Rewards for wellness initiatives pay healthy returns

Employee benefits programs have moved beyond standard health and dental insurance coverage to encompass a range of wellness programs designed to engage, motivate and reward employees toward improving holistic health.

In fact, wellness programs are popular and growing: More than nine in 10 organizations surveyed by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans offer at least one kind of wellness benefit. There is growing evidence that wellness at work is having a noticeable, positive effect on health care costs, not to mention productivity and retention.

Employers are also realizing that they can increase employee participation levels in wellness programs by offering rewards, incentives and other forms of recognition. For organizations with formal recognition programs, wellness incentives can further enrich the program. For organizations without them, wellness rewards can still help reduce health care costs, boost productivity and lower absenteeism by encouraging employees to engage in activities beneficial to their overall mental and physical health.

In a RAND employer survey, results indicated that nationally, of the employers offering workplace wellness programs, over two-thirds (69%) used financial incentives as a strategy to increase participation. Incentives for health risk assessment completion and lifestyle management programs were most common -- offered by about 30% of employers with a wellness program.

According to GlobalFit, rewards and reimbursements are often the tipping point to get employees to participate in exercise programs. The company found that a staggering 94% of employees would invest more in their health and fitness if their company reimbursed them, yet only 33% of companies are reimbursing employees for gym memberships and other healthy living expenses.

That is why savvy employers are devising and implementing wellness incentives tied more closely to rewards and recognition. For example:

  • Associating scores from HRAs to discounts on healthcare premiums. People who don’t qualify for the discount can be offered coaching programs and resources for improving their HRA scores.
  • Encouraging holistic well-being programs, where employees and even their spouses engage in challenges to earn points toward rewards. Often, these programs tie in incentives to reduce employee tobacco use.
  • Hosting weight-loss challenges that include cash prizes and weekly gift cards as well as regular walking contests to keep things fun and competitive.
  • Offering onsite classes -- e.g., zumba, yoga, etc. -- and annual health fairs filled with fun and engaging health and wellness activities for employees.

Running
Bruno Nascimento/Unsplash

The best part about wellness incentives is they are relatively inexpensive to implement. Organizations don’t need on-site fitness centers, masseuses or big technology investments to provide motivation and recognition for achieving wellness goals. They simply need to understand the rewards that their employees value. Here are some low-cost incentives that organizations have used to great success:

  • Allowing flex hours to promote work-life balance or allow participation in wellness programs.
  • Hosting healthy “lunch-and-learns” on topics such as financial wellness and nutrition.
  • Offering parking incentives for using the most remote spots to encourage daily exercise.
  • Giving discounts on cafeteria selections with higher nutritional value.
  • Providing coupons for healthy food choices at a local supermarket chain.
  • Developing a points-based system to reward healthy behaviors with a choice of gifts from a catalog.

Activities and challenges that motivate employees to participate in wellness initiatives don’t need to be overly complex, either. They need only be fun and build on people’s natural desire for camaraderie, with a bit of competition sprinkled in. For example:

  • Walking challenges: Use activity trackers like Fitbits and set goals for the number of steps.
  • Weight-loss challenges: Create “biggest loser” contests and reward by number of pounds or percentage of body weight lost.
  • "Take the stairs" challenge: Have employees check a box when they use the stairs instead of the elevator,
  • Hydration challenge: Encourage employees to track their water intake or substitute water for soda.

Remember that any incentives or rewards need to be relevant and meaningful to your employees to be successful, so continually solicit feedback and ask them what will have the most impact when it comes to changing their behavior. Also, take a holistic approach – mental and financial health have just as much of an impact on well-being as physical health.

With end-to-end wellness programs, you’ll almost certainly see a positive effect on satisfaction, retention and productivity as employees feel better and adopt healthier lifestyles, all of which contribute to lowering overall health costs for the organization and the communities they serve.

 

Cord Himelstein is vice president of marketing and communications at HALO Recognition.

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How Chess Prepared Me to Be a CEO

People, strategy and adaptation are crucial to winning in both chess and business.

How Intelligent Networks boost business performance

This post is sponsored by Teleste Intercept.

The cable industry charts significant customer churn rates often exceeding 20%. Many customers switch service providers because of network problems.

“Our studies show that Intelligent Networks technology delivers cost and time savings that drive better customer experience, which is key to reducing churn,” said Hanno Narjus, CEO of Teleste Intercept and senior vice president of network products for Teleste.

The intelligent connected optical node (ICON), a 24/7 probe in the CATV network, is an example demonstrating what Intelligent Networks mean in practice. The ICON complements PNM tools and full-capture cable modems to deliver salient business benefits.

