Flextime Revolution: Prudential’s Changes

Making Hay on the Trade Show Floor

Tracking Your

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Barbara Fox and Melinda Sherwood were published

in U.S. 1 Newspaper on November 3, 1999. All

rights reserved.

Survival Guide

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Flextime Revolution: Prudential’s Changes

Clockwatchers are rare at the Prudential and the reason

is simple: more employees now enjoy the privilege of setting their

own schedules, working from home, or taking advantage of some of the

company’s other pro-family arrangements. Better work has been one

outcome, but Prudential has another ace in the hole: since the company

earned Working Mother magazine’s recognition as one of the "Top

10 Best Companies to Work For" in 1999, it also has greater

leverage

in a tough job market. "There’s a war for talent," says

Debbie

Gingher, vice president for policy and strategy and the woman who

helped the company realize its flexible work policies. "There

are more jobs then there are talented employees, so in order to

attract

talent, you have to offer choice and different ways of doing

things."

Gingher shares her expertise with the Rutgers Center for Women and

Work on Thursday, November 4, at 5 p.m. at the Ruth Dill Johnson

Crockett

Building at 162 Ryders Lane in New Brunswick. Dana Friedman,

senior vice president of Bright Horizons Family Solutions (the

consulting

firm that is working with Prudential to open two "back-up"

daycare centers for employees), and a columnist for Working Mother

magazine, joins her. The program is free. Call 732-932-1463.

Gingher, who holds a BS in mathematics and education from SUNY

Oneonta,

Class of 1976, started in Prudential’s accounting office and has moved

in and out of human resource positions for 20 years. When CEO Art

Ryan left Chase to join Prudential in 1997, the company beefed up

hiring in operations and call centers, and senior management set out

to create a new human resource strategy to fit. "Part of my charge

was to figure out what makes sense in the new world of corporate

America,"

says Gingher.

A microcosm of that new America, Prudential is seeing an increasing

number of Generation X-ers, working mothers, and single mothers in

the workplace. An office-wide E-mail survey revealed to Gingher that

48 percent of Prudential’s employees are female, 60 percent are under

the age of 35, and many are raising children.

With that information, Gingher went to senior management to make a

case for flexible schedules, arguing that it would improve retention

rates and cut turnover. There was some initial skepticism. "Where

the biggest resistance comes is from traditional managers using the

command and control approach," she says. "Traditional mangers

want to feel and see their employees so telecommuting didn’t sit well

with them." But when management added up the numbers, flex-time

made sense. When retention rates and morale rise, says Gingher,

"that

translates into dollars. Every time you lose a high skilled employee,

take their compensation and multiply it by 1.5, and that’s what you

spend replacing them. That’s a pretty big business case."

The official company policy on flex-time is don’t ask, don’t tell

— the "reason-blind" approach. A Prudential employee

doesn’t

need to divulge personal information to justify modifying his or her

schedule. "We don’t really care what your personal reasons are

for wanting to work different, our concern is how you can accomplish

your business objectives with excellence in a different way,"

says Gingher. That policy, she explains, takes the pressure off

managers

who are often in an awkward position deciding who should have

flex-time

and who shouldn’t. Now the issue isn’t how many kids a person has,

but how you perform. Employees submit a request form stating the

desired

work arrangement and how they will be effective in that arrangement,

and then managers decide whether it works for the department.

"Fairness is not sameness," says Gingher. "Not every

employee

is going to get the same work-flex. If you’re a customer service

representative,

for example, it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to be able to

work at home because customers are going to want to speak to you

whenever

they want. But if you’re a technologist, maybe you can. You have to

work through how it affects other customers."

Don’t expect to break down the 9 to 5 institution overnight, says

Gingher, who offers these suggestions:

Study employees . Don’t assume. Conduct surveys to find

out who your employees are and what they want. Gingher discovered,

to her surprise, that some Prudential employees preferred services

like back-up daycare, take-home dinners, or dry-cleaning over flexible

schedules.

Set-up a pilot program first . "My initial approach

was an all or nothing approach," recalls Gingher. But when

management

insisted on a trial run instead, the company was able to learn more

about how to train managers and identify problems.

Treat each department individually . This is the

"fairness

is not sameness" principle. Not every job can be done from home.

