Recently, an acquaintance asked Carrie Goldstein what she did for a living. Goldstein explained how she counsels corporate leaders on creating a work culture that improves the employee experience.
“As I explained it to him, his first reaction was: ‘Oh, making people feel good that they have a job?’” recalled Goldstein, Managing Director and Team Leader at the Cheer Partners agency.
She’s heard it all before, of course. Still, it amazes Goldstein that so many people fail to make the direct correlation between happy, motivated employees and positive business outcomes.
“There’s a general perception that this is about patting people on the head and saying, ‘Good job!’” she said. “But here’s the reality: We spend more time on the job that we do with our families. A true employee engagement program can change somebody’s day, and by extension, their entire life. They’re happier and more satisfied. They’re more connected to where they spend the bulk of their week, and that helps the business.”
Before joining Cheer Partners, Goldstein was on the Pfizer communications team, where she oversaw a portfolio of 350 brands. We spoke to Goldstein to learn more about why she believes culture isn’t “soft,” how it can drive increased profits and the role of effective employee communications on creating a great workplace.
How did you come to appreciate why this is so important?
“I had always been in brand marketing communications. Then I had a leader at Pfizer who said, ‘I really want you to see another side of the business and work in internal communications. I had my doubts at first, to be honest. Well, I fell in love with it. You really come to appreciate how when you can change somebody’s day, it can have a ripple effect on their professional development, building and reaching for new goals, and feeling as though they are making an impact. That, in turn, can impact their attitude toward life in general.”
Do companies think they’re paying attention to employee engagement when actually they’re not?
“Absolutely, but the need to engage employees differently is growing. How you do it is shifting. The idea that internal communication is about telling people that they should be happy to work here is a mentality from 20 years ago. Cheer Partners exists to give companies a logical, thoughtful strategy about creating cultural attributes and then constantly infusing them into the day of employees in an authentic way. When you do it right, your best advocate will be your employee. In other words, who is really going to defend your company at Thanksgiving dinner? Your employee will do that if you honor and educate them.”
What does it mean to create an organizational culture?
“There’s the famous story about JFK once asking a janitor at NASA what he did and the man responding: ‘I’m helping put a man on the moon.’ Culture is about having everyone at a company feel that they’re playing an important role in something bigger than themselves. Employees need to realize that culture is about as much them as it the CEO. Culture is embedded in the attitudes and behaviors that are part of the way you conduct business every day. Companies should hire with cultural attributes in mind. When they’re onboarding employees, they should be emphasizing culture and business equally. You want employees to be left with a great impression about the work they do and the company that they represent.
Do you mean like a mission statement?
“Culture is not something you frame on the lobby wall. The mission and vision are important. What’s more important is the company’s purpose statement. But you just can’t say at a company town hall: ‘Our culture is being innovative,’ and then do nothing about it all year long. Whatever you want your culture to be, it needs to saturate everything you do in an authentic way. So, did you launch an innovation center? Did every leader, from the CFO to the CMO, talk about innovation from their perspective – and break down barriers that inhibit innovation? You can’t demand culture. You don’t just declare you have a culture. You have to work to make people feel like their part of creating it and living it every day.”
What are some of the assessments that can help companies identify areas of improvement?
“The most important thing is identifying the gaps in perception between what employees and the leadership believe the culture is. This means conducting a leadership-only focus group to determine what executives believe their culture is and how embedded it is into the day-to-day of employees. We also find out what everyone aspires to be one year from now. Depending on the company’s specific needs, we also assess the employees’ perceptions of the company culture. We will conduct focus groups to dig deeper into specific communication issues such as generational gaps or remote workers. We ask about the types of employee content, the cadence of communications, and the channels being used. Then we compare those responses to the previous six months of internal communications. We’re able to identify where communications may be broken and build a plan to bridge the gaps.”
Why did you join Cheer Partners?
“I love that our team has the opportunity to change people’s day. When you are not engaged at work and feel like what you do isn’t important, it negatively impacts your whole life. Your self-worth shouldn’t be your paycheck or your title. You should feel good about your work and your contributions. Companies that think about how to help employees are seeing the bigger picture. Those are the ones that will win in the end.
So, companies are seeing the value of this?
“Yes, corporate leaders are beginning to understand the significant shift in focusing on the internal customer – your employee. They see there’s value in helping people feel more connected to their work and their peers. They’re emphasizing to employees that they care about them as people and that they’re not just numbers. These are the companies that are increasing employee productivity, loyalty, retention, and advocacy. You can just see a world of difference at the companies that are mastering this.”
Benefits of Employee Engagement
- Organizations with higher employee engagement see 24 percent greater retention, 21 percent higher profitability, and 17 percent more productivity, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report in 2017
- Productivity improves by 20 to 25 percent in organizations with connected employees, according to McKinsey