Nick Miller

Employee Engagement: Training & Development can lead to higher employee retention

Professional development programs can be a key element in employee retention. From a company perspective, training and development programs are meant to improve overall performance. But a well-designed program can do just as much for the employee. By providing employees an avenue through which to build upon their skills, it shows them the company has a vested interest in them as individuals, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll take those talents elsewhere.

The type of individual to partake in career development programs is one who welcomes more engagement. Take advantage of this desire to learn. By engaging this group in a meaningful way, they are likely to communicate these opportunities to employees that may not seek them out on their own. It’s a win-win situation for both the company and the employee base by increasing engagement levels. An engaged workforce is a happy workforce, and this too decreases the turnover rate.

Of course, it’s also important to ensure that training programs themselves are engaging. It will be hard for an employee to see the benefits of training if the material isn’t meaningful, or if the presentation is boring or poorly organized. The first step is to make the training materials and format appealing and motivating, while not coming across as cheesy or self-serving.

Communicate the “why.” Employees need to know that the time taken away from their regularly scheduled jobs is for a purpose. If they know up front what the training will entail and how it will improve their day-to-day operation or advance their career, they will be much more likely to see it as an opportunity rather than an obligation.

Bake in your corporate vision and values. The opportunity to get your brightest workers in one room with the hunger for learning doesn’t happen every day. Take advantage by reinforcing what is most important to your organization. By illustrating their role in the big picture, you are creating internal brand ambassadors, whether they know it or not. This too will increase engagement, and thus increase retention.

Structure your program to create a feedback loop. These are the leaders in your workforce, and they are a valuable source of information. Tap into this wealth by providing them a channel to express their opinions, not just on the development program, but the operations of your company. Show them that their voices are important and act on their suggestions. If they understand that their perspectives are valued, it will only benefit the organization.

Need help developing an engaging training program? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

Hit What You Aim For

Hit what you aim for. That’s the title of a new blog post by Matthew Beaudin of the Best Made Company. He’s talking about using an axe, but it also can be applied to our work and our lives.

The first step is to clarify your aim. Do you want a promotion at work? Do you want to build your savings? Do you want a simpler life?

Actually hitting the target is where we get sidetracked. It’s easy to set that goal for a promotion, but then spend your workdays caught up in a flurry of activity that doesn’t move you any closer to your objective. If geting a promotion depends, for instance, on demonstrating your ability to think strategically, you’ve got to build in time for that around the inevitable meetings, emails and deadlines.

But there’s also power in momentum. Partly because things like promotions and nest eggs don’t usually happen by exerting one powerful blow. They happen because of our consistent efforts day after day, week after week, month after month.

 As Beaudin describes it, “When you hit what you aim for, and the tool vanishes into its target, there is a moment of nothing. The force exerted continues blasting through the object, in this case wood, and the weight of your axe continues to fall but you, your muscles, are hollow. This is classical physics, matter altered by force, distilled through an axe.”

Once you swing the axe, the force exerted continues blasting through the object. Applied to life, that might be taken as a description of how much less effort it takes once you get going. Start doing the things it will take to get that promotion. Set up a plan that moves money into your savings every month. Let go of one commitment that doesn’t serve you, and it becomes easier to say no to the next one.

If you need a metaphoric symbol to remind you to hit what you aim for, get yourself a Best Made axe. Prop it in the corner and it will make you feel powerful every time you see it.

Cultivating Leaders from Generation Y

This summer, our gracious client, Chick-fil-A, invited me to attend the National Leadership Forum Conference, Develop Cultivation Growth, Engagement and Success in Students.  The conference catered to teachers, pastors and coaches and provided valuable insights on how to develop the future leaders from today’s youth. Tim Elmore, President of Growing Leaders identified that there has never been a time when:

  1. Leaders are needed more
  2. Opportunity is so great
  3. Threat of violence is so prevalent
  4. Moral compass is so lacking
  5. Young people have more potential

In addition, Tim shared that we have a challenge with artificial maturity.  We have over-exposed our youth to information and technology too early and under-exposed them to real life experiences too late.  He also shared that there are certain messages we need to be exposing kids to at specific times and have failed to do so.


