Tag Archives: retention

How IBM’s Intranet Improves Employee Development and Retention

At  HR/NY’s fabulous social media recruiting panel (which I moderated,) the audience and I were wowed as Nabeel Ahmad, Learning Developer at IBM, rocked the New York Times Building. 

He showed how IBM, the conservative corporate giant, has been letting its hair down and opening its intranet to new ideas. The results have been greater collaboration, better retention, and more advancement opportunities. Here’s how IBM did it, and how you can too:

Employees Thank Each Other
Instead of a top-down rewards program, IBM allows its employees to recognize each other with “Blue Thx.” These can be sent to any colleague anywhere in the world. And it’s not a private interaction; a leaderboard shows who’s received the most “Thx” in the last 30 days. Kind, simple gestures like these help unite IBM’s global workforce of 400,000. 

Employees Shadow Each OtheIBM’s ShadowMe program connects employees with senior executives based on department and location. A search for “social learning,” for example, brings up more than 800 IBMers across the entire company. Employees can physically shadow their mentors at the same office, or virtually follow mentors anywhere in the world. An employee never has to miss a learning or development opportunity because the expert in their field is in a different building, city, or country.

Employees Learn From Each Other
IBMers have access to a crowdsourcing resource, allowing them to ask their colleagues questions about any topic. An HR question posted here, for example, yields much faster results than an email submitted to HR…and it cuts down on HR’s workload. While there’s a danger that employees might give each other wrong answers, I’ve found that, like Yelp restaurant reviews, the truth usually rises the top. 

 

Employees Don’t Have to Email Each Other
Nabeel asked us if we agreed with the statement “I live in my email.” That attitude is a problem at IBM, so senior leaders look for any way to keep employees’ inboxes clean. When new CEO Ginni Rometty took over in January, she didn’t send an email announcement; she put her speech on video and made it available only on internal channels. This showed everyone at IBM how serious she was about cultivating the intranet.


IBM’s collaborative spirit even extends to live events. Before a recent technology panel, employees were asked to submit questions ahead of time. But instead of picking his favorites, the moderator made all the submissions public and allowed employees to vote for the best ones. This ensured that the panel addressed the issues most pressing to the largest group of people. If you’ve been to an event where someone asks a question that’s relevant only to them, you know how important this is.

Nabeel showed us that IBM’s conservative image doesn’t really reflect the true nature of its employees’ creativity, resourcefulness, or satisfaction. If your business is large enough for an intranet, we’d love to put the lessons of IBM and other corporate superstars to work for you. Contact me for more details

The Hidden Information Inside Fortune’s 2012 Best Companies To Work For

Fortune magazine just released its list of 100 Best Companies to Work For. But while many news outlets and job boards are covering the main list, the magazine’s researchers compiled some very detailed and segmented data. And I found some patterns emerging on why certain companies have created authentic employer brands as great places to work.

Keeping Employees Healthy Keeps Them Happy
Fourteen companies on the Fortune list pay 100% of their employees’ health care costs. Sure, that’s easy for giants like Microsoft, but a number of small firms do it, too, including Boston Consulting Group, NuStar Energy, the Everett Clinic, and Perkins Cole, which all have around 2,000 workers. As health insurance costs climb and the Affordable Care Act’s future becomes cloudy, health care should be part of every organization’s employer value proposition. How do you handle your employees’ health benefits?

Diversity Counts
Forty-four of the 100 companies have a workforce of at least 50% women. Twenty-three of the companies have a workforce of at least 40% minorities. Eighty-nine of the companies offer domestic partner benefits. We’ve long known that diversity brings fresh, new perspectives to an organization. Now we have the hard numbers to back it up. And don’t forget that “diversity” includes people with disabilities and older workers.

It’s Not Just About Money
Amazingly, 27 of the companies give hourly workers an average annual pay of under $40,000. That includes Men’s Wearhouse, CarMax, Aflac, and Starbucks. Five of the companies, including Nordstrom and General Mills, pay annual salaries of less than $50,000. And yet they beat out hundreds of other, better-paying firms to make Fortune’s list. Obviously these companies have great employer branding and are attracting and engaging employees in other ways. Which brings us to…

Uniting Employees in Unique Ways
One of the lists on the Fortune site is called Unusual Perks, naming some clever benefits that improve employee satisfaction. Among them is NetApp, which offers a basketball court, volleyball court, and massage rooms. Alston & Bird provides free Spanish classes. The Southern Ohio Medical Center features an employee-run vegetable garden. FactSet Research brings local food trucks to its offices, along with free lunches and weekly summer barbecues. And Pricewaterhouse Coopers offers a Mentor Moms program, pairing up expectant mothers with other moms at the company.

