Is HR Employment Branding A Mistake?

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 9.25.35 AMMark Riston at Marketing Week thinks employment branding could be causing more harm than good.

Ritson taught brand management at London Business School, MIT Sloan, the University of Minnesota and Melbourne Business School – where he is currently an Associate Professor of Marketing.   His former clients include McKinsey, adidas, PepsiCo, GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Baxter, De Beers, Ericsson, Sephora, and WD40. For eight years he has also served as advisor and in-house professor for LVMH – the world’s largest luxury group – working with senior executives from brands such as Louis Vuitton, Dom Perignon, Fendi, Tag Heuer, Dior and Hennessy. In a recent national survey in the UK Mark Ritson was voted one of the country’s most admired marketers.

It’s important to note that Riston appreciates the intent of HR promoting employer brands and says:

I appreciate that you are only doing what you are doing out of a misplaced sense of purpose and a naive miscomprehension of the branding concept but, please, you have to stop doing this employer branding stuff right now. It is terrible.

Riston’s key points from his Marketing Week Article Employer branding can do real harm so stop it:

  • Branding is fundamentally about the consumer
  • Branding is about differentiation and employer branding strategy all sounds the same.  Empowering Excellence with Integrity and Innovation’) is exactly the same as everyone else’s
  • You have to measure brand equity, yet most HR people are measuring job satisfaction via employee surveys.  If you want to position your employer brand on something, you will have to measure those values and how much employees think they experience them on an annual basis.

To me this sounds like this could me more of an issue of execution than an inherent problem or structural issue.  Do you think employer branding can be done right to support both the customer and the employee?  Please share your thoughts and insights below.


HR Thought Leader: Stacey Carroll

I first met Stacey Carroll at a Trakstar webinar on HR’s role in building a performance-driven organization.   I’ve attended a lot webinar’s and her’s was one of the best.  She provided an energetic and organized approach anyone could follow.  She colored each point with fun and concrete examples.  Her experience as an HR executive at Nordstroms, Payscale, and Trendwest Resorts has armed her with many insights and stories.

She is active on social media and was named by HR Examiner’s as a Top 25 Online Influencers in Talent Management.   At MeritShare we have given her our HR Thought Leader award.

In addition to this award for Stacey,  we are pleased to announce she will be offering a free webinar “Like Me! Rewards & Engagement for Employees in the Social Era” on June 13th at 1:00-2:00pm EDT.   This session is pending approval for 1.0 HRCI re-certification credit.  Save your place now and register in one click here.

The webinar will discuss:
• The effects of employee recognition and regular feedback on engagement
• They types of employees recognition that work best including more modern trends
• Tips and Tricks for effective peer-based recognition and feedback
• 3 steps for implementing a successful employee engagement plan

You’ll leave this session understanding how to update your employee performance and recognition programs to be current with today’s trends and best practices.   Come join us and hear Stayce’s insights and offer your own as well.

Thank’s to David Martin for his support and including us in his excellent Trakstar webinar series.  You can also find Stacey at her website HR Experts on Call.


The 3 Key Forces Behind Motivation

It’s not about money.

In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, best-selling author Dan Pink reveals the 3 key principles that drive motivation  – Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose.  The need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. In a interview with Harvard Business Review, Pink says  ”As for recognition, the diaries revealed that it does indeed motivate workers and lift their moods. So managers should celebrate progress, even the incremental sort”.  HBR adds, “recognition is a form of feedback which is essential to achieving mastery”.

If you have not seen this video by RSA Animate using Pink’s popular TED Talk, you need to.  Pink provides an undeniable case based on extensive research and studies including the work of Mihalyi Czentsmihaly on flow.

Do you work with people who have mastered an area, skill or characteristic?  If so, let them know with a public kudos and acknowledge their mastery and professional reputation on Linkedin and online.


How To Motivate: The Research Behind Recognition

What motivates us?

In his popular TED Talk (see the full video below) behavioral economist Dan Ariely recently discussed not only why we work, but what kind of behavior and environments increase productivity and help people thrive in the workplace.

