All entries for May 2014

It's Not Working: Traditional Team Building

Some coworkers, you can’t get enough of. You choose to work with these people regularly and have like minds. Others, you dread planning a project a calendar month ahead. Crossing this bridge between amicable working relationships and tormented partnerships leads to the traditional team building event. Among the goals of a team building event – company leaders hope to encourage open communication, team problem solving, develop an understanding of objectives and expand on disciplined work habits. Research shows it’s not working.

A study of more than 1,000 C-level executives found that almost three-quarters of office workers dislike at least one company event. Among those events – the least favorite is anything involving a costume contest, followed by any team-building activity in general. It goes beyond planned office team-gatherings to life celebrations. Male co-workers say they strongly dislike baby showers in the office, female workers say they least favor taking staff photos. The taboo subject of team building has left many experts reaching to pop culture for answers – here are just a few examples of what leading companies are doing to better the workplace.


Household names like Ford and Nike aid in the community while recharging their team by volunteering. Finding a shared cause breeds a common ground for employees while improving the company’s presence in the community. Many companies adopt a volunteer week, for example Ford’s Global Week of Caring and teamGM Cares’ Volunteer Week. Companies such as Kohl’s and Verizon offer grant programs to encourage volunteering.


corporate challenge.jpgGoogle masterminds favor this method. We often see that a healthy body is a sign of a healthy mind. Companies – large and small – are turning to physical exercise to build their team. General Electric participates in softball leagues, runs and walks – even offering kickboxing at the Singapore office. Other businesses turn to Corporate Challenges, forming teams of competitive employees who participate in footraces all across the country. Joining this trend are Fortune 500 companies Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, American Express, Wells Fargo and Lockheed Martin.


For the past ten years this program has attracted Fortune 500 companies as a leading team building charity. Basically, top-performing executives work with their team to build bicycles for needy children, sound simple enough? See the program, here. It has attracted the likes of Chevron, UPS, Walgreen’s, Microsoft, Intuit, Nationwide, Merck, Electronic Arts, Jet Blue and Boeing. 

Field Tripping:

Seagate Hiking.jpg

This story itself could stand alone. Seagate Technology, based in Dublin, spends $2 million per year to send its 200 employees to a corner of the world for the most elite team building experience. The company, with a team of Type-A engineers and Ph.D.s, has ventured to  Northern Ireland, Thailand, Malaysia and New Zealand – all accompanied by their leader, Bill Watkins. Now if that’s not an incentive to play nice in the office – what is? Watkins says that by taking his team across the world, pushing them physically and mentally to try new things and experience new cultures, he is making them uncomfortable as a method to open their minds. He also says the travel teaches his people about priorities.

From small-scale non-profits to thousand-mile journeys, the melting pot of team-building activities can seem ominous. As a decision-maker, remember there is no right or wrong answer to these events, rather the most advantageous plan is to either develop a shared cause by giving back to the community or to test limits, both physically and mentally.




When Relationships and Pay are Equal

happy-employees.jpgPay well, but don’t make it your only strong point. Industry research suggests that compensation ranks as the most important for employee’s job satisfaction. Among other leading factors are co-worker and management relationships and the ability to exercise skills in the workplace.

From these findings, we can assert the key behaviors necessary for management to retain star employees:

  1. Engagement should be top priority for employers.
  2. Pay should be competitive – but compensation should not just be in monetary forms – consider skill set, praise, exercises and challenges.
  3. Build relationships throughout the company – at all levels.


Engagement should be top priority for employers:

Time and time again we revert to the taboo topic of employee engagement. Last month we discussed how some Fortune 500 companies use elementary but personal methods to praise employees – the CEO of Pepsi Co personally contacting exemplar employee’s parents and praising their adult children. Engagement can be in the form of prizes, competitions, personal recognition or simply a bonus. It’s the thanks that leaders must share within the workplace to boost esteem and share the passion and success that makes a business thrive.

