Release of the Executive Summary of the Employee View of the Employer Brand

Antilles Economics and Blueprint Creative Inc. recently completed a pilot study of more than 440 employees in Barbados to shed light on how employees’ views could be influencing their employers’ brands. The concept of the employer brand encompasses all aspects of an organisation’s reputation as an employer, and embodies the idea that companies should have an articulated value proposition for its employees. If we accept that employer brands reflect an organisation’s value proposition for its employees, it is evident that employers should pay attention to three broad areas:
  1. The experience that prospective employees have with the employer’s brand when job hunting;
  2. The level of engagement of current employees and their overall attitudes towards their employers; and,
  3. The response that current employees have to internal communication efforts that reinforce the employer brand.

Job Hunting

In many instances, the first time an employee encounters an organisation’s employer brand is when considering the organisation as a potential employer. Therefore, understanding the needs of job-hunters plays a crucial role in how organisations position their employer brand. The main insight uncovered by the research is that not only are appropriate pay and corporate culture the two most cited criteria when choosing an employer, they are interlinked. 53% of respondents stated that the most important challenge when job hunting is finding a job that pays what they’re worth, while the second most important challenge is finding an organisation with a good corporate culture (38% of respondents). The study further uncovered that companies with poor corporate cultures are more likely to encounter a ‘culture tax’, an unofficial salary premium expected by employees to compensate for the poor corporate culture that they must endure. Together, the results reinforce the importance of the employer brand in attracting the best talent.

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is an important concern in Barbados, and will become even more so if the country is to produce its way out of its current economic challenges. Apart from a small uptick in 2014 that was the result of decline in total national hours worked, productivity levels in Barbados have been falling since 2011[1]. Boosting employee engagement has the potential to improve productivity levels in Barbados, as more engaged employees would result in a greater return on the investment made in human capital. As an example of the potential rewards that could be received by improving engagement levels, consider a 2013 article published by Gallup on boosting productivity in the United Kingdom. The article estimated that eliminating active disengagement from the U.K. workforce could result in productivity gains between £52 billion and £70 billion per year[2].

In Barbados, addressing employee engagement could provide an immediate boost to productivity, as our research estimates that the employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) for Barbados in 2017 was -52%, i.e. for every employee that is willing to promote their employer to others, there are five more that are detractors that may be damaging their company’s reputation through negative word of mouth. Furthermore, only 51.8% of employees consider their job to be a career, and 43.9% would like to be working somewhere else within the next 12 months. The eNPS score, along with these results, point to notable dissatisfaction amongst workers in the country. The results also raise the possibility that their dissatisfaction could be negatively influencing their employers’ brands.

Internal Communications

An organisation’s internal communication efforts are typically the only formal attempt to articulate the employer brand to current employees. Organisations can use internal communications to drive home messages around its values and culture as well as communicating more practical information about financial performance and strategy. And, in today’s era of widespread social media usage, getting these messages out can be not only interactive and fun, but could also lead to useful insights that could further strengthen employer brands.

The results of the study show, however, that organisations in Barbados may not be fully taking advantage of internal communications to strengthen their employer brands. 40% of employees that took part in the survey stated that their organisation’s management team did not communicate with employees on a regular basis, and 48.6% believed that their personal values and their organisation’s values were not aligned. In both cases, these employees had lower eNPS scores than their counterparts who benefitted from more frequent communications as well as those that believed their personal values and their organisation’s values were aligned.

How to Access the Executive Summary

In the report, we suggest ways in which organisations can strengthen their employer brands by paying attention to these three areas: the employee experience while job hunting, employee engagement and internal communications. To read the entire executive summary, click here. By downloading the report, you will automatically be signed up to receive notification when the full report is available.

To learn more about the Barbados Business Dashboard, a collaborative research undertaking of Antilles Economics and Blueprint Creative, please email Stacia at


[1] Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs (2016). Barbados Social and Economic Report 2015. Government of Barbados.