Ariely points out that there are examples all around us that show people are motivated by things beyond a paycheck, crossing a finish line or meeting a goal:

  • Mountain climbers face enormous challenges and setbacks on the way to climbing to the top of the mountain.
  • An employee worked on a project day and night for over 2 weeks when it was cancelled the day before the due date, leaving the worker, who said he felt quite happy while working on the project, feeling depressed when he realized that no one would see his work.

We want to receive recognition for the “fruits of our labor”, says Ariely, and know that our work has meaning. He conducted two experiments to explore this notion.

In a study using Legos, two groups of people were paid to build multiple Lego kits. In one group, the completed pieces would be disassembled at the end of the experiment; in the second, each person saw their first creation taken apart as they built a second.

Outside observers predicted that the first group – where their work had been acknowledged – would build more Lego kits, but thought the difference would be negligible.

  • In fact, the group whose work was valued showed over 63% more productivity compared to the group whose work was disregarded.

This dynamic is at play in the working world. At one company, 200 workers spent two years working on a project that was suddenly shut down. The employees reported feeling depressed and unmotivated and their behavior at work changed. They started:

  • Showing up for work later
  • Leaving work earlier
  • Possibly ‘fudging’ expense report items

When asked what could have made them feel that their work efforts were not wasted and drive employee engagement, they suggested:

  • Internal presentation of the project to the company
  • Analyze what aspects of their project could be incorporated into other aspects of the company

In  Ariely’s “Shredder” experiment, people were asked to complete a written puzzle, and then each paper was placed in one of three groups, where 1) someone looked at it quickly, uttered a quick “Uh-huh” and put it on a pile; 2) no one looked at the paper and it went into in a pile; or 3) the papers went directly into a shredder.

There’s good news and bad news coming out of this “Shredder” study:

  • Ignoring people’s  performance is almost as bad as shredding their effort in front of them, but
  • Minimal recognition can dramatically improve a worker’s motivation

The act of recognition provides acknowledgement and is the best source of motivation .  You don’t have to sit around and wait for this to happen, you can kick start a culture of recognition by starting with a simple thanks to a co-worker.

[ted id=1706]


Making People Decisions With Data

Have you heard about the “new” field of people analytics, using data as the poster nerd for reinventing human resources?

All other performance metrics like revenues and costs are tracked, so it seems logical that those related to the most important resource –people –are quantified into KPI’s.

Our own experience with companies using MeritShare  has shown that what gets measured gets done.    We have seen recognition activity increase with the addition of more feedback loops and analytics for both individuals and companies.  You can’t lose weight without a goal and a scale.  Several months ago we published a national recognition index and heatmap and data visualization of thanks being sent by US State.

Survey’s have always and will continue to be a key part of people analytics toolkit, but we are also starting to deploy other methods to measure and quantify the health of a company’s culture.  We recently published 4 Tips To Measure Action Based Engagement in HR Buddy, providing some thoughts on using more action-based people metrics.

Two of the best resources on how Google makes people decisions data can be found in this excellent TLNT article written by Dr. John Sullivan.  The “Michael Jordan of Hiring” explains how the GOOG organizes and directs their HR organization to “bring the same level of rigor to people-decisions that we do to engineering decisions.”

The other helpful  gem is from Google HR executive Kathryn Dekas presenting “People Analytics: Using Data To Drive HR Strategy & Action” at a Strata conference.  Her story will inspire you to put some people analytics into action,  and it is a must watch video for any HR or management executive.

Please share any advice or thoughts on the topic of people analytics below.    If you want more information on how we help companies get started people analytics, contact me at kevin [at]

Visualize Your Online Reputation

Screen Shot 2013-04-01 at 9.19.47 PM

Today’s MeritShare innovator series interview is with one of Vizify’s founders, Todd Silverstein.

If you haven’t tried Vizify yet, you should.  We were very impressed with how easy it is to use and how well it shows up on search results for your name.   We recently recommended the service for the Mashable Article: You Will Be Googled.

Vizify helps you look your best online with graphical bios. They’re a series of interactive infographics that tell your story, from your most tweeted words to your career history and personal and professional interests. Vizify builds & updates most of this for your from your social media content, but we also provide themes and vizcards (bite-sized infographics about you) that you can use to truly make your bio all your own.  Use your bio as you would a personal website and  impress potential bosses, client, even dates.

