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Lisa Hannum: “How to Create a Fantastic Work Culture”

Providing people with rich growth and development opportunities is critical to engagement, satisfaction and retention. Employees want to work in roles where their strengths are valued, and where they receive substantive development and growth opportunities. Managers should make job expectations clear, deliver regular, honest feedback, and provide clear development and advancement paths for every employee. […]

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Providing people with rich growth and development opportunities is critical to engagement, satisfaction and retention. Employees want to work in roles where their strengths are valued, and where they receive substantive development and growth opportunities. Managers should make job expectations clear, deliver regular, honest feedback, and provide clear development and advancement paths for every employee. I can tell you that having a growth mindset is a core value at Beehive. One of the ways we bring that value to life is by prioritizing professional and personal growth for every employee. We know that when people grow, businesses grow. And when businesses grow, we all do better.


As a part of my series about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Hannum.

Lisa Hannum is the founder and CEO of Beehive Strategic Communication. She is a purpose-driven leader who believes in the power of communication to build better businesses for a better world. Lisa has more than 30 years of experience in brand positioning, change management, culture transformation, crisis and issues management, marketing and public relations. Her clients have included Verizon, 3M, University of Minnesota Health, Beaumont Health and Habitat for Humanity. Lisa frequently speaks and writes on the business value of positive workplace cultures. Most recently, she spoke at the 2019 national Corporate Health & Wellness Summit on Innovative Strategies to Build a Healthy Workforce & Current Trends in Well-Being. She also was a presenter at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management Women’s Leadership Conference on the topic of Strong Workplace Cultures as Growth Drivers.

Beehive Strategic Communication is an award-winning strategic communication firm rooted in purpose and driven by values. The firm has received dozens of awards recognizing its people-centered practices and workplace environment. In 2018, Beehive earned B Corporation certification from B Lab, a non-profit organization that serves a global movement of people using business as a force for good. Beehive was a 2018 recipient of the national Psychologically Healthy Workplace Honors (PHWH).


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Dr. Ruth Thompson put me on this career path. She was my freshman college English professor and was the first person to tell me I was a gifted writer and speaker. She walked me over to the journalism department and that was that. A testament to the power of engaged teachers and the influence they have on young minds.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

It’s all been interesting. I’ve worked with famous people and been in the middle of some terrible crisis situations, but these aren’t the events that really stick with me over time. It’s the connections we make — to people, brands, communities — and the knowledge that our work is creating better businesses and a better world. One day at a time.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Beehive works deeply in health care, an industry going through significant transformation. We’re working with an 80-year-old brand that’s committed to evolving from a health plan to a health company focused on the well-being of two million plan members and its own employees. Health is the new wealth, and this brand is dedicating itself to supporting people to be well and stay well. That’s inspiring.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

It’s a new day for organizations when it comes to creating workplace cultures where employees are engaged and thriving — because what engaged employees in the past doesn’t engage them today. The numbers tell us many companies clearly aren’t keeping pace with employees’ rising expectations of their workplaces. This shift has occurred over time and is largely driven by the millennial workforce, data-driven customization, and our 24/7 “on-demand” world — but these changes aren’t going away and employers have to adapt.

Today’s employees expect more — more development opportunities, more coaching, more collaboration, more authenticity and transparency, more flexibility, a deeper sense of purpose and meaning — and they are ready to leave if they aren’t getting it. Gallup’s 2018 State of the American Workplace tells us more than half of employees are searching for new jobs or watching job openings and 91% of employees say the last time they changed jobs, they left companies to do so (as in they were actively employed). Actively disengaged employees are almost twice as likely as engaged employees to seek new jobs.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

The data is clear on the direct and destructive affect disengaged employees have on organizational productivity, profitability, sales, customer satisfaction and turnover. Gallup’s poll tells us highly engaged business units achieve 59% lower turnover and experience 21% greater profitability. Highly engaged employees are more likely to stay with their organizations, contribute to higher levels of productivity, feel more connected to an organization’s purpose and contribute to overall profitability. McLean & Company found disengaged employees cost the American economy up to $350 billion per year due to lost productivity.

This data doesn’t explicitly factor in well-being, which is foundational to a strong, energized culture. It’s a growing talent attraction strategy for many organizations, not to mention it’s the right thing to do. Through our Be Well wellness program, Beehive knows firsthand that employees who are supported in caring for themselves — physically, mentally, socially and financially — perform at higher levels and are more engaged and loyal. Consider our 2018 business results: Beehive’s employee retention rate was 95.75%. Our NPS score was a world-class +75 and our eNPS (employee Net Promoter) score was +88. Beehive’s annual employee engagement score was 97.5% positive. And less than 1% of our team’s PTO was used for illness. Our revenue has averaged about 12% growth over the last five years.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

It is more critical than ever for organizations to engage with employees in new ways through compelling, authentic workplace cultures. Research and practical experience tell us these five things are most important in creating positive workplace cultures, attracting and retaining talent and improving business outcomes: 1) growth and development opportunities; 2) flexibility and work-life balance; 3) purpose and connection; 4) appreciation and respect; and 5) competitive salary and benefits.

Growth and development opportunities — Providing people with rich growth and development opportunities is critical to engagement, satisfaction and retention. Employees want to work in roles where their strengths are valued, and where they receive substantive development and growth opportunities. Managers should make job expectations clear, deliver regular, honest feedback, and provide clear development and advancement paths for every employee. I can tell you that having a growth mindset is a core value at Beehive. One of the ways we bring that value to life is by prioritizing professional and personal growth for every employee. We know that when people grow, businesses grow. And when businesses grow, we all do better.