What do these top-10 perks have in common? For one, they all bring employees together. Whether they’re eating, learning, planting, or playing, all these perks have a communal aspect that helps build teamwork and camaraderie. Compare that to #4 Wegmans’ free holiday coupon books, which employees use to buy products on their own. Nice, but how does that improve the workplace?

More Perks That Employees Love
Not every company can put a basketball court in their office. Some of the more conventional benefits that the top companies offer include: an on-site child care center (31 companies), an on-site gym (69 companies) or off-site gym discounts (61 companies), telecommuting (85 companies), and the option for a year-round compressed workweek (80 companies).

The Secrets of the Top 100
My takeaway? These successful companies have brought in a broad array of workers with different backgrounds. They pay their employees well or offer substantial benefits, or both. They offer unique perks that allow workers to interact across departmental lines and to socialize before and after business hours. They also provide options for the busy 21st-century employees, such as telecommuting, child care, and a compressed workweek.

It doesn’t matter how large these companies are, how old they are, or what field they’re in. All these elements add to their employer brand as a destination of choice, building success at attracting, engaging, and retaining top talent.

But what if your organization has already received honors as a great workplace or offers unique benefits, but your employees don’t know about them? Our corporate communications experts can help.

5 Secrets of a Great Intranet

What’s an intranet? A site where employees can read their about their benefits? A list of departmental phone numbers? A place where press releases go to die?

You’ve got it all wrong. A good intranet allows a company not just to inform and educate employees, but also to engage and inspire them. In a large enterprise, it might be the only way that employees connect with each other and the senior leaders. If you’re not using your intranet to build brand equity, you’re missing a crucial opportunity to improve employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance.

As the internet has evolved, the important characteristics of an intranet have changed. In fact, intranets don’t have to be accessible only on office computers – how about an intranet app that employees can access on their mobile phones?

To insure that you have an engaging and compelling intranet, make sure it has these five important elements:

Interactive
Intranets should allow communication from employees, not just to them. A weekly poll on the front page is a an easy, no-pressure way to get insights from your staff. A simple question like “How can we best improve our sales channel?” can lead to all sorts of interesting ideas.

Multimedia
It’s almost 2012 – is your intranet still just text? Employees can only look at copy for so long. You should include photos of the senior leadership team, audio of the CEO’s speeches, and videos of company events. You might even allow employees to post their own photos and videos of company parties or field trips. Facebook’s own bloggers have said that sharing pictures is one of the most popular activities on the social network.

Effective intranets engage employees.

Timely
Nothing turns employees off like old news. No matter what exciting content the site has, if an employee sees “Get ready for Election Day 2008!” they won’t take the intranet seriously. Update the site at least once a month; once a week would be preferable. “Breaking news,” such as an employee getting a major reward through the recognition program, can keep employees checking the site frequently.

Organized
You’re going to archive a lot of information on an intranet: benefits information, press releases, company directory, HR documents. But if the employees can’t find the information, the intranet is useless. Have a robust search system that lets users quickly get what they need. Place navigation at both the top and the bottom, with clear and simple drop-down menus. Use the front-page poll to ask employees what information they’re having trouble finding and rearrange the navigation accordingly.

Customizable
All our favorite sites are personalized, from Yahoo homepages that show local weather to sports sites that feature our favorite teams. Make sure that one section of your intranet home screen has a section that employees can personalize with their preferred links. Someone may want to see the company’s stock price while another might want to see how many sick days they have left. A “quick links” section not only saves the employees time; it also gives them a sense of ownership for the page.

Time to "reconstruct" your intranet?

At BRANDEMiX, we apply the principles of branding to employer branding, which covers the entire experience. If you’d like to learn how we can create or improve your intranet, visit our website or call 212-947-1001.

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