  1. Loved
  2. Unique
  3. Gifted
  4. Safe
  5. Valuable


  1. Life is difficult
  2. You are not in control
  3. You are not that important
  4. You are going to die
  5. Life is not all about you

This conference made me reflect on Tribe’s Generation Y research.  Our studies supported the idea that this generation is talented and very hard working, if given a reason to do so. They are fearless about taking on challenges we might consider above them, and define leadership as the ability to engage a group in a joint undertaking. They are ultra-connected and view technology as a way of solving problems, from communication to the environment. They see themselves as world citizens and are passionate about making a difference in the world.

On the other hand, some employers find them to feel entitled, above menial tasks and in need of constant positive strokes. Their egos can be a little fragile, especially when they’ve been raised with a high level of parental cheerleading. This is the group that people joke about getting trophies just for showing up at the soccer game, not necessarily for winning it.

However, we believe if companies are prepared to work with this generation and meet them halfway, they are a powerful resource and rich pool of talent. Which raised the question, if our teachers, pastors and coaches successfully taught the lessons from the conference, how would the next generation impact the work force?

We know that technology and connecting via online networks is here to stay and will continue to impact how we will work with all future generations.  Each generation will know more than the previous when it comes to the newest and latest technology. In the past, this has created challenges with the employee / boss relationship. However, if by adolescence our youth know that they are a small part in the big picture and aren’t over exposed to too much too early, the entitlement, relaxed attitude and fragility would be lost.  In theory, we would have the best of both worlds.  A work force that understands the need to work hard and earn respect over time but also understands how to leverage technology and has passion to do bigger and better things.

Hopefully, as kids go back to school this fall, our educators will be instilling these lessons to the leaders of tomorrow. In the mean time, we can all have a back to school attitude and start coaching our young work force today.   We know they have the skills that will take us far, we know they can teach all of us about the next big thing, but maybe we should stop coddling them as much and really take the time to develop their skills and teach them the lessons they may have missed in their adolescence.

National Leadership Forum website:

Tim Elmore’s blog: 

Part I:

Part II:



People Development in a Recession: If You Don’t Have a Plan, You Don’t Have a Clue

36855543If you don’t have a plan for recruiting and managing your talent base during the recession, then get one fast. And, while you’re putting it together, know that a good plan for attracting and retaining talent can’t all be based in the “right now.” It must account for the future needs of the business.

Otherwise, your talent base will look and feel and think five years from now exactly like they do today. And that’s not a good thing.

How companies approach managing their people resources during this time span will affect how quickly they bounce back, innovate and grow over the next decade (or more). A people strategy that is stagnant or completely lies dormant for years can’t be expected to bear fruit at the end of a long winter. Companies who have a speedy recovery followed by growth will be those who tended their garden well.

Below is a sampling of how some companies are managing layoffs, hiring and retention during this time. You can decide for yourself which will be successful long-term. I know what I think, but the jury (stakeholders and the general public) is still out.

1) One global company I’ve worked with has consolidated a function and moved it to a new location. They had a plan and used this opportunity to set some people free (a harsh reality, yes), reward remaining high-performing talent and hire new team members with added skill sets and fresh creative ideas. People on this new team are so excited they’re practically aglow. There’s a feeling that people who were let go or chose to stay behind were selected or self-selected for a good reason and will be better off.

2) Another global company consolidated a function, but did it in a sort-of “if you can find a seat, sit down fast.” Anyone else was let go. So, if there was one spot, and five people, well – nobody is sure how they decided. Not that a company has to let people know all of the intimate details of their strategy, but if it seems there was no plan then that’s not good. There probably wasn’t one. Today, there are star performers who were also very senior who are on the street. On the flip side, this company has opened up room at the top for advancement and growth, and probably rewarded some under-the-radar employees with leadership potential. Some of the remaining employees I’ve talked with feel as if they’ve won the lottery. Indeed.

