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How you manage talent spells the difference between success and failure. To gain a competitive edge, leaders must be prepared to address shifting economic, social and demographic trends that impact workforce performance. Stay informed with research, insights and advice from our leading industry experts. The world of work is changing. Is your company ready?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Branding and positioning are critical for company growth (really)

Whether it is about focusing the effort of every employee on improving customers’ perceptions of your brand or using social media to help shape your brand’s reputation and perception, you need to engage customers and prospects in a meaningful way. Successful branding helps build and maintain superior results.

Some leaders mistake branding for positioning and vice-versa. This can have serious consequences. Branding is not about your logo, tag line, and web site stickiness. While those are components, branding is about your organization’s core identity and what that represents.

Because branding precedes positioning, you need to answer a few questions:
  • What makes our offering different?
  • Can I succinctly describe what we do for our clients?
  • Why do clients hire us or use our products and services instead of our competitors?
  • Can I name my company’s strengths?
  • Do I have our 30-second elevator speech down pat so I shine at networking events?
If you cannot easily answer these questions, you may have branding (i.e., company identity) problems. Some tips:
  • Write down on a piece of paper all that your business means and represents. What do you do for your clients? What is your vision and differentiating value-add?
  • Write down how you want your clients to perceive your company and product/service offering. Consider more than “superior products” and "high-quality service.” Think about value-based goals such as trustworthiness, integrity, and subject matter expertise.
  • Speak with your clients. Learn why they hired you. Find out if they are willing to refer you to a colleague, friend or family member.
Market positioning is comprised of market segmentation and competitive differentiation. A market segment is a group of buyers who share certain characteristics. By defining buyer characteristics, you can effectively draw a boundary around a group of buyers, which keeps your marketing activities focused. Competitive differentiation means stating why your product or service is better than your competitors.

Positioning is about finding the right path to create a unique place among a crowd of competing brands. A marketer can adopt from different strategies like leveraging on existing brands, your corporate name, product features and benefits, or price-quality competitive positioning. Most important: build and share a story that helps your target audience understand how you can help them get the job (at work or home) done.

One excellent example of superior branding and market positioning is the cell phone company, Great Call (formerly named Jitterbug).

In 2008, they recognized a cell phone market segment with large, yet unsatisfied, demand. That market segment was millions of senior citizens who wanted to use a cell phone but found the high-tech, feature-loaded phones too complex and intimidating. Great Call recognized the opportunity and teamed with Samsung to create a cell phone designed to appeal to people over 50. The Jitterbug phone is over-sized, has easy-to-read buttons, and is very easy to use.

Great Call defined a large, profitable market segment and created a unique product by satisfying their customer’s most important requirements. Their superior market branding and positioning resulted in significant sales and company success.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Leaders Beware: Mass Exodus Looms

Workers are poised for a mass exodus in 2011. They are feeling increasingly restless and intend to leave in droves if opportunities open up in the job market, according to a recent poll we conducted of 1,400 workers. As many as 84% of the employees say they plan to look for new jobs in 2011, up from 60% reported in our survey a year ago. Only 5% now say they intend to remain in their current position.

While somewhat alarming, this finding is more about employee dissatisfaction and discontent than a measure of projected turnover. We view it as a barometer of trust in management or commitment to the job. Basically, it’s a workplace equivalent to opinion polling on whether or not ‘this country is moving in the right direction.’ Just as people are questioning their elected leaders in government, so too are workers wondering if their management is up to the challenge of renewed growth or developing a sound strategy moving forward.

The underlying factors contributing to employees’ backlash is most likely the prolonged recession, continued job market weakness along with disruptive economic and workforce changes. Employees’ trust has been seriously shaken and there is a general lack of confidence in leaders.

The discontent is widespread. But this does not mean an organization’s management is helpless and nor can it afford to ignore the problem. If the job market picks up a lot many employees are going to take advantage of it, and organizations stand to lose some of their top contributors. This is a wake-up call to management.

One proactive step management should take is to identify star performers and have open and constructive career discussions with them. High-value employees always have opportunities available to them. Know who they are and be sure to take care of them in ways that are meaningful and aligned with the businesses goals.

Do you know the commitment levels of your employees? Do you have a plan in place to retain your star performers?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Work Priorities Overrun Vacation

As Forbes reports, futurists in the 1970s predicted that by now technology would have so shrunk our workloads that we'd all be paddling about in a leisure-and-vacation playland. How wrong were they? Workloads and business priorities are overrunning taking earned vacation time. In fact, nearly half of employees failed to take all their vacation time in 2010. Personally, I find it somewhat disturbing. Although it is an improvement over a year ago, when in the identical survey we found that two-thirds of workers weren’t taking all the time that was due to them.

For many employees, fears of job insecurity and work pressures after layoffs were probably the main reasons why so many gave up vacation time. So it may be that our latest finding reflects a somewhat healthier workplace mindset.

Still, with only half of workers actually taking all of their vacation in 2010, many employees are likely uncertain about their futures. There’s clearly a lot of stress among employees in both Canada and the U.S. There are heavier workloads as well as uncertainty about business viability and the chance of more cutbacks. Leaders would do well to improve employee productivity and wellness by regularly communicating the state of the organization and sharing the role that each employee plays in its future success.

After all, vacation time is an earned employee benefit and it affects work-life balance and overall wellness. Vacation plays a fundamental role in fostering a healthy, productive workforce. Foregoing some vacation days may by itself not prove significant, but when many employees come to feel they can’t take the time to which they’re entitled real harm may be done…and the results can be high turnover, low retention, absenteeism, frequent health or safety claims or a host of other HR problems. Vacation time is essential for balance and wellness.

In my opinion, employers should do all they can to encourage their workers to take the vacation time due to them What’s good for the workforce is almost always good for the business. Business growth depends on the quality of an organization’s talent.