One of the world's largest distributors of electronic parts, enterprise computing and storage products and embedded subsystems, Avnet Inc. (NYSE: AVT) provides a vital link in the technology supply chain. The company has more than 15,000 employees and is ranked number 142 on the Fortune 500 in 2010 and is number one in its industry on Fortune magazine's Most Admired Companies 2009 and 2010.
The Marketing Maven spoke recently with Avnet Chief Communications Officer Al Maag about the company’s employee engagement strategy.
Avnet has a reputation for engaging employees with the Avnet brand. Can you explain what this means?
The most important thing we can do is have an engaged workforce. Being engaged means giving extra effort, doing a quality job, taking pride in what we do. We talk about core values and what’s important to us and we try to do a good job, which means adding value to our customers and suppliers.
The fact is, advertising, marketing and PR accomplishes nothing unless our employees are engaged in our mission. If we’re not, our customers and suppliers are going to know it and will begin to question why they are doing business with us.
Whose role is it in the company to engage employees?
It’s management’s responsibility but everyone must be involved. To put some perspective on how important it is to our CEO and the entire company, I’m on our executive board which is rare. You’ll find very few marketing and communications people on their company’s executive boards…we are convinced that it takes a lot of communication effort to get 15,000 people to move in one direction and this helps from the beginning versus hearing what needs to be done second hand. Not only do I know, but I also know why.
What are some of the strategies and tactics you’ve used to engage employees with the Avnet brand?
There’s no silver bullet—we use a multitude of tactics and media on a day-to-day basis. We send out daily messages, a weekly employee newsletter, monthly public relations results and a quarterly magazine about our culture from around the world, as well as quarterly results. We make use of print, online, video and even town-hall style meetings between management and employees. And that’s just on the corporate level. Each operating group has its own engagement initiatives. We have a branding council and a PR council that meet every week to talk about and coordinate what we’re doing. We have MarCom leaders in every division.
Marketers typically do a good job of externally communicating the brand message. Why do you think internal communication of the brand is often a low priority and done poorly?
It comes down to leadership, starting with the CEO. Our Executive Board is responsible for the brand. It’s folly to expect consistent, clear communication from employees if it’s not taken seriously by the leadership. At Avnet, we take pride in both internal and external communication. I don’t understand why more companies don’t.
How do you measure employee engagement?
We use an outside employment engagement survey firm. We’ve been using them for years on a global basis. They ask about 60 questions that basically boil down to two things: commitment by the employee and the line of sight which equal employee engagement per Towers Watson. By line of sight I mean the way employees are being communicated to, whether or not they understand what is being communicated, and do they know their roles and responsibilities. We take great pride in these scores, which are world-class, and have been going up every year.
What are the top benefits of focusing on employee engagement with the brand?
Easy. Increased sales and profits. If employees are engaged, they will serve customers better, customers will be more satisfied, and that means more sales and profits. A byproduct of that is potential increased stock price, due to consistent increased earnings per share.