Other business benefits of Intelligent Networks include:

  • Improvement in customer service. Intelligent technology gives your help desk team better visibility into network performance and empowers them to provide better and more satisfying customer service. Help desk teams are now reinforced by automated functions to quickly address problems, so you get more service uptime with faster intervention. As a result, 30% of customer calls are pre-empted entirely, giving your help desk staff more time to deal with complex customer service issues that require human interaction.
  • Increase in NOC efficiency and network uptime. Data gathered by intelligent technology makes it faster and easier to guide network technicians while reducing truck rolls by 60%. You can cut repair time by an average of 30 minutes and slash node area breaks by 150 minutes on average. Many intelligent features are enabled by electrical controls that replace traditional plug-in modules, benefiting technicians not having the needed plug-ins on site.
  • Avoiding 100% of seasonal maintenance visits. These visits are expensive to perform and require service disruptions that disappoint customers. Intelligent network devices and automated operations complete tasks faster, less expensively and more accurately than human technicians. Your crews are then freed up to focus on jobs that require their expertise, making them more effective. Many operators use automated operations during large network upgrades, when skilled CATV field technicians are spread thin and deadlines loom closer. In practice, even non-CATV experts can install ICON devices.
  • Decrease of power consumption by 20%. More complex network devices require more power. Operators struggle to manage power and performance growth in ways that are beneficial to business, customers and the environment. Using intelligence to reduce bias current in network devices decreases power consumption without sacrificing service quality. Nodes and amplifiers capable of adapting to external changes yield significant cost improvements. By leveraging unused network frequencies, these devices can save up to 30% of the power consumed by the amplifier modules.

“It’s a common misconception that intelligence means complexity, it means automation,” Narjus said.

As such, intelligent nodes can be deployed to any CATV network without changing network architecture — a clear financial win.

“When you factor in these operational efficiencies and total cost of ownership, Intelligent Networks technology is actually very cost effective,” he said. “The savings in operational and lifetime costs clearly pay dividends.”

 

How Intelligent Networks boost business performance

This post is sponsored by Teleste Intercept.

The cable industry charts significant customer churn rates often exceeding 20%. Many customers switch service providers because of network problems.

“Our studies show that Intelligent Networks technology delivers cost and time savings that drive better customer experience, which is key to reducing churn,” said Hanno Narjus, CEO of Teleste Intercept and senior vice president of network products for Teleste.

The intelligent connected optical node (ICON), a 24/7 probe in the CATV network, is an example demonstrating what Intelligent Networks mean in practice. The ICON complements PNM tools and full-capture cable modems to deliver salient business benefits.

Other business benefits of Intelligent Networks include:

  • Improvement in customer service. Intelligent technology gives your help desk team better visibility into network performance and empowers them to provide better and more satisfying customer service. Help desk teams are now reinforced by automated functions to quickly address problems, so you get more service uptime with faster intervention. As a result, 30% of customer calls are pre-empted entirely, giving your help desk staff more time to deal with complex customer service issues that require human interaction.
  • Increase in NOC efficiency and network uptime. Data gathered by intelligent technology makes it faster and easier to guide network technicians while reducing truck rolls by 60%. You can cut repair time by an average of 30 minutes and slash node area breaks by 150 minutes on average. Many intelligent features are enabled by electrical controls that replace traditional plug-in modules, benefiting technicians not having the needed plug-ins on site.
  • Avoiding 100% of seasonal maintenance visits. These visits are expensive to perform and require service disruptions that disappoint customers. Intelligent network devices and automated operations complete tasks faster, less expensively and more accurately than human technicians. Your crews are then freed up to focus on jobs that require their expertise, making them more effective. Many operators use automated operations during large network upgrades, when skilled CATV field technicians are spread thin and deadlines loom closer. In practice, even non-CATV experts can install ICON devices.
  • Decrease of power consumption by 20%. More complex network devices require more power. Operators struggle to manage power and performance growth in ways that are beneficial to business, customers and the environment. Using intelligence to reduce bias current in network devices decreases power consumption without sacrificing service quality. Nodes and amplifiers capable of adapting to external changes yield significant cost improvements. By leveraging unused network frequencies, these devices can save up to 30% of the power consumed by the amplifier modules.

“It’s a common misconception that intelligence means complexity, it means automation,” Narjus said.

As such, intelligent nodes can be deployed to any CATV network without changing network architecture — a clear financial win.

“When you factor in these operational efficiencies and total cost of ownership, Intelligent Networks technology is actually very cost effective,” he said. “The savings in operational and lifetime costs clearly pay dividends.”

