To attract good people, measure the right things

December 13th, 2006

This Washington Post story points out that even in hospitals that get top “quality” ratings, rates of death are not significantly lower than those that get bottom rankings. And it’s safe to say this doesn’t just apply to hospitals.

The rage to measure things has been good in some ways, but like the quantum physicists who finally pointed out through their experiments with light as waves and light as particles, you find exactly what you’re looking for. So if you’re measuring process X because you think it relates to outcome Y, you may get some correlation, but not necessarily the one that’s most likely to give you the truth about results.

For example, let’s say you measure how many minutes it takes team B to produce a widget. And when you measure team A, it turns out they can make the widget in 2 minutes less. You may think, okay, now let’s measure each and every step that team A does and find out where we have to improve team B’s performance. Yeah, you’re going to find some items that you can a) throw training at, b) give incentives, or c) threaten with penalties to get team members to do better on individual performance measures.

But you might be missing a much more important factor. For example, how do you quantify intangibles like, say, team A’s leader listens to fellow team members’ ideas (even if they’re not implemented very often), and team B’s leader is a task master? How do you gauge the effect when one or two A team members went bike riding this morning, and one or two B team members went out on a binge last night?

For best results, don’t just start measuring. When you think of performance, think about the individual–the whole person–who’s doing the job. Think about what motivates people. Once you get those kinds of measures and incentives in place, write about them in your corporate blog. You’ll start attracting more of the highest quality job candidates than you can possibly use. And you’ll keep the good ones you’ve got.

Playing the numbers game

December 9th, 2006

Truth in numbers? In this Washington Post story the numbers of the jobless in the U.S. are said to have gone up, but only slightly and only because the overall number of employed went up. Somehow that feels like playing with smoke and mirrors–you know the old saying ‘statistics can be made to say anything you want them to‘ (requires free registration).

If you’re going to report industry statistics or numbers for your production or other items of interest to your corporate blog readers, don’t play games with them. Yes, it’s okay to report things that are favorable to your company, but you’ll gain a lot more credibility if you balance it with honest numbers in a number of areas. And if you’re going to report certain kinds of statistics (as in this story, how many people are actively looking for work), try to say how those numbers are determined.

It’s all about respecting your readers.

Science proves branding is worth the investment

November 29th, 2006

A blog for your business is an investment in your brand. It extends your brand by improving your presence online and making a powerful ongoing emotional connection to your readers (prospects, customers, vendors, etc.). Now science has confirmed that branding produces results.

Study participants were asked to view a brand (in this case Volkswagen’s) and their brain activity was monitored in reaction. Astonishingly, a well-known brand–for virtually any type of product from cars to insurance–produced a flurry of positive activity that was independent of evaluative thought. In other words, even though they were asked to answer a question about the brand, participants engaged in little or no decision-making about the quality of the brand. And interestingly, an unfamiliar brand actually evoked a negative reaction as the brain struggled to understand its significance.

You’ve heard the expression: any publicity is good publicity. Here we have the proof. And further proof that political marketers are on the right track by deluging us at election time with banners that have just the candidate’s last name in huge letters–nothing about positions or causes or records. They know you’ll remember that name and probably not think twice–or maybe at all–about what it stands for.

Don’t waste this opportunity to extend your brand. Get your corporate blog in gear now. Email me today with your questions.

Corporate blog as platform on global issues

November 27th, 2006

Some things are so important that, even if you don’t like the political implications, you can understand the necessity for responding. Global warming is one of those that’s getting impossible to ignore. Nature is speaking, says this Washington Post story, in the form of butterflies actually changing their geographic areas of habitat by moving north in Europe–not for a season but permanently. Populations of other creatures are moving to higher ground–or experiencing declining numbers and poorer health.

What may be even more appalling to some of us is the fact that warmer winter temperatures are allowing bugs of every stripe to weather the winters and as a result breed more prolifically.

Businesses are reacting, too. Ski lodge owners are petitioning to lease land higher up on mountains–because the snow caps have shrunk so significantly. Snow-making manufacturers are charging outrageous prices for their services–because they can. Power sharing on the west coast could be endangered if hotter summers lower river levels.

How might your business be affected by warmer temperatures year-round? Shipping of critical parts could be slowed. Energy costs could skyrocket. Think about it. If you’re thinking of doing anything differently because you see how the global warming trend could affect your prices or your service, tell your corporate blog readers about it. Word will get around.

Customer service efforts a good topic

November 22nd, 2006

Best Buy, a megagiant in the home entertainment, electronics and other industries is putting on a massive “boot camp” training session for its employees to prepare them for what’s known in the retail trade as “Black Friday”in the U.S.–the Friday after Thanksgiving. The National Retail Federation estimates that BestBuy will get its share of the more than 137 million Americans who will go shopping between Friday and Sunday.

