Here at Cheer Partners, we value every employee’s voice and opinion. Our belief in sharing knowledge and helping each other grow has manifested itself in our regular blog series. Every member of the Cheer team has the opportunity to write their own pieces as frequently as possible and share them both internally and across our sites.
For the month of January, we have decided to create our own Cheer Panel with the leadership team. This is an opportunity to ask our Managing Partner and Directors the questions that are inspiring them as we enter a new month, new year and new decade! 2019 was a year of immense growth for our organization; now is the perfect time to reflect on what 2020 can bring!
What is your vision for Cheer Partners and the Employee Experience for 2020?
Cat: I think we will see three trends in Employee Experience in 2020: Deeper metrics and analytics, the role of purpose driven leaders will need to be crafted intentionally, and communicated clearly and regularly, and reinforcing employee experience and candidate experience through trust.
Carrie: We hope to help people understand that everything is a communication, in fact, we often counsel that no communication is actually the loudest communication. It is table stakes that you will join a company for their place in the industry and what you hope to contribute to their work. However, the intangible reason someone becomes an employee is the feeling they get when they walk through the door, the energy the feel as they walk the hallways and the desire they have to come back the next day.
Lisa: That we will continue to help bridge the gap in the onboarding experience and the day to day experience, as well as overall internal communications for employees. We are here to help foster that change and I believe that our creativity, our experience and our voice will continue to extend to companies who value and put value on each employee that makes a difference at their company.
What do you think makes Cheer Partners the best place to work?
Carrie: Cheer Partners values talent over geography, which means that by being a remote company, we are able to scoop up the best and the brightest talent and support clients from a local vantage point.
Cat: We are intentional in everything we do - our work styles, best practices, colleagueship and partnership with our clients. And it is intentional that we live the remote work experience.
Lisa: It is our extremely collaborative environment and our truly connected remote culture. It allows us freedoms – creativity, true partnership and time. Of course, what really makes all of this a best place to work is our colleagues.
What’s your favorite piece of advice for people trying to affect positive change to the Employee Experience?
Lisa: Listen to your employees. Create programs that help you keep your talent engaged and be daring enough to change the way they experience work.
Cat: It has to begin with measurement. Once you know where you are, then you can plan in accordance to what your employees are looking for. Focus groups, Cultural DNA assessments and the like all play a role in creating the foundation for a successful strategy.
Carrie: Take a step back and look at the experience from the other person’s point of view. For example, if you are developing an onboarding program for new employees, but have been with the company a decade, you need to consider what it is like to not know where anything is, how the organization is structured or what you need to succeed. You should survey recent hires and the departments that support onboarding to find the points they receive positive feedback on and the potential pain points of the process.
What’s your New Year’s resolution? Personal and/or professional
Cat: They align. To finish my book and be more reflective.
Lisa: Learning to make time for the things that make me happy- and learning to pause, breathe and move forward.
Carrie: My resolution straddles both the personal and professional, but as a “still new” working mom, I need to find a stronger integration of my professional and personal lives. Not a balance, as that means that one outshines the other for a portion of each day, but an integration.
What are you reading or listening to that keeps you motivated?
Cat: Arianna Huffington, Tim Ferris, Pat Mitchell, Ann Lamott, Derek Sivers.
Lisa: I always go back to Sonia Sotomayor’s book, My Beloved World. My childhood and teen years are very similar to her life story and as a fellow Latina, it’s important to be connected to those who understand the importance of never forgetting where you came from. Her offering of inspiration, her testimony to hard work and pursuing her dreams remind me every day to take those same measures in my every day infinite possibilities.
Carrie: Cheer Partners provides employees with access to LinkedIn Learning, and I love using that to learn things I wasn’t expecting to know I should learn, like right now, I am taking a class titled, Leveraging Neuroscience in the Workplace. What a fascinating spin on the employee experience! I’ve also been asked to create a curriculum for our team to enhance their learning, which is a creative exercise for me to increase our own learning and development.