 

Supply chain plays a crucial role in smart home success

This post is sponsored by LeSaint Logistics.

Smart home technology is a growing market, with revenue from the category set to surpass $19 billion in the US this year, according to Statista, which expects market volume to exceed $34 billion by 2022. The excitement around this technology has more manufacturers of traditional home products looking for ways to incorporate smart home features into their offerings.

One such feature that is growing in popularity is app-based technology that allows consumers to remotely manage housewares, small appliances and other home devices that have historically been offline products. This introduces significant complexity for consumer products manufacturers who not only need to embed the electronic controls and Wi-Fi accessibility in their products, but also develop apps to manage them. So, what do these types of product enhancements really mean for the supply chain?

Bringing smart home technology into the supply chain

Incorporating smart home technology into a traditional supply chain takes careful planning. The process usually begins in the warehouse setting, and manufacturers must consider every step to determine how to get goods ready for sale.

For instance, adding one piece of smart home technology to an item means the manufacturer must build the electronics into the product during assembly, print new user instructions to be put in the box before shipping, develop and set up mobile apps associated with the product, train customer service personnel who to help consumers enable their smart products after they purchase them – and the list goes on.

“We’re seeing a whole new array of supporting product and accessory needs from housewares and consumer products manufacturers as they try to introduce smart technology to their products. That means a lot more value-added services and retail-ready configuration activities are now taking place in the warehouse,” said Dino Moler, executive vice president of client solutions at LeSaint Logistics, a national 3PL based in Chicago.

An example of a value-added service that many smart home manufacturers require is flashing technology. Many times, an item with a technology component is made in the manufacturing stage, but an update to that technology needs to be implemented before the finished product goes to the consumer. LeSaint receives those products in their warehouses, connects them to a PC and flashes (or updates) them with the new technology.

For instance, consider smartphones and how apps and software are pre-loaded before consumers purchase them. The same idea applies to smart home goods. In fact, postponement manufacturing is a capability many warehouses have now taken on, where flashing, parts and other sub-assemblies are installed to make a finished product, and those updates are postponed until right before the product ships to a store or consumer.

Building smart home technology into the supply chain takes on additional challenges when configuring for retail readiness becomes part of the equation. In addition to setting up the manufacturer’s own supply chain to support smart home-enabled products, being retail ready means that the retailer’s supply chain has to be part of the process, as well.

Retailers, for example, often run promotions on products that have smart technology built in, which can have many implications on the supply chain. Manufacturers must be prepared to ship higher quantities than normal to get goods onto physical store shelves in time and in higher quantities to meet the demand generated from the promotions. They must also be prepared to get products into stores and consumers' hands fast and meet delivery promises made by online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

This is where transportation becomes a critical part of the smart home supply chain.

“Meeting consumer demand for smart home products relies heavily on an efficient transportation network that can reach and deliver those goods to consumers as fast as they can order” LeSaint’s Vice President of Transportation Keith Warren said. “In today’s transportation environment, that’s easier said than done, because industry statistics for major markets show that there’s only one truck for every 16 product shipments that need to be made. This imbalance of supply and demand for transportation services has consumer goods manufacturers scrambling to find creative transportation solutions from providers like us.”

And beyond meeting the needs of the retailers who are selling smart home-enabled goods, manufacturers must consider the preferences of the consumers buying the products. What types of packaging do consumers prefer? What are the other specifications that must be met when trying to appeal to consumers? Can they enable consumers to build or customize their own personalized products to have the exact features they want? These are important questions that every manufacturer must now consider.

In addition to these pre-sale questions, there is one more that manufacturers must answer when it comes to their smart home supply chains: What happens when a consumer buys a smart home product and it doesn’t work?

Setting up the smart home supply chain as a two-way street

Unlike many traditional products, manufacturers must have a robust and specific plan in place for returns management (also called reverse logistics) of smart home products. For example, consumers will likely return a smart home-enabled product if the technology doesn’t work or they have trouble with the associated apps, and because these products typically have high price points, buyers often want them repaired fast, or a replacement item shipped to them in short order.

The most common path for this transaction is the consumer returns the product to the retailer, the retailer sends the product back to the manufacturer and the manufacturer fixes or replaces the product. It is on manufacturers to plan for this situation and know their capabilities when dealing with defective smart home products.

“In many situations, we are seeing our clients co-locate their returned goods with their regular inventory in the same warehouse. This allows the processes, staff, training and customer service teams who get goods retail-ready to effectively transfer those skills to refurbishing or repairing returned goods. This co-location model also helps companies better understand their total refurbishment costs, which helps them make smarter decisions about disposing of returned goods altogether if that’s more cost-effective,” Moler said.

