How to Fire Up Employee Performance

You’ve tried pizza parties and ice-cream socials, holiday bashes and casual Fridays—all to no avail. Employees continue to complain, and the low morale in your facility is infecting other parts of the company. What do you do? Take a tip from the marketing pundits and “sell” your company to its workers, advise the authors of Light Their Fire: Using Internal Marketing to Ignite Employee Performance and WOW Your Customers (Dearborn Trade Publishing, 2005, $23.00). Marketing pundits Susan M. Drake, Sara M. Roberts, and Michelle J. Gulman assert that the best way to deal with ho-hum employees is to kindle their enthusiasm for the company and the brand. And no, this isn’t just an “HR thing”—firing up employees is a CEO-level priority, the authors emphasize.

“If you’re wondering how big a problem ho-hum employee attitudes are, consider this fact,” says Roberts. “Experts estimate that nearly 85% of employees are not fully engaged and motivated. That’s a lot of people to be merely ‘phoning in’ their work. And when you think of lost business and the cost of training new people–because yes, dissatisfied employees do tend to leave–you realize this is a very expensive problem to have.”

Here are some insights and suggestions from Light Their Fire:

Use the power of “E.” The “E” stands for “engaged, enabled, empowered, and ensured.” The authors describe “E” workers as people whose passion for what they do goes beyond the boundaries of service. Let your employees know that they can—and must—go to extraordinary lengths to keep your customers happy and to qualify for the “E” badge of honor.

Inspire employees with a prominent logo. A well-designed logo isn’t just for external customers. Use it internally, in as many imaginative ways as you can, to keep the brand present at all times. “Disney uses this technique—a ‘wink’—very effectively,” write the authors. “You’ve no doubt seen the silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head and ears. It’s classic Disney. At Disney World, you’ll see the shape in landscaping features, carpet patterns, bathroom fixtures, and who knows how many thousands of other places . . . What a great way this is for Disney to deliver a happy, positive image of its brand.”

Start branding from Day One. Make orientation day count. Show new employees how much value they bring to the company, and build their pride in your organization.

Give employees a sense of ownership. You don’t have to invest a ton of money to make workers feel connected to their brand. The authors tell the story of how Seth Goldman, head of Honest Tea, uses UPC codes for this purpose. The last five digits of a code can be chosen by the company whose product it appears on. Honest Tea lets people build their own birthdays or anniversaries into its UPC code so that the product truly becomes theirs.

Promote community efforts. Employees are more likely to be loyal to a company that works for the greater good. The authors cite the example of a hotel chain’s campaign to collect thousands of books to donate to children. Any employee could contribute, and a truck with a campaign banner on the side drove from coast to coast, stopping at each participating hotel to pick up the books. The employees could actually look into the truck and see the impact that the organization was having on the community.

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