Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Continuous Feedback Is the New Way Forward for Employee Reviews

Image courtesy of Pixabay
Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Dave Mizne of

Traditionally, managers have relied on the annual performance review to provide employees with feedback. However, surveys indicate employees don’t find the process valuable. Simply meeting once a year to discuss their progress doesn’t give employees a thorough sense of their own performance. It also doesn’t give them many opportunities to offer valuable feedback to their supervisors.

That’s why managers are shifting to a continuous feedback approach. With the right tools, like 360 performance evaluation, staying in contact with your workers (even if they work remotely) and regularly updating them on their progress is easier than ever.

The Benefits of Continuous Feedback
Continuous feedback addresses many of the shortcomings of annual performance reviews. First, it allows managers to provide feedback when they have a stronger overall recollection of an employee’s recent performance.

Trying to remember how a worker has performed over the course of a year is difficult. This results in vague feedback during annual review sessions. When a supervisor checks in on a weekly or biweekly basis, they can offer more specific advice.

The organization also benefits when managers provide continuous feedback. Regular check-ins give managers more chances to confirm their employees are focused on the appropriate objectives. If an employee isn’t making the expected progress or is perhaps focusing on the wrong priorities, managers can point them in the right direction before they waste too much time and resources on tasks that may not be essentially valuable to the business.

Surveyed workers directly state they believe annual performance reviews don’t help them better understand what their objectives should be. With continuous performance, this may not be a problem.

Additionally, annual performance reviews have a negative impact on the relationship employees have with their supervisors. It creates a power dynamic that prevents employees from feeling comfortable with having a genuine discussion about their performance.

This is particularly true for the many employees who feel they don’t necessarily understand how the annual performance review impacts their employment. Does it correspond to their pay? Does it impact their job security? Since they aren’t sure what the actual goal of the performance review is, they’re not open during any potential discussions. They’re likely to be on their guard during the process.

This isn’t the case with continuous feedback. When supervisors and their employees check in with each other on a regular basis, everyone quickly becomes much more comfortable and sees the value in the experience. Employees can spend less time worrying about what the feedback means for their pay or job security and spend more time actually listening to and acting on the feedback. Additionally, they get the chance to share their own thoughts with a supervisor.

It’s clear that many people don’t like annual performance reviews. Employees worry about them, human resources professionals believe they’re expensive, and supervisors struggle to make the process valuable. Clearly, an effective replacement will offer more benefits to your organization. Continuous feedback is that replacement.

One may develop the most technically sophisticated, accurate appraisal system, but if that system is not accepted and supported by employees, its effectiveness ultimately will be limited. -Gallup

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Straight from the Horse's Mouth

Image courtesy of Pixabay
I originally wrote today's post for CallidusCloud. It appeared on their blog on March 22, 2018.

Naysayers have been shouting "Surveys are dead!" from rooftops for a couple of years now. Well, they're not dead (yet), but companies are certainly looking for alternative approaches to customer and employee listening in light of the fact that survey burnout is a real problem.

As a result, there's been a greater focus on qualitative research and listening approaches lately. Which ones, you ask? Here are a few options.

Customer Advisory Boards 
Advisory boards offer benefits to both customers and to your company. You get feedback and can shore up relationships, while customers are heard, get face time with your executives, and are viewed as thought leaders. CABs typically meet semi-annually, hopefully giving you enough time to act on what you heard and to then come back six months later with improvements in hand.

Employee Advisory Boards
Employee advisory boards typically meet on a monthly basis to provide feedback to employers about the employee experience, benefits, culture, and more. Employees get their voices heard, and employers can be more agile when it comes to addressing emerging trends that could lead to dissatisfaction and attrition.

Focus Groups
This is definitely a traditional qualitative listening approach. The format is different from CABs, but focus groups are still a great way to get customers in a room and delve deeper into various topics, get product insights, etc. Focus groups typically required skilled moderators to keep the group on task and to make sure everyone gets a chance to share thoughts.

1:1 interviews
This approach is unique and often used by B2B companies to probe for feedback on relationship health and more. Managers use these with employees as well; those discussions are often referred to as stay interviews. There's no better way to let a customer or an employee know that you care than to have a 1-on-1 discussion, except to have a follow-up chat to let the customer or the employee know what you did with the feedback!

