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Category: Case Study

Think training is expensive? A lesson from the Erin Andrews civil suit

Portrait of a business owner smiling with her workers in the background

Erin Andrews’ civil suit against the owner and former operator of the Nashville Marriott at Vanderbilt, and the resulting award of $55 million, should set off alarm bells for every business. In raw, gut wrenching testimony, Andrews recounted the emotional impact of being videotaped in her hotel room by a stalker.  While the verdict assigned 51% of the penalty on her stalker, the hotel was found to be at fault and liable for 49% of the amount.

The verdict may be reduced or overturned on appeal, but the reputation damage is done.  Guests don’t make the distinction between a company-owned or franchised business.  They know the brand.  In this case, they know that Andrews’ privacy, safety and security was violated at a Marriott hotel.

The individual who videotaped Andrews has already been convicted.  The heart of this case was Andrews’ contention that hotel personnel gave out her room number to the stalker and did not tell her that he had asked to be put in a room next to hers.

That sounds like a training issue.

Well trained hotel personnel know to never say a guest’s room number out loud.  They do not honor requests for rooms adjacent to members outside their travel party. Was the hotel employee who provided information to the stalker trained?  We’ll never know.  But the monetary penalty for the error is evident and the impact to the brand’s reputation is evolving.

Employee training in any business is an investment, not an expense.  When employees are well trained, they perform with skill and confidence.  They treat customers well and create an experience that builds brand love. Productivity and efficiency improve and turnover declines.  Sure, training requires time away from operations, but that’s time well spent when employees understand their role.  Knowing what not to do is as important as knowing what to do.

Companies that support employee training and development make an investment in business success.

Take a look at your Employee Handbook

messy manual

What is the last line in every Employee Handbook?

“Please take some time to familiarize yourself with the contents and policies of our Employee Handbook and feel free to contact your HR representative if you have any questions.”

Does that sound familiar? Probably not, because in all honesty, who actually reads through their entire Employee Handbook?

Most of the time your Employee Handbook is distributed, put in a drawer and then thrown away when the next handbook is distributed.  They are often an afterthought to both employees and employers that are only brought out in when someone wants to check company policies.

I recently read an article about one such extreme situation.  The company, Quicken Loans, was summoned to the National Labor Relations Board offices this past December.  The case against them alleged that the Detroit-based company had violated the First Amendment rights of employees and their protections under the National Labor Relations Act to discuss salary and benefits information.  The allegation claimed that company policies in their Employee Handbook restricted discussions to the formation of a labor union.

Whether or not Quicken Loans is found in violation, this is a perfect case of why it is important to know what is in your Employee Handbook and why companies need to periodically update and revise it.  Attorney Daniel Schudroff made a great comparison when he said “It’s like taking your car to the shop every six months for a checkup, the preventative maintenance could save an employer a costly event.”

Do you need support updating your Employee Handbook or would you like to give the design a refresh? We can help you with that.  Visit our website www.insight-communication.com or email me at   ben.clayton@insight-communication.com.

7 Weeks in 15 Sentences

Want to learn something during your internship? Add one employee handbook, five blog posts, one print check, two client meetings, and the launch of a start-up. That should do the trick.

Throughout my seven week internship with Insight Strategic Communications I had the opportunity to work on projects that ultimately gave me a better understanding of brands, employee ownership, and proofing with the audience in mind.

The word “brand” was not new to my vocabulary; however, throughout the course of my internship, I gained a better understanding of the definition. I had never realized how many factors went into creating and maintaining a brand and how many different types of rules and standards must be considered when developing products—things such as font, color, positioning, and tone. As a communications consulting firm, we have to be aware of a client’s brand as we write, proof, and create content for them.

I spent a bulk of my time writing and proofing content and materials for our new company Nest Egg Communications—a communications agency that provides communications toolkits for employee owned companies. At the start of my internship I had no idea what an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) was, let alone what it meant in terms of business. I now know that ESOPs give employees a way to share in the wealth they create, no matter what job they hold.

I had the opportunity to refine and practice my writing and proofing skills while also learning to consider the audience and how the message might be perceived. Before I started reading something I would ask “who is the audience?” This was new for me, I had always edited content by determining if it was perceived well by me; but, what I gained from my experience is that the writing is ineffective if the intended audience can’t understand the message.

With this internship being my first real-world job, I was both nervous and excited; I was eager to learn but also afraid I didn’t know enough going in. However, through lots of questions and experiences I now know that not only can I meet expectations and do the work, but with some more practice I can thrive in the communications field and create great work.

 

Best practices: How an NFL team is embracing millenials

Chances are that if you are reading this blog, you’ve probably already investigated how to engage millenials in the workplace. When we think about engaging millenials, we usually illicit mental images of young folks looking bored or struggling in a corporate conference room. What we definitely don’t think of is football players. In this case, we’ll look at the San Francisco 49ers, the franchise who is making a huge commitment toward its most important personnel, as reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Not only is the NFL big business, but there might not be another industry that’s more dependent on millenials to drive the success of the company. The playing staffs of NFL team are comprised almost solely by millenials — broadly defined as those aged 18-34. The Smart Phone Age.