Getting all the pieces of the smart home supply chain in place is no easy feat. From the physical installation of the technology onto products to preparing the supply chain for the demands of omnichannel retail and managing returns, smart home manufacturers must be ready to handle it all to be successful at delivering a great customer experience.

Supply chain plays a crucial role in smart home success

This post is sponsored by LeSaint Logistics.

Smart home technology is a growing market, with revenue from the category set to surpass $19 billion in the US this year, according to Statista, which expects market volume to exceed $34 billion by 2022. The excitement around this technology has more manufacturers of traditional home products looking for ways to incorporate smart home features into their offerings.

One such feature that is growing in popularity is app-based technology that allows consumers to remotely manage housewares, small appliances and other home devices that have historically been offline products. This introduces significant complexity for consumer products manufacturers who not only need to embed the electronic controls and Wi-Fi accessibility in their products, but also develop apps to manage them. So, what do these types of product enhancements really mean for the supply chain?

Bringing smart home technology into the supply chain

Incorporating smart home technology into a traditional supply chain takes careful planning. The process usually begins in the warehouse setting, and manufacturers must consider every step to determine how to get goods ready for sale.

For instance, adding one piece of smart home technology to an item means the manufacturer must build the electronics into the product during assembly, print new user instructions to be put in the box before shipping, develop and set up mobile apps associated with the product, train customer service personnel how to help consumers enable their smart products after they purchase them – and the list goes on.

“We’re seeing a whole new array of supporting product and accessory needs from housewares and consumer products manufacturers as they try to introduce smart technology to their products. That means a lot more value-added services and retail-ready configuration activities are now taking place in the warehouse,” said Dino Moler, executive vice president of client solutions at LeSaint Logistics, a national supply chain solutions leader in Chicago.

An example of a value-added service that many smart home manufacturers require is flashing technology. Many times, an item with a technology component is made in the manufacturing stage, but an update to that technology needs to be implemented before the finished product goes to the consumer. LeSaint receives those products in their warehouses, connects them to a PC and flashes (or updates) them with the new technology.

For instance, consider smartphones and how apps and software are pre-loaded before consumers purchase them. The same idea applies to smart home goods. In fact, postponement manufacturing is a capability many warehouses have now taken on, where flashing, parts and other sub-assemblies are installed to make a finished product, and those updates are postponed until right before the product ships to a store or consumer.

Building smart home technology into the supply chain takes on additional challenges when configuring for retail readiness becomes part of the equation. In addition to setting up the manufacturer’s own supply chain to support smart home-enabled products, being retail ready means that the retailer’s supply chain has to be part of the process, as well.

Retailers, for example, often run promotions on products that have smart technology built in, which can have many implications on the supply chain. Manufacturers must be prepared to ship higher quantities than normal to get goods onto physical store shelves in time and in higher quantities to meet the demand generated from the promotions. They must also be prepared to get products into stores and consumers' hands fast and meet delivery promises made by online and brick-and-mortar retailers.

This is where transportation becomes a critical part of the smart home supply chain.

“Meeting consumer demand for smart home products relies heavily on an efficient transportation network that can reach and deliver those goods to consumers as fast as they can order” LeSaint’s Vice President of Transportation Keith Warren said. “In today’s transportation environment, that’s easier said than done, because industry statistics for major markets show that there’s only one truck for every 16 product shipments that need to be made. This imbalance of supply and demand for transportation services has consumer goods manufacturers scrambling to find creative transportation solutions from providers like us.”

And beyond meeting the needs of the retailers who are selling smart home-enabled goods, manufacturers must consider the preferences of the consumers buying the products. What types of packaging do consumers prefer? What are the other specifications that must be met when trying to appeal to consumers? Can they enable consumers to build or customize their own personalized products to have the exact features they want? These are important questions that every manufacturer must now consider.

In addition to these pre-sale questions, there is one more that manufacturers must answer when it comes to their smart home supply chains: What happens when a consumer buys a smart home product and it doesn’t work?

Setting up the smart home supply chain as a two-way street

Unlike many traditional products, manufacturers must have a robust and specific plan in place for returns management (also called reverse logistics) of smart home products. For example, consumers will likely return a smart home-enabled product if the technology doesn’t work or they have trouble with the associated apps, and because these products typically have high price points, buyers often want them repaired fast, or a replacement item shipped to them in short order.

The most common path for this transaction is the consumer returns the product to the retailer, the retailer sends the product back to the manufacturer and the manufacturer fixes or replaces the product. It is on manufacturers to plan for this situation and know their capabilities when dealing with defective smart home products.