Voice of the Customer Through Employees
VoCE includes feedback and insights about your customers that have been gathered by your frontline staff (call center, sales, account management, etc.), the folks who interact with - and talk to - them the most. Formalize the process for employees to capture the pain points and sources of frustration that they hear about from your customers. This is a rich source of information, without a doubt.

Online Communities
I wrote about online communities before, but at that time it was more about using them for support, i.e., customers helping each other solve product issues. Online communities are also a great way to test product concepts and to get feedback about the customer (or the employee) experience.

Social Media
In this category, I'll include not only Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., but also online review sites like Yelp, OpenTable, GlassDoor, and TripAdvisor. There is a ton of feedback on these sites; the real challenge is wrangling it, making sense of it, responding to it, and doing something about it.

Immersion Programs
Walking in customers’ shoes has become a cliché in our world, but that’s what customer immersion programs are all about. They allow executives to experience what customers experience when they (try to) do business with you. Company executives embed themselves into their customers’ lives to gain a better understanding of how they live, work, and do the jobs they need to do - with your products.

Journey Mapping
If you don't think of journey mapping sessions as a way to capture customer or employee feedback, unfortunately, you're wrong. When you map or validate current state maps with customers - and when you co-create and develop future state journeys with them, you are about as close to the customer and the customer experience as you can get without actually being there yourself. And the customer is right there in front of you, telling you about the experience. It's a moment of clarity, and it puts the experience and the feedback side by side, allowing you to immediately take it and design something better.

The next time someone in your organization groans at the thought of doing more surveys, consider one or more of these options. You'll come away with some rich data - straight from the horse's mouth - that can be put to good use immediately!

If you don't get feedback from your performers and your audience, you're going to be working in a vacuum. - Peter Maxwell Davies

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Transforming Your Culture with the Help of a Culture Committee

Image courtesy of Pixabay
What is a Culture Committee? And do you need one? (The short answer is "Yes!")

Last month, I wrote a two-part series about how to stand up your team of CX Champions. Without a doubt, they are an important part of the customer experience transformation governance structure and transformation success.

Another team that's important to your transformation is a Culture Committee. While executives must ensure core values are established and communicated and the associated behaviors are modeled, they can't promote culture and drive culture change alone. Similarly, culture cannot be assigned to - or be driven by - HR. But culture doesn't just happen, either. There must be a grassroots effort among employees - a groundswell of sorts - to create and then to perpetuate and live the desired culture.

This is where the Culture Committee comes in to play.

What is a Culture Committee?
A Culture Committee is a group of cross-functional employees who meet to identify, discuss, and plan ways to promote and to drive the desired culture throughout the organization. You must have cross-functional representation on the Committee, as that diversity ensures that no one area of the company has greater influence over culture development and change than any other.

What traits or qualities do Culture Committee members have?
Committee members are well-respected and are often recognized as role models when it comes to living and breathing your core values and the culture. They are company advocates and love to talk about where they work, are strongly aligned with the company purpose, and want to see the business succeed. Similar to the CX Champions, they are team players, work well with others, and have – or can build – strong cross-functional relationships. They are excellent communicators. They are influential in their departments and, perhaps, across the organization.

What does the Culture Committee do?
The Committee helps to create that groundswell of adoption of the culture traits as defined by the core values and guiding principles through (a) communicating and modeling the values and (b) brainstorming and developing programs, actions, and events that support the company's mission, purpose, and values. (These programs or events might be fun, educational, and healthy/wellness events that bring employees together, again, in support of the company's purpose or values.) The Committee may even help to define (or revisit) the core values.

One of the things that Committee members must do is talk to fellow employees to keep a pulse on the culture and what's happening in the workplace. Do employees feel like the culture is evolving or eroding? What's working and what's not? What matters to them? This is important information to bring into the Committee meetings so that members can identify ways to support the evolution or mitigate the erosion. They may also review feedback from employee surveys to identify opportunities to shift the behavior and the thinking.

Note that the Committee isn't a skunkworks project or team; it is a dedicated group of employees who have the support and commitment from executives. The Committee advises the executives on culture matters and initiatives, and executives must review, approve, and pony up the resources for any programs or events initiated by the Committee.

How many Committee members are there?
That depends on how many cross-functional departments you have. And if you’ve got multiple business units, is there a corporate shared services group from which you can pull folks? If not, be sure to get business unit representation, too. If you’ve got global office locations, you’ll want to consider representation across the globe.

Who does the Committee report to?
Typically, HR will organize and host the Committee.

