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Spring Kickoff Attendees Suggest New Brand for Mobridge

Engaging Employees

Facilitator and professional business coach Neil Jensen started off the Chamber's Spring Kick-Off Monday with an hour-long discussion on employee rentention and engagement. The information he gave was surprising to many in the room--in today's workplaces, an average of 4-5% of employees are engaged in their jobs, 70% are moderately engaged, and 25% are actively disengaged. You actually have to work harder to be actively disengaged than to be moderately engaged...so these are folks that really dislike their jobs--or their management. I say management because those folks at the top are key to an engaged workforce. Here's what you as a manager have to do if you want engaged employees.

1. When they first start, sit down and talk. Meet with them one-on-one, preferable outside of work, and get to know them. Ask them about their family, what they like to do, what they want to get out of their position with your company, what they liked most about their last job, and what qualities they care most about in a manager. This gets you off on the right foot and makes sure you understand what motivates them in the workplace.

2. Make them feel comfortable. It is very easy to become disengaged when there is no training for new employees. To feel comfortable in their new role, they need to understand how their position fits in to the company's mission and vision. Why does what they do matter? How do they do it well and up to your expectations? If an employee doesn't understand why they are vital to your organization, it's less likely that they'll feel like a competent, prepared part of the team.

3. Engagement doesn't just stop after training. You have to constantly be teaching employees something new. This makes sure that they are not only growing professionally and advancing in the company, but that they stay engaged and interested in what they are doing. If they know everything you do about their position, consider sending them to training with other employees that do what they do. Chances are they'll come back with best practices that you yourself need to learn. 

4. Hold them accountable--both when they do something positive and negative. Accountability has a bad wrap. It smacks of discipline and negative feedback. However, verbal coaching, employee evaluations, and even recognition for a job well done fall in this category. Praise and recognition, given sincerely, is one of the best ways to ensure an employee stays engaged and continues to believe in the company's vision and perform their part of the mission to their fullest ability. It's not touchy-feely--it's good business practice!

5. Communicate and collaborate. It's important as a manager to communicate often and early with your employees. It's just as important to get people to buy in to the vision and mission early by making them a part of decision-making processes. We all feel better about the work we are doing when we had some influence on what it is and understand deeply why we are doing it.

Customer Service

The second topic, from 1-3 p.m. focused on customer service and creating great first impressions. Your customers want efficiency, friendliness, quality, and a clean and safe location. If they don't feel that within that first impression, chances are you're losing a sale. It might not be to a competitor in town, but you can bet online shopping is your biggest competitor in our global marketplace. What's kind of scary about this first impression stuff? You have three seconds to make it. And despite your best efforts at choosing words wisely, only 7% of what the customer experiences is your words. Your body language when you address them and the tone you address them in makes all the difference--body language is 55% of a first impression and tone is 39%.

One thing I learned (and I'm sorry to those of you who I've done this to before), is that the phone is not #1. As much as it drives you up a wall to hear the phone ring...and ring...if you are helping a customer in person, don't pick it up. Getting distracted from what you are doing to assist them is the number one thing that drives customers batty when it comes to service. Don't take questions from co-workers while helping a customer. Don't give a bored or trite greeting when they walk in...or on the phone for that matter. Which means the "Mobridge Area Chamber, this is Haden, how can I help you?" is probably going to be replaced soon. I'm thinking something like, "Welcome to Mobridge and our Chamber. My name's Haden. How can I make your day brighter?"

And then, boom, Mr. Jensen tied it all together, stating that engaged employees that know and care about the mission of their company, give better customer service. They ask the questions they need to in order to know their customer before trying to solve a problem. They try to make doing business with the company as easy as possible, and they emulate what works for competitors that are more successful than them in the industry. I was pretty hasty with summarizing this section, because you can download a copy of his presentation handout right here. If you have questions though, please email me.

Branding Your Community...and Business

Now, to the moment you've all been waiting for...what was this branding session about and why does it matter to you? Well, first, we need your help in sharing Mobridge's brand with other people--whether they are visitors, new residents, or old friends who have been here for years. Mr. Jensen's first question was to Chamber staff: What is the existing brand for Mobridge? I was kind of stumped. I said, we've been told to focus on what we are best at, so we've been going with, "Mobridge has the best walleye fishing in the state." Well, folks, just like you, I know that fishing isn't all we are--not by a long shot, and a brand is really supposed to resonate with your town at the highest level and then be able to be drilled down to tell those great stories--like the one about our walleye fishing.

Members in attendance got to work identifying the core values of our community that needed to be communicated in Mobridge's brand. Values we have as a community that are never going to change. Participants talked about how we value the Missouri River, being a family-friendly town, good education, independence and self-sufficiency, health, and community service. We then talked about key themes that we would like our message to convey to different audiences. We talked about how we have a relaxed, river lifestyle, we're people-oriented, have rich cultural underpinnings, and a pioneer mentality.

With all that said, how could we convey that to residents old and new and visitors at the same time? The group came up with the working brand:

Bridging people to the future through the past.

This is a people-oriented message that not only celebrates our forward-thinking--our recently renovated hospital, new school, and public investments in our community's future, but also honors our rich past--the western and Native American influences, our history of agriculture and ties to hunting and fishing. We can talk about how we bridge raising a family, building an independent business, and enjoying a lifetime of recreation all in our small, unique community. It speaks to how we are forward thinking without forgetting where we came from. Who bridges people? All of us--from our self-made small business owners to our community volunteers--we make a commitment to continue welcoming people into our community. It's something that, when you think about the strides we've taken historically to value all cultures in our area, evokes a strong sense of community pride and a deep understanding of diversity's role in our melting pot of a town--where east meets west, and you can find the best of both.

What do you think of this new brand? Is it something you would support?

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