“In many situations, we are seeing our clients co-locate their returned goods with their regular inventory in the same warehouse. This allows the processes, staff, training and customer service teams who get goods retail-ready to effectively transfer those skills to refurbishing or repairing returned goods. This co-location model also helps companies better understand their total refurbishment costs, which helps them make smarter decisions about disposing of returned goods altogether if that’s more cost-effective,” Moler said.

Getting all the pieces of the smart home supply chain in place is no easy feat. From the physical installation of the technology onto products to preparing the supply chain for the demands of omnichannel retail and managing returns, smart home manufacturers must be ready to handle it all to be successful at delivering a great customer experience.

If you don’t have time to read this, read this

Each month, When Growth Stalls examines why businesses and brands struggle and how they can overcome their obstacles and resume growth. Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands. The company was recognized by Advertising Age as 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. McKee is also the author of “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding.”

SmartBrief offers more than 200 newsletters, including SmartBrief on Leadership and newsletters for small businesses and marketers and advertisers.

Remember when you were in grade school, and you’d stare at the clock on the wall hoping, wishing, the hands would move? (If you’re too young to remember analog clocks, just play along.) Time passed slowly, interminably, especially during mandatory reading time. Ugh. This. Day. Will. Never. End.

The older we get, the more we realize that school does, in fact, end, days do go by, and time even flies. It’s a realization borne of experience and maturity -- and science, believe it or not. James Broadway of the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and UC Santa Barbara graduate  Brittiney Sandoval say, “From childhood to early adulthood, we have many fresh experiences and learn countless new skills. As adults, though, our lives become more routine, and we experience fewer unfamiliar moments. As a result, our early years tend to be relatively overrepresented in our autobiographical memory and, on reflection, seem to have lasted longer.”

Well, there you go.

Despite that, we still can’t see the hands on the clock move. But what if we could? What if, through some shift in the time-space continuum, the minute hand suddenly started moving like the second hand? How would we react?

Third-graders being asked to memorize their multiplication tables (do they still do that?) would probably be thrilled, but I’m guessing the rest of us would panic. Especially at first. “There already aren’t enough hours in the day!” we’d exclaim. “Not I’m never going to get it all done!” we’d complain. “It’s all coming at me too fast!”

Once we catch our breath, however, I believe another thought might settle in: A powerful sense of prioritization. We simply wouldn’t be able to allow the urgent to crowd out the important. We’d realize how little we can actually get done and would more intentionally focus on that which would make the most difference. And in an odd way, we might even become sanguine about our lives. Coming to terms with the fact that we can’t do it all, we might re-evaluate our priorities and be at peace focusing on what’s most important.

Guess what? This isn’t just a metaphor. Time really has sped up, at least in terms of the economy. Every business, every industry is moving through the stages of disruption, acceleration, maturation, saturation and commoditization ever faster. At the end of this “Disruption Cycle” comes innovation (sometimes) or obsolescence (often). Those companies and industries that anticipate the future and adjust accordingly begin a new loop. Those that don’t, flop.

For most of the 20th century, the Disruption Cycle turned slowly, imperceptibly, like the hands on a clock. It moved so slowly that people could spend an entire career within one cycle. They didn’t even realize it was happening. It manifested itself in having one job (or at least one career) for life.

With the advent of the technological revolution, however, it became not uncommon to experience multiple Disruption Cycles over the course of a single career. In the retail world, for example, brands today have to reinvent themselves faster than ever. Gap has found itself on the downslope of late, about which one analyst quipped, “While the market is moving forward, Gap is, at best, standing still.”

Once high-flying H&M is also in the doldrums as it struggles to match the distribution muscle of online retailers, the pricing appeal of aggressive discounters and the product iteration of competitors with faster and more flexible sourcing models.

Speed
Credit: Unsplash

More broadly, some consider the advent of artificial intelligence as a death sentence for entire classes of workers. I am not in that camp. I don’t believe AI will make humans obsolete for the simple reason that time and money have always been in limited supply. The more of each that are returned to us because of technological advances, the more we will be able to reinvest them in meeting as-yet-unmet needs and wants -- two things of which human beings will never run out.

After all, there are more jobs today than ever before in human history because there are more humans than ever before. That means more wants, more needs and more human ingenuity that is being applied to both.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t have issues. The rise and fall of industries has always resulted in worker displacement, from horse-and-buggy-whip makers to typist pools. In past ages, however, business models became outmoded slowly and sporadically, allowing the gradual reabsorption of displaced workers into new occupations. For most of human history, sons and daughters almost invariably followed in the occupational footsteps of their fathers and mothers. Today, however, none of our careers are safe from rapid obsolescence -- perhaps more than once over the course of our working lives.