3) One national technology company let go an entire function and then rebuilt it by pulling from regions around the country. They cut costs, but lost a lot of trust and respect from remaining employees – and those who were let go. A little bit of grace and poise from the company could have gone a long way. Their culture took a huge hit, and the ambassadors they put out on the street have a lot of negative things to say.

4) One Fortune 100 company says its goal is to avoid layoffs and maintain current levels of compensation. They’ve had to freeze 401K matches and merit increases, but they haven’t had to cut staff, and if you talk to employees, they’re not worried about losing their job. The good news is that these employees are safe, the bad news is that their talent pool could become like a stagnant pond if not managed carefully. Also, employees aren’t worried about losing their jobs, but they’re not grateful to have them either. That’s cause for concern.

5) One global service company is hiring employees at a lower salary and letting them work a non-profit job until the economy recovers. So this army of top talent is waiting in the wings to be put into battle. That’s smart thinking; the company looks smart in addition to putting dibs on talent that will help them move their company forward.

Job Market for College Grads: Start Low or Wait It Out

Recently I’ve been doing some market research for Jen. My reasearch consists of me interviewing some of my friends who have just graduated about their plans for the immediate future and how the current economy is affecting their decisions. I’ve found that there are about half a dozen options that my peers are exploring that fall under two categories. Either they’re biting the bullet and starting at a lower level position than their suited for and, as a result, making less than they would in better job market, or they’re finding ways to put off getting a job until it gets better (whenever that may be).

Some of them are being constructive with their down time by extending their education through grad school or some other placement program, or participating in some other resumé builder like Teach For America. Some are just using the time to travel or live somewhere they’ve always wanted to. I have a number of friends who have moved out west to parts of Wyoming and Colorado to be fishing guides or ranch hands, their rationale being that this the only time they have before they start a career when they have the option to experience such an awesome lifestyle.

Those who have chosen to go straight into the job market seem to be pretty miserable. Partly because they’re starting so much lower than they had hoped, and partly because all of their friends have found what seem to be better alternatives. This is not to say that some aren’t starting off well. There are many young folks who get to go into family businesses or get hooked up with jobs by family members. For the rest of us, it’s good to know there are some decent alternatives out there as long as an improved job market is on the horizon.

Internships and Agency Size

I’ve been researching the kind of experiences other advertising interns are having and writing about out there on the web, and I’ve found quite a range of perspectives on the matter. But the factor that seems to be making the biggest difference is the size of the agency for which they’re interning.

Agency size determines a lot as far as the scope of the work you are doing, the structure of your relationship with your mentors, and the diversity of your workload for starters. I’ve found that the larger agencies obviously have more interns and tend to break them up into teams with very specific objectives to complete by the end of the internship. Smaller agencies tend to only hire up a few or maybe even one intern whose work pertains very much to the workflow of the agency, and they are able to touch a wide variety of client jobs as opposed to one single account. Internships at larger agencies are very structured and there tends to be agency employees who are responsible for advising and directing the interns. Interns at smaller agencies will find that they are able to, if the agency is like Tribe, connect with all the employees and learn things in a much more casual but open environment. This can be particularly useful if you are like me, and feeling a bit indecisive about what side of the business you want to go into.

In short, there are advantages and disadvantages to whatever size agency you intern for. While you may be doing more high profile work and you’re more likely to walk away with very defined easily presentable resume/portfolio pieces from a large agency, you are able to ask questions and familiarize yourself with the industry from a very unique and honest perspective while working on a variety of different projects when working for a smaller shop. I cannot tell you whether one is better than the other, I think the important thing is take the first step and make sure you are interning somewhere no matter the size, but I would recommend keeping all this in mind if you are just starting out.