Yours may not be a retail business, but whether it’s the holidays or other times of the year when your business gets more intense, if you do anything special to prepare for it so that your customer service remains top-notch, brag about it. Heck, even if it’s not seasonal, brag about what you do–customers love knowing that you’re thinking ahead about how to make their lives easier. Use your corporate blog to try inviting suggestions on how you could serve them better–you might be surprised at what you can learn by just plain old asking.

A question of balance

November 15th, 2006

Journalists are charged with being impartial in their coverage of people and events. In your corporate blog, you can certainly be biased in favor of your own company’s products and services, but it’s good to give credit what it’s due to others in the industry–while also, of course, pointing out how your company is different/better, serves a different niche, etc.

But journalists can skew that “impartial” view by giving equal weight/time/coverage to the opinions of small minorities. A powerful example is the current debate about global warming. The Washington Post reports this from a symposia of scientists:

Several speakers…accused [the media] of distorting scientific consensus in the name of journalistic balance. David Helfand, chairman of the Columbia University astronomy department, said for instance that while 99 percent of scientists working in the field of climate change are convinced that it is serious and the result of human activity, the views of the 1 percent who disagree are often given equal weight in stories about global warming.

Be sure that your corporate blog reflects an accurate and fair view of your company. Don’t distort your ethics. Don’t misrepresent how you treat employees. Don’t hyperbolize your success. And if you don’t like what the fair and accurate view says about you, you have two options: you can either start writing solely about industry news rather than your own company (which is okay), or go back to the drawing board on your management and other policies.

Turn a test into a testament

November 12th, 2006

A catchy headline is the best way to get people to read your blog post. Journalists and newspaper editors know this–they hire people specifically for their ability to write those killer headlines.

Consider this one in a Washington Post article today: Fuel Efficiency as a Component of Freedom. Don’t you wonder what that’s all about? I did and was surprised to find–eventually–that it was really about performance testing a new fuel-efficient Mercedes-Benz in a grueling drive across the Russian countryside. The writer, Warren Brown, meanders from Russian history to describing the character of the two hosts at a stopover during the drive and quietly sandwiches the car test information in between. It’s a masterful job of finding much deeper connections than just simple test conditions and results.

I suspect Mercedes-Benz couldn’t be happier with the resulting article–talk about giving your product great exposure! And corporate blog writers everywhere can take a lesson from Mr. Warren on how to give greater meaning to your company information by building it into a wider context.

What women want

November 8th, 2006

If your business can use female customers, you’d be wise to listen to the marketplace. It hasn’t been “business as usual” in that arena for a long time.

Found this one today on a blog about single working women. Many businesses make the mistake of thinking they don’t need to account for the fact that increasingly women are the members. The ones who bring the guests. The ones who spend the money. The ones who can–and will if they’re satisfied–help your business by positive word-of-mouth promotion.

Women are the ones businesses must begin courting. Great article in the New York Times recently on the topic of what women want (requires free signup). Some of the smartest companies have initiated whole women’s initiatives aimed at finding out how their women customers really feel and adapting their services to meet those expectations.

Your blog is the perfect place to begin engaging with the females in your target audiences. Talk to some of your women customers. Talk to your women employees. Listen. Then think about including topics in your blog that specifically address women’s concerns. It’s a winning strategy today and will only become more so in the future.

The world is onto the Internet

November 2nd, 2006

If you need extra evidence that this medium is incredibly powerful, check this out. The United Nations just sponsored a conference on the Internet–Internet safety, security, reach to non-English-speaking countries, etc.

Even if you have no thought of going global with your product or service, the Internet is changing the world so rapidly and so dramatically that you need to keep on top of this stuff. One day you might just be propelled without warning into a global marketplace. Might as well be out there building relationships ahead of time.

Get that corporate blog going. Call me if you have questions.

Blog about how to solve the service – cost dichotomy

October 31st, 2006

How do you deliver great service and keep your prices down? Good article in a recent HBR about strategies for managing the variability that customers introduce when you’re in the business of delivering a high-end service. Here are a couple of hints:

On handling an overload

  • Instead of hiring 93 extra people to make sure you can meet sudden demands, think about automating tasks, hiring lower-cost labor, or outsourcing customer contact.
  • Instead of requiring reservations, or giving off-peak special pricing, or limiting service availability, think about how to create a complementary demand so your people and resources are more evenly allocated.
  • And the biggest tip of all: think self-service. Follow the model of the Internet and let the customers do more of the work. They’ll love it because they take pride in their contribution to the finished result. The smartest software companies have been doing this for decades.

None of these are easy. They require highly creative thinking. What a great set of topics to blog about! Can you imagine enlisting your customers’ help in finding out just what would work best as an automated task? Imagine how excited they’d be about helping you design a system where they could feel a sense of ownership–and get what they need?

Win – win – win. Those are the kinds of solutions you blog about.