May 14, 2017

How to Engage Employees and Beget Better Marketing

Topline Summary

When you think about how companies motivate employees, you’ll likely think of human resources first. This wasn’t the case for Patti Newcomer-Simmons, Vice President of Marketing at Intuit. After she returned to the financial software company following a hiatus, Newcomer-Simmons realized that it was her responsibility to improve the lives of her employees if she wanted to increase company productivity. To empower her team to perform at optimal levels, she would need to invest time and energy into promoting employee engagement. (To listen to the whole episode now click here.)

Now, you might think that employee engagement simply means satisfaction with the company. Not so. When Newcomer-Simmons looked at metrics for Intuit’s employee engagement, she instead focused more on retention: Would the employee stay with the company even if they received a better offer from someone else?

Since her return to Intuit, Newcomer-Simmons significantly increased employee engagement—and thereby reduced turnover—which she described as one of her proudest accomplishments. So, if you’re wondering how you can do the same for your own company, you’ve found the right podcast! In this week’s episode, Newcomer-Simmons shared several principles that marketing leaders need to abide by to truly engage and empower their employees, ultimately translating that positivity into productivity.

The first of these principles was pretty simple: be open to your employees’ feedback. Newcomer-Simmons explained that there has to be some level of vulnerability on the part of any leader in the sense that he or she should always acknowledge that they could have done something differently. At Intuit, Newcomer-Simmons schedules monthly meetings and directly asks her teams for opinions on what she could do better in the future, what worked and what didn’t.

The changes she made in response to the feedback received weren’t always grand gestures. Sometimes it was as simple as being mindful of her presence or tone in meetings. Her openness and vulnerability allowed employees to feel as though their voices were heard, which translated to positive feelings towards their efforts and the company. Similar to how brands build loyalty with consumers, being open to feedback encouraged loyalty in Newcomer-Simmons’s team.

The next engagement principle Newcomer-Simmons shared was integrity. It wasn’t enough to listen to feedback and promise change—she actually had to do as she said. She refers to this as the “say-do” ratio. If she were to go back on her word after asking for constructive criticism, it could have been perceived as betrayal. Her employees would have been left discouraged, which would have eventually trickled into loss of engagement with the company. Because of Intuit’s limited window of marketing opportunities during tax season, it was vital to for Newcomer-Simmons to have all hands on deck, which was only possible if her employees were fully engaged.

The last principle she described was leading by example. Employees held to a higher standard than their team leaders and supervisors were at high risk of developing resentment towards the company. Or worse, they would do as their leaders did, which would cause internal conflict because of the discord in employee standards. Both would have negatively affected the company, which is why Newcomer-Simmons emphasized the importance of holding herself to the same standard as her team members. So, if you plan on to raise the bar and ask more from your team, be prepared to raise that same bar for yourself and lead by example.

Meet the Guest

Described as both a bulldog and warrior, Patti Newcomer-Simmons never lets a challenge stand in her way. Newcomer-Simmons started out as a chemical engineer at Procter & Gamble, working in product development before transitioning into financial services marketing about 15 years ago at Capital One. She then moved on to Wachovia, Intuit and Worldpay, returning to Intuit about sixteen months ago. She has focused on improving employee engagement, thus improving both employee and company performance. Her efforts have led to a significant increase in both engagement and satisfaction, as well as a restructuring of Intuit’s hiring process.

What You’ll Learn

  • How to get honest feedback from your employees.
  • How hiring and motivating employees relates to the role of a marketing leader.
  • Three do’s and don’ts for modern marketers.
  • Why employee engagement is a better metric than employee satisfaction.

Quotes from Patti Newcomer-Simmons

  • Give me the hardest thing because I want to prove that I can do it. I just love the really difficult challenges. It’s just how I’ve always been wired.
  • Focus on the outcome… If you can focus on the outcomes, it then drives the activities rather than the activities leading the way.
  • [Hiring and motivating employees] goes back to our mission, empowering people to do the best work in their lives. And if people do the best in their lives, then my department performs better, our outcomes are better, our creative is better, and our partnerships with product development and sales are better. Developing capabilities, having the right people and having the right team are a big part of my job.
  • I’d also tell them, “You can hear my words, but what matters more important is my action, so watch my actions.” At Intuit we call it the ‘say-do ratio’ as a basic measure of how closely the “do” follows the “say.”