What’s on your 2020 Book List?
Cat: Re-reading all the Jane Austen novels, again.
Lisa: In the Land of Men, by Adrienne Miller and Taína, by Ernesto Quiñonez.
Carrie: Measure What Matters by John Doerr, The Age of Agile by Stephen Denning, and Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.
Cat: Tough one! So many I love but I have to say Girlboss overall.
Lisa: Creating Espacios – which is dedicated to elevating the voices and stories of trailblazing Latinas.
Carrie: I know this is different, but I don’t listen to podcasts.
What are you most looking forward to this year?
Cat: Reducing operational complexities and taking time off, really.
Lisa: My niece’s High School Graduation!
Carrie: I am looking forward to growing our capabilities with rich client experiences. For example, although we have done it organically for years, we just officially launched the Cheer Partners Cultural DNA Assessment to help leaders understand what makes their organization unique, helps their employees go above and beyond in their effort and what derails those efforts.
My first few weeks into my first corporate job at a Fortune 50 company and we are in small Workshop tables in a seminar. My bachelor’s degree and I are at a table with MDs, PharmDs, MBAs or other combinations of letters that made me feel inadequate. My insecurities may not have been noticeable, but someone said something that put me, and I am sure others at ease: “Well, we’re all at the same table now.”
That sentence signaled to me that my voice mattered, my opinion was relevant and my expertise in communications was represented by one person at that table... me. Therefore, if I didn’t speak my mind, then my discipline and years of experience would become less relevant to the conversation and potentially mar the importance of including communications in the minds of these colleagues.
When considering who you are as a leader, managing your team and setting them up for success with the right skills, tools and resources is paramount to their employee experience and your team’s collective success. However, it is also to your benefit to ensure they each feel empowered to have a seat at the table and a voice that will be respected.
A culture that encourages diversity of thought, of people with generational differences, perspectives, cultural experiences, pop culture references and educational backgrounds will make your team richer and your outputs more impactful.
I once had an opportunity to come up with a new campaign name for a client program. I had learned that the campaign name could signal something more provocative than this prospective Fortune 500 company was intending to insinuate. My lead client was so ingrained in consensus, he did not have an awareness of this language nuance. I had a chance to say something early enough that no one was embarrassed in the client meeting.
Time served is not the only relevant factor at a business meeting. In fact, those with fewer years of experience in the industry, but more experience with newer technology or understanding of what drives a sub-set of the population, may prove to be as valuable. So when asked to take your seat, find your voice.
Posted as part of a blog series for Cheer Partners
In my job description as Managing Director and Team Lead, Employee Communications of Cheer Partners it reads, “responsible for care and feeding of employee communications team.” This sentiment and responsibility were raised in my discussions about the role multiple times. In fact, it was made clear that this was equally – if not more – important to Cat Graham and the Cheer Partners Leadership Team than client relationships.
It made me think of these idioms that you hear frequently about self-care, but in truth serve as the foundation for employee relations.
"Charity Begins at Home” “You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup” “Put Your Oxygen Mask on First”
You have a business marketing plan, a customer relationship management system and a sales strategy. As a leader, you know that your company would not be able to function without these core elements. This is one reason you are successful. But not the only reason, because without the care and feeding of your team, your success may come, but it will not come as easily as it could.
How do you do this:
It starts with you…
Think about who you are, what you need and what others need from you to be successful:
· Consider what type of manager you are and who you want to be
· What boundaries do you want to have – personally and professionally?
· How do you plan on connecting with them on a more intimate level?
· What are your skills and plans on providing a construct for feedback – both positive and negative?
Focus on the individual…
Book an hour with each team member 2-4 times a year to talk about the following. Prepare for that meeting as you would a client meeting and even consider preparing (confidentially, of course) with a trusted peer or coach, to help you see your team members from a different perspective.
· What brought them to their current role?
· What unique background, experiences and perspective do they bring to the table?