[2] Gallup. 2013. Solving the U.K.’s Productivity Problem. [ONLINE] Available at http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/165947/solving-productivity-problem.aspx?g_source=productivity&g_medium=search&g_campaign=tiles. [Accessed 4 September 2017].

The fourth AE Quarterly newsletter for 2017 is now available

Do you already subscribe to our free newsletter AE Quarterly? If so, it should already be in your inbox, ready for you to delve into our new content. If not, what are you waiting for? AE Quarterly features articles written by the AE team on business topics relevant to our Caribbean audience.

The featured articles in the December 2017 edition of AE Quarterly include:

  • A Preliminary Look at the Mass Market, Mass Affluent and Wealthy in Barbados
  • Age and Employee Satisfaction in Barbados
  • Why Train Employees – An Argument for Training and Development

Subscribing to the newsletter is free, and if you haven’t already signed up to receive yours, you can do so now by clicking here.

We’d love to hear what you think and any suggestions on the types of articles you’d like to have us feature, so feel free to email us your feedback and suggestions at 

Are you ready for election year?

Barbados

How economic forecasts and scenarios can strengthen financial planning

It’s already mid-December 2017. Your organisation has already started (or maybe even finalised) your plans for 2018. You have targets and budgets and tactics lined up to take you confidently into the year ahead. But, did you remember that 2018 is an election year in Barbados? Did you factor that in to your organisation’s financial plans?

Election years are typically characterised by increased government spending (which is often accompanied by increased consumer spending) and greater economic confidence. All of the campaigning and promise-making usually puts everyone in an optimistic frame of mind. Given the state of fiscal affairs in Barbados and the generally depressed economic confidence levels, however, maybe 2018 will buck this trend and it will be more or less business as usual. Or maybe the pessimists amongst us will win the day and 2018 will be the worst year, from an economic standpoint, that Barbados has ever experienced. Has your organisation considered the impact of any of these scenarios?

It has been my experience that the economic forecasts included in corporate financial planning exercises are only baseline forecasts. What do I mean by ‘baseline’? Baseline forecasts typically assume that the future will continue more or less in the same fashion as the recent past. In the case of Barbados, therefore, the next 3 to 5 years – i.e. the usual planning period for corporate budgets – will be characterised by:

  • low levels of inflation
  • a fixed 2:1 exchange rate with the U.S. Dollar
  • economic growth rates around 1%
  • unemployment around 10%
  • debt levels over 100%, and,
  • fiscal deficits over 5% of GDP.
But what if one or more of these assumptions no longer holds?

What if the deficit worsens? What if the exchange rate is adjusted? What if the economy slips back into a recession? What if the country is forced into a programme with the International Monetary Fund? What if 2018 is not business as usual and it’s not a typical election year? What impact will these scenarios have on your organisational plans?

And did you consider how economic policy may change depending on which party is elected?

Each party has different ideas on how the country should be run and where emphasis should be placed. Therefore, depending on which government wins the elections, your plans may no longer be relevant.

Including economic forecasts and scenarios into corporate financial budgeting exercises can help you plan for various plausible futures. Not only will you feel better prepared, whichever outcome, but you will also have a better understanding of the likelihood of each scenario, which would allow you to adjust your resources accordingly. Antilles Economics offers a comprehensive range of economic advisory services – for example, workshops, customised forecasts/scenarios and internal stakeholder briefings – that can provide forecasts and scenarios. And, there are various government agencies that publish their expectations about the future, as well as IMF reports and advisories from the international rating agencies. Once you’re confident that you can translate that information into meaningful intelligence for your organisation, they are reliable and trusted sources of economic data.

I’m looking forward to 2018. I think it will be a very interesting year from an economic standpoint. But what may be interesting for us economists, may be devastating for profit-making enterprises. Make sure you’re prepared.

