Perception is Reality

Employee Engagement: This is what success looks like.


It’s not always easy to hear what people really think of you. After all, as a manager, you know what needs to be done, so you hope your employees will understand and follow your direction.

The problem is that this approach rarely works. Employees are people too, and how they feel about their manager affects the quality of their work.

The first step in building a culture of employee engagement is understanding how your employees react to your actions. You need to be aware of how they see you because their perception is reality and has a major impact on your business growth.

In our second video as part of the “Power Up Employee Engagement” video series, you’ll hear what these managers did when they learned how their teams saw them. The most common (and surprising) piece of feedback? They needed to listen.

CCRRC Perception is reality

While the managers thought they were on the right track, their employees did not agree. Many team members commented that their managers arrived with their own agenda and seldom asked employees for their ideas or opinions. When they did get a chance to speak with their managers, the teams said they were distracted by their phones the whole time. That said to them that they weren’t important to the manager or the business.

These managers used the feedback to change how they interacted with their direct reports, but it didn’t stop there. In this clip, you’ll see the different ways they engaged with their employees on a more personal level.

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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The Effect of Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement: Acknowledging opportunities for improvement.


Though the council’s decision on which topic to study was close, it came down to just two topics: understanding the impact of technology and building a culture of employee engagement.

When the votes were counted, employee engagement prevailed because it has proven effective as a marketing strategy for the business. Here’s why:

  • As competition for good talent intensifies, ensuring employees feel valued is an important, affordable way to achieve a good reputation in the workplace.
  • Workforce expectations are changing and how people treat each other at work is increasingly vital, particularly to younger employees.
  • When you treat your employees well, they’ll treat the customers well.

Studies across various fields consistently show that positive workplace culture leads to both increased sales and improved profitability, helping grow your business. When your employees know and are reminded of their worth, they perform better. They represent the store more effectively, deliver improved service and bring more of their own ideas and energy to the job.

Sellers assistant team

We have developed a series of videos that will take you through the steps for improving employee engagement in your convenience store. The series is called “Power Up Employee Engagement: A Flash of Light.” In the first video, you’ll see what happened when various district and regional managers from convenience stores across North America learned their actions were hindering employee engagement. You’ll also witness their decision to commit to change.

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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Marketing from the Stars (and Dwarf Planets)

When the New Horizons spacecraft went zipping by the dwarf planet Pluto this month, the stunning photos beamed back to earth weren’t just a product of incredible engineering. Social media played a role too.

NASA officials told Wired magazine that social media is a key part of their plan to keep sharing photos with us interested earthlings and, in fact, many of the first photos actually showed up on Instagram.

Down on earth, that type of planning is worthy of consideration. Today’s array of social media sites afford your company the opportunity to build relationships, share ideas and even post wonderful photos—albeit of food rather than heavenly objects. But like NASA you need a strategy to find your best path.

Insights on how to build and employ your social media strategy can be found in the recent multi-part Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) report called Untangling the Social Web.

It’s available for free downloads at:

Michael Sansolo

Research Direction

Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America

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Next NACS/CCRRC Study Will Focus on Engaging Store-Level Employees

Want to learn how to increase engagement with your store-level associates? The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council is doing a study to help convenience retailers, small and large, create a culture that increases the engagement of their people working in the stores.

There’s a lot of interest in this topic, as retailers are looking for ways to recruit and keep talent such as investing in improving supervisor’s communication skills. Strong employee engagement is now needed for survival in food retailing.

The study will guide convenience retailers that are just beginning to focus on employee engagement, as well as those who’ve made progress but don’t want to miss any good ideas.

It will cover:

  1. Getting the basics right – Understanding what motivates employees in convenience retail and translating these practices into useful tools.
  2. Pushing the envelope – Looking beyond the basics to identify best practices used by companies outside of convenience retail.
  3. Changing the game – Evaluating advanced ideas like employee stock ownership plans and profit sharing.

If this is important to your business, you can follow conversations about this study on our blog or LinkedIn group, and post your questions and concerns to help inform the study. Your experience, good or bad, will provide the Council with a better foundation for the study.  To get engaged, email me at to tell me about your experience or set up a call if you’d like to talk about it.

Bill Bishop

Research Director

NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council

Founder, Willard Bishop LLC and Chief Architect BrickMeetsClick

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Using the Social Web to Smooth A Difficult Conversation

Change is never easy, so when the Golub Corp. in New York announced it was changing the banner on its Price Chopper stores to Market 32, company CEO Jerry Golub knew there would be chatter.

But Golub, a member of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council that just completed work on an eight-part study of how business can use social media, knew from his council and company experience that he has new tools to connect with shoppers. And he used them.

Golub recently conducted a town hall meeting on Facebook to address questions from shoppers and company associates about the name change. It wasn’t an easy decision to address the public that way. Certainly there was no precedent and social media sites can invite an incredible range of issues. Yet afterwards Golub said it proved a great move.

The traditional media—newspaper, television and radio—in Golub’s operating area did a good job covering the story, he says. However, social media took things to a new level. By following the chatter on social media the company had a good handle on how the news was being received.

“This medium is a way for us to tap into how people are feeling in a way we could never do 15 years ago. Back then the conversation would have been occurring at dinner tables. With social media we could identify the misconceptions directly and clarify any issues. We were able to reach a lot of people in a very short time.”