· What are their career aspirations, have you taken the time to review that, separate from the annual review discussion?
· What motivates them to be productive and go above and beyond?
· What areas of growth do they have in technical experience and soft skills?
· What resources do you have, or do you need to be able to support them in their career path, even if it veers them from their current direction or role?
Bring it together with your team…
Meet with your leadership team and/or your entire team to consider:
· The values, behaviors and attitude that your team brings to work each day
· Your expectations of their working relationships with each other – up, down and across the team
· How they want to build these constructs and live them every day
· How will you measure their satisfaction and the success of these constructs continuously?
Take the time to thoughtfully consider your team from a holistic point-of-view and define a plan to cultivate those relationships. It is guaranteed to result in a stronger team dynamic and more motivated, productive and engaged employees.
Posted as part of a blog series for Cheer Partners
Before you read this post, block your calendar for the next 30 minutes, even mark it out of office. Shut your office door, silence your cell phone and computer and be prepared to turn your monitor off when you are done. To add to the upcoming experience, I would also suggest a blank notebook, favorite pen and favorite music.
Because sometimes you need time and space to think. No, not on any particular topic, not to solve an issue at home or work or make another to do list. Just to think.
I’ve always said I can plan my entire life on an airplane (especially before they had TVs and wi-fi). On a plane, you are suspended between two worlds, you are unable to communicate, and you are forced to space out. So many of my life’s plans and pivots where created and considered while traveling.
But life is busier and travel now has its available distractions, so when and where can you make the time to think without thinking? For some, they are able to find that time during a commute, a trip, space they create before the world wakes or after their house is asleep. But for those who need to schedule the time to pause, I want to gift it to your here.
Doodle in the notebook, play a round of “what if”, ask yourself the harder questions, set aspirational goals and set intentions for reaching them.
Did you know there are 168 hours in every week?
You know in your heart and in your head that both your personal and professional life can give you 30 minutes once a week to pause and do your homework. Without it, you are living life by default, instead of by design.
Now that you have taken this gift, my hope is that you will gift it to someone else who may need to hear that you take this time and encourage them to do same.
Time to Get Started!
There has been a significant shift in the function of internal communications and employee engagement in the last decade. Internal communications is no longer the red-headed step-child of the corporate communications function. It is no longer about checking a box to say your employees are informed and engaged with your mission, without any true visibility or engagement from their leadership.
As society shifted, offering instantaneous curated communications at your fingertips, corporate leaders are charged with shifting their strategy. A new generation of workers were told to choose an employer for more than a paycheck. These two concepts have a significant impact on the types of communications that can be delivered from a corporate entity and what is expected of them.
The intent to engage your employee base will serve as the foundation for employees becoming
informed advocates of what the company stands for, how you are differentiated in your industry, and
what the company contributes to society as a whole. It will also positively shift individual motivation,
loyalty and productivity levels.
Since our inception two years ago, Cheer Partners’ mission has been to transform how employees experience work. This company and its mission were born out of the need to change with the times, and that is what we help clients do. At its core, employee engagement is your internal reputation, which leaders and companies often put less effort into cultivating than their external brand and reputation.
Survey the Landscape
Change the Employee Experience
Measure and Repeat
Employees today want one thing above all else – authenticity in their employer. The culture of an organization is a living, breathing thing, one that needs to be carefully cultivated in everyday communications and bigger organizational initiatives. The only way to move forward and be ahead of the curve in what your employees need and want from you as a leader, and your company as a whole, is to have a consistent, transparent dialogue – so that they feel they are your most important client.
And the truth is, without them, where would you be?
Posted as part of a blog series for Cheer Partners, August 2019
My first year as a mom, a single mother by choice, a mom with a decade more under my belt then most new moms and a working mom with a new job after maternity leave ended. That’s a lot of new titles, new balancing and a new voice, a protective mama-bearness, a patience and efficiency and a deep appreciation for all the moms who have come before me. An even deeper appreciation for those who made it look simple but were probably paddling like mad underneath the surface.