We were curious about the people and vision behind this innovative service and asked Todd to share the “why” behind Vizify and get his advice on managing your online reputation.

Why did you start Vizify?

We were inspired by the growing importance of your online presence, when it comes to finding a job, succeeding in business, even finding a date. When you look at things from the side of the person Googling you to find out more, you realize that there aren’t really great solutions out there for pulling it all together into a constantly up-to-date, comprehensive, and engaging whole.

What are some of your favorite Vizify profiles?

Our Chief Security Officer: is a good example of the personality and style you can bring to your story.

What recommendations do you have for managing your reputation online?

1) Assume everything you post today is public. Don’t post anything online that would make you uncomfortable.

2) Own your full name online, e.g. claiming and

3) Most sites, such as LinkedIn, and Twitter allow you to either put links in your brief bio or to link to other sites. To help yourself be found online, it’s a good idea to interlink the sites you use together. Of course, we believe a Vizify bio makes a great destination to point to from other profiles.

4) Set up a Google Alert for your name so you can monitor what’s said about you.

5) One of the best ways to shape your online presence is to publish new and up-to-date content reflecting your accomplishments, skills, etc. If you’re unsure how to do that, or find it too time consuming, take a peek at our vizcards for some ideas.

Do you search on people online as part of your due diligence on job candidates, business partners, customers, or suppliers/vendors? 

Of course, I look to see if they have a Vizify bio first! :) I also use Rapportive, a gmail plug-in, which does all the heavy lifting for you and displays social media profiles of the people you email.

What unique things do you do to create a unique work culture or engage your team/employees?

Every Wednesday (which is when we ship new code), we have a “5:05″ (borrowed shamelessly from Andy Sack’s model while we were in TechStars), where every team member has a chance to share their high & low for the week with the rest of the team. We’re also big on transparency– we have a monthly all-hands where we share our progress and numbers. We also do a team lunch together each Friday, which really helps keep the lines of communications open.

What mascot best represents your company culture/spirit?

Hmm, I’m sure my cofounders would disagree, but I’d have to pick dragons.  Either that or breakdancing chickens.

What are some of your favorite new online/mobile services?

I’m fond of one tab for Chrome (I’m a too many open tabs fiend), hootsuite (it’s a great way to keep up with high twitter traffic) and mad mimi a really great lightweight email newsletter program.

We thank Todd for spending time with us to answer our questions on the heels of a big product launch.  Todd and has team just released “Vizcards” a fun way to create eye-popping graphics about yourself.  You can reach Todd on Vizify or  Twitter.


Leveraging People and Profit: The Hard Work of Soft Management

What’s an “Altrupreneur”®?

Bernie Nagle has been a student of “engagement” in the workplace for nearly 40 years, primarily in manufacturing environments, either as an executive or as a consultant.  He is also co-author of the book, Leveraging People and Profit: The Hard Work of Soft Management, where he coined the term “Altrupreneur”.

Leveraging-People-Profit-Altrupreneur3Nagle describes an “altrupreneur” as one who conducts the affairs of an enterprise with conspicuous regard for the welfare of others, builds communities that produce value for all the organization’s stakeholders. This new breed of leader responds to the needs of the organization and the demands of people coming to the workplace and marketplace.  The manager who can balance the people and profit factors has the best chance of succeeding in tomorrow’s corporation.

MeritShare co-founder Travis Pearl first connected with Bernie on Linkedin and recently conducted this interview.

Tell us about yourself?

I have both experienced and observed the phenomenon of engagement as an employee, manager, senior executive, consultant, author, speaker, business owner, and facilitator.  

I started consulting back in 1995, after 22 years in the Food Industry, when the company I worked for was acquired. At that time I was VP Manufacturing for a $2.0 bil. company, responsible for 7 plants  Instead of moving to Europe with the acquiring company, I took the “package” and went to outplacement. It was at that point I decided to begin writing my book and go out on my own.  After consulting and speaking on my own for a period of time, I was recruited by PriceWaterhouse Consulting and I worked for them until I was recruited by one of their clients to lead a global business process improvement initiative in 13 locations in 9 countries.  

