Jeff Grisamore has spent virtually his entire career in the performance improvement field, but as the 21st Century dawned he and his company saw the need for a change.
“About eight years ago we made a decision to diversify the company,” he says, “and we started an in-house marketing communications/ad agency. We realized that in order for the promises made by performance improvement companies to be delivered, there had to be a communications component. Whether you’re trying to motivate an individual or a group, the success of the program has a lot more to do with communications than it does with the reward component alone.”
Now, in addition to the performance improvement component of its business, EGR International employs art directors, copy writers, graphic designers, web application experts and motion graphics and animation people. “We have this really dynamic agency competency that we can overlay onto our performance improvement programs,” Grisamore says. “That’s a huge differentiator for us from a lot of the traditional, mainline incentive companies.”
In fact, Grisamore says that over the course of the last four years EGR has been competing directly with major national ad agencies for a host of non-traditional, people performance programs.
EGR’s long experience in the performance improvement industry helps it stand out from some of the agencies it competes with because, as Grisamore says, “the one thing that we know that they don’t is people. Any agency can create something that looks good and communicates to people, but if you don’t know the people you’re communicating with, if you don’t know what makes them tick, then the best advertising in the world isn’t going to help.”
At the same time, the marketing communications component has been a big factor in EGR’s continued success as a performance improvement company, because performance improvement has evolved beyond “cajoling somebody to meet a sales objective,” as Grisamore says. “It’s about employee lifetime value and customer lifetime value – and that has everything to do with building a relationship with those audiences and very little to do with the reward. It has everything to do with relationships that are built over time.”
Grisamore sees EGR’s evolution as a response to challenges that the motivation and incentive industry as a whole has been dealing with in recent years. “I think there has been a broad-based recognition that it’s not all about the award,” he says. “For decades, the industry has tried to push that stone uphill – that we can change behavior through rewards. But now, with the economy and with what’s happening in global business, more companies are recognizing that it has less to do with the reward and a lot more to do with getting to know people and finding out what makes them tick.”
Grisamore sums it up like this: “Awards are certainly an important arrow in the quiver, but they’re not the most important arrow. And that’s the big change that has happened.”
The work of organizations like the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement and the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, says Grisamore, are helping to validate and facilitate that change for many in the motivation and incentive industry. “Those organizations are indicative that there’s a sea change happening, and I think it’s a real compliment to our industry that we’re undertaking that self-analysis – starting to drill down to find out what this is really all about.”
In particular, he says, “the Enterprise Engagement Alliance – with partners like Gallup and the Peppers & Rogers Group – is going to help our industry chart an important new course.” And Grisamore feels that course is likely to involve a “dynamic, multi-faceted and highly complex approach to customer lifetime value and employee lifetime value. It will have to do with how companies can approach their customers and employees to partner with them, and how they can give them access to ideas, tools and resources they want and need.”
As far as EGR International is concerned, “We’re going to continue to reinforce our leadership in the performance improvement space, while at the same time continue to invest heavily in new technology, new media and new agency competencies that will allow us to deliver the promises that our clients need to have delivered to constituents,” explains Grisamore.
In particular, he says, the company will seek to make itself an even more significant player in the interactive space. “Interactivity – as opposed to one-way communication – is going to become more important, and clients are going to be seeking a dialog with their key constituents,” notes Grisamore, “and interactivity, interactive exchanges, social networking and other new media allow you to do that. Our general premise is that it’s all about new ways to reach out and communicate and enlist and create dialog. That’s the solution we believe in.”