When executives are asked about their companies' most competitive advantages, without fail they declare "It's our people."
So why do so many companies come up short when it comes to recognizing, coaching, and helping to fulfill the talent potential of their employees?
To learn more, I spoke with Rochelle Reiter, Agency Principal at Orange Label, a leading response marketing agency known for its unconventional, but effective, core value: the color orange.
This summer, the Newport Beach based company earned a spot on the Orange County Business Journals' list of Best Places to Work so I was super excited to get Rochelle's thoughts on a powerful but, often neglected, set of leadership skills.
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The unconventional company core value of Orange
We rebranded our company in 2007 to Orange Label and we really wanted to tie back to Orange County’s roots. So, Orange made sense for our name.
The color orange represents vitality, creativity, determination, energy and success. We believe that this really exists in all the behaviors of our team and each individual in our team exhibits a unique "Orange" quality.
It’s that extra unique specialness at each of our team members elicits, whether it's Micah, our designer, playing the guitar or one of our team members cooking and baking special treats. We all exude that Orange quality, which informs how we behave in our environment as a team and a culture - creativity, authenticity, joy, happiness and vitality, are all representations of that color.
Why is employee engagement important?
Employee engagement is critical to the success of the agency and the growth of each team member.
By understanding what is important individually, it allows Orange Label to tailor goals and outcomes so that both the individual and Orange Label grow and achieve success from the experience.
Goals and outcomes are set on a quarterly basis with monthly one-on-one meetings, which give employees and their supervisors the opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities for growth, celebrate milestones and delineate “what’s next,” so employees are always motivated to think on what’s bigger and what’s possible.
Place a high value on employee recognition
Orange Label has a system designed to recognize and reward employees who have made a positive contribution to the company.
One example is a recognition box where employees can drop a note in for a fellow team member who has gone above and beyond in their efforts. Each week, the recognitions are read outload and then one name is drawn from the box.
The individual whose name was chosen can spin the wheel and win a prize, such as a Starbucks or Amazon Gift Card.
Being recognized publicly from fellow team members has been a long-standing tradition that Orange Label team members rave about. This recognition, along with the private recognitions from TINYpulse called “Cheers for Peers,” has proven to be an effective way to team-build and boost morale.
Another “Fun” factor for employee engagement is our quarterly team events. Each quarter, a few team members dubbed “The Culture Club,” plan a team event to provide an experience for team members to get to know each other a little better. Example of previous quarterly events include, a Ropes Course, an Escape Room adventure, an Angels baseball game, Painting and Vino and more.
Employee engagement strategies for millennials
Being more in-tune with our millennial team members has allowed us to create a company culture that checks all of their boxes.
This fine-tuning has helped Orange Label retain more millennial employees, which, in turn, sets up our agency for future success.
We understand that millennials are looking for great communication, they are technology driven, they want to work for someone they like – someone they can call a friend — they want to work with purpose and completely understand the purpose of our company.
Orange Label’s Vivid Vision was written by the owners and shared with the entire team so, every day, each team member knows what we are working towards and how their contribution affects the overall company vision.
How to align employee engagement and business goals
We use what's called a Vivid Vision for the company, which defines where we want to be in five years and the milestones for achieving that vision.
Then we look at each individual's Vivid Vision and where they want to be personally in their career.
We then see where the two of those can collaborate and combine to successfully realize business potential for Orange Label as well as development of that individual employee.
We always like to talk to our team members about their passions. This allows each of our owners/partners, Debbie Nagel, Wes Phillips, and myself, to understand and help support them along the way.
If a team member would like to share their personal goals, we talk to them about their personal goals as well. That’s certainly not mandatory but we think that looking at everything from a holistic standpoint.
As leaders of the company, it’s helpful for us to know where someone is going, what their unique talents are, and where we can find alignment between Orange Label’s goals and the individual’s goals.
Be intentional about setting goals and recording outcomes
There’s always an outcome sheet with an individual's Vivid Vision with tracking points to say, "Okay how are we tracking? What are the resources? What are the strategies and tools that are missing for you to succeed on your path to success?"
We set quarterly goals and then annual goals against this outcomes sheet, then check in on the progress during a monthly one-on-one lunch with our direct reports and team members.
How to stay accountable as a leader
As an ownership team, we have strategic initiatives that we set forth every year.
For example, winning 2017 Best Places to Work was an indicator of our success as owners of the company that we achieved that initiative of team and employee growth.
Other initiatives are financially driven so if we achieved our goals then that is a measure of our success. If we see that we are falling short then that’s the time to re-group, look in the mirror, and see what else we could do to switch things up and determine the changes that need to be made to fulfill those objectives.
Invest in quality leadership coaching and feedback
One of the organizations that we’re involved in is called Vistage and it’s a worldwide organization of CEOs and key executives.
I’ve been in my group for about 17 years and we meet once a month with a team of peers and we go over business issues, personal issues, and then have speakers that come in and talk to us about tactics.
Orange Label owners and additional key team members are in Vistage groups and we've found tremendous success from that.
At Orange Label we're huge on personal development, so we extend this by sending team members to summits and conventions where they can expand their knowledge and learning. We have a great employee reimbursement plan for people who want to get their MBA.
TINYpulse has also been one of the tools we think has been consistently effective in learning feedback from our team.
The anonymous surveys and questions draw out feedback we would have never heard of before. We use the results from TINYpulse to get a sense of how happy our team is.
The regular happiness question tells us as leaders where we’ve got some work to do or that there’s something off. Maybe the workload is too high, maybe there’s a client in the mix that maybe shouldn’t be there, and we really use that as a gauge.
Invent your own ways to improve as a leader
There are a lot of ways to ask and find out about similar opportunities through your colleagues and peers, simply by asking about good groups to join.
For example, I’m involved in Toastmasters, which is for anybody who is interested in learning how to improve their communication skills.
But the part I like about that group is people come from all walks of life, from people learning English as a second language to corporate executives to stay-at-home moms.
It’s simply a group of people who want to better themselves. And that’s what I love about it, there’s just one purpose, it’s personal development, and we meet every two weeks.
There are a lot of organizations out there that can help further your career.
The best thing you can do to improve culture before leaving the office today
Go around and ask your team members how you can help support them in achieving their goals or vision.
That question often gets missed by leadership.
At the very least it's going to open up a conversation for self-expression and communication with that team member.
But at the most it can highlight serious roadblocks that team member is having that you may be able to help with. Then you can identify the missing strategies, tools, and resources that are needed to achieve the goal.
Have a question for our experts? Do you know a Leadership Warrior we should talk to?
Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll try to get your question on the show. If you know an expert we should talk to, I'd love to know.
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