* BEST PRACTICES A Caring Culture Motivates People Most At Butler International, a holistic approach to quality that places as much emphasis on taking care of staff as on customers and shareholders recently won the company Arthur Andersen's Best Practices Award.
"A company is only as strong as its weakest link," says Ed Kopko, the Montvale, N.J., technology services firm's chairman and CEO. "If you don't have motivated employees, service will suffer and customers won't be happy. If customers aren't happy, profits will be affected, and if profits suffer, shareholders won't be happy. That's why all of our programs address each of these constituencies."
One of Butler's award-winning initiatives is FREE-UP 2000, a program that allows the company's 5,600 employees to affect change by meeting in teams to discuss new ways of doing things. Kopko then recognizes successful teams in quarterly companywide conference calls.
Butler also sponsors a variety of incentive programs, including its Presidents Club, which rewards qualifying sales staff and recruiters with an annual trip. "But," says Kopko, "incentives don't typically rank as the highest factor in employee satisfaction and happiness. You can offer plenty of incentives, but if you have a command/control environment, the results are a no-go."
Laurence Hayward, marketing director of Arthur Andersen's Enterprise Group, which sponsors the award, says that more companies are offering employee incentive programs "because they feel they need to keep pace. We think incentive rewards can help create some positive reinforcement, but to get people to stay for the long haul, companies need to create a workplace that motivates employees intrinsically." --Robin Amster
* TRAININGMost companies measure the effectiveness of their training programs by surveying participant reaction. But that's not specific enough, say David van Adelsberg and Edward Trolley in their new book, Running Training Like a Business (Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc., 1999). "Few companies have created clear expectations for what their training investments should yield, or reliable means to measure the actual results," they note.
The authors, both executives at Boston-based Forum Corp., put forth a detailed plan outlining how to measure the bottom-line results of a training program. For example, if the goal is to increase sales, then measure sales before and after the training.
And be choosy about what you evaluate. Don't focus on the skills of your sales force, for example, but on what business issues you need to solve. And set goals related to performance rather than mastering content. Most important, don't gauge performance against some abstract standard, "but against the tangible business value it provides to customers."
Lights, Camera, Action It's time for Corporate America's close-up, says Bob Talmage, a Los Angelesbased producer. Talmage specializes in helping companies use entertainment events to introduce products and services to trade and consumer audiences. He has worked with clients such as Nike and Sun Microsystems on live productions that, as he describes it, "fuse the gap between entertainment and brand identity."
"It's not just about producing an event," he says. "We work with companies on marketing and branding. What do they want to feature? What is their point of view as a company?"
For example, he recently produced a fashion show for shoe company Skechers that not only introduced new product lines but relayed "to buyers and the public that we're a young, hip company on the cutting edge of fashion," says Tom Boule, Skechers' advertising manager.
There's no question that corporate events like these garner media attention and buzz within the client's industry, Talmage adds, especially if you add some celebrity sizzle. "It's ideal for companies who are moving ahead quickly and want to get noticed."
Cool Companies THE ROCKWELL GROUP How does pre-eminent hospitality architect David Rockwell keep his staff of 150 people motivated?
"I try to create an environment where creativity can take place," says Rockwell, whose New Yorkbased company has designed hundreds of high-profile projects, ranging from the Mohegan Sun Casino Resort in Connecticut to the Sony Entertainment Center in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Gardens.
This means bringing in outside speakers like fashion designer Todd Oldham to inspire the group with a cross-fertilization of ideas. It also means quarterly outings for the entire staff to events such as Cirque du Soleil. "The outings excite people with ideas," says Rockwell. "They help us to step outside the box together for a little bit." He even retains a communications consultant who comes into the office twice a week to brainstorm with anyone who has questions on work-life issues.
There's rarely a dull moment in the fast-paced offices. When things get tense, employees can avail themselves of an in-house massage therapist. Friday is "bring your dog to work day," and there are family office parties twice a year. "When people work in a place with broad ideas, they can learn and be inspired," says Rockwell. --Regina Baraban
A Meeting with Vision Vision and values--those of both organizations and individuals--were themes at NEMICE 2000, the annual convention for the New England meeting industry, held April 13 at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. The show attracted a record 680 attendees.
Along with sessions on subjects such as experiential learning, online meetings, and strategic meeting management, a keynote presentation by Ed Simeone, chairman of the board of Meeting Professionals International, and Michele Hunt, president of Washington, D.C.based Vision & Values, focused on the shift toward greater work-life balance in the workplace. Hunt spent 13 years as vice president of people at Herman Miller, the global office furniture supplier known for its socially and environmentally responsible practices and winner of many awards, including Fortune magazine's "Most Admired Company" in February.
* DOT-COM NEWS Web-Based Meetings Get Easier "Another day, another dot-com press conference." That was the joke at an April announcement at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in New York by Tom Flanagan, vice president of marketing for Philadelphia-based StarCite (www.starcite.com). StarCite's latest offering: customized sites for suppliers.
StarCite also announced free computers and free ISP service for hotels that sign up for marketing agreements. This is part of a partnership with computer maker Dell, which will ship notebooks loaded with a StarCite icon, to enable hotels to receive and respond to RFPs electronically. Depending on which marketing agreement it chooses, a supplier gets at least one free machine. ("Suppliers" come from 40 categories--from hotels to florists.)
A StarCite site redesign allows users to track negotiated savings or "cost avoidance." Also new are three specialized RFPs in addition to the standard hotel RFP: forms for airlines, cruise ships, and CVBs. As CMI goes to press, 10 properties in the Millennium Hotels & Resorts portfolio have purchased StarCite marketing agreements.
Another meeting management Web site on the move is EventSource (www. eventsource.com), which recently announced a partnership with travel company Sabre that would, among other things, enable meeting attendees to book their own air travel online.
EventSource has taken the third-party site-selection model and put it online. Its revenue comes primarily from the 10 percent commission it gets from hotels on meetings booked through its site. Unlike StarCite, which has made partners of third parties such as HelmsBriscoe, EventSource is in direct competition with those companies.
Among EventSource's unique features is a forum for planner reviews of meeting properties. Some 500 reviews have been posted, says President & CEO Ed Sarraille, who notes that hotels are allowed to post responses to those reviews.
The company has several other partnerships: with CommerceOne, for an auction-enabling product, Commerce Bid; Extensity, for a "business-to-employee" platform, enabling meeting organizers to track meeting spending; and, most recently, with Event411, for an online meeting registration interface.
* MEETING MANAGEMENT Change Is the Constant, Says MPI Benchmarking Survey Just as U.S. companies are continuously changing and evolving, so are their meetings. So says a recent benchmarking survey of 25 meeting organizers from Fortune 500 companies; the survey was conducted by Meeting Professionals International.
"Some companies are centralizing meeting planning, some are decentralizing," says MPI CEO Edwin Griffin Jr. "It depends on the corporate culture, the CEO, the stockholders." Indeed, 86 percent of the respondents' companies had undergone a re-engineering or reorganization during the past two years.
The survey results pointed to some areas worthy of further study, such as who is planning the meetings in Fortune 500 companies. For example, 68 percent of the respondents said they have centralized meeting planning in their companies; 36 percent charge other departments for their services; and 36 percent use an independent meeting planner.
MPI will follow this poll with quarterly surveys of some 2,500 corporate meeting professionals, directed at specific issues, including measuring ROI (next on the agenda), the centralization vs. decentralization of meeting departments, and. No date has been set for completion of all the surveys. --Robin Amster