I was leading a seminar about this recently and was struck at how readily the participants nodded in agreement. They, like me, can almost feel the breeze of the Disruption Cycle as it spins us around like a turbocharged Ferris wheel. Yet when I asked these professionals -- who were all in senior management -- what strategies they were implementing to stay ahead of the inevitable, all I received in return were blank stares. I couldn’t tell if it was fear, nausea or a flashback to third grade when they could bury their heads in their hands and make the world disappear. Whatever the case, denial won’t do.

What will? Well, a little panic is understandable. But once you realize how unproductive that is, better to reflect and reprioritize. Better to think a step (or two) ahead and anticipate the coming disruptions. Better to be the disruptor rather than the disruptee.

For the first time in history, it now does pay to keep our eyes on the clock. The sooner we realize those hands are spinning with increasing velocity, the better and more nimbly we can anticipate change and respond to it -- or even lead it. We may have all graduated from grade school, but the test-taking never ends. And in this economy, there’s no grading on the curve. It’s pass/fail.

Why employment branding doesn’t work — and what you should do instead

The U.S. unemployment rate is at an 18-year low. There are more job openings than there are eligible workers to fill them. Employers face rising labor costs amid stagnant productivity. It's no wonder that many companies have prioritized employment branding as a critical talent strategy.

Employment or employer branding -- efforts to promote a company as desirable employer -- has grown as a means for attracting employees and competing in the current war for talent that rages in many sectors. Many companies have developed elaborate positioning strategies and communications campaigns to recruit prospective employees. But many employers also struggle to determine the most effective employment branding approaches, and many of their efforts fail to attract the type and quantity of candidates they seek.

Most employment branding approaches don't work because they aren't aligned and integrated with the company's customer brand strategy. Companies usually assign HR executives to develop the organization's employment brand and, not surprisingly, these managers take a narrow talent-centric approach.

Typically, they try to discern the messages that would appeal most to desired candidates and develop recruitment campaigns to promote them. These efforts often try to woo recruits with promises of an uplifting workplace culture, attractive perks and benefits, and lots of career potential. But these appeals turn out to be ineffective because they have nothing to do with core brand identity the company uses to engage customers.

An employment brand that is disconnected from a company's "customer brand" produces challenges and consequences, not the least of which is confusion and skepticism among its audience. That's because, in many cases, a company's customers and prospective employees are one and the same. This is true not only for retail companies, whose best employees are often customers first, but also for: a technology firm whose user base is people with the specific skills and interests the company needs to develop its products; an agency or professional services firm that recruits industry insiders; and other companies that operate in partner ecosystems.

If an organization is promoting values and experiences for employees that are out of sync with what customers know about it, people will doubt the company's focus, authenticity and integrity.

Developing an employment brand solely through the lens of talent attraction also usually leads to a gap between what prospective employees experience during the recruiting process and what they eventually experience as employees. This experience gap leads to high levels of employee disappointment and dissatisfaction, which, in turn, leads to high turnover and poor reviews on employment sites like Glassdoor.

When recruitment efforts aren't grounded in the cultural foundations, competitive aspirations and business priorities that drive the majority of the company's efforts -- in other words, its brand strategy -- they're misleading and wasteful.

These efforts also end up promoting the wrong aspects and painting an incomplete picture of the company and workplace. HR managers try to devise perks and offer benefits that they believe will motivate prospective employees and then make them the focus of their recruiting efforts. Or, employment branding campaigns promote the company's philanthropic activities and employees' involvement in its corporate social responsibility efforts.

But employees generally judge the former as nice-to-haves. And, while the latter might make people feel good about the company, both fail to convey what most people care about: the reality of their day-to-day work and how that connects to the core mission of the company.

What's in it for me?

Ultimately, the problem with employment branding is the concept itself. It suggests a separate standalone effort. Instead of developing a disconnected employment brand, you should have a sole brand identity that you interpret into different but related value propositions and experiences for customers, recruits, employees, and other stakeholder groups and audiences.

For example, when I headed up brand and strategy at Sony Electronics' US business, we articulated that the core of our brand was about "creating technologies that inspire people to dream and find joy." We then interpreted that core identity in our marketing efforts to show how our products inspired customers, and HR applied that same identity in its recruitment efforts for employees by relaying opportunities to do inspiring work and to pursue their dreams.

We did the same with our brand values, which included, "We do what others don't," helping customers see the uniqueness of our products and helping employees see the opportunity to do unique work in a unique style. By integrating and aligning our employee and customer efforts with a single core brand identity, we appealed to the desires of both groups to be a part of something with a higher purpose and ideals.

