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Published: April 27, 2012

 
 

Engagement Isn’t Enough

Ann Rhoades, author of Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture That Outperforms the Competition, introduces a lesson in attaining the full potential of employees from All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results, by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.

As leaders, we often miss critical indicators that can improve the likelihood of organizational and personal success. Consider the ubiquitous employee satisfaction survey, which is usually administered once a year and, as long as the scores are respectable, crossed off the corporate must-do list. Typically, these surveys measure employee engagement levels. But as Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton explain in the excerpt below, that’s not enough. They rightly contend that employee energy and enablement are as essential to high levels of performance as engagement.

As I think back on projects that I have been associated with, it is clear that every success and failure was due not only to the level of engagement among team members but also to their energy level and the degree to which they felt enabled (or empowered) to achieve their goals. At a time when leaders everywhere are spending an inordinate amount of time identifying “A” players and getting them on the bus, it is also clear that the three Es — engagement, energy, and enablement — are the key to realizing the full potential of employees.

— Ann Rhoades

 


An excerpt from Chapter 3 of All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results


 

On a thundery morning in Fort Lauderdale, only a few miles from where U2 played a few nights before, a crowded indoor atrium begins to take on the feel of a rock concert. Businesspeople are hanging over six floors of balconies looking down at a collection of dancers on the main floor. Then, at the urging of the lead performer, just about everyone in the building suddenly starts moving to the pulsing strains of a recording by Lady Gaga, throwing their fists in the air and shouting, “Just dance!”

When the music ends the crowd roars. The lead dancer, a middle-aged woman in a business suit, waves up at the gathering. Hundreds of people are laughing and cheering another performance by Doria Camaraza and her leadership team.

Doria who?

This mild-mannered, bespectacled woman is the senior vice president and general manager of this American Express World Service Center, located in two nondescript buildings in an industrial park in southern Florida. This is a 3,000-person call center, and the work is not easy. Customers call when they need help with a lost card or want to make an address change. Others want to dispute charges or can’t find their bill. And some are upset; perhaps they don’t qualify for a credit increase. Yet despite the often demanding atmosphere, Camaraza and her fellow senior managers have found a way to get just about all of these people to believe in what they are trying to accomplish. In fact, we might argue that she and her team are the best bunch of leaders of believers you’ve never heard of — bad dancing and all.

Here’s some proof: Around the United States, employee turnover in call centers averages about 50 percent annually. That means if you answer phones for a living, about half your coworkers will leave before another year passes. Not here. Turnover is Fort Lauderdale is in the single digits annually. Let us pause for a moment to let that sink in: Turnover is less than one-fifth the national average.

But there’s more: Productivity measures are tops in the call center industry.

Six years ago, when Camaraza took over, the call center was good. Today it’s great — helping American Express earn an unprecedented five consecutive years of J.D. Power & Associates awards for highest customer satisfaction among credit card companies. Very impressive.

But boogying in front of your employees? This is, after all, American Express — one of the world’s most prestigious business brands, and you might argue one of the most serious. Not here, says Camaraza. She calls this American Express facility a “community of caring,” and the leadership team dances every month in the atrium to get attention before the real business of this meeting, called “Tribute” — spotlighting employees who’ve gone above and beyond and those who are celebrating long-tenure service awards. As soon as the music ends, Camaraza retires to what she calls her “Oprah chairs,” two beige loungers, where she interviews a series of employees who are being spotlighted publicly for living the American Express values.

 
 
 
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This Reviewer

  1. Ann Rhoades is PRES (Person Responsible for Extraordinary Service) and founder of People Ink, a consulting firm specializing in the development of values-centric cultures. Previously, she served as the chief people officer of Southwest Airlines, Promus Hotel Company, and JetBlue Airways. She is the author of Built on Values: Creating an Enviable Culture That Outperforms the Competition (with Nancy Shepherdson, Jossey-Bass, 2011).

This Excerpt

  1. All In: How the Best Managers Create a Culture of Belief and Drive Big Results (Free Press, 2012), by Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton.
  2. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton are the founders and managing partners of The Culture Works, a global training and consulting firm. They are the best-selling authors of several books, including The Orange Revolution: How One Great Team Can Transform an Entire Organization (Free Press, 2010) and The Carrot Principle: How the Best Managers Use Recognition to Engage Their People, Retain Talent, and Drive Performance (Free Press, 2007).