resources and business leaders who are strapped for time an easy way to understand the tremendous value global strategic recognition programs can bring to their companies,” says Derek Irvine, Vice President of Global Strategy for Globoforce. Podcasts currently available for download include:

  • The Competitive Advantage of Strategic Employee Recognition during a Recession. The declining state of the global economy, layoffs, bankruptcies, foreclosures and the credit crunch – the news headlines are impossible to ignore. Irvine discusses the impact this is having on employees and how strategic employee recognition can boost morale, increase productivity, and save company money.
  • Great Expectations: Building the Employee Recognition Program Your CEO Wants. Globoforce recently asked middle- and senior-level HR and HR-related personnel about CEO perceptions of recognition programs as they relate to corporate objectives within their organization. Irvine discusses the survey results and offers best practices for companies looking to improve their current programs.

To download these and upcoming Globoforce podcasts, go to: http://www.globoforce.com/corporate/eng/innovation-center/podcasts/

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Epsilon Survey Shows Benefits of Permission-Based E-mail Marketing

The benefits of permission-based e-mail marketing campaigns extend far beyond e-commerce transactions and have a significant impact on purchasing behavior and consumer loyalty in the bricks-and-mortar world, according to a new survey from Epsilon. Respondents to the survey said the receipt of e-mails makes them feel better about a company and increases chances that they’ll make a purchase – online or off-line. Other highlights:

  • 57% of consumers feel they have a more positive impression of companies when they receive e-mail from them
  • 40% said that simply receiving e-mail has a positive impact on their likelihood to make a future purchase a company
  • 71% remember e-mail communications when making purchases at the sending company’s web site
  • 50% said they’re more likely to buy products from companies who send them e-mail, whether their purchases are online or at a place of business
  • One-third said they usually visit sites directly instead of clicking on an e-mail link.

“The insights from our Branding Study demonstrate the importance of e-mail marketing as part of a multi-channel communication strategy. E-mail builds loyalty and brand awareness and drives on- and off-line behavior,” says Kevin Mabley, Senior Vice President of Epsilon Strategic Services. “While many elements of digital and e-mail marketing are measurable, there are other impacts that can’t be represented by merely by click-thru rates or online purchases.”

Epsilon’s special report, Beyond the Click: The Indirect Value of Email, can be found at http://www.epsilon.com/pr/emailbranding

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Management Journal Says Feeling Good Matters in the Workplace

Happy employees are better equipped to handle workplace relationships, stress and change, according to the latest national Gallup Management Journal survey. Companies that understand this, and help employees improve their well-being, can boost their productivity. The GMJ surveyed U.S. employees to probe their perceptions of how happiness and well-being affect their job performance. Gallup researchers examined employee responses to see which factors differed most strongly among engaged employees (27% of respondents) and those who were not engaged (59%) or actively disengaged (14%).

Previous Gallup research – as well as results from this survey – show that supervisors play a crucial role in worker well-being and engagement. When respondents were asked to respond to the statement: “My supervisor focuses on my strengths or positive characteristics,” 77% of engaged workers strongly agreed with the statement, while only 23% of unengaged and a scant 4% of actively disengaged workers strongly agreed. Interestingly, not one engaged worker disagreed with this statement.

When survey respondents were asked how they would characterize their interactions with their coworkers, 86% of engaged employees said their interactions with coworkers were always positive or mostly positive. The findings for less engaged workers showed significantly different results: 72% of unengaged workers characterized these interactions as always or mostly positive compared to just 45% of actively disengaged workers.

These findings indicate that a positive relationship with the supervisor has an important effect on engagement. These findings also suggest that people with higher levels of job engagement enjoy substantially more positive interactions with their coworkers than do their less engaged counterparts. For more information, go to http://gmj.gallup.com.

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Travel Club Membership Makes for an Innovative Incentive

Incentive companies on the lookout for innovative new products that can be used alternatively as promotional products or as consumer/employee incentives might want to check out an offering from Thomas Cook’s Lifestyle & Vacation Incentives (LVI) via Atrium Enterprises. Ken Sternfeld of Atrium Enterprises explains that his firm can offer a $49.99 retail value “Concierge Travel Club” membership supported by LVI/Thomas Cook as a premium/incentive. Members gain access via a member website and PIN number to Thomas Cook’s excess travel inventory – the same deals it is offering to online retailers like Travelocity and Orbitz – plus exclusive Thomas Cook offers, and also have access to live “concierge” service by phone.

According to Sternfeld, a number of Fortune 500 companies are already partnering with LVI to use the membership offering for new customer and new account acquisition, customer and account activation and retention, product cross-sells, employee benefits and rewards, and for a variety of other applications. Atrium is introducing the LVI Travel Club product to the incentive industry at a $49.99 value (slightly less than the $59 cost of the American Express Travel & Leisure Club), but in order to appeal to corporate end-users who might be interested in using the product in consumer promotions or as an employee incentive, it has established a $24 wholesale cost. In addition, to appeal to resellers and other middlemen in the incentive industry, Atrium has a jobber/reseller cost of $12 per membership. “At $12, a value-added reseller could offer this to his or her client at $24, doubling their money, and the end-user client would still be buying the product at better than 50% off the established manufacturer’s retail price,” says Sternfeld.

A good deal of back-end data collection adds to the appeal of the product. “This is a fully engaged product that has touch points with the end-user over a long period of time,” Sternfeld explains. “You don’t know how many times someone swung the TaylorMade golf club and remembered your brand, but because each membership involves a discreet PIN number, you can know exactly how many times the customer made use of the Travel Club incentive or the gift that you gave them. And that’s probably the most valuable data that can be received by any company spending a nickel on a program.”

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Maritz Launches Strategic Partnership with Accor Services

Maritz recently announced that it has entered into a strategic partnership agreement with Accor Services to provide marketing and incentive services to its clients in Europe. The agreement enables Maritz to provide its multi-national clients with motivation, learning, loyalty, recognition, events and rewards programs, services and solutions in Europe through Accor Services’ Accentiv network of marketing incentive companies in the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Portugal. Likewise, Maritz may serve Accentiv clients who have programs in the U.S. and Canada.

Maritz has worked with Accentiv Surfgold, a subsidiary of Accor Services, in the Asia Pacific region for several years. This new agreement completes Maritz’s alliance with top marketing and incentives companies throughout the world, including North America, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America and Africa.

“Accor Services’ Accentiv incentive marketing network has a strong reputation for the highest quality marketing and incentive services and solutions in the European market,” says Steve Maritz, Chairman and CEO of Maritz Holdings Inc. “Our clients are accustomed to this type of service from Maritz, and this new relationship enables us to continue that level of service in Europe through one full-service supplier.”
For more information, contact Jennifer Larsen at (636) 827-1523 or e-mail .  

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Spring 2009

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