Being Comfortable With Uncertainty

I once heard a manager proudly tell a new analyst who joined her team that in their business, you have to get comfortable with not having information and making decisions in an environment of great uncertainty. She was not talking about the future and the uncertainty it brings, she was talking about right now. You see, this company did not have good customer or competitor information and over the years she became comfortable with not knowing. She simply assumed that once sales trends were in line with her assumptions, her assumptions about what was happening in the dark were correct. Concepts like coincidence and business cycles never occurred to her. Furthermore, she became adept at convincing others of the same thing and took great pride in the fact that she was comfortable navigating in the dark. After all, it takes a lot of experience to navigate successfully in the dark.

She is not unique. We all seem to accept that we are feeling around in the dark and advise others to get accustomed to not seeing their fingers in front of them. We have become so comfortable with the dark that the light actually scares us. What if the light reveals that we are not where we thought we were? Or that those who we thought were with us have long gone? So we choose to continue operating in the dark, crossing our fingers that we don’t stumble into anything too unpleasant. We actively decide to NOT even turn on a flashlight. I mean, it won’t show us everything anyway, so why bother? Plus, it’s not like we’re uncomfortable.

But does that make sense? Wouldn’t even a little light be better than none at all? Wouldn’t it be better to be sure about a little about your market than nothing at all? Isn’t the investment in a flashlight worth it?

Is who you’re targeting who’s really buying?

OECS

As part of the development of a good marketing strategy, marketers define their target market, i.e. who they are trying to attract through their branding and advertising efforts. Typically, they take their cue from the corporate strategy, which would assume, inter alia, that the products and services being created by the company would be of interest to their chosen market.

My experience, however, suggests that in some cases there’s a difference between who the company is targeting and who is actually purchasing its products/services. Consider, for example, the restaurant that is focused on attracting young families, but instead sells to a significantly larger proportion of single, busy professionals; young families hardly eat there. Or the financial institution that realised that the segment that they thought were purchasing one of their investment products did not own various high-valued assets but simply had excess cash. Or the boutique that targeted young, fashionable twenty-something year olds, but actually sold more to mature, less trend-conscious forty-something year olds.

So, how do you know for sure that who you’re targeting are the ones actually buying?

1. You ask them. Feedback and customer satisfaction surveys from customers should be part of the market intelligence arsenal of any company that is serious about keeping close to their customers. In addition to making sure you’re meeting their expectations, you should take the opportunity to collect basic information (such as demographic information, how they use your products or lifestyle indicators) to confirm that you know who’s buying your products.

2. You observe them. If you have a storefront, social media presence or any other location where you can watch customers interact with your brand and your products and services, you should take some time on a regularly scheduled basis to see for yourself who’s buying, who’s looking but not buying and who’s walking past your displays without even a passing glance. You should also ask your customer-facing team to give you their opinion.

3. You monitor them. If you’re in a position to collect customer data, the resulting database is a trove of extremely valuable insight into your customer base. The only caveat is that you have to be collecting the type of information that would allow you to check whether your target market are your customers. For example, if you’re targeting persons that are health conscious, but only collecting information on gender and age, you’ll never know if your customers are in fact health conscious. Or if you’re targeting persons within a certain income bracket, but you never actually ask your customers for their income (or some proxy of income) when they sign up, you’d never know if you’re right.

4. You listen to them. In many cases, your customers are already talking about you. They’re sharing their experiences with your products and services on social media and radio talk shows. Pay attention to who is talking and who’s responding. While the loud don’t always represent the majority, they often spark conversations that the majority chime in on. It pays to listen.

At a time when every marketing dollar spent has to count, marketers have to understand if their efforts are spurring the type of demand they intend, and, if not, what (if anything) they should do about it. 

Using forecasts and scenarios in strategic planning

One of the biggest travesties to me in strategic planning – yes, I know I’m being dramatic – is that companies do not incorporate economic forecasts and scenarios into their strategic plans.

I don’t count mentioning the outlook in the background section when you’re setting the tone for the rest of your plans. To me, that’s like when you’re interviewing someone and you ask about their education. It’s an ice-breaker. It is only relevant if they’ve learned something practical and can put it to good use in your organisation. Otherwise, you’re just giving them an opportunity to relax a little. Many companies use economic forecasts in the same way: as introductory material to break the ice and help other people relax in the knowledge that they’ve given this a little thought.

