HR and communications expert Nancy Reardon has held senior executive positions at Comcast Cable Communications and American Express after beginning her career at GE. Most recently she served as the senior vice president and chief human resources and communications officer for the Campbell Soup Company. Reardon is also a member of the Partnership for Public Service's board of directors. She spoke with Tom Fox who is a guest writer for On Leadership and vice president for leadership and innovation at the Partnership for Public Service. Fox also heads up the Partnership's Center for Government Leadership.
How did you go about improving employee engagement at the Campbell Soup Company?
When Doug Conant came in, Campbell Soup was rated at the bottom of the heap in terms of employee engagement among Fortune 500 companies. He believed an engaged workforce is a more productive workforce. During a 10 year period, Campbell went from the bottom to the top. Early in the journey we recognized that you can't improve everything overnight. However, we declared early on that consistent progress on engagement was important. We measured it regularly, gave leaders feedback, and recognized and celebrated progress.
What advice do you have for federal managers on how they can better engage their employees?
One key thing I have learned is to make it personal. Any leader, regardless of where they are in the organization, can work with their team to think through what isn't working, what can we do about it and what we can protect that we are doing right. Any leader can change the dialogue to "How can I make things better for my team?" Managers have to be committed and supportive then provide resources and direction. Team members often have wonderful ideas on how to improve engagement, so they can be part of the solution as opposed to the manager being responsible for it all. That's how you make meaningful changes.
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