Treat Your Employees Like Consumers

Internal Brand Statements

P & G Inspired by purpose: Have your career validated 4 billion times a day.
Disney Where your work touches lives
Facebook We’re making the world more open and connected. Want to help?
Apple Amaze yourself. Amaze the world.
BMW Share your passion.
Medtronic Be the Difference. Imagine a career improving lives.
Limited Brands We are redefining what it means to be sought after.
JPMorgan Chase Let’s build our legacy together.
Google Do cool things that matter.
Nike We set the bar high. And then we raise it higher.
Miller Coors Great People Make Great Beer.
Allstate Don’t just work. Work for good.
IBM Help us build a smarter planet.
Intel There’s more inside Intel than you ever imagined.
Honda The Power of Dreams is alive at Honda.
Cisco Tomorrow starts here.
Kellogg Grow with us.

How Do You Live Your Life?

A Web-based travel company grouped its employees according to how they live their lives, how they view their work, what they value most in the employment value proposition, and how they prefer to receive information. One group was dubbed Young Achievers. The employees in this group work hard but also highly value time with friends. They know they’ll need to plan for retirement, but they don’t want to think that far out or deflect income away from their short-term wants. They try to stay healthy by exercising—though admittedly not enough—and they like wellness activities best when games are involved, perhaps with a social-networking element. Company leaders know they can’t reach this group with printed materials or even email. If the information isn’t posted on Facebook or accessible via a smartphone, the Young Achievers literally won’t get it.

A contrasting segment is the Affluent Empty Nesters. These folks have put their kids through college and now have time and money to spend on themselves. They go to the gym regularly. They are health-conscious, have regular medical checkups, and do the research necessary to manage their health intelligently. Affluent Empty Nesters highly value rewards focused on wellness. Though they have smartphones, they do read email alerts, download and absorb reports, and do in-depth online research.

Life-stage profiles and other schema for imaginative assessments of employee attitudes help an organization shape an internal brand that resonates with its workforce. They also tell leadership how best to reach employee-consumers with brand messages and delivery approaches packed with meaning and relevance. In Philip Kotler’s terms, this yields employment brands that are deep rather than shallow.

—J.M.B. and T.O.D.

Rewards vs. Rewards

One fast-growing social-media company used a combination of trade-off analysis and focus groups to understand its employees’ reward preferences. A survey revealed that employees highly value having a matching provision in the retirement savings plan. This finding surprised management: Why would a bunch of millennials value something as chronologically distant (and, frankly, old-school) as a boost to their retirement savings?

To test the result, management conducted a series of focus groups to explore employees’ underlying rationale. What they found surprised them at first but then made sense. Employees told them that, yes, they often don’t think much about retirement when they consider their financial strategies. But many had watched their parents lose big in the stock market during the Great Recession or in the housing-market crash. Hence, many Generation Y employees highly value a robust 401(k) plan. As one employee said, “Saving for retirement is the one thing my parents tell me that I actually listen to.”

When employees are asked to list the programs most important to them, they tend to highly rank prominent reward elements that include stock grants, incentive compensation and mobility. But when they are asked to take a dollar invested in one program and move it to a more appealing program, interesting results emerge. People in some segments tend to place high value on such security-oriented programs as base salary and retirement and healthcare benefits. Others go straight for lifestyle-related benefits and career-development opportunities. Knowing who falls into each group enables leaders to make high-impact program changes to boost employee engagement, retention, and performance.

Another company surveyed employees to determine their reward preferences; in a follow-up survey, they tested potential improvements and reductions to a broad set of reward elements, ranging from base pay to healthcare benefits and learning and career-development opportunities. Not surprisingly, employees saw increases to base pay and larger stock grants as adding value. More interesting: Employees perceived opportunities for additional training to be almost as valuable as incremental stock, though the company can provide that additional training for less than 10 percent of the cost of the larger stock grants: $600,000 for twenty additional training hours per year, compared with $6.5 million for stock-grant increases of 20 percent.

Had leaders been interested in reducing overall reward cost, they could have compared how employees perceived a potential increase in their medical-insurance premiums with how they would react to a possible increase in their out-of-pocket medical costs. In this employee group, those two changes would reduce perceived value by about the same amount. But increasing premiums would save the company $2.2 million—almost 50 percent more than the $1.5 million the company could save by increasing employees’ out-of-pocket costs.

—J.M.B. and T.O.D.


The Conference Board

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The Conference Board Review is the quarterly magazine of The Conference Board, the world's preeminent business membership and research organization. Founded in 1976, TCB Review is a magazine of ideas and opinion that raises tough questions about leading-edge issues at the intersection of business and society.