Another common use is as an item to check off a list, which happens frequently in institutions where employees have to compile economic indicators and send to their executive team or board of directors. They couldn’t tell you what the numbers mean or what the implications are for their company, but they’ve ticked the box and can happily move on to something else. What’s worse is that often the executives and board of directors also tick the box that says they’ve seen it, and no one discusses what the numbers mean.

Maybe I should be happy that they’re at least doing this bare minimum, but it’s hard to watch when there’s so much more value that can be tapped.

Here are a few ways that our clients have used economic forecasts and scenarios to help ground their strategies:

  • An insurance company used our forecasts of economic growth, unemployment, insurance claims, insurance premiums and new policyholders to adapt their strategic plan immediately following the 2007 global financial crisis. They were able to brace for the economic slowdown in Barbados before it arrived by implementing revenue-enhancing and cost-control measures as a matter of urgency.
  • Our client in the global consumer goods industry was considering expanding their operations into the Caribbean. They hypothesised that the size of the middle class in the Caribbean was growing and could represent a lucrative market. We estimated the size of the middle class and forecasted its growth, which the company then used to select the best countries for investment.
  • Amidst all of the discussion about potential downgrades to the Barbados dollar and further austerity measures, our client in the financial services industry commissioned an economic scenario building exercise to investigate the impact of various options being debated in the press. The resulting discussion included senior leaders and was designed to ensure that each area within the organisation understood the likelihood and potential impact of each scenario.

There are many other ways that economic forecasts and scenarios can be used in companies. The most important thing to remember is that your organisation does not operate in a bubble; it is part of a wider network of interconnected companies, government institutions, international agencies and consumers. You affect and are affected by the decisions that each player makes. Staying on top of economic trends, and using them to your advantage, is just as important as staying on top of consumer trends.

Defining your target market with precision

Do you find that when you’re asked to identify your target market, you respond with something like ‘millennials’ or ‘people living in this area’ or ‘young families’? That’s specific, right?

But yet when you place your ad – which everyone agrees is fabulous – in the media outlet that your target market is exposed to, the results are less than outstanding. Or when you create that product that is perfect for your target market, there’s such little uptake, even though you know your market is aware of your perfect product.

Maybe you’re only attracting the early adopters … or maybe you haven’t defined your market with sufficient precision.

AE’s approach to target market definition consists of 5 levels of precision. Let’s use the example of targeting millennials.

Level 1: Demographics (male millennials, i.e. persons born between 1980 and 1996)
Level 2: Interests (male millennial sports fans)
Level 3: Lifestyle (male millennial sports fans that watch sports while hanging out at bars with their friends a few times a month)
Level 4: Attitudes (male millennial sports fans that watch sports while hanging out at bars with their friends a few times a month and believe that winning is more important than how you play the game)
Level 5: Values (male millennial sports fans that watch sports while hanging out at bars with their friends a few times a month and believe that winning is more important than how you play the game and highly value their traditions)

The best products, market campaigns and corporate strategies require Level 5 targeting.

How would you get their attention if you defined your target market using only Level 1 criteria versus if your target market was defined up to Level 5? Would you still be considering the same media outlets, the same imagery and the same products?

For more information on how you can use this approach in your business, contact us at 246.253.4442 or .

 

 

A few thoughts about focus groups

It seems to me that marketers love focus groups. In almost every discussion I’ve had on solving a market research problem, marketers have suggested the possibility of focus groups. Maybe they’re attractive because they are relatively inexpensive compared to other research methods, can be organised quickly and are deceptively easy to conduct. And you can’t discount the obvious benefit of being able to interact directly with your desired audience.

But a word of caution: focus groups are not the ideal solution in every instance where you need to learn more about your market. Inherent in the use of focus groups are some risks that, if not accounted for, can lead to incorrect conclusions and costly decisions.

