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Guest: Keith Alper, who has more than 30 years of experience as a founder and CEO of multiple media and entertainment businesses including CPG. One of his companies, Geniecast, created a revolutionary platform for presenting world-renowned speakers to audiences via two-way interactive video. Keith is also the author of a new book, “From Like to Love,” and he recently wrapped up two years as the global chairman for YPO Innovation Week.
Episode in a Tweet: Learn how to transition your employees from liking your company to loving it.
Quick Background: When we find a great new restaurant, see a great new movie, or upgrade to a great new piece of tech, we tell everyone we know, “I really love this, you gotta check it out!” Smart companies are learning how to cultivate that same kind of reaction in their workplaces. Employees who love where they work promote your business to their social and professional circles, stick with their companies longer, and go above and beyond because they feel like they’re part of making something BIG happen.
On today’s show, Keith Alper discusses the importance of culture and employee engagement, and how to inspire your team to go from liking your company to loving it. Keith also shares some key insights from his long entrepreneurial career, including how he managed to maintain a very effective business partnership for more than three decades.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
Key Insights from Keith Alper
1. “Innovation is everywhere.”
Keith Alper says that his chairmanship of YPO Innovate Week impressed upon him the need for businesses of all shapes and sizes to keep innovating. “If you have a food processing company, or a technology company, or a 50-year-old family business that creates tires, you’re going to be innovated out of business,” he warns. “It’s all about making your product better, your service better, lowering your cost. There’s innovation everywhere, in medicine, in learning. The big ‘Aha!’ moment for me was, innovation is everywhere.”
In other words, businesses that don’t disrupt their spaces, and themselves, die. And no one loves working for a company that’s about to join Blockbuster in the dustbin. If you’re worried that your business might be falling behind the curve, it probably is. Time to ask yourself some tough questions and forge a new way forward.
2. Cultivate an inclusive culture.
Keith has been studying workplace culture for decades, observing and working with world-class firms like Walmart and Southwest Airlines. And he’s determined that the key to making your employees love where they work is not napping pods and ping-pong tables.
“It is listening,” Keith says. “It’s making someone feel like they’re really part of the team. We don’t ask ‘Why?’ enough, ‘Why are you here? What’s important to you? What do you want to do when you grow up? Is it important we do stuff for the community? How do we behave?’”
Your company’s culture is going to be a direct offshoot of your ultimate vision for success. But if you’re clinging to outdated policies or procedures because that’s just how you’ve always done things, or if you walk into every big meeting with your mind already made up, you’re going to demotivate your team and kill your culture.
3. Measure employee engagement.
CEO Coaching International client TaskUs has a global workforce of over 8,000 employees. Making sure their employees love where they work is such a high priority that the company issues quarterly assessments to create an employee net promoter score. TaskUs does an outstanding job of implementing the feedback they receive to improve their workplace and their culture – in fact, their employee engagement ranks near top companies like Apple.
Keith Alper has created an even more direct channel into the engagement of his employees. He installed a Thumbs Up and Thumbs Down button right near the front door. As they pass by, employees can anonymously rate how they’re feeling about their work that day.
“I’m not asking if you like the company or not,” Keith explains. “We’re just taking your pulse. If we get a few reds, we’re asking, ‘What’s going on?’ If we have all greens, pretty cool. And by the way, that button wirelessly goes to my COO, and we’re looking at that all the time.”
4. Take transparent action.
One reason that Keith’s Thumbs Up/Down system works is that employees know Keith and his C-Suite act on their feedback. Few things are more frustrating to employees than when their opinion is solicited and then ignored, or when the results of big company-wide surveys aren’t shared across the company.
“This is important to going from like to love,” Keith says. “They ask me my opinion. I give them my opinion. Everybody’s given them the same opinion. Nothing changed around here. I’m out of here. A lot these changes are little, itsy bitsy shifts that cost nobody any money. It’s doing things.”
One common reason that CEOs don’t take action is that they don’t take these metrics seriously. As long as they’re in the black and trending towards their targets, many CEOs wave away minor complaints from the ground floor. But how your employees view you, your company, and your culture is the reality. Failing to act when you hear those first grumbles might not affect you in the short term. But in the long term, top performers who, at best, like your company will be open to falling in love somewhere else.
5. Get a different perspective.
You’ve probably heard the statistic that around 50% of all marriages end in divorce. I’d guess that the “divorce rate” between CEOs and their business partners is even higher than that. But, incredibly, Keith Alper has been working with the same business partner for 33 years! Keith credits some complementary differences in temperament and clear communication with keeping the relationship and their businesses working. But Keith also isn’t shy about getting some outside help to resolve inevitable conflicts.
“We have a strategic planner who’s been with our business a long time as an outside consultant,” Keith explains. “Sometimes we’ll go to him and say, ‘What do you think about this?’ And he’s a straight-shooter: ‘I think you both are looking at this differently,’ or, ‘Why don’t you guys consider it like this?’ And he’s kind of a sage guy. So, sometimes we go outside to get outside thought.”
All CEOs need someone on whom they can rely for this kind of perspective. It could be a trusted C-suite colleague, it could be a mentor, or it could be a coach who’s working with you regularly. Whoever that person is for you, don’t hesitate to reach out for help when you need it.
1. Listen. Top performers don’t want a pool table in the break room, they want a boss who takes their opinions seriously.
2. Measure. Whatever metric or system you want to use, make sure employee engagement is a KPI you’re tracking.
3. Act. It’s much cheaper to upgrade outdated or unpopular practices than it is to replace top talent.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.