Employee Engagement Lessons with Erica Johnson and Julia Gometz

Hosted by Chris Dyer, the CEO of PeopleG2 – TalentTalk Radio features engaging conversation with CEOs, thought leaders and HR executives.  TalentTalk connects professionals who care about talent-related issues and having the cultural mindset to embrace the needed diversity of the workplace.

Today’s guests are Erica Johnson, Director of Employee Experience, Nitro, Inc. and Julia Gometz, Founder & Author, Brandful Workforce. To hear the entire show, click here.

On the show today, these two highly talented women talk about importance of employee engagement for overall success of the organization.

Erica Johnson employee

Erica Johnson is the Director of Employee Experience at Nitro, Inc. and has been in the field of HR for almost ten years. Nitro, Inc. is a document productivity company that helps companies accelerate the way they prepare and create documents.

As the Director of Employee Experience, Erica’s core job is to make sure Nitro is a great place to work. She believes that happy and engaged employees are more productive which as a result is good for the business. Thus, she strives to create a great environment for employees to work. With the millennials joining the workforce, there is no longer a drive for pay. It is the engagement that is more important to these young employees.

Company Values

“We have a great work hard, play hard culture. We work really hard but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” says Johnson. There are three values that Nitro as an organization came up with which are high performance, working hard and be good. The employee experience team makes sure that everything they do is aligned with these values. Whether it’s supporting hard work with a great work environment or rewarding employees for high performance, the team strives to be transparent and have an open dialogue with the employees. They also have a program called Nitro Give which gives employees five days in a year to go and give to a cause that they are passionate about. “These things are really important for employee engagement. And it works!” says Johnson.

The company also has a set of leadership values that outline the expectations on how the leaders should interact with the employees. Values such as be fair, be consistent, serve your employees and the organization, are important to the employees and the employee experience team trains the leaders to ingrain these values. The team also conducts monthly update meetings with the managers to see how things are going and identify areas that can be improved in terms of the leadership values.

Attracting and Retaining the Best Talent

“There is a war of talent,” jokes Johnson. “We have to attract talent and also retain that talent.” Nitro has a talent team that is responsible for promoting the company’s brand and attracting talented people. The company looks for diversity in their workforce and finds talent through networking events, meetups, university outreach, internships as well as referrals. Johnson emphasizes on the fact that the culture at Nitro is truly unique which makes it very different from all the other companies that she has worked for earlier. The executive leadership team really focuses on putting the employees first. Whether it is culture, management decisions or recruitment, Nitro puts development of its employees at the forefront. Growing and nurturing talent is very important for the company. They also have a learning and development department for this purpose. Mentoring and training are provided to the employees but the company also believes in giving its employees autonomy to function and do some problem solving on their own. All of these efforts help in employee retention at Nitro.

Importance of Trust

Johnson believes that the company’s insistence on transparency helps in building of trust among the employees. Her team conducts surveys every quarter to hear from the employees and they also follow up on the results of the survey. They also organize bi-weekly town halls which are open forums for everybody to ask anything they want to any of the leaders. For all those who are shy about asking a question in public, the company has added an anonymous ‘submit your question’ component to weekly team meetings.

What Are You Reading?

Erica Johnson is currently reading “Thrive” by Ariana Huffington.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Erica Johnson through her company website www.gonitro.com

Julia Gometz employee

Julia Gometz, Founder of Brandful Workforce, used to be a mediator before her foray in human resources. Her last job in human resources was with Jet Blue where she led HR analytics and employee engagement for eight years. A few years back she wrote a book called Brandful Workforce.” Currently she is excited about working on her most recent offering called “Brandful Code,” which is all about enabling organizations to unlock the full power of their brand by leveraging social media data. It is slated to come out in a few months.

Bring Brands to Life through Employee Engagement

“People are really the brand,” says Gometz. People behind the brand bring three things: innovation, excellence in service and quality and lastly, more talented people.

Scouting a ‘Brandful’ Person

According to Gometz, it is important to bring someone who is “brandful.” One way to do that is to look at the candidate’s history and interaction with the company or the product and services. They should be familiar with and be genuinely interested and excited about the products or services. Another interesting way to gauge whether someone is brandful is to ask them to relay a meaningful personal or professional story during the interview process that really aligns with what the brand is all about. Lastly, Gometz suggests talking about the challenges that the company is facing and then finding out whether the candidate is okay with solving them or not. These are some tried and tested ways to bring someone who will take the brand forward.

Optimal Utilization of Talent

Providing opportunities to the employees to participate in the brand is the best way to utilize their talent. Gometz also suggests using the idea platforms that encourage employees to submit their ideas and help them in building and seeing them through. Some companies also give their employees a percentage of time that can be used for creation and implementation of their ideas. Thus, one way to optimally use talent is to provide them with opportunities where they can unleash their passion and creativity.

Another way to keep employees motivated is to recognize them for their contributions because that really inspires them to do more work. “The best way to keep employees engaged on an ongoing basis is to implement their ideas so that they can be a part of the results. This ties back to the fact that people are really the brand. When they are living it, and not just having a suggestion box but a full circle,” elaborates Gometz.

However, Gometz acknowledges the problem that could arise from everyone pitching their ideas. Some ideas may not have the required sophistication or some may not be aligned with the company’s values. Thus, she suggests incorporating a system to process the ideas that come in so that if they are off track or not in line with what is required, you can close the loop on them with necessary feedback instead of completely disregarding them. “The idea is to keep encouraging them to come up with ideas because you never know who may come up with the most magnificent million-dollar idea,” advises Gometz.

Brandful Workforce

Gometz’s book, Brandful Workforce,”  is primarily targeted towards business leaders. The book is full of strategic and practical ideas for action along with lists and checklists. These are ideas that can be bounced off to fellow executives to empower the workforce towards the brand. The book also has a lot of stories and specific examples from Fortune 100 companies so that readers can relate to it.

Team Building

Having a plan is critical to team building. Along with a plan, it is important to define goals and roles along with measuring performance regularly. When employees see their progress it is really motivating and engaging for them. “When you give a lot to your team, they’ll give a lot to you,” says Gometz quoting her mentor at Jet Blue from whom she learned a lot about leadership skills.

What Are You Reading?

Julia Gometz is currently reading “Startup Playbook” by David Kidder.

How Can People Connect With You?

Connect with Julia Gometz via LinkedIn.