Flexibility and work-life balance— Gallup (we like their huge data set) tells us 53% of employees say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is “very important” to them. And we know flexible scheduling and work-from-home options are important factors when employees are job-searching. At Beehive, we offer employees the flexibility to work where and when it makes sense for their clients, their teams and their lives, allowing them to balance life and work as it ever-changes. To support this flexibility and keep everyone connected, we provide employees with laptops, tablets and Wi-Fi mobile hotspots. We’re also open to negotiating varied start-stop times, reduced schedules and work-from-home schedules to accommodate personal needs like long commutes, inclement weather, childcare coverage and more.

Purpose and connection — The connection employees feel to their organization’s purpose and values and their connections to peers and managers are more important than ever in the workplace. Millennial employees especially want their work to have purpose and meaning, and they expect their employers to be aligned with their values and beliefs. Strong connections to purpose, communities and friendships at work boost productivity, inspire employees passionate about their work and make them less likely to leave. Beehive is living our own purpose more fully through becoming a Certified B Corp, engaging with our local communities and supporting women in business. We support organizations serving women and children in our community through financial contributions and by volunteering our time and talents. In 2018 alone, our small team collectively volunteered 965 hours of our time to community organizations

Appreciation and respect— Human Resource Executive magazine say 79% of people who quit their jobs cite lack of appreciation as the main reason. And we know when employees feel appreciated and recognized for their valuable contributions, they are more connected to the company’s purpose, more productive and overall more engaged. Beyond being the right and human thing to do and the clear business value, appreciation and gratitude increase employee’s overall wellness and lessens stress. Beehive expresses recognition and appreciation in ways both big and small like: Nominating an employee each week for demonstrating a Beehive value; using our Gratitude Jar to share appreciation and gratitude for each other; celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, milestones, everyday wins and big wins with gifts, flowers or written notes of thanks; to spot bonuses — and beyond.

Competitive salary and benefits— Maintaining a market-competitive compensation package is essential to attracting and retaining top talent. Organizations need to get serious about benchmarking compensation and benefits against their operating markets/industry at least every other year to confidently attract and retain top talent in a competitive market. They should also recognize that while salary is important to employees, it’s only one element of an employee’s employment decision. A great offer should include competitive pay and benefits that are meaningful to employees at every stage in their careers and lives. For example, young professionals just starting their careers are more likely to care about compensation, purpose and advancement opportunities. More experienced employees may care more about health care benefits, 401K packages and work-life balance as they balance careers and kids. Beehive offers packages that are compelling and flexible to varying needs and priorities of our employees.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

The train has already left the station when it comes to changing workplace cultures, with employees — especially Millennials — in the driver’s seat. Society at large and organizations, in particular, must look critically at their existing workplace cultures and the role work plays in their employees lives. Executive leaders need to dive into the marketplace research, listen to employee input and create a future vision for their workplace cultures. Everything about how, why and where people work is shifting. The decision for organizations isn’t whether to evolve their cultures. The decision lies in how quickly, strategically and authentically they will evolve their cultures to meet rising expectations.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I start every day with meditation. It’s my well-being touchstone. My intention every day is to be fully present for our team and our clients as a conscious, heart-centered, inspiring leader. I know I am most effective when I make decisions and communicate using my head and my heart. I’m actively working on listening more than I talk. I ask a lot of questions and listen closely to learn and understand. I’m transparent when it comes to communicating decisions, giving people context to understand and appreciate why decisions are made. I set high and clear expectations for myself and our team because I believe we all have the skill and passion to inspire clients, partners and each other. I also believe there is power in vulnerability, so I’m open and honest about my challenges and mistakes. Through self-awareness, honesty and reflection, I believe we can all learn, grow and achieve greater success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My first boss, Ted Murphy, taught three important lessons that guide me in work and life. First, people won’t meet your expectations — and they don’t have to. Model what you want to inspire. Second, learn something new every day. Every single day. Be open, curious and energized by differences and change. This is where inspiration and creativity come from. Third, do you best and always assume others are doing their best. Our “best” changes day-to-day and over time. Give yourself and others grace. Ted passed away in 2018, and I will be forever grateful for the time and patience he invested to help me mature professionally and personally.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am a strong advocate for women in leadership and a champion for positive work environments. I help lead the PR Council’s SHEquality Minnesota project and I’m a member of the Minnesota chapter of Ellevate Network. I am a strong supporter of Women Winning — a multi-partisan organization that has raised millions of dollars and supported thousands of women candidates. I also love animals and have been a board member for the Animal Humane Society since 2017.

My agency helps make the world a better place through financial contributions to organizations serving women and children in our community and beyond, most recently: Animal Humane Society, Pollen, Second Stork and Women’s Advocates. We are an annual supporter of International Women’s Day. Beehive has also been a supporter and advocate for the BrandLab for the last three years. The BrandLab’s mission is to change the face and voice of the marketing industry by introducing, guiding and preparing students with diverse ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds for careers in marketing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I focus on being conscious and present in every interaction with another person or group of people. Phone down, eyes up. Ears, mind and heart open. It’s a good habit for anyone to practice. It is an essential skill for leaders. The greatest gift you can give others is the knowledge that you see them, you hear them and they matter. (That last sentiment is courtesy of Oprah Winfrey, one of the most powerful communicators of our time.)

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A workplace meditation movement. Beehive has a dedicated meditation room and one of our Be Well daily practices is mindfulness. We provide education and tools to support our team in spending time every day to be still and breathe. I’m a dedicated daily meditator. It’s the foundational practice that helps me access my best insights, creativity and positivity. It gives me focus and clarity to lead through the most challenging times.

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