What’s eye-catching here aren’t just the techniques the 49ers are using to accommodate this new generation of players, but the open-mindedness and courage the front office and coaching staff has in breaking down historically successful protocols in its business. After all, the 49ers are one of the winningest teams in the NFL, colleting five Super Bowl titles from 1981 to 1994. Regardless, Head Coach Jim Tomsula has changed the team’s meeting schedules to adapt to millenial’s shorter attention spans and propensities to multi-task.

49ers Head Coach Jim Tomsula isn't afraid to break from tradition to reach out to his more youthful players.

“The [experts] are telling me about attention spans and optimal learning,” Tomulsa told the WSJ. “I’m thinking, ‘My gosh, we sit in two-hour meetings. You are telling me after 27 minutes no one’s getting anything?’ ”

But as opposed to some business leaders, inside the NFL and out, the 49ers felt it was prudent for their coaching and support staff to adapt to the player’s habits, not the other way around. In this effort, they’ve stopped handing out paper schedules, and now all meetings are sent straight to a player’s online calendar. Instead of the old two-hour meetings, they’re now segmented into 30-minute blocks, with 10 minutes in between for free time.

Some business leaders feel it’s important for millenials to adapt to the working environment of their generation, one that didn’t grow up with smartphones and advanced computing. But at what cost? The goal of any business leader should be to create a working environment in which employees can produce to their maximum potential. And not only that, but great leaders understand that the most important employees to cater to aren’t the ones with corner offices — they’re the ones who are on the front line of the business. Sadly, it’s these employees who are often the lowest paid, and thus the most neglected.

Everyone from psychologists to elementary school teachers can tell you that the impact technology has made on the human race is real. It’s not a far-flung theory, and it’s not a simple case of young people being lazy. Not only are attention spans getting shorter, but higher rates of ambidexterity are occurring, which is thought to be caused by children now typing, texting, and playing games with both hands on touch screens.

“Our whole lives, we’ve gone with a paper and pad,” Tomsula said in the WSJ. “Next week, a young person’s phone will be outdated. We decided we have to be on top of that.”

What are some other best practices when it comes to engaging millenials? Let me know at joe.patrick@insight-communication.com.

Atlanta Hawks: A case study on engagement, teamwork, leadership

Ten years ago, picture this scene:

I’m sitting with friends in a mostly-empty Phillips Arena to watch the Atlanta Hawks play the Boston Celtics. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. We weren’t really there to watch the game. We were there to get autographs from players, to hang out in freely-upgraded seats near the court (to try to mask the poor attendance to television viewers), and to troll the opponents as they walked to and from the locker room. Tickets were only $10, so it was a pretty cheap way to waste a Friday night in high school. The Hawks lost by 20. But to look on the bright side, Hawks employees gave us a box of inflatable thunder sticks (inflatable noisemakers) to take home. By the end of the season, the Hawks had won 13 games, and we’d won four boxes of thunder sticks and several items of game worn memorabilia — five shoes, two headbands, and a sock.

The NBA is a glamorous TV product that is played by some of the best athletes on the planet. But in Atlanta, the team was so bad that most of the “crowd” (and I use that term loosely) had to find ways outside the court’s lines to entertain themselves. If you did focus on the game, it was ugly. Not only did the team rack up poor results, but the quality of the play was terrible. Lots of standing around. Lots of one-on-one offense. And lots of complaining by players and coaches, which lead to the same by the fans.

Skip ahead to today, where the Hawks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are the only team to have punched their ticket for the playoffs with a hefty 18 games still remaining in the regular season. They produced four all-stars — a club record. They’ve had a 19 game winning streak, tied for the sixth longest in NBA history. I never would have believed such success was possible 10 years ago.

The credit has to go to Head Coach Mike Budenholzer and the players who have adopted his “team first” mentality. His leadership is a perfect example to any leader in any walk of life on how to turn a team into something greater than the sum of its parts. The newly found success of the team is rooted in this philosophy. For example, instead of letting players pick their lockers, or ordering them numerically or alphabetically, “Coach Bud” strategically sat each player next to one teammate they could influence and one who could influence them. He instituted team dinners after road games. The examples go on, but maybe nothing signifies the adoption of his methods more than this excerpt reported by SI.com’s Lee Jenkins:

 “Everyone is part of the shot,” [shooting guard Kyle] Korver says. “Everyone matters, and if you feel like you matter, you take ownership.”

That’s engagement, folks. Engagement isn’t about how fun your job is or how often you talk to your boss. It’s about your employees knowing that they matter. Employees who feel valued are more productive and happy people. This is what every boss should aim for, not just the ones on the hardcourt.

If you’re a business owner or you lead a team, take notes from Coach Bud. Think about the little things. Heck, even team meals and seating arrangements apply to many offices. Engage your team and you might discover that you have more all-stars than you thought.