Employee engagement, real-time feedback and organisational indigestion – Interview with Cheryl Johnson of Echo Global Logistics


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Today’s interview is with Cheryl Johnson, Head of HR for Echo Global Logistics. Cheryl joins me today to talk about what they are doing at Echo with regards implementing a real-time feedback system for their employees, why they are doing it, how it compliments their existing performance management systems and the results that they are achieving in terms of productivity, satisfaction and turnover.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – How to create a wow customer experience – Interview by Jonty Pearce – and is number 174 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Here’s the highlights of my interview with Cheryl:

  • One of Cheryl’s primary areas of focus is culture and the employee experience and what they need to do to support and drive Echo’s continued high-growth trajectory.
  • There is a big fad out there right now and it’s called ‘The Death Of The Performance Review’.
  • Cheryl doesn’t agree. She believes that the performance review is a good idea, poorly executed and very out-dated.
  • This is particularly true for Echo when you consider that 70% of their workforce are Millennials and more than 60% of their roles are commission-based.
  • Therefore, Echo believes that a performance management conversation needs to be aligned to what the individual cares about.
  • They have introduced a system where they have monthly conversations with their employees about their performance and use a social platform (HighGround, which is actually an employee engagement platform) to facilitate that.
  • To drive performance they focus on encouraging their employees, particularly those on commission, to adopt best-practice behaviours.
  • These behaviours have been established through their own research and are described in their performance management system as a successful persona.
  • The way that they achieved buy-in into the new system and approach was that they first started with recognition before moving onto performance.
  • They started with recognition as they had just rolled out their new corporate values.
  • Some in senior management found this social recognition (commenting, liking, giving of badges etc) challenging and wondered why they had to use a social platform to recognise someone and why couldn’t they just give them a pat on the back.
  • However,Cheryl says that Millennials want that public social recognition and given that 70% of their workforce are millennials then management just had to get on board.
  • Their focus was to recognise the behaviours that they believe are key to being successful. This helps their people to be more successful, establishes their culture and drives business results.
  • However, by approaching things this way Cheryl was able to show that they could achieve engagement, behaviour change and business results through recognition.
  • On complete, that earned them the right and the trust to proceed and to take it one level up to start talking about performance.
  • Getting the other 30% of their workforce involved with the social platform was not hard as predominantly they use social sites and are familiar with the technology.
  • However, the difference is that millennials ‘need’ the social recognition whilst others use it and understand it but they don’t ‘need’ it.
  • In terms of results:
    • They conduct an engagement survey every year and are just waiting on their 2016 results. However, in 2015 they saw an improvement in every single engagement question they asked.
    • Overall, their staff turnover numbers are going down
    • Last year was a tough, tough freight market but they posted a net revenue growth rate of 39%. Also, they’ve just had 8 straight quarters of 20%+ organic volume growth.
  • Cheryl’s belief is that the whole premise around employee engagement is to build resilience to last through tough times and the energy and excitement to capitalise on great times.
  • The way that the real-time feedback approach fits with their annual performance review is that they have trained all of their managers to have coaching conversations all of the time and in the moment.
  • Given that their rewards are tied to performance and behaviours, employees are also holding their managers to account and demanding feedback on an ongoing basis so they understand how they are doing.
  • It sounds simple and it is but it is also very powerful and effective.
  • They are are developing their approach and this year are adding two elements:
    • 1. A career and training question where employees are asked if they believe that are getting the right training opportunities to help them build their skills and progress their careers; and
    • 2. They are introducing a post annual performance review survey where employees are asked how the conversation was for them, did they get what they needed and are they clear on what is expected of them etc whilst managers are asked how the review was for them, whether it was easy or not and how could it be better etc.
  • Gallup research shows that 70% of the variance between high engagement firms and low engagement firms can be explained through the quality of management.
  • People will buy into something that they have a purposeful connection to.
  • Whilst managers at Echo are there to manage tasks they are also there to help their people be successful and achieve their goals as they believe that if they do that the organisation will be successful.
  • Cheryl’s top tip for other firms wanting to implement their own real-time feedback system that can augment their annual performance review process is this:
    • Make sure that the organisation’s values and direction are crystal clear.
  • If you don’t do this then every initiative that you implement is at risk of being a waste of time and energy.
  • If an organisation believes that their values and direction are crystal clear then Cheryl advises that they start with something that is quick, easy and fun to help create momentum and buy-in.
  • One word of advice: be aware of ‘organisational indigestion’ – which occurs when you roll out more than the organisation can digest in one sitting.
  • Check out and consider using Echo Global Logistics as your third-party logistics broker as they do it with a crew of passionate employees who genuinely care their customers and their businesses.

About Cheryl (adapted from her Bloomberg bio)

Cheryl JohnsonCheryl has been Senior Vice President of Talent (Head of HR) at Echo Global Logistics, Inc., since March 2014. She has more than 16 years of progressive HR industry experience, which includes several executive-level appointments. Her experience in designing talent strategies for a number of high growth organizations runs across various industries including consumer products, retail, and industrial products. She has strong leadership in all people areas related to attracting, engaging, developing, and retaining talent while ensuring that the cultural fabric of Echo Global Logistics evolves and scales in the most effective manner. She previously led talent management for retail chain Ulta Cosmetics. Prior to her time with Ulta, Ms. Johnson served as Divisional Vice President of Strategic Talent Management for Sears Holding Company and also served as Vice President of Human Resources for Fossil Inc.

At Echo, Cheryl serves as the Head of HR and chief talent strategist on all people issues related to attracting, engaging, developing, and retaining talent while ensuring that the organizational/cultural fabric of the business evolves and scales in the most effective manner.

Echo Global Logistics is a leading provider of technology-enabled transportation and supply chain management services, delivered on a proprietary technology platform, serving the transportation and logistics needs of its clients. With over 25 locations and 1700+ employees, Echo is a fast growing company!

Check out Echo Global Logistics and what they can do for your business, say Hi to them on Twitter @EchoLogistics and connect with Cheryl on LinkedIn here.

Photo Credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Compfight cc

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.


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