How do you find Culture Committee members?
There are at least two approaches to finding your Culture Committee members. (1) You can set some parameters and definitions (are they a good culture fit? do they ooze your company DNA? etc.) and then ask for volunteers based on that; or (2) you can accept nominations based on those same parameters.

How else can I identify these folks?
You might already have some people in mind as ideal Culture Committee candidates. To confirm, you can ask these individuals what they like and don't like about the company's culture and why culture matters.

Why do I need a Culture Committee?
Your Culture Committee brings together employees from across the company to provide a more-organized and holistic approach to driving culture change and other culture-focused initiatives. Executives, HR, and Customer Experience leaders can't change culture on their own; the cross-functional Committee members can help with that. They can facilitate speeding up the transformation because they are your boots on the ground around the company helping the change initiatives move forward and advocating for and promoting culture change organization-wide. They are living the change; they are living the culture. And they are helping to weave fun and wellness into the culture.

How often does the Culture Committee meet?
I've seen the cadence vary, for sure. In some companies, the Committee meets every other week; in others, it meets monthly. Early on, they should meet more frequently (i.e., weekly or bi-weekly); as they start to establish how they will work together and what they will do, perhaps the frequency can shift to monthly.

Who attends the meetings?
In addition to the Culture Committee members, typically the head of HR (or the head of People & Culture) attends. The Customer Experience team also has a presence. And, ideally, the CEO will also participate in some of these meetings.

For how long do they serve as Committee members?
Some organizations engage their Culture Committee members for two-year terms. As with the CX Champions, I suggest keeping the initial set of Committee members on the team at least long enough to gain a foothold in the movement or transformation, which tends to be about two years. Subsequent members may be limited to one-year terms to keep the ideas fresh and to give more employees the opportunity to be a part of this Committee.

On what do we need to train the Culture Committee?
Culture Committee members should be trained on what culture is, and they must know what your core values are. Likely, they already know these things, but it's good to revisit to ensure everyone is on the same page. You might also want to give them some guide rails within which they can plan events and programs, propose initiatives, etc.


In a nutshell, the Culture Committee will be your culture champions or your culture cheerleaders. They might plan wellness programs and events, company outings, and other fun events inline with the company culture. They might also assist with new employee orientation and onboarding to help indoctrinate new employees into the new culture. And they might suggest developing a culture book similar to what Zappos does every year so that all employees have the opportunity to share what the culture means to them.

In addition to getting feedback from employees around them, the Committee members can also help by answering a few questions themselves, including:
  • What does culture mean to you?
  • And, more specifically, what does our culture mean to you? How would you describe it to someone outside of the organization?
  • Do you believe employees are living the core values?
    • If not, what's keeping them from doing so? 
    • Ask them to identify something in their daily work that is inconsistent with your core values.
You might also ask them to participate in a culture mapping exercise to understand the culture and what the workplace is like for employees and to identify where improvement opportunities exist.

Suffice it to say there are a lot of ways that the Culture Committee can promote the current culture or help to transform the culture to what you/employees desire and need it to be.

Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first. -Simon Sinek

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

How to Create a Brand Identity Your Customers Are Most Interested In

Today I'm pleased to share a guest post by Lexie Lu of Design Roast.

Coming up with a brand identity isn’t an easy task. You have to consider the message you want the world to take away from any interaction with your company, and you have to think about what your target audience cares about. Ideally, a strong brand identity will mesh both your needs and those of your customer.

77 percent of B2B marketers say that proper branding plays a big role in company growth. Some key factors play into your brand identity and whether or not it’s one that consumers can relate to.

1. Keep Marketing Simple
Small businesses don’t always have a huge marketing budget. Keep things simple at first, and keep the focus on your main message as a brand. If you’re on a limited budget, study your analytics and where most of your current website traffic comes from. If most of your traffic is from Facebook, throw your advertising dollars there.

On the other hand, if you’re on a tight budget and want to do local advertising, you can do a lot of inexpensive things to reach new customers. Set up a booth at small festivals or hang door hangers in neighborhoods, for example.

2. Find Your Target Audience
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead, hone in on your core audience and what they’re looking for from a company. Does your brand identity tie into those wants? For example, millennials care deeply about the causes a company stands behind, while baby boomers might be more likely to look at overall reputation. Once you know who your target audience is, it’s easier to come up with the ideal branding message.