Leadership Tips From One Manager With Multiple Fortune 100 & 500 Experience

leaderI recently spoke with a Gen Y executive who’s worked for a number of large global corporations, including UPS, The Home Depot and Coca-Cola Enterprises. Her perspective is interesting because she’s left a couple of jobs that people would kill for, and she is very accomplished and has a lot of management experience for someone under 30. So, when we say to Gen Y, “You can’t be CEO your first day on the job,” we’re not accounting for talented over-achievers like her. Here are some of her insights on working for big brands:

Think about what type of industry appeals to you. “In my experience, the retail industry is crazy. Schizophrenic. Nobody cares about rank and area of responsibility. If you have a good idea, it’s like, ‘Roll up your sleeves, get in there and get it done.’ You didn’t think a lot about what happened yesterday. It’s on to the next thing.

“In the service industry, you think further ahead. Everything has a domino effect. What the person ahead of you does affects you just as what you do you affects the person after you, so people were always thinking, ‘What happens if I do this?’

“Of course, there are a lot of things that factor into the personalities of the companies I’ve worked for, like how long they’ve been around, for instance.”

Think about how far you’re willing to go to get new opportunities. “I left one company because I wanted a new job and they said no. If I’d gotten that job, I would have stayed, but I wanted something fresh. I would have been working with new people and had new responsibilities. I wanted new opportunities and I realized that I needed to leave the company to get them.”

Ask for advice. “I wish I’d asked for advice more. I should have talked with other people at one company before taking a new job. I had a mentor who I could have talked with. But, I was afraid they’d try to help by talking with people in my department, and I didn’t want that. I was afraid it would come back to haunt me. Looking back, I don’t think I should have felt like that.”

Don’t get trapped. “Always position yourself so you have other options – you’ll be happier if you do. And, don’t resent the people in positions above you. For instance, I don’t resent Boomers who are sticking around longer, and, therefore might hold up advancement, because I know I could leave if I wanted to. I think people who resent Boomers for this reason feel that way because they think they can’t get a job anywhere else.”

Think strategically. “I know that people say you can get more done tactically when you’re a manager because you have people to help you. But I think I’m able to get more done strategically as well. I have more time to think and to look at the big picture. It’s in a manager’s best interest not to micro-manage and get caught up in the details. That’s not their job anymore.

One thing that really bugs me about managing people is when you ask someone with aspirations to be a manager to do something and they say, ‘That’s not my responsibility.’ I’m like, ‘You keep asking me to move up, so step up!’”

Sell your team. “I would say never take on an assignment without executive-level support. And, I don’t mean just your manager; I mean you need the support of the entire executive team. If only one person knows why you were put in that position and things go down the tubes, like the economy, and your boss leaves, then nobody is left who remembers why that team was put in place. You have no one to be your champion.

“Also, I’d, sell your team early and a lot, so people understand its value.”

“And, it’s even better if you can make people think the goal of your team is their idea. Your goal is to have them sell you for you.”

Know the vibe you put off. “I’ve been told that I sometimes give people a you-can-leave-now look after we’re done talking. I need to work on that, because I don’t even know I’m doing it.

Find common ground. “Also, I’m more likely to talk with employees about them and not me. I want to find out about things we have in common. Like one of my employees really likes dogs. Well, I like dogs, so we can talk about that. It can be something simple that you feel strongly about.

“You don’t have to figure out everything about someone. Just what motivates them and what makes them want to do their job every day.”

Can You Be a Super Star and a Team Player?

28719633It’s an interesting dynamic in today’s workplace – we’re asking employees to be super stars, plus team players. Can you truly be both?

Companies are asking employees to do more with less, so they’re asking for more from employees on an individual level. At the same time, employees must work exceptionally well as part of a team towards a common purpose – make it through the recession (and come out positioned for strong and fast growth – which requires employees to understand and always remember their role in the big picture.

Here are some insights from The UPS Foundation’s President Ken Sternad on aspiring to the be the best while remembering that you can’t do it all by yourself.

