Boards and Culture: from Compliance to “Rocket Fuel”

It’s not just #metoo that has company culture rising as a Board level concern.

This time last year HBR devoted pretty much the entire issue to culture, with definitions, models, frameworks (as only HBR can do…), and the direct connections between culture and outcomes.

Long a soft and squishy notion championed by HR and some renegade, ahead-of-their time CEOs (Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard comes to mind), the importance of culture is no longer a question. The question is what to do about it. How to begin, or do more. How to hardwire healthy culture into the fabric of the business.

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What’s an “employee” in 2030? (Or pretty much now...)

Self-driving companies?
Work that chases workers?
Conversation strategy bots?
Talent “rediscovery”?


“Organizations are a kind of technology on the verge of disruption.”

Have you met Devin Fidler? I did a couple of weeks ago, when he spun our heads around at the Human Resource Leadership Forum’s session talking about The Impact of New Technologies on Society and Work in 2030. Devin is the founder and CEO of Rethinkery Labs, a research and consulting firm that is “is leading the definitive investigation into the forces shaping future companies.”

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Marketers and PR people: Employees are your new best friends

It happens all the time. A big announcement, a new campaign, and everyone forgets to tell employees until the last minute, not to mention involving in the planning in the first place.) And then it's a half-assed effort that lands with a thud or worse, at the minimum, squandering a tremendous brand authenticity and awareness opportunity.

Some communications agencies get it, and Greenough Brand Storytellers is one of them. I was talking with Jamie Parker and Phil Greenough recently. Here's some of what we hashed out.

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It's Spring. Time for some "life-changing magic of tidying up" Communications.

Here in Boston it doesn’t feel like it, but it is officially spring. New Englanders start to emerge from their wintry cocoons, and dare to imagine flowers and flipflops again.

And everyone from Martha Stewart to the Container Store to Marie Kondo impress upon us that it’s time for spring cleaning – getting rid of stuff we don’t need it, lightening our material loads a bit, and generally making room for fresh air and new energy. Same sensibility happens at work. Here’s the advice I shared in a webinar for the Boston IABC professional communicators network on “Breaking through Employee Communications Clutter and Overload.”

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Gratitude is a superpower. Appreciation expresses why. Recognition shares it.

At this time of year we naturally take stock and think about what we’re thankful for. What we’re grateful for. What and who we appreciate. We recognize what matters to us.

Gratitude. Appreciation. Recognition. Let’s have more of all, please. But what’s the difference, actually, it occurred to me to ask, especially in the context of the organizational culture and communication work I do. What is gratitude at scale, so to speak?

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HR gets messy in Boston. Good stuff happens.

An HR Unconference and a DisruptHR event. On the same day. In Boston. Both very well attended by very energetic HR people. What’s up?

If we were talking about a hackathon or tech start-up fest it would be unremarkable to see some messy meeting formats happening. But we’re talking about Human Resources here. Leaders and up-and-comers who seem to be emerging from their reputational backwater as the function of “No” and summer employee picnics. (Disclaimer: I LOVE HR people and all they do, and I work with them everyday to make their workplaces better.)

Quick pause for comedic context: here’s an example of what HR is overcoming:

Q “How many HR people does it take to change a light bulb?” [Read on…]

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The One Thing to Know about Gallup’s New State of the Workplace Report

The just-updated Gallup State of the American Workplace report is out, all 214 pages of it. And we’ll be quoting its employee engagement factoids and workplace trends non-stop as we have with its 2012 predecessor. (Spoiler alert: engagement rate is stagnant from the 2012 report, with still only a third of U.S. employees engaged; 51% indifferent; and 16% actively working against the organization.) It’s a valuable accounting of what matters and works (and doesn’t), and do read it all when you can.

I’ve read the whole thing and was in the process of summarizing it for myself and my clients but realized two things.

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Is it time to change your job?

"Maybe you’re just ready for something different.”

There’s a new book out from the career center of my alma mater, Wake Forest University. It’s called Five for Your First FiveBuy it immediately for any recent grads you know. And then buy it for everyone else, too, as I’m finding it a great read and roadmap for anyone, at any stage in his or her career.

I was just at my class reunion on the Wake Forest campus and got to meet author Allison McWilliams, who is a leader of the University’s Office of Personal Career Development.

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Once Is Not Enough: Creating a Culture of Feedback

Last week the Boston Globe announced the 2017 Top Places to Work in Massachusetts. One hundred and twenty-five companies are very happy to have made the lists. Perhaps even more important, these companies (and hundreds of others that didn’t make the lists this year) gained critical insights into what their employees think and feel about working there, so the organizations can take action and improve. (This is the heart of an employee engagement strategy.)

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“Be well.” At scale. My conversation with Mari Ryan.

It's really simple: Employees who experience higher levels of well-being = higher performance well-being for the organization. And then there's the virtuous circle of engagement <-> well-being...

Mari Ryan, founder and CEO of Advancing Wellness, and I are in wild agreement about the role of employee engagement in wellness program success (and overall organizational performance.) Mari and her team help organizations walk the well-being talk, with program design and operating strategies that flatten healthcare costs, improve morale and increase engagement. She’s a petite powerhouse I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know recently.

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Four Enablers of Employee Engagement (H/T Glassdoor)

The truth hurts. And it’s really inconvenient, especially when employees have so much to say. And so much they want to hear from leaders. Here’s the convenient part: it’s really clear what it takes to truly engage employees. Today’s Glassdoor webinar, “Four Enablers of Employee Engagement,” provides a good summary for taking action. No blinding “aha’s,” but a pragmatic view of what leaders need to understand and do to gain trust, attract and inspire the best talent. Here are the four and what I think you can do to move from “I get it” to “let’s do something about it.”

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A Cool Way to Ignite Change

(By popular demand, this post is bit more about Bluefire and me (Janet) than I usually share. So thank you.)

Why the name “Bluefire”? 

The blue part of a flame is the inner core, hottest part. Blue also feels cool and calm. So if you want to get something done, focus on what matters most and then ignite change.

What we’re solving and creating with clients right now?

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