Once you ground your talent attraction efforts in the core of your brand, use talent strategies and approaches similar to those you use to engage customers with it. Ensure your outreach is focused on those you are recruiting and their needs and wants, not on your company.

Too often, employment branding takes on a form of corporate chest-pounding, with companies running campaigns that showcase their awards and achievements and promote how terrific they are. But just as customers are attracted with appeals that put them at the center and make them feel like smart and savvy shoppers, employees are more likely to respond to messages that highlight the importance of their skills and contributions and make them feel like heroes. Now more than ever, employees judge potential employers through the filter of WIFM -- what's in it for me.

Also instead of or in addition targeting prospective employees by job or function, consider a more consumer-like segmentation. By grouping them into segments based on their values, aspirations, needs, and lifestages and lifestyles, you will be able to develop your appeals to resonate more deeply and target your tactics more efficiently.

Perhaps the best way to ensure your recruiting efforts are on-brand is to forge a tight integration between your HR and marketing groups. HR managers would learn how your company's brand identity can be used to attract employees by showing how different jobs and work contribute to the value that customers receive. HR can also learn from marketers' experience in developing targeted, emotionally resonant and differentiating campaigns and messages.

Plus, both groups can benefit from enrolling existing employees to advocate for the company to prospective employees and customers -- and coordinate their efforts to do so.

Prospective employees bring a certain consumerism to their job searches these days. You need to be strategic and savvy about how to attract top talent, but employment branding is not the answer. Your core brand identity and on-brand strategies and approaches are.

 

Denise Lee Yohn is the go-to expert on brand leadership for national media outlets, an in-demand speaker and consultant, and the author of the bestselling book "FUSION: How Integrating Brand and Culture Powers the World's Greatest Companies."

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mails for HR executives and marketing leaders, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.

Mid-split devices enable 5-85MHz and align with DOCSIS, MoCA

This post is sponsored by Antronix.

The 5-42MHz return band has historically been the upstream standard for cable operators, but subscriber demand for streaming and other services requires a substantial improvement of existing upstream data capacity.

“While growth of upstream data traffic has not quite kept the same pace as downstream traffic, it is growing far beyond the current capacity of HFC DOCSIS networks,” Antronix President Neil Tang said. “[Upstream capacity] will need to expand significantly to approach expected demand as peer-to-peer content, IoT, video conferencing, interactive, and other services become more relevant.”

 

Expanding the spectrum

A 5-85MHz bandwidth expansion project is one way service providers can expand system upstream capacity.

“An increase in the mid-split crossover point between the upstream and downstream adds more upstream spectrum, and allows for higher order modulation,” said Richard Gregory, an applications engineer with Antronix. “An 85MHz upstream split can support legacy DOCSIS 3.0 signals and/or also DOCSIS 3.1 OFDM signals.”

One challenge with the 5-42MHz spectrum is unpredictable interference from shortwave radio signals, communications-band radio signals, electrical lighting, electric motors and more. The higher frequencies of the mid-split contain the noise and interference from the lower levels, reclaiming even the lowest end of the return spectrum.

“Generally speaking, 5-15MHz is considered no man’s land due to the noise and interference that is common at these low frequencies,” Gregory added. “With DOCSIS 3.1 supporting multiple modulation profiles, the 5-15 MHz portion of the return spectrum can be reclaimed by modulating signals in this region at a lower modulation rate.”

 

Making the business case

The mid-split option is a cost-effective capital expenditure that enables service providers to meet subscriber expectations on a basic level.

Deploying mid-split technology may, in some cases, require a few plant modifications including new CPE equipment, on top of reallocation of bandwidth and access network modifications. The move also involves new diplexers in nodes and amplifiers.

A MoCA-enhanced VoIP residential amplifier mid-split is a central hub solution for the physical connections in subscribers’ homes. It reduces installation complexity, supports DOCSIS mid-split expanded bandwidth applications and ensures maximum data rates for MoCA -enabled devices.

“The device is also consistent with a home network solution where MoCA and enhanced DOCSIS 3.1 coexist for an optimal in-home network architecture, which is becoming more heavily reliant on streaming and native content services,” Tang said.

The time to begin these enhancements is now, Tang asserted.

“MSOs will require far more substantial modifications to their upstream performance offering in the coming years…to keep pace with ever increasing data demand in the upstream path,” Tang said. “A move to a mid-split 5-85 MHz upstream band - with the additional benefits of DOCSIS 3.1 higher order modulation - will improve spectral density and enable more capacity over existing spectrum.  This will be just the beginning of a series of upgrades that will eventually enable symmetrical gigabit performance over existing HFC networks.”

