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February 2015

Refresh Your Lame "Employee of the Month" Program With This Idea...

You've got an employee of the month program.  It's lame.  People are generally immune to it.  Sure, the attempt at recognition is noted and appreciated, but once you try and spread it around, its effect diminishes.

"This month's employee of the month (month 59 in the program) is Johnny Ryall.  What makes him special?  We're not sure - but he's NEXT, people.  Celebrate the life of Johnny with us, and make Employee of the monthsure you stop by shipping to say hi to Johnny.  He's introverted, so if he's looking down, it's not inappropriate, ladies, he's just shy.  On second thought, just send him a note.  He rarely checks email, but it will mean a lot to him."

Feel me?  It's month 59 of the program.  You need to freshen it up a bit.

Here's a couple of big ideas:

1.  Insert a work team as the "employee of the month".  Do this, and you're showing the power of collaboration.  We all have one or two teams that work better together than others, with less pettiness and human condition than others.  Celebrating a team instead of an individual would seem in the wheelhouse of what you value, no?

2. Related - if you can't figure out a team, celebrate a duo of employees that work well together as the employee of the month.

When you celebrate groups instead of individuals as employees of the month, you're really saying that the people in question are different that other teams or duos... You're saying they're less selfish, have less ego and generally look to the greater good instead of thinking of themselves all the time.

And that seems like a good way to mix up your employee of the month monotone.

Can Uber-Like "Surge Pay" for Call Center Workers at Zappos Work?

My friend Paul Hebert has a nice post up on Surge Pay for Call Center workers at Zappos, a concept that's built on the surge pricing model at Uber, the ride sharing service.  Go check out Paul's post, and here's a description he used of the concept:

Surge Pricing is based on the concept used by Uber, the taxi-disrupting car service, where they increased the cost of their service based on demand in the market. From their own site at Uber: 7u

…surge pricing helps maximize the number of Uber cars on the system during times of extreme demand, maximizing the chance that there will be a car available when you need one.

By increasing the price – they hoped to increase the number of people providing rides to customers (of course – customers paid the increased fares.) But in some cases the “surge” was 6 times the normal price for an Uber ride.

Paul's an expert in employee engagement, so his natural question is whether surge pricing as a model to compensate call center workers will kill culture and engagement at Zappos.  Here's how Zappos ponders "surge pay" in their call center:

"Under the former system, call center workers filled in their preferred shifts on sheets of papers on a quarterly basis, a time-consuming process, according to Fortune. With preference for choice spots given to those with seniority, zappos was also looking for a better way to incent employees to work when call needs were highest, aligning with its commitment to customer service.

zappos, owned by Amazon, began testing an “Open Market” concept during the holidays with full-time call center employees. Employees were able request their time preferences based on likely wage rates that were estimated based on algorithms tied to forecasted call volume, past bidding on coveted shifts and emergency adjustments."

Interesting, right?  My view is less about engagement and more about the market.  Some thoughts and questions:

1.  Is Zappos attempting to staff the entire call center with same budgeted salary costs?  Put another way, are they attempting to pay the same bucket of money overall or are they putting more $$ into they system?  I'm assuming they want to keep the money the same.

2.  Surge pricing at the ride-sharing company Uber can result in fares that are 5-6 times as expensive than normal, with most of that enhanced fare going to the contractor/employee.

3.  There's no way you can do surge pay in a call center and make 5-6 times what others make for the same bucket of budgeted money, which means the surge pay is likely to feel more like a shift differential.

4.  The willingness of a call center worker to take surge pay is directly related to a couple of factors.  How much more will surge pay give them, and does it allow them to work a shift that fits with the rest of their life?  They'll take disruption to their life if they can, but only if the $$ makes sense.  Otherwise, they'd rather be home for The Bachelor.  

5.  The call center still has to plan, so you still have shift bidding going on.  Those with less tenure are still going to get the shifts that no one wants.  The only difference is whether that based on the traditional preference of day and time, or if it's based on $$ if they surge pay creates demand.