Break it down for us Bernie

 My experience has taught me some simple truths about people in the workplace:

  1. The vast majority of people are fundamentally good; they want to do a good job, improve and grow

  2. Everyone is really good at something

  3. The greatest motivator in the workplace is believing at the end of the day that what you did made a positive difference

  4. People and Profit are not mutually exclusive business choices

Enlightened leaders know these truths intuitively and act accordingly, with integrity and respect.

Why did you start your consulting/training company – what is your mission?

My mission was then, and remains today, “Ubertas per Beneficium” (Abundance through Service).  My goal is to establish a covenant mentality of mutual service in the workplace, through whatever means of evangelization is at my disposal.  My most fervent wish is to get back to being able to support myself financially doing this work full-time as an independent operator or as part of a larger training/consulting firm.

Explain the meaning of “Altrupreneur” – how did you establish that term and what does it mean to you?

The word, Altrupreneur ®, is an improbable union of the words, “Altruistic” and “Entrepreneur”. An Altrupreneur ® is a transformational leader who understands a simple, underlying principle of human nature:

“Engagement, trust, loyalty, and followership, are inspired by the leader’s willingness to value and serve ‘the other’.”

I wanted to create a word that communicated a workable middle-ground meld of the attributes that make for a successful entrepreneur, as well as those of a genuine altruist.  These were the traits I had observed in successful manager/leaders who had the ability to truly engage people in the workplace and elicit discretionary effort, innovation and enthusiasm.  These special leaders had keen business sense and a nose for the bottom line, and at the same time, were people of high integrity, uncommon empathy, and genuine concern for the welfare of others.  In other words, they held others in “high regard”; hence the frequent references to the creation of a “high regard” work environment.

If you had to provide three leadership principles around servant leadership, one sentence each, what would they be?

Leadership Principle #1   Leadership exists only through the voluntary gift of follower-ship

Leadership Principle #2   The gift of followership is given for their reasons, not yours

Leadership Principle #3   You can neither know nor engage their reasons unless by your actions you embody a spirit of humility, respect and service for others

Your website states that Altrupreneurs ‘create “virtually free” new sources of Competitive Advantage in a sustainable world, please explain?  

The lack of engagement in the workforce has been demonstrated repeatedly in study after study.  It is no longer an area of speculation, with some studies estimating as high as 70% to 80% of the workforce actively disengaged.  This group falls into the “quit and stayed” category.  It has been my contention, as I stated emphatically in my book nearly 20 years ago, “the greatest waste of assets in all organizations is the untapped creativity and innovative energy of an engaged workforce.”  Your competitors may outspend you in every asset category, but they cannot buy, nor can they match the creativity and innovation of a team of energized workers.  That enthusiasm and innovative energy cannot be forced it cannot be coerced and it cannot be bought…it must be led.  People do things for THEIR reasons, not yours.  The enlightened, servant leader is uniquely able to connect with the workforce where THEY are, with an interest in THEIR needs, and ignite that enthusiasm and innovative energy on behalf of the organization.  This is the next frontier in sustainable competitive advantage.

What are the most important traits, attributes for Enlightened Leadership?

  • Integrity

  • Humility

  • Regard/Respect for others

  • Competence

  • Optimism

  • Communication

  • Enthusiasm

What companies do you admire the most?

There is a company (literally a few miles from where I live) I recently got to know, and had a chance to interview the president, Stuart Watson.  The company is named Truline, and they make bearing housings for super high-tech applications, like aircraft fuel pumps.  Stuart and the company owner have created a Servant Leadership culture as genuine as any I have ever witnessed in the last two decades.  When I was researching my book,  I had the privilege to speak to some of the giants of the Servant Leadership world, like Max DePree, Herb Kelleher and Art Wainwright, and I will tell you this company is no less impressive. 


We thank Bernie for his time, insights and advice.

If you would like more information on Bernie, please visit his website


The Best Definition of Employee Engagement:

In this first MeritShare article on employee engagement, we start from the beginning and look at how employee engagement is defined.

Wikipedia references the Scarlett Surveys definition and says: “Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization that profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform is at work”.  This is significantly different than job satisfaction.