 

What if you are the lead dog?

Each month, When Growth Stalls examines why businesses and brands struggle and how they can overcome their obstacles and resume growth. Steve McKee is the president of McKee Wallwork + Co., an advertising agency that specializes in working with stalled, stuck and stale brands. The company was recognized by Advertising Age as 2015 Southwest Small Agency of the Year. McKee is also the author of “When Growth Stalls” and “Power Branding.”

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You’ve heard it a thousand times: “If you’re not the lead dog, the view never changes.” As pithy as that sounds, it’s true, and it offers the encouragement we all occasionally need to step up and break out of the pack.

But what if you are the lead dog? No one ever seems to talk about that.

Sure, the view changes when you’re out in front. But it’s not all sunshine and packed powder. The lead dog gets to bear the full brunt of the wind, snow, sleet, near-zero visibility, uncertainty about which way the sled is heading, and second-guessing of the rest of the team.

A case in point:

  • “[We] had never done anything this massive before.”
  • “It was all new. I was so nervous about it.”
  • “It was so cumbersome it was like ‘this is never going to work.’”
  • “This isn’t good enough. This is not good enough.”
  • “That team worked 168 hours a week for two weeks. They never stopped.”
  • “Our reward...was to kill ourselves over the next two-and-a-half years.”
  • “If we would have known then what we know now...we would have done this differently and this differently and this differently.”
  • “It’s a roller coaster ride. And if it ain’t scary it ain’t fun.”

Those are a handful of quotes from the “lead dogs” responsible for developing the iPhone, recounting what it the process of invention was like. We’re so used to companies like Apple leading the way that we may assume it’s second nature to them. Not true. They know that victory can be perennial but it’s never permanent; just ask Budweiser, Mattel and McDonald’s, three longtime industry leaders feeling the effects of inevitable decline. Apple’s turn is coming soon.

For those who head up the seven out of 10 companies who (according to our research) are experiencing healthy growth, it’s not so bad being the lead dog. They can see where they’re going. They’re making good progress. They’re running in stride with their team and outpacing their competitors. But inevitably for them, and painfully immediate for the other 30%, comes a slog -- a long, hard, sometimes blinding and often frightening slog. 

My firm specializes in working with struggling companies in need of a turnaround, and many of the leaders we work with would love the predictability of bringing up the back. But they can’t choose the timing of their trials. Circumstances have forced them to choose a new direction where the right direction isn’t readily apparent. They have to set and maintain a workable pace for an uncertain trek. And they must stay focused despite the chaotic and incessant barking of the dogs behind them.

We’re working with a CEO who is doing all of that and more as he oversees the rapid and dramatic evolution of his company’s business model. His organization had been in the distribution business for several decades, enjoying many years of steady, stable success, financing its growth with debt.

But then the Great Recession hit. Orders ground to a halt. Employees were scared and confused. Management was shell-shocked. Cash flow was rapidly heading in the wrong direction while the debt continued compounding. The company went through as close of a near-death experience as I’ve ever heard of.

Somehow, the company made it through, refinancing its debt as things slowly started to improve. But the recession lingered on, and the industry changed. The company was no longer as relevant as it once was. Its value proposition was in decline. Having worked so hard to save it, the CEO now has to reinvent it. Not so easy to be the lead dog there.

Another client is a manufacturer in a rapidly commoditizing industry, dealing with rising costs of raw materials and uncertain trade policy, among many other challenges. Its “lead dog” has developed a bold vision to transform the organization, but the pathway there is anything but obvious to him or his team. Sometimes they come to a clearing and it’s easy sledding. Sometimes they’ve run into a snowdrift. A few times they’ve nearly tumbled into a crevasse. It looks like this company is going to get where it needs to go, but it has required an immense amount of vision, courage and perseverance.

Speaking of Apple, The Wall Street Journal published a rare and revealing recording of Steve jobs trying to explain the revolutionary impact of the App Store to a reporter just 30 days after it had launched back in 2008.

Today, it’s easy to appreciate how game changing it actually was. But back then, Jobs saw something others didn’t; you can hear it in his voice as he strains to convince the reporter of its significance. Lead dogs are often lonely, even when they’re right.

Ever tried to raise money for a startup? Create a prototype? Change a policy? Launch a product? Turn a company around? Reinvent an industry? We’re all lead dogs -- or need to be.

As a lead dog myself, I can testify that it does beat the view never changing, and I take comfort in the fact that, as in all things in life, there’s a wiser being who’s really in control of the reins. Still, it can be as exhausting as it is invigorating to run ahead of the pack. Sometimes you just want to take a nap.