This brief post summarises what we’ve found to be the main drawbacks of focus groups.

Group think

People’s ideas and opinions tend to converge when discussed in a group. You’ve probably observed this yourself in meetings. Prior to a meeting, you may have a fairly strong opinion on the issue to be discussed. During the meeting, a strong personality dominates the conversation and either you do not get an opportunity to add your two cents, you start to change your mind and lean more towards the other person’s opinion or you find it easier to only add your opinions that are in alignment with the majority rather than start an argument by disagreeing. In any case, the moderator leaves the session believing that the strong personality’s position was a consensus across the group. In a perfect world, however, the moderator would have had the benefit of your point of view because odds are there are other people in the market that think like you do.

People lie to themselves, so they will lie to you too

This one is hard for most people to fully appreciate in business settings, but often we do not do what we say we will do. That’s why I do not suggest that people use focus groups to gauge intent to purchase. Let’s face it, we all have good intentions that aren’t realised; we don’t think of them as lies. But in this type of research setting, especially if you’re trying to gauge likely purchase, asking people what they plan to do is often not helpful. Yes, there are ways to minimise this, but when compounded by group think, it’s a tall order.

You only get answers to the questions you ask

To be fair, this is a risk in almost all types of research. But in focus groups there is a real danger because you often get such interesting and potentially useful feedback that you may not realise that you didn’t get a good answer to the most important question. Conversations may get derailed, defused or entirely omitted as you run out of time. Consider the example of a focus group to discuss a new product the company plans to offer. Odds are, the discussion would zoom into product features, price points, potential applications, and so forth. But the most important questions really should be: would anyone actually buy this product and, if so, why? That alone could take up the entire hour/hour and a half of a focus group. This leads to a secondary point, which is that too often focus groups attempt to cover too many topics in one session, which does not give the moderator time to really dig deeply into any one issue.

The results are not statistically representative

Too often people confuse the fact that focus groups provide insight into the needs, thoughts and feelings of a target market with the need for insights that are representative of that market. Let’s clear that up. For any sample – the focus groups participants in our case – to be representative of the underlying population, it has to be matched on all attributes that are expected to be influential on research outcomes. This requires detailed understanding of the underlying population that goes beyond basic demographics. You may also need to know their likes/dislikes, geographical location, level of education, family responsibilities, etc. Then you have to ensure that the proportions of various segments of that underlying population are reflected in the same proportions within your sample. But focus groups tend to have no more than twelve people, which may mean one person per segment. One person’s opinion cannot represent their entire segment. There are some workarounds, like multiple focus groups with different segments, very precise selection criteria, etc. But a word of caution: even if you consider the smallest representative sample size, which is around 300 persons, odds are you’re not talking to anywhere near that many people in your focus groups. Don’t confuse informative with representative. They each have their place.

The bias of compensation and other intangible benefits

There are individuals who simply enjoy participating in research activities and care nothing about the topic you’re investigating. They’re opinionated and revel in opportunities where they can share their points of view. Some people in larger countries even make a living from participating in paid research activities. I remember one participant in one of our focus groups casually debating with me about how much he should be paid, even though he was amongst those that contributed the least and we had to keep pushing him for feedback. Clearly, he wasn’t there because of any deep interest in the topic. It’s like gauging the mood of the population simply from listening to a call-in programme. Not everyone who has a strong opinion will call in, and the loudest people do not always speak for the majority. On the flip side, if you don’t compensate people for taking the time out of their busy schedule to attend your focus group, will anyone come?

 

In short, focus groups remain one of our favourite research tools, but they’re not ideal for every situation. Interested in learning more about how to organise your own focus groups, email us at

AE Impact Story: Understanding Payment Trends

Aim of the Project

In Barbados, consumers can pay for goods and services using cash, debit cards, credit cards, cheques, or direct debits (automated payments) from their bank account or online services that link to their credit/debit cards. Our client wanted to understand why the use of certain payment methods was declining while others were increasing, as some of the popular payment methods were more time consuming and posed security challenges, and it, therefore, was not intuitive why they were so popular.

