Monday, June 29, 2009

Can Engaged Employees Sell More Soup?

The answer is definitely yes!  SOUP's ON at Campbell's. 

In a recent Forbes article, Douglas Conant, the CEO of Campbell Soup Co. discussed the importance of employee engagement and how their strategy to pay attention to this metric paid off for their company. 

Conant took over when Campbell's was close to a takeover and its soup sales were nothing to brag about.  He had a very uncomplicated strategy to turn things around:

"To win in the market place, we believe you must first win in the workplace."
Conant then began studying engagement levels at Campbell's and took action on the results.  He stated, that of all the elements related to culture that engagement was the most highly correlated to shareholder returns.  He discusses other benefits of paying attention to engagement like:
  • revitalization of the entire culture (#1 benefit, according to Conant)
  • better financial performance
  • better market performance
  • more innovation
  • more self governing
So, I ask myself after reading articles like this, why don't more companies pay attention to engagement?  The logic and research is there, so why don't we just do it?  (Please feel free to comment, I really want to know!)

I have heard many reasons for not tracking and measuring engagement like:
1) We are too busy (see benefits above)
2) We don't know how (many firms specialize in this)
3) We are in a recession (perfect time, so when we turn around, you are ready!)
4) Not sure what to do with the data (take action on it!, form improvement teams!)

So, do you want to sell more soup?  Try a little engagement!


Michael D. Haberman, SPHR said...

Great comebacks to the reasons for inaction!

Unknown said...

Nice summary of the article and great questions, Cathy. After reading the original article last week, I posted on Twitter that it showed how simple employee engagement can be, so why do so many companies still not get it? I like your rebuttals to the excuses.

For me, the economic argument never flies, because as the Campbell's case shows, it doesn't have to cost a lot of money. The CEO sends 20 thank you cards a day. Yes, those 20 cards cost a nominal fee and over the course of the year probably add up a bit, but they could also be simple notes written on blank card stock. Simple, low cost, effective.

For the "we're too busy" argument, I think companies should stop viewing employee engagement as a program, an initiative, a task force, etc. In reality, it's about a culture shift and paying attention to the little things. It requires some time investment, but it doesn't take 10 employees meeting once a week for six weeks to figure it out.

I hope more companies will look to Campbell and other profiled successes in employee engagement to spark improvements of their own. Right now is a great time to get moving on these efforts, as you point out, because it will improve the company's engagement in advance of the economic upturn.

Unknown said...

Thanks for your thoughts Linda and Mike. I agree enagagement can be very easy and cost effective. I dont think it should be thought of as a program either, it is like performance management, you always do it.