The open forum allowed him to address many issues, even some difficult ones. “If you are comfortable with your message and how you are going to deliver it, the social web is a great medium.”

Golub says his internal team did a great job getting the company quickly engaged in social media, yet he personally felt his time on the Council and the study itself improved his understanding of the issues involved in social media.

“Untangling the Social Web,” the study Golub’s council recently completed, is available for free download at

Michael Sansolo

Research Director, CCRRC North America

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Harnessing the Power of Social Media

By Michael Sansolo

When the Produce Marketing Association wants to communicate with its members it turns to the social web. Karl Smith, PMA’s senior vice president for Member Value, says there’s a simple reason for that.

“Social is where the members are. That’s where the conversations are taking place. If you want to be an influencer you need to be there,” he says.

Although PMA uses social media differently than the organization’s retailer and supplier members, the goals are virtually the same for talking to businesses or the ultimate consumer. For instance, at PMA’s recent Fresh Summit, attendees used Twitter to interact with the organization. They shared photos and other information they needed, turning the social web into a type of customer relationship management tool. “The amount of activity was just immense,” he says.

Smith has a long-term understanding of social media. He says he’s been working on social media issues since MySpace was an important consideration. He’s watched the evolution of the medium and its incredible growth through Facebook, Twitter and more. That helps him hold a good perspective on what does and doesn’t work in this new space.

“Social media isn’t simple. People want it to be simple, but it isn’t,” he says. “Some of this isn’t as concrete as a single number like Return on Investment. What we are trying to do is engage. This means that people are interacting with the content we put out on social.

“Now we need to ask: Did they comment on it or share it? On Twitter did they re-tweet or mark it as a favorite? In short, did we start a conversation?”

Smith says, “Untangling the Social Web,” the new eight-part study of the social web does a terrific job explaining the realities and opportunities of this new medium. “The study isn’t a sales job; it is a peer discussion. There’s a lot of authenticity to this report. I think we will be referring back to this document down the road. It can help us know if we are still on track or need correction.”

All 8 Parts of Untangling the Social Web may be downloaded at Michael Sansolo is the Research Director of the North American Council.

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Savings and Convenience Dominate the Future

If you are surprised that the social web impacts food-buying behaviors, here’s a word of caution: you haven’t seen anything yet.

Over the next five years consumers hope the social web will become an even more powerful tool, creating easier shopping trips with more paths to savings. That’s one of many findings in Untangling the Social Web, the newest study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America.

More than 20 percent of shoppers say they expect to be able to buy products through social media sites in the near future. A similar percentage of shoppers anticipate that store-specific apps will simplify trip planning and store navigation.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web examines how shoppers currently use the social web and what they expect from companies. Filled with must-read insights, the study may be downloaded for free at

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America

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A New Marketing Paradigm

Success on the social web requires personnel with skill sets that fit the emerging medium. That’s a vital lesson for companies looking to improve their connections with shoppers through the social web.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the new study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, explores how associates on the front lines of the social web view their company efforts. Their insights closely matched feelings expressed by shoppers.

Front-line employees say there is a powerful mix of skills needed as companies increasingly rely on social media marketing. Ideal associates require so-called soft skills that make them naturally good in social settings. These traits help them interact with colleagues, as well as connect with customers who use the social web differently than traditional ads.

More than ever, this new medium values brand management because social strategy should be aligned with business objectives.

Insights like these can be found throughout Untangling the Social Web, which can be downloaded for free at

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America

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Planning a Successful Social Web Future

Given the stunningly quick growth of the social web, companies are wise to examine emerging networks and their adoption by various shopper groups.

Although Facebook is overwhelmingly the most used site among shoppers on the social web, younger patrons are tapping into many newer platforms. Top among these are Instagram, Vine, SnapChat and Tumblr — all of which put a premium on quick communication and visuals.

The Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America probed how customers currently use and plan to use the social web in the near future. These findings are published in Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, a new study that can be downloaded for free at

Those surveyed report using sites like Tumblr and Instagram and claim they wield significant influence on their buying decisions. And while Vine and SnapChat only have a small percentage of users today, they may have the greatest influence over the next five years.

The message for companies is clear: if you want to communicate with the shoppers of tomorrow you’ll need strategies that engage a wider range of social networks.

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America

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A Generation Gap on Social Access

Considering the short history of the social web, it’s hard to remember the enormous change announced just eight years ago. That’s when Facebook stopped being available exclusively to users with a .edu e-mail address.

With that obstacle removed parents and grandparents surged into the cyberspace frequented by college-aged students and alums. And although the barrier is down, companies need to keep in mind that the generations reach the social web in very different ways.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web, the new study from the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America, clearly identifies a wide disparity of methods used to access the social web.

For example, shoppers over the age of 45 are most likely to access the social web through a computer. They use laptops or desktops around 67 percent of the time and mobile phones about one third as often. That contrasts sharply with 18-24 year olds who use computers and smartphones equally.

Businesses should consider these usage patterns when designing visuals and planning the best way to convey messages via social media.

Part 8 of Untangling the Social Web may be downloaded for free at

Michael Sansolo
Research Director
Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America

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