However, outside of Wikipedia there are divergent views on how to define employee engagement.  My personal favorite is from Kevin Kruse at Forbes who says:

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals.

In order to represent the full spectrum of opinions on how to define employee engagement,  I picked 10 thought-provoking articles.  Let us know your thoughts below and if we missed any you think should be included or if you have your own definition in the comment section below.

1.  Best Definition of Employee Engagement Ever


JT wrote what I think is the best definition of employee 2engagement ever in the comments on People I’d Like to Hire: When they are there, they are there.

2.  Refining Definitions of Employee Engagement – Sustainability


Our sustainability consulting challenges traditional definitions stakeholder engagement. The Forbes article, What is Employee Engagement breaks many of the traditional views of internal resource effectiveness.

3.  Employee Engagement Definition


Shuck and Wollard study the evolution of the term “employee engagement” across 140 papers and synthesize a possible consensus definition.

4.  Defining Practical Employee Engagement | RAPIDBI


Defining Practical Employee Engagement The term Employee Engagement has been prolific over the past few years but what does it really mean? How can we use this.

5.  How to define employee engagement in just 6 words


Employee engagement is more than surveys and assessments – it’s about how team members experience their work environments.

6.  Consultant’s Desk: Terms of Employee Engagement


As a student, I find myself frequently using Google to discover the true definition of these terms, and I have observed many of my classmates using the term “employee engagement” synonymously with employee happiness

7.  All Things Workplace: What, Really, Is Employee Engagement?


The definition of Employee Engagement: “a heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work”. That makes

8.  50 Shades of Engagement


I know how *I* define employee engagement. But I think you already know that too. So, I asked you — the employee, the average joe, the thought leader, and the social strategist, an eclectic mix of professionals..


9. Why Your Employee Engagement Survey Isn’t Paying Off | Switch


One of the biggest issues with employee engagement is that there seems to be as many definitions of engagement as there are people on the planet. In the absence of a standardized definition of engagement, it is absolutely

10.  Workplace Presenteeism Redefined – TalentCulture – World of Work


In terms of a definition for employee engagement there are many, but I have typically used something close to the following: “An intimate emotional connection that an employee feels for the company they work for that propels


Don’t forget to let us know what you think below and if you have some time, check out MeritShare and see how you can both measure and improve your employee engagement with peer-based recognition.

Goals + Feedback = Motivation: An Interview with HR & leadership expert Bob Mendonsa

Several weeks ago I read a great blog post titled Steve Jobs on HR: do HR people really suck?  The article was written by HR and Organizational Development expert Bob Mendonsa.   I noticed Bob was located in Bellevue, near MeritShare’s Seattle headquarters so I quickly fired off an email to Bob asking for some time to meet and get this thoughts on the importance of employee engagement and recognition.

So we met for coffee and in one hour I was able to get a lifetime of wisdom and advice from Bob who runs an HR consulting firm and is the former Chief Human Resource Officer at Radia, SVP of Human Resources at Captaris, and VP of the Organizational Change Group at NeoPost.   Bob has done work for a lot of great companies, including T-Mobile, RSA Security, Nextel, Morgan Stanley, Pitney Bowes,, McKesson EFCU, University of Washington, Swedish Medical Center, and the Marriott Foundation

Here are couple of nuggets of HR advice we learned from Bob today:

  • Try to provide recognition that is spontaneous and in the moment, smaller but more frequent interaction is better.
  • Engagement surveys are a laborious process, try to break them down into a more digestible pieces.
  • Employees want to feel like they are making a difference, so explaining your company vision and values are important drivers of engagement and commitment
  • Focus on data-driven approaches to HR solutions

He also had some great one-liners ready-made for Twitter:

Question: Do companies need a business case to justify a recognition program?

Bob’s Response: “Companies that get it make intuitive decisions first, knowing they can get the data later to measure the results”

Question: What are your thoughts on Employee Engagement?

Bob’s Response: “Goals + Feedback = Motivation”

We recognize Bob by awarding him a MeritShare thought leader award and thank him for taking the time to guide us on MeritShare’s mission to give people the recognition they deserve.

You can follow Bob on Twitter @thehrdifference and The HROD Blog.