Will the Zappos model of Call Center surge pay work to drive behavior?  Tell me the $$ differential and I'll tell you what's going to happen.

By the way, please take a drink for every time I said Zappos in this post.  And give you car keys to someone responsible in Accounting.

Organizational Turnover Paranoia: What Would David Ogilvy Do?

I'm plowing through a book from Advertising giant David Ogilvy called Confessions of an Advertising Man.  Ogilvy was considered the "father of advertising" and a creative genius by many of the biggest global brands. First published in 1963, this book revolutionized the world of advertising and became a bible for the 1960s ad generation and is still considered required reading by many in the ad game.

As you might expect, Ogilvy had some opinions related to the management of people.  One area he dips into is the paranoia that can accompany resignations.  Here's his strategy: David

When a good man quits, his cronies wonder why, and generally suspect that he has been mistreated by management.  Recently I have found a way to prevent this misunderstanding.  When my young copy chief resigned to become Vice Chairman of another agency, he and I exchanged letters in the style of a cabinet minister resigning to a Prime Minster, and they were printed in our staff magazine.  The dear defector wrote to me:

You must accept the blame for what I am as an advertising man.  You invented me and have taught me how much I do not know.  You once said that you should have charged me tuition all these years, and it's true.

I replied in kind:

It has been a grand experience to watch you grow in 11 short years from cub writer to Copy Chief.  You have become one of our best campaign builders.  Your vitality and resilience make it possible for you to remain clam and cheerful - contagiously cheerful - through all the tribulations which buffet copy chiefs.

Now - I'm on the record as HATING long, one-say email missives that someone is leaving the organization.  But getting permission to print an exchange between a manager and departing employee in which the employee acknowledges they have learned much from the experience at your company and the manager says a few nice words?

Gold.  We should do more of this.  It won't fit in every situation, but for voluntary terms where you like the person leaving, it has power.  The power is in the two-way exchange of gratitude.  Ogilvy says nothing about having a heavy heart related to the employee leaving (which can cause panic and strife), he's actually taking credit for GROWING the person in question - and the exiting employee is giving him credit for having done that.

Think like a marketer - even when someone resigns...

Professional Tourette's and How to Stop It

I know.  There's some people out there afflicted with Tourette's syndrome.  It's not a fun thing.  Here's the description:

Tourette syndrome (also called Tourette's syndromeTourette's disorderGilles de la Tourette syndromeGTS or, more commonly, simply Tourette's or TS) is an inherited neuropsychiatric disorder with onset in childhood, characterized by multiple physical (motor) tics and at least one vocal (phonic) tic. Tourette's was once considered a rare and bizarre syndrome, most often associated with the exclamation of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks (coprolalia), but this symptom is present in only a small minority of people with Tourette's.

It's that rare, socially inapproriate remarks version of Tourette's that I want to talk about.  That's what's usually portrayed in the media, most famously in the Curb Your Enthusiasm episode (I'm not linking here because it's too much for the man - search Curb and Tourette's to see the clip.  It's on you at that point).

Some people are afflicted with Professional Tourette's.  Here's my definition:

Professional Tourette's: The tendency to repeatedly blurt out things in important meetings that are out of context or so far off of what was needed to be delivered at the time that they serve to kill momentum towards the stated goal of the meeting.

Know anyone with Professional Tourette's?  My experience is that the people who are afflicted with PT usually think they have more to contribute than they do.  They generally don't understand that silence is golden and the appearance of listening is key, and when they do display professional tourette's, they're usually talking about things that are a grade or two above the pay grade they understand.

They have a history of blurting and exclamation of value-added comments that.... well, they're not value added.

The best way to help someone with PT is to tell them they have the disorder.  Then coach appropriately moving forward.  For the person afflicted with PT?  They need to understand that if they think they're absolutely killing it and adding value with a profound comment... They're not.

Know anyone with Professional Tourette's?  I do.  Give me a taste of your experience with this disorder below.