The following conditions in the workplace and the workers’ opinions and behaviors were the most important factors for employee engagement.

engagement chart.jpg 

Pay should be competitive, but not the only form of compensation:

A top contributor to job satisfaction and employee retention is pay. Obviously, a competitive pay scale is conducive to a thriving work environment – and that revelation is more important now than ever before. The study reports in 2010, compensation ranked at fifth in importance due to frozen salaries and the post-recession economy, now employees rank it among the most important factors of employee engagement. While this holds true across four generations and across various employee categories – executives say it is not the most important factor for them, instead they cite opportunities to use their skills as the most important factor of their job.

Build relationships within the company – at all levels:

More than half of all employees say their working relationships play a large part in job satisfaction. Think happy workplace, happy employees. We see this method used consistently in big time software companies like Google, Apple and Facebook – all companies that are growing exponentially. The research reports 73% of employees are satisfied with their relationships with co-workers – including upper management. According to a recent industry study, 84% of company perception spurs from an employee’s relationship and idea of their immediate manager and employees who report their managers care about their personal lives are three times more engaged than other employees who do not have that relationship. So often we perceive the head of a company as a stoic money-minded decision maker, the truth is that by fostering relationships with employees – from the janitor to top salesman – employees will feel responsible to the company thus adding to the organization.


Energy Roofing: How Do You Quantify the Financial Impact?

Smart Roof PV.jpgThe Smart Roof Program is a program installed by the Washington DC Department of General Services (DGS). The entity oversees the construction, maintenance and management of city buildings, including public schools in the DC area. The facilities comprise a real estate portfolio of over 25 million square feet of building area and are very large energy consumers. The program is expected to save energy by retaining storm water, using solar thermal panels to provide hot water as well as heating swimming pools and building space, as well as reducing the carbon footprint through improved roof asset management practices that keep existing roofs on buildings and out of landfills. 

Richard Rast, President at Bluefin, LLC opened a discussion on the Washington DC Smart Roof Program at our most recent event. While giving insight into the portfolio-based roof asset and energy management program, an attending delegate raised a valid point - how do you quantify the financial impact of energy roofing? Better yet, how do you plead your case for this energy saving roof installment?

Rast explained in the bustling workshop that Bluefin, LLC has completed a series of research to ensure a Return On Investment. He explained that the non-energy side has developed a spread sheet enabling the company to take an interested facility's informaton into account allowing for a ten year foreshadowing period. This means that using their past research, Bluefin is able to predict ten years into the future to estimate savings and energy usage for a facility seeking energy-saving roofing. The Roof Asset Program shows the difference between status quo and saving models over a ten year period, offering a valuable tool to decision makers.

Energy-wise, Rast explained savings vary but the company is able to provide an informed estimate including an analysis of savings, calculated man hours and the addition of more people onsight to justify the program. After setting up the program, Kyle of Bluefin, LLC explained "We don't just leave you, either, we get a management plan going and we want to make sure it's succesful!"

"Good, Quality Meetings!"

We are pleased to announce our April event in Philadelphia was a success! Seeing business meetings in full swing is a satisfying feeling for us as we work all year round to make these connections happen. What makes us feel even better? Your feedback. Here's a look at some comments from our Vendors and Delegates:

Vendor Feedback

"I received excellent leads; contacts I wouldn't have been able to make were it not for these quality meetings!" -Elkay

"This event was well worth my time and investment." -Kimberley-Clark

"This is an event that provides vendors the chance to really connect with potential clients without the hassle of a trade show booth!" -Detex

"Productive day and a half!" -ISSBallroom.jpg

"Very effective process in meeting with interested customers!" -Container Store

Delegate Feedback

"I was pleasantly surprised about the number of new or improved products I learned about that I can use. I can think of three suppliers whose products I will begin using immediately!" -Innovative Senior Living

"The Forum was a great experience. I met a lot of people in my field and learned so much!" -CBRE

"Thanks for exceeding my expectations. You made this Forum educational, informative and fun!" -FMOLHS