Tide does a good job of speaking to the innovation and convenience that millennials love. They explain in detail why their Tide pods work so well and are so convenient. The use of simple images and bold colors also attracts the younger generation.

3. Take Part in Trends
If you want to reach your target audience with the things they’re most interested in, you have to stay up on the trends and be willing to try new things. For example, experiential design brings an entirely new look to a storefront or event venue. Around 89 percent of consumers pay little attention to ads. However, environmental graphics are still new enough to grab their attention.

4. Choose the Right Font
Figuring out which font matches your brand's personality and message is challenging but well worth the effort. The right font has a tone that matches your brand’s identity. If your company is young, hip, and fun, you don’t want a classic font without much added interest. On the other hand, if you run a financial company and need to send the message of stability, then you don’t want to go with a font that’s too frivolous.

Virgin has a unique-looking font for their logo. Richard Branson's brand has a young, fun vibe, and the font used for Virgin's logo is hip, fresh, and reminiscent of travel and fun.Since his brand includes a lot of travel-based investments, such as Virgin Hotels and Virgin Atlantic, it makes sense that the font would have a fun personality along this vein.

5. Learn to Engage
If you want site visitors to turn into raving fans, you must first engage them. This process occurs through a variety of methods, including in-store interaction, emails, and even responding to social media posts. Twitter is an excellent platform on which to engage with others. If a customer takes the time to mention your brand in a tweet, make sure you reply. You'll also want to connect with influencers in your industry and reach out to local media.

6. Offer Transparency
One survey indicated that 94 percent of people are loyal to brands that commit to transparency. Don’t try to hide your flaws, but embrace them and explain why you’re still the best choice anyway. If you donate a certain percentage of profits to charity, share exactly how much money that translates into and where the money went. Be open and honest with consumers, and they’ll be more likely to remain loyal to your brand.

Buffer prides itself on a company culture devoted to transparency. They run their business on 10 core values aimed at being open and honest both internally and externally. Those values include concepts such as embracing positivity, listening first, showing gratitude and defaulting to transparency.

7. Be Flexible
About the time you think you have your brand identity and how to market it figured out, you can be certain that something will shift, and you’ll have to adjust. Don’t get into a mindset that doesn’t allow for some flexibility.

If your goal is to offer the best customer service in your industry, but you have a major issue with quality, then your identity may temporarily shift to transparency and emergency control. That doesn't mean you can't move back to your main focus later, but if you want your business to survive, there will be times when your focus needs to change.

8. Create Authentic Content
Consumers want and expect content that’s reliable and authoritative. About 80 percent of people say content that’s authentic influences their decision on whether to follow a brand. If you're seen as a credible authority, then people will trust and follow what you have to say on a particular topic.

Image credit: Burger King
Burger King highlights the fact that more of their restaurants have burned down than any other chain. Since they’re known for their flame-grilled burgers, the idea of a restaurant going up in flames seems to fit that overall theme. The ad campaign pictured above won an award and features different restaurants that have burned down since the company’s inception in 1954.

9. Pay Attention to Images
Every single thing you put out into the world reflects your brand’s message. Pay attention to more than just the text you use but also to the images on your website, what you include in an email, and what is posted on social media. Images should be relevant and high-quality. If possible, they should be personalized, but if you're just starting, a related stock photo works, as well.

10. Be Consistent
Presenting your brand consistently time after time results in 23 percent more revenue. Figure out how to display your brand consistently no matter where you're marketing. If you put a sign in your storefront window, it should follow the same tone and style as the ads you post on social media

11. Go for Boldness
Don’t be afraid to be a bit bold in your branding efforts. Consumers see hundreds of ads in a given week, if not more. If you want to grab their attention, you must do something different that shocks, grabs attention, evokes an emotion, or draws them in somehow. Don’t be afraid to do something a bit unexpected. Just make sure it aligns with your brand’s personality and underlying values (see #10 above).

Your Customers Are Key
If you want your brand to speak to your customers, you have to invest time into figuring out what they want and how your company can deliver. Once you understand your typical customer, work toward creating a brand they’ll flock to. If they love you enough, they’ll help you get the word out by telling their family and friends about your amazing company. Your customers truly are the key to your success.

Lexie is a web designer and typography enthusiast. She spends most of her days surrounded by some HTML and a goldendoodle at her feet. Check out her design blog, Design Roast, and follow Lexie on Twitter.