Two Program Managers Talk to the WashingtonExec MARCOM Committee about Frontline Engagement

WashingtonExec MARCOM Committee

Last week, WashingtonExec hosted its latest MARCOM Committee dinner with top Marketing and Communications executives from area government contracting firms. The event “Marketing Communications Lessons from the Frontline: Setting up the Right Offense and Defense to Create a Winning Season” included two local program managers to serve as off-the-record guest speakers. This private event was sponsored by Sotera Defense Solutions.

The guest speakers highlighted the importance and vital influence a program manager can have regarding employee engagement, customer engagement, as well as branding within the company. “The most important person in your company is your program manager, in terms of engagement” and “once you have the buy-in of your program managers and key management personnel, you are golden and will have no problem in getting other employees to support your initiative,” noted one speaker.

Simple suggestions, such as company branding through lanyards and fleeces (SCIFs are often cold), and that email remains to be the most effective internal form of communication, were naturally discussed. Both speakers agreed that “the age of the webinar is dead,” since most employees on a client site won’t want to take away from their billable hours or be seen not doing client –designated work.

Having one type of employee engagement once a quarter was seen as a reasonable and acceptable goal for a small to mid-size contractor, and that employee engagement should at all times make the program manager’s role easier, not harder. “Being on a client site is exhausting, so when you do receive updates from corporate, you don’t care about the information, unless it benefits you,” said one speaker.

“Empowering Program Managers with the right tools, messages and support to engage employees can be very powerful and can have a significant impact on employee retention and customer satisfaction,” said Andrew Bryden, vice president of Marketing and Communications at Sotera Defense Solutions.

In regards to cultivating, maintaining and growing company leaders, not just managers, the group agreed on a few key points. One, toolkits or short handbooks that are readily available to program managers at all times are critical. Two, it is the company’s job to educate new project managers on how to manage employees. More often than not, an employee has been promoted to the manager position due to their technical literacy and past individual performance, and the promotion might very well be the first time a manager has been given a staff to lead. There is a great need for leadership at the management level, noted one MARCOM professional. Three, the company must also develop and broadcast sustainable career paths for those who do not want to manage people or should continue to contribute to the company in other vital ways. In regards to career advancement, “don’t make it about how many people you mange,” one speaker said.

The dinner ended with a general consensus that developing systematic, flexible, routine and company-wide employee engagement programs are the best tactic to empower a program manager and their team to actively engage with the company and ultimately stay with the organization for years to come.

“When companies successfully engage, inspire and support employees at the frontline, the results can translate into a highly charged, and more importantly, highly engaged workforce,” said Decision Sciences International Corporation Chief Communications Officer Sheila S. Blackwell.  “The more engaged an employee is to their company, the greater the company benefits from increased productivity, lower attrition and better results, a must-have in today’s rigorous market environment. The guest speakers were very insightful on ways that Marcom professionals can turbo charge  employees at the frontline.”

The 2013 WashingtonExec MARCOM Committee Leaders are Alan Hill (Serco), Sheila Blackwell (Decision Sciences) and Eileen Cassidy Rivera (New Editions Consulting). Read about our past MARCOM Committee dinners here and here.

Shiela Blackwell (Decision Sciences), Andrew Bryden (Sotera), Eileen Cassidy Rivera (New Editions Consulting), Alan Hill (Serco)

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