What does that mean to me? It means we need to share more about our struggles, our imperfections, our shortcuts or life hacks. We need to stretch out of our comfort zone of saying “I’m fine” and say, “I’ve been there, what do you need”, “let me help” and sometimes, we need to utter the words most of us often dread saying out loud, “I need help.”
What does that look like:
At work, that looks like choosing an employer whose values align with your own. Personally, that meant choosing an employer who made it clear that people were their priority, especially before they were employees and before they were company advocates. Cheer Partners’ culture is that people come first with holistic lives that need tending to - parent or not. This company empowers employees to share when they need extra support or a PJ Day (day off with minimal notice) because there are days that you can’t bring your whole self to work, and that needs to be OK. As a new leader, I’ve told my team - you don’t have to tell me what is going on, but you need to tell me that something is going on, so I can support you. And as an employee, I am appreciative that my company is open and supportive of our whole lives.
At home, that means finding my support system and to me that doesn’t look like “the village” that parenting articles talk about. In fact, I bet many women feel like a failure for not having acquired a “mom tribe” - on top of everything else. That doesn’t mean I am not surrounded by loving family and friends, but it does mean that they have their own lives, schedules and priorities. If I ask, they are there. I think it’s important to find support in other ways, such as: backup childcare for the backup childcare or as I call it, my roster of sitters, and a handyman, who knows that an hour of his skills, can save me hours in frustration. Sometimes, it giving up control to someone else, but if I prioritize what’s important to me and give up a little control, I gain tenfold in peace of mind.
Instead of saying, “I’m fine,” I actually share my frustrating days and when I receive unsolicited advice, I pause to say, “I really just want to vent, could you just listen.” It also means my remembering that the words “that sucks”, “ugh so sorry” are often more appreciated then “have you tried” or “what I did was” or least remembering to ask first - “do you want to hear what I tried?”
In conclusion, in honor of my second Mother’s Day (my son was born a week before the holiday last year), I want to thank all of those who paved the way with your grace, humor, realism, authenticity and love. It has made this journey easier to know we all go through the same thing … whether we admit it or not.
Posted as part of blog series for Cheer Partners, May 2019
“We love happy hour!” “Meetings, meetings, meetings!” “Everyone here is really nice.” “We have a shared vision that we strive to meet every day with our collective thinking and collaborative work.” “We get to work from home every Friday!” “Our results were the highest ever last year… and now, we need to beat them!”
When a job candidate asks your employees; “What is it like to work here?”, would you want them to answer with any of the above statements?
Companies and teams spend a lot of energy and resources building their cultures, which is an important tool to engage colleagues with and further enhances work productivity and brand loyalty. However, when recruiting and interviewing candidates, the cultural fit may be considered and discussed, but often the team that is interviewing has not even proactively discussed what their culture is nor what a cultural fit means to them.
Each of us knew a manager who determined if someone was a cultural fit by asking about their college sports teams and or local hang-out spots. If the person didn’t know the “right” answers, they weren’t someone that, that manager wanted to spend time with and therefore, wouldn’t get the job.
As you begin to fill out job descriptions and interview questions for your next round of hiring, it’s necessary and important to thoughtfully consider what intangibles make up your team’s culture.
• Discuss with your team what are some of the characteristics exhibited by a manager that they have worked with or wish that they had.
• Think about your management style and describe what brings forth best work and efforts.
• What are some of the expectations you will have of senior leaders to have success in the role.
• Do you believe it’s more important to work fast or get the job done right?
• Does your team encourage the use of the team’s energy and effort, the willingness each person has to be a part of a successful campaign or project?
Once you’ve captured who your team is, it will become infinitely easier to identify what characteristics new team members can bring to the table to round out your team.