"It was a great experience, educational about offerings from vendors and no hard sell from anyone! Will recommend to others." - St. David's Georgetown Hospital

Forum Signage 2.jpg

"I was very surprised: This gives you the opportunity to have one-on-one contact with the vendors which allows you to get a better feel for their product unlike conventions where they are talking to several people at one time. I really like the one-on-one experience." - Bolivar Medical Center

"Great information and contracts and also, great Forum!" -Rice University

"I have been in education for over 30 years and the Education Facilities Management Forum is at the
top of my list for meeting needs in facilities planning, new products and networking." -Texas State Technical College

"This is my second Forum; I found it to be even more advantageous than my initial Forum. I got to the end of the day full of new and useful information for my upcoming challenges." -Ivy Tech

Many companies are skeptical of our one-on-one business events, but as our Vendors and Delegates say - you have to see it to believe it. Register to attend our next event, here.

Ten Commandments of Customer Service (In GIF Form)

You call a toll-free number concerning a problem with your cable box. After spending ten minutes typing in
 your account number, being transferred through different automated menus and finally hearing a normal voice at the end of the line – living and breathing – the phone disconnects. Disappointment comes crashing down and you return to the key pad, furiously typing and stewing through that ten minute menu again.

When an angry customer lights up your line, there’s only one thing that can help you – the Contact Center Gods. Here are the Ten Commandments that we recommend regimentally following:

    1. Your customer knows best. Whether they do or don’t, they are never wrong. It’s part of the business unfortunately, you bite the bullet to make your customer feel in charge, this way you are never butting heads and are hopefully moving forward professionally and amicably. Never forget that this customer’s call pays your salary, making your job possible.


    2. Listen, listen, and listen. Effective listening goes a long way in a call center – and that means not just listening to reply, but listening to understand the needs of your customer. What is it that they really want? Pay attention to their tone, take their feelings into account and think intuitively into what the customer wants.


    3. Identify and Anticipate needs. Part of quality customer service is providing an all-around good vibe in relation to a product. Your job is to make customers feel positive about their product and secure that you – at the other end of the line – have a solution for everything. By using step two, you will be able to anticipate the various needs of your customer.


    4. We all want to feel important. Even though you receive mass amounts of calls per day, it’s important to treat each ring as an individual. People value sincerity, and that emotion is conveyed through a call. Consider ways to generate good feelings and positive responses from customers who you do business with. Thank your customers as often as you possibly can.

    5. Know your systems and protocol thoroughly and explain it to your customer. The best possible method to practice in a Contact Center is transparency. Nobody likes feeling as though they’re in the dark. Let your customer know your company’s process and how the system works. You don’t need to fill them in on office gossip and all the various methods – just a simple once over that explains the next step and how you will find a solution. Knowledge can alleviate a lot of the customer’s stress and they’ll appreciate you explaining the system.

    6. Just say “yes.” Always try to help your customer. Even if you know it isn’t possible, you need to find a solution – whether it be the right one or one that leads them to a relatively similar outcome. Either way, look for ways to make doing business easy. Always do what you say you will do – which is find a solution.


    7. Apologize properly. Knowing how to apologize is an art in itself. When something goes wrong, apologize. It’s respectful and customers like it. Don’t sit on problems, take care of them as soon as they occur.


    8. Happy customers keep a company growing. Go above and beyond. Bad customer service is reason enough for a customer to switch to the competition. Stop this from happening, be pleasant, be competitive and be unexpectedly thoughtful. We suggest a kind follow-up call. As my mother always says, “manners cost nothing.” Take the time to recognize clients and always ask them to return to you with any concerns in the future.


    9. Invite constructive criticism. Your company should have a system in place for customer’s to give anonymous feedback. Tracking your progress will genuinely help your company in the future.

    10. Happy employees will thrive. Happiness in a contact center will extend through conversations. This business is based on positive vibes and pleasant greetings. Leaders should thank their staff and let them know just how important they are. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.




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