At FedEx, there’s a phrase to describe employees who embody the company’s can-do attitude.
They “bleed purple.”
The company has a culture where employees aren’t simply working for a shipping company. They connect people and possibilities around the world.
“You’re not just taking a package from Point A to Point B,” said Jenny Robertson, Vice President Corporate Communications. “You’re delivering somebody’s engagement ring or a critical medical device that will save a life.”
About three years ago, as original workers of a company founded in 1973 were retiring, an initiative was launched to reinforce FedEx’s core values. That message resonated internally. But for the general public, it sounded like marketing.
So, FedEx changed the narrator. The company empowered employees to share the FedEx story – and their personal stories.
A workforce of ambassadors took flight.
“The data consistently shows that people believe somebody they know over what a corporation says,” Robertson said. “We’ve found that when someone is connected through their church, civic groups, or other activities, people are more likely to believe them than something they hear it from a company. It’s much more authentic and genuine when it comes from a real person.”
Robertson detailed the impact of employee advocacy at FedEx during her closing keynote at the recent Summit by Dynamic Signal, “Elevating the Untold Tales: The Criticality of Embracing Team Members as Stories and Storytellers.”
For FedEx, encouraging employees to Tweet, post, and share represented a profound change in strategy. Robertson said the company previously had been cautious about social media. It preferred employees not to talk about their work online.
Now, they were being encouraged to share.
With that shift, FedEx provided tools for employees to tell the company story. That included the SocialHub platform, powered by Dynamic Signal, which enables employees to easily share approved, on-brand content and describe their on-the-job experiences.
“We started doing these posts that weren’t corporate-looking where employees shared about something amazing that they did,” Robertson said. “We saw an exponential increase in engagement. Their social networks were liking it. FedEx was getting tagged. We began seeing comments like, ‘What a great job!’ and ‘So proud to be a customer of yours.’ It became this wonderful program that organically happened as our employees talked naturally about what they do every day and the purpose of our company.”
FedEx created video content featuring employees. They also gave out selfie sticks and whiteboards with pre-printed messages like “I make a difference by . . .” with space where employees could write something, and then take a photo holding it to share with their networks.
The result is a more connected, engaged workforce that feels like it has ownership of the FedEx culture.
“They’re the ones telling our story through images and examples,” Robertson added.
Employees, of course, already were company ambassadors through their one-on-one interactions with customers. Tennessee-based FedEx isn’t just one of the world’s most financially successful companies. Under Fred Smith, the iconic founder and CEO, it’s known as being a good corporate citizen.
That sense of philanthropic spirit is near and dear to Robertson, who previously was FedEx’s Director of Global Citizenship and Reputation Management.
“It’s just the right thing to do,” she said. “When you have 450,000 people in 220 countries and territories, you have a responsibility to give back and support communities. Fred Smith likes to say that when your neighbor’s house is on fire, and you have a hose, aren’t you going to use it? When we can get in quickly to a place and deliver what’s needed for disaster relief, we have an obligation to do that.”
While that social awareness is important to FedEx employees, it also has value to the business, Robertson added. For instance, the company has 650 aircraft and 180,000 vehicles. So, efforts to improve aviation and road safety also benefit FedEx.
But perhaps the biggest reason for the company’s good standing is this:
“People really do come first here, and our workforce is always encouraged to do the right thing,” she said. “The public interacts with them every day because they come into their offices to pick up packages and they deliver them to their homes. Our people are so relatable, warm, friendly, and committed to the customer, and that really boosts our reputation.”
By getting to share their stories, they now can amplify the FedEx story.
Position: Vice President Corporate Communications at FedEx, the global shipping company based in Memphis, Tenn.
Career: She has been at FedEx since 2004 in a variety of executive roles
Honors: Two-time winner of FedEx’s Five Star award – the company’s highest honor
Home: Memphis, Tenn.
Family: Husband Rob Robertson; children Tate and Lily
Education: Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and English from the University of Mississippi
Favorite Movie: “The Shawshank Redemption.” “I know a lot of people love that one. But whenever it’s on, I have to stop what I’m doing and watch it.”
Favorite Book: “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Favorite App on Her Phone: Spotify
First Job: “In high school, I worked as a Sonic carhop. But after college, my first job was a reporter at a daily newspaper in Mississippi.”
Fun Fact: Member of Boston College’s Executive Forum of the Center for Corporate Citizenship
Best Advice She Received: “Bloom where you’re planted. My grandmother gave me a little plaque that says that when I graduated from college, and I still have it on my desk. She told me that wherever you are to make the most of it.”
Superpower She Wished She Had: “I would clone myself. That way, I could get more done during the day.”
Five Questions with Jenny
Why is your role so cool?
“Every day, I get to help tell stories about how lives are being changed either by deliveries that we’ve made or by programs that we have supported. To be able to work at a company where we get to share those is very satisfying professionally. We’re doing so many good things, and it’s nice to be able to tell the world about it.”
Why does comms matter?
“It’s almost like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. At the very bottom level, people need to understand the basics of their job. What’s expected of them. The tools they need to use. We need to communicate all of that. As you go up, people need to feel recognized, rewarded, and that they’re part of something bigger than themselves. Without communications, you can’t meet the needs of your employees and deliver on your company’s business priorities.”
Why are conferences like this one important?
“I don’t think there’s ever been a conference where I didn’t learn something. Even more important than that is the networking and the ideas that you get from the conversations you have with people. It’s important to get out of your day-to-day sometimes and be reminded of how not everyone thinks the way you do. Hearing different perspectives is so important from a professional development perspective as well as bringing back new ideas that help the company be at the forefront of trends and technologies.”
Why do you like Summit?
“When I was asked to be the keynote speaker, I was thinking: ‘OK, but I have so much to learn from others there.’ I want to hear more about the different ways that other companies are engaging employees who are like our people at FedEx.”
“We have so many people who are not sitting in front of a computer. It’s such a struggle for us as we try to keep our frontline workforce engaged. I’m hoping to come back with ideas from people who have a similar challenge.”