What do you tell someone who deep down wants all of the credit? “You should aspire to be the best, of course, but you have to remember that you’re part of something bigger. When I say teamwork is important, that doesn’t mean that you don’t want to be sure that by your actions every day you have clearly demonstrated your value. You want to have people know if you’re the first one there and the last to leave. That you don’t miss a deadline. That you make sure everything is spelled right instead of simply running spell check. You still have to demonstrate that you’re the best. That you’re a superstar. You have to perform individually at your best to be a ‘Hall of Famer.’ But do that and recognize that you’re part of a team. As you move up, you want to pull others along with you. You don’t let others fail because you want to stand out.

“In 99.9 percent of cases, great work will stand out. Add to that the quality that you want to make those around you successful – and you’ve got it all.

“And, absolutely, the individual has to be recognized. And, never more so than in this time right now, with this economy, when other rewards are not as tangible. Every industry is asking people to deliver in new ways, and people are not getting compensated in the same way they used to or would expect.

“Really, it’s just a matter of stopping and taking the time to say, ‘Great job. We couldn’t have done it without you.’ Usually that’s all it takes.”

4 Quick Tips on Developing Yourself

Here’s what one Gen Xer told me about self-development. I liked her point of view because it turns your day-to-day activities into development opportunities. This is good as the recession makes it hard for people to have the time or financial resources for traveling to seminars and conferences for development purposes.

1. Learn from those around you. “You can learn from everyone,” said the Gen X travel executive. “Even the most difficult co-workers have something to teach you. Those might actually be some of the most important lessons. What not to do. Don’t cling closely to old ways of doing things. Don’t be closed-minded.”

2. Study your industry. “You should always be developing yourself in your area of expertise. You need to know what other people in your industry are doing. That’s ultimately what makes you valuable to your organization.”

3. Share with your team. “You should exchange and share ideas within your organization. That’s what makes you valuable to the people on your team.”

4. Work hard. 
“It’s important to put forth your best effort. If people really appreciate my contributions, then that’s good enough for me. I have found that if I’m doing a good job, then the money follows. So a paycheck is important to me, but it’s not my focus.”

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

6 Ways to Take a Vacation — Even If You Don’t Have a Staff

vacation dudeAs a freelancer or solo practitioner, it can be tricky to arrange time off for a vacation. What happens if a client calls and suddenly needs something quickly? How do you keep existing projects moving while you’re gone? And would being out of the office on vacation actually be more stressful than just working?

But there are ways to make it work. Here are six to consider:

1. Trade out time with someone who does what you do. I know a realtor who uses another realtor as her backup when she’s on vacation. If she has a closing while she’s out of town, the other realtor goes in her place. Then she returns the favor when that realtor wants to take time off.

2. Train a temporary assistant to keep the place running. This works best if you don’t mind fielding the occasional phone call or email to deal with work issues while you’re out. The temp can keep the ball rolling and deal with minor issues, but call you for anything that requires your skills or decision making.

3. Have someone on call, just in case. In the early days at Tribe, I would have a freelance creative director on call when I was out of town. If anything came up that had to be addressed while I was away, I  trusted his judgement and knew he’d handle it similar to the way I would, or at least at a taste level I would approve of. Many times, my clients were fine just waiting until I was back.

4. Call in a mom or retiree. If you’re wary of having a competitive freelancer filling in for you, try someone who’s not really in the market for clients anymore. A colleague in your industry who’s now retired, or a parent who quit working to be home with the kids, will often enjoy the chance to get back in the game for a short while.

5. Take your work with you. This works best if you can keep your business running for a week or so with just an hour or two of your attention a day. A media planner I know is in Chautauqua right now for a three-week family vacation. She’s keeping up to date on emails while she’s there, and doing the occasional conference call, so her clients are getting what they need even while she’s out.

6. Tell your clients you’ll be out. I remember hearing about one freelancer who actually found this a pretty good way to drum up business. She would call all her steady clients several weeks out to let them know she was taking a vacation such and such a week, and that she’d like to get anything they might need taken care of now so they weren’t inconvenienced while she was out. Her clients felt like they’d been given sufficient warning of her unavailability and appreciated her professional approach. Often, it would even make her clients think of new projects they’d like to add to her plate.