Co-Authored with Lisa Fedrizzi, Managing Director, Human Resources Advisory and Talent, Cheer Partners
Posted as part of a blog series for Cheer Partners, April 2019
How many times over the course of your career with various managers and leaders did you think to yourself…“I’ll never do that.” You probably thought this in frustration for many reasons. Perhaps you weren’t given the information you needed to move a project forward or provided the feedback you needed to advance your career or perhaps your manager chronically cancelled meetings with you, as if it wasn’t important to them. On the flip side, you may have had some great experiences with manager’s that made you feel as though your contributions mattered, your voice was heard, and you were a valued member of their team.
Yet, you still grew in your career, and may be at the point of leading a person or a team now. As you dive into the new responsibilities of a new role, you also need to consider the significant task of being a manager to people. Although this type of role can impact people’s careers, few companies lay out their expectations for their people managers or share resources on how to do this effectively.
Therefore, it is up to you to thoughtfully and intentionally set out to be a good people manager. And, you need to do the work to determine what type of people manager you want to be before you step into the new role. That’s right, homework! Why? Because, the first impression you make as a new people manager will be fundamental to the tone you set for your team’s working relationship with you and with each other. You may evolve and grow over time with your team, but your introduction – as with any relationship – will have a big impact.
Catalog your Experiences… Think back to all of the managers and leaders that you have had and consider your retrospective opinion of their role in your professional development, confidence, and industry knowledge.
Set your Intentions… think critically about what type of manager you want to be and then write it down.
Day 1: Introduce Yourself… Even if you are not new to a department or company, people want to know their boss. Most employees want to know what’s in it for them? They know they have to build a relationship with you, but they want to know how to do that fast, well and in a way that will positively impact their work life. Before you walk in to your first day, you need to thoughtfully consider how you will answer the following questions in your first meeting with your team:
Even if you can’t answer all of these in the moment, especially your vision and priorities, start to build trust with your team by letting them know the steps you are going to take to identify these and when you plan on getting back to them with this information. If you are going to want their input, let them know, so they can plan their responses.
Week 1: Actively Listen… Part of these introductory conversations are not just about you, but understanding that they want you to know them too. Ask questions that will help you understand them better and show your interest in who they are. You may also want to consider learning about their background and years of experience in the industry and previous manager relationships, which will help you see each employee as a holistic person and help you determine how you are going to manage the moving forward. Some questions you may want to ask:
Assess the Current Culture: You may have heard from your leadership or predecessor about the team culture, but I would caution you to assess it on your own and through conversations with your team members before you put your own stamp on it.
Unique Situations: Every team and organization is different, therefore you need consider other factors such as how large, layered, what different types of workers and how geographically spread-out your team is – all of these will impact how you introduce yourself throughout the first thirty days.
Sustaining the Momentum: You have laid out publicly who you are, what your leadership style is and how you want your team to work together to reach their business objectives and aspirational goals. You need to create a plan on how you are going to engage your employees throughout the year and what balance of in-person, digital and written communications you will share, at what cadence, what educational curriculum you want to set forth to support them in their professional development and how you want your management to lead with their teams and how you are going to show appreciation for them every day through their obstacles and their successes. Finally, always remember while you should guide and help your team to hone and perfect their skill set, it’s equally and often more important to catch them when they do something right and reinforce the things they should keep doing.
Posted as part of blog series for Cheer Partners, April 2019
Recently, an acquaintance asked Carrie Goldstein what she did for a living. Goldstein explained how she counsels corporate leaders on creating a work culture that improves the employee experience.
“As I explained it to him, his first reaction was: ‘Oh, making people feel good that they have a job?’” recalled Goldstein, Managing Director and Team Leader at the Cheer Partners agency.
She’s heard it all before, of course. Still, it amazes Goldstein that so many people fail to make the direct correlation between happy, motivated employees and positive business outcomes.
“There’s a general perception that this is about patting people on the head and saying, ‘Good job!’” she said. “But here’s the reality: We spend more time on the job that we do with our families. A true employee engagement program can change somebody’s day, and by extension, their entire life. They’re happier and more satisfied. They’re more connected to where they spend the bulk of their week, and that helps the business.”