Build a business case . The strongest argument for allowing

employees to set their own schedules is to keep morale high and keep

the best workers in the company. If turnover rate is low, retention

rate high, that’s a good indication that you don’t need to implement

a new policy.

For Prudential, on the other hand, "it was the right thing

to do," says Gingher. "We had an unbelievable number of

comments

from telecommuters saying `I’m more productive now because I’m not

sitting in traffic everyday.’"

— Melinda Sherwood

Top Of Page
Making Hay on the Trade Show Floor

Trade shows have been around since forever, and they

have proliferated beyond belief. Brian Simons of EXM says there

are 15,000 registered trade conferences, fairs and expos, covering

everything from technology to pharmaceuticals to fashion to home

supply

to fertilizer. "For every conceivable product that is sold, not

necessarily to the consumer, there is a trade fair of some sort that

is developed around it," says Simons.

Simons speaks on "How to Exhibit Successfully: Making Trade Show

Participation Painless and Profitable," on Tuesday, November 9,

at 6 p.m. at the Newark Airport Marriott, for the Business Marketing

Association. He will cover strategy for participation, upfront

budgeting,

and tracking return on investment. Cost: $30. Call 609-409-5601.

A marketing communications major at Ohio University, Class of 1983,

Simons partnered with Bob Lasser, former director of sales for

Prodigy, to form EXM, a two-year-old trade show management and event

marketing agency. He focuses on young companies that do not have

internal

trade show resource — or larger companies that need assistance

executing trade show programs. Clients tend to be in broadcasting,

pharmaceuticals, or other high tech fields.

"Many clients are small companies with a need to deliver their

message," says Simons. "The good news is, that there is a

show every week. The bad news is, that for some clients we would love

to have a year’s notice, but in many cases we get three weeks."

The tasks: to develop the strategy and objectives (select the show,

environment or education fair), design and make the exhibit properties

(multi-media presentations), procure the fixtures, and be on site

to manage the environment. In the best case scenario, the client has

an ad agency or PR firm to come up with the objectives and do the

design and/or PR, and EXM acts as an executive producer for the actual

exhibit.

Trade shows are expensive, says Simons, but attendance is growing

and the number of shows is growing, so this is suddenly becoming a

marketing medium competitive with radio and television. Attendance

has grown from 7 to 15 percent over last year, he says, based on

information

released by companies producing the shows. At the Internet World Show

in New York last month, produced by Penton Media, the numbers of

registered

attendees went up 20 percent.

Who were these visitors? Corporate representatives looking for

technology,

investors looking for the next Amazon.com, and traditional business

people who know that, in order to be competitive they have to use

the Internet. But they were visitors, not necessarily buyers.

So define your objectives before you decide on your budget. To

increase

brand awareness, for instance, is a waste of money, Simons believes.

A more valid objective is to engage the media, a real possibility

for a small company, because on the trade show floor the playing field

is fairly even. Another valid objective is to try to get that one

important client. Particularly at a medical show, a client might latch

onto one account that could trade into millions of dollars of revenue.

Simons’ advice:

Don’t try to say too much . Some companies want to

represent

every product, but "more is not necessarily the merrier. The

messages

get confused."

Don’t assume that anyone who works in an office can work

on a floor. "Most business people are not used to having just

three to five seconds to engage a person on a show floor. They like

the competitiveness of being in the same room as their competition,

but it’s a very concentrated and high intensity sales

opportunity."

Don’t be afraid to measure the return on investment . A

common formula for exhibiting is $150 per square foot, so for a 400

square feet exhibit, a corporation is spending $60,000. "Tie it

back to your product."

Certain clients try to extend the life of their trade show

investment.

Prodigy, for instance, packed up a tractor trailer and visited

retailers

that were planning to distribute their products. It works in the

publishing

industry as well. Prevention Magazine customized a tractor trailer,

and in support of the message that the magazine was to provide, it

toured the United States. "This just reinforced the message that

was on the floor. You do see this type of marketing in the food

industry

— it’s based on the sampling model — they take it not only

to the consumers but to the level of distribution," says Simons.

"Our mission is to realize new tricks — what was done last

year that we can build on for this year, so that you can always be

different," says Simons. "You not only have the competition

to deal with, you have the booth next door — they could be selling

a completely different product, but if you both have magicians it’s

polarizing."