What we did

The payment market has four major players:

  1. Consumers – they determine which payment methods they prefer to use to conduct their business
  2. Merchants – they determine which payment methods they are going to accept within their companies
  3. Financial institutions – provide the various methods of payments to both consumers and merchants, and therefore partially influence what is available in the market
  4. Payment processing companies – provide and operate the platforms on which the payments are transacted; in Barbados these include both private companies and Government-operated clearinghouses.

Each of these players could be making strategic decisions that influence the use (or non-use) of the available payment methods. Background analysis ruled out the payment processing companies as potential influencers, as they had not changed any of their fees, rules or processes in the time period under investigation. To determine how the other three players could be contributing to the observed trends, we conducted a survey with consumers, a survey with merchants, and stakeholder interviews with financial institutions. The findings of all three exercises were analysed and collated into a summary report that highlighted the main factors that explained the changing use of payment methods. The results were then presented to both our client and some of their key external stakeholders.

Impact of Project

In light of the findings, our client revised their corporate strategy to better encourage the use of the payment methods they preferred, and developed a supporting marketing campaign. Their approach therefore spanned both marketing and product design, and early indicators suggest that their efforts have started to result in the market changes that they desire.

Do you map your customers?

A map of customers on a real-world map, created from data, reveals things as they are and takes some of the guess work out of reaching customers. Industries from healthcare to retail to finance to utilities are using location information about their customers and assets to drive superior customer experience, improve process efficiency and lower risk level. Advancements and innovations in geo-spatial technology are driving a new wave of interest in location solutions. Not only does geo-spatial analysis allow companies to use location data to derive unprecedented levels of understanding of customer’s habits and behavior, they also provide the platforms to deliver beneficial information, direction and other support directly to customers.

The ability to visualize your customer base using geography opens up a level of knowledge and understanding not available through any other method. Some of the most important insights that marketing, development and delivery professionals are trying to capture from the value of location data are:

  • Where are your customers located in relation to your stores, warehouses and other points of contact? Or, alternatively, where should your distribution centres be located to ensure proximity to your ideal customers?
  • Which areas have a greater level of penetration?
  • Are your lapsed customers coming from certain areas?
  • Which areas have a similar profile to your current base (or your best customers)?
  • What’s the fastest, cheapest or safest route to take to deliver your goods to end-users?
  • How are your assets – such as poles, meters, towers and stores – distributed across a geographical area? Is this distribution optimal given your intended target market?
  • Is store performance linked to geographical location?

Managers in a wide variety of fields are coming to understand the competitive advantages that come with the savvy use of location data, and a few examples are noted below.

Identify Opportunities with Radius Maps

Radius maps, also known as buffer maps, are useful when you need to understand your data in relation to its proximity to other features. They are often used as coverage maps to see where you may have gaps or overlap of coverage of your shops, services, and operations. For instance, you may need to be able to visualize how many customers you have within a 10-mile radius of your office locations, or how many customers you could serve in a particular region if you build a new outlet.

Save Time and Costs with Route Maps

Geo-spatial software can take your chosen stops and optimize a route to reach them all. With options for a round trip, different start and end points and all the intermediate points, you can plan your route in minutes. By optimizing your route, you make sure your sales team’s time is spent in the most efficient manner, saving time and money.

 

 

 

Manage Your Sales Territories

Enhance your maps by combining it with additional visualization tools, such as charts. Charts can give viewers an immediate summary of the data on the map. Geo-spatial software can produce various types of charts which can be added to a map, including bar, line, pie, area, and scatter charts.

Competitive advantage analysis

By overlaying certain location information, such as population density, the road network and store location, organizations can analyze and understand their competitive advantages and disadvantages in the market. Geo-spatial software, together with the appropriate data, can help managers visualize the relationship between the location of your competitors, customers (current and potential) and sales.

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more information on how customer maps can provide valuable marketing and strategy insights, contact us at

Sources: Antilles Economics and www.espatial.com