Before joining Cheer Partners, Goldstein was on the Pfizer communications team, where she oversaw a portfolio of 350 brands. We spoke to Goldstein to learn more about why she believes culture isn’t “soft,” how it can drive increased profits and the role of effective employee communications on creating a great workplace.
How did you come to appreciate why this is so important?
“I had always been in brand marketing communications. Then I had a leader at Pfizer who said, ‘I really want you to see another side of the business and work in internal communications. I had my doubts at first, to be honest. Well, I fell in love with it. You really come to appreciate how when you can change somebody’s day, it can have a ripple effect on their professional development, building and reaching for new goals, and feeling as though they are making an impact. That, in turn, can impact their attitude toward life in general.”
Do companies think they’re paying attention to employee engagement when actually they’re not?
“Absolutely, but the need to engage employees differently is growing. How you do it is shifting. The idea that internal communication is about telling people that they should be happy to work here is a mentality from 20 years ago. Cheer Partners exists to give companies a logical, thoughtful strategy about creating cultural attributes and then constantly infusing them into the day of employees in an authentic way. When you do it right, your best advocate will be your employee. In other words, who is really going to defend your company at Thanksgiving dinner? Your employee will do that if you honor and educate them.”
What does it mean to create an organizational culture?
“There’s the famous story about JFK once asking a janitor at NASA what he did and the man responding: ‘I’m helping put a man on the moon.’ Culture is about having everyone at a company feel that they’re playing an important role in something bigger than themselves. Employees need to realize that culture is about as much them as it the CEO. Culture is embedded in the attitudes and behaviors that are part of the way you conduct business every day. Companies should hire with cultural attributes in mind. When they’re onboarding employees, they should be emphasizing culture and business equally. You want employees to be left with a great impression about the work they do and the company that they represent.
Do you mean like a mission statement?
“Culture is not something you frame on the lobby wall. The mission and vision are important. What’s more important is the company’s purpose statement. But you just can’t say at a company town hall: ‘Our culture is being innovative,’ and then do nothing about it all year long. Whatever you want your culture to be, it needs to saturate everything you do in an authentic way. So, did you launch an innovation center? Did every leader, from the CFO to the CMO, talk about innovation from their perspective – and break down barriers that inhibit innovation? You can’t demand culture. You don’t just declare you have a culture. You have to work to make people feel like their part of creating it and living it every day.”
What are some of the assessments that can help companies identify areas of improvement?
“The most important thing is identifying the gaps in perception between what employees and the leadership believe the culture is. This means conducting a leadership-only focus group to determine what executives believe their culture is and how embedded it is into the day-to-day of employees. We also find out what everyone aspires to be one year from now. Depending on the company’s specific needs, we also assess the employees’ perceptions of the company culture. We will conduct focus groups to dig deeper into specific communication issues such as generational gaps or remote workers. We ask about the types of employee content, the cadence of communications, and the channels being used. Then we compare those responses to the previous six months of internal communications. We’re able to identify where communications may be broken and build a plan to bridge the gaps.”
Why did you join Cheer Partners?
“I love that our team has the opportunity to change people’s day. When you are not engaged at work and feel like what you do isn’t important, it negatively impacts your whole life. Your self-worth shouldn’t be your paycheck or your title. You should feel good about your work and your contributions. Companies that think about how to help employees are seeing the bigger picture. Those are the ones that will win in the end.
So, companies are seeing the value of this?
“Yes, corporate leaders are beginning to understand the significant shift in focusing on the internal customer – your employee. They see there’s value in helping people feel more connected to their work and their peers. They’re emphasizing to employees that they care about them as people and that they’re not just numbers. These are the companies that are increasing employee productivity, loyalty, retention, and advocacy. You can just see a world of difference at the companies that are mastering this.”
Posted as part of a blog series with Cheer Partners and Dynamic Signal, February 2019