What about those magicians? "In our minds, the arena of

`entertainment’

on the trade show floor can be the most effective or absolutely a

waste of money. It all comes back to how is your message or product

incorporated into the delivery. All too often, it’s a last minute

engagement, it’s not well thought out, positioned, and your message

is not woven into the piece."

"Cable and Wireless used a variation of Cirque du Soleil to

demonstrate

their credibility and capabilities in the marketplaces and they did

an outstanding job because the presentation incorporated the name

and service."

What about hand outs? "We’re not a big fan of handing out piles

of toys. As exhibitors, you are paying to have them created and

delivered,

and unless you qualify who the recipient is, why not give out $5 to

every person. Unless the premium is carefully sewn in, we’d rather

emphasize fulfillment on the back end."

Top Of Page
Tracking Your

Mail Carrier

For years now, private package delivery services have

been lording it over the United States Postal Service by advertising

their "track your package on the web" services. Now the USPS

offers delivery confirmation of priority and standard mail via the

Internet or an 800 number. Mike Donlon of the USPS (E-mail:

mdonlon@email.usps.gov) explains how at a regional training

seminar on Tuesday, November 16, from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the

Trenton

distribution center at 680 Route 130 and Klockner Road in Hamilton.

Cost: $25 including breakfast and lunch. Register by Friday, November

5. Call Jake Truex, acting manager of the business center in

Edison at 732-819-4321 or E-mail: jtruex@email.usps.gov

The keynote will be given by Scott DeMayo, who speaks on "A

Fresh Look at Mailing, Internet Technology, and Helpful Tools for

Mailers." DeMayo, based in Randolph, is a certified

mailing-operations

consultant, webmaster, and president of DeMayo Mail Management and

DMM Web Design & Hosting. He is vice president of operations for New

Jersey Mail Systems Management Association; he created the official

web site of National Postal Forum and others including

http://www.mailingstuff.com

Participants can choose among several workshops:

Grow your business with ad mail , as expanded by the

Internet,

taught by Frank Cooper and Ralph Moccio, both of USPS.

Designing barcoded mail . Rick D’Angelo, a USPS

design

analyst, will show how to qualify for discounts and low rates.

Exploring the USPS web site taught by DeMayo and

Camille

Coogan of USPS. Use the website at http://www.usps.gov to

generate automated postage statements, get online/real time

information,

and perform rate comparisons.

Improve cash flow with CAPS and MAIL.dat taught by Bob

Spadaro of EquiServe and Bob Wszolek of USPS. CAPS is the

electronic funds transfer system that eliminates paper checks.

MAIL.dat

is an industry-oriented database that helps track volume, weight,

container usage, and distribution patterns.

Drop ship and consolidator parcel mailing , an "out

of the box" solution offered by John Pampani and Pete

Furka both of USPS.

Donlon will explain how your business can get delivery

confirmation

free for priority mail, and 25 cents for a parcel that weighs at least

one pound.

Delivery confirmation is for standard parcels and priority parcels

or envelopes. You can get it at the post office or electronically.

Businesses that file reports electronically can track priority mail

at no charge, and standard parcels cost 25 cents under this system.

With your Dun & Bradstreet number, available free on the Internet,

you register with the postal service and set up a procedure so you

can build a file and electronically send it.

You send a file on the day’s mail electronically. You also include

a copy of a similar document, complete with your bar code, when your

carrier picks up the mail. When the post office receives your mail

it scans the barcode on the document you provide. Both files meet.

Now the postal service knows that these files are in the system.

When your parcel is delivered, the postal worker scans its number

into the system; more than 300,000 hand-held scanners are in

operation.

This shows where the parcel was delivered and at what time. You can

check by tollfree telephone to see if your parcel has been delivered

or track it on the website. No insurance is included in this fee,

and if you send your parcel insured you do not need the delivery

confirmation.

At the post office window, you get the same service at slightly higher

cost, 35 cents for priority packages and 60 cents for standard parcel

post (packages more than 16 ounces sent at parcel rates). You receive

a numbered receipt.

"I didn’t get your bill . . . your letter . . . your notice. The

post office must be slow." How many times have you heard that

and not been able to refute it? Now you can.


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