The Measure of Success

RulerIf you’re a senior sales executive thinking about your next annual meeting, take a cue from consumer goods marketers. Survey your market BEFORE launching that big campaign. Not only can you better assess its impact, you’ll be in a position to actually deliver the impact you’re seeking!

With increasing economic pressure on sales organizations and unparalleled scrutiny of all major expenses, your annual sales meeting must deliver an impact. Such events, which for large organizations run into seven figures, simply have to account for themselves. Senior management expects a positive return on investments of this magnitude (as do shareholders). But how do you really know if you’re affecting the things that matter?

Existing Measures of Success
Traditionally, meetings have been evaluated on a post hoc or after-the-fact, basis. Participants complete simple surveys by providing ratings of various aspects of the meeting. The surveys themselves are designed with the objective of improving next year’s event. But do those surveys really measure success?


The fact is, you get what you measure.

In most cases, that means improving performance on whether your meeting…

  • Started on time
  • Ended on time
  • Featured videos that were well received
  • Provided tasty meals and accommodated special dietary needs
  • Avoided the ever-present threat of ‘technical difficulties’

With any luck, you might even get some feedback on how the speakers performed and whether their PowerPoint slides were understandable …

But will you really know if the meeting was a success?

That depends on your point of view. The meeting professional, who successfully managed hundreds of details, kept ahead of the gremlins and met the needs of everyone from suppliers to senior executives, certainly deserves kudos when the surveys come back positive.

Solid execution means the agenda went according to plan. An absence of glitches, from this perspective, means distractions were prevented—which allowed those in attendance to focus on your key messages.

So yes, from the planner’s perspective, survey results documenting a ‘smoothly run’ meeting, indicate a successful outcome!

But from other perspectives, the picture’s not so clear. Despite offering high marks on the execution of the meeting, it’s not uncommon to hear departing executives ask that most damning of questions:  “Tell me again, why we do this every year?”

And from your perspective, come even more nagging questions. “What’s the relationship between what we measured and my objectives? Were my objectives met? Is there greater alignment or increased commitment to the organization? What’s actually different in my sales force?”

You’ve got to know where they stand BEFORE the meeting
Answering these questions depends on gaining an understanding of your audience prior to the meeting. There is no way to judge the impact of a meeting without obtaining a baseline assessment of the whatever you’re trying to change. Imagine a doctor designing a cholesterol reduction program without taking a current read on the patient’s lipid levels. Or a consumer goods marketer preparing a major ad campaign without measuring awareness before the launch.

Evaluation Plus Diagnostics
While it does involve some additional work, conducting both a pre- and a post-meeting survey can pay off in powerful benefits that significantly increase your odds of success.

First, as noted above, the pre-meeting survey provides a baseline for comparison with post-meeting data. This strengthens the evaluation methodology. At the same time, it focuses the inquiry on the real purpose of the meeting – increasing the likelihood of reaching your business objectives. After all, it’s not about whether the lights wouldn’t dim; it’s about whether you’ve  motivated your sales team to produce better results.

A second benefit of the approach, even more important than measuring the meeting’s impact, is understanding how to achieve a powerful impact in the first place. A pre-meeting survey yields more than just a baseline to compare against. It provides a set of diagnostic tools as well. By understanding the emotional and attitudinal context early in the planning stages, the meeting’s content and agenda can be fine tuned to optimize its overall impact.

Finally, adopting the pre-post surveying method underscores the point that an annual meeting is but a single point in a continuous optimization process. The dual measurement approach provides a robust platform for developing field communications programs designed to pinpoint specific sales attitudes long after the meeting has passed.

A Continuous Process



Though the annual meeting is the centerpiece of field communications, for high performance organizations, it is one of many tactical programs designed to positively impact the attitudes, behavior and performance of  a sales force.


Feelings Beget Attitudes Beget Behaviors
But what should you measure?

Take a moment to look back at the chart on typical meeting objectives. Sound familiar? Underlying each of these generic objectives is an agenda of change – changing attitudes that result in changing behaviors (resulting in changing business results.

To accomplish this change, you have to start with a rich understanding of how your people feel about the coming year and what their attitudes are with respect to a broad array of factors relating to individual and organizational success.

The Five Factors
Our work, in developing the eMotivateSM communication development process, has focused on 5 key factors that are strongly tied to critical measures of success. e.g., sales performance, productivity and intent to remain with the organization.

The Five Factors, which form the basis of the our evaluation instrument include:

  1. Perceived Organizational Support
  2. Tactical & Strategic Alignment
  3. Organizational Commitment
  4. Emotional Outlook
  5. Expected Success

Each is measured using a battery of standard items and has a rich tradition in both the academic and business literature. (Searching Google, for example, produces more than 44,000 references for ‘Perceived Organizational Support’)

Google indexes more than 44,000 pages for ‘Perceived Organizational Support’



So what do each of these Scores measure and how do they address your questions about the upcoming meeting?

Let’s look at each, in turn.

Perceived Organizational Support (POS)
Do your employees feel cared for by their organization?

Organizations worry about the degree to which individuals accept corporate goals and objectives. Perceived Organizational Support (POS) turns that notion on its head and measures the extent to which employees perceive a caring and committed organization. In short, the factor measures whether my organization actually values my contribution?

The battery of attitudes used to create the POS score is both broad-based and well tested. It provides a powerful diagnostic tool for examining differences between sub- groups of your sales team.

Tactical & Strategic Alignment (TSA)
Are your employees in general alignment with your objectives?

One of the primary objectives of nearly every annual meeting we’ve seen is to achieve a higher level of alignment throughout the organization. According to Jack J. Phillips, et al. of Meeting Professionals International, CEO’s now expect their meetings to be more “strategic, leverageable and linked to business goals.” The foundational requirement for this is an employee group that shares a common understanding of the corporate direction and is provided the motivation and tools to achieve it.

Our eMotivate score is intended to get a read on how employees feel today about the organization’s strategy – and whether or not they have the knowledge and tools to achieve those strategic objectives.

It’s all too common to find groups of employees who recognize that a strategy may be in the best interest of the organization but who do not clearly see their role in pursuing that strategy. The Strategic Alignment sub-score is designed to detect such.

Studies have shown that, as with Percieved Organizational Support, measures of Tactical and Strategic Alignment are related to Intent to Remain with an organization – the more alignment your sales force reports, the more likely they are to stay with the organization.

Organizational Commitment
Are your employees committed to your Company and your Industry?

Closely related to the factors above is whether your employees feel strongly enough about your company and its industry to remain loyal in the face trying times or outside opportunities.

A strong sense of commitment translates to employees who work harder to hear what management has to ask of them and to getting it right.  Conversely, those with little sense of commitment are more likely to ‘discount’ your communications efforts and to exhibit a lack of trust. Both of which tend to result in declining performance.

Emotional Outlook
As your employees think about the coming year, what emotions do they feel? How do these emotions relate to your challenges to motivate them and to prepare them for what’s ahead?

Just as with personal relationships, emotions play an essential role in shaping an employee’s ability to receive and process information. Acting like polarizing lenses, emotions tend to filter or transmit specific communications.

We’ve all heard the expression “seeing the world through rose colored glasses’. Well, that’s just the effect that positive emotions have on your efforts to motivate them. On the other hand, negative emotions can be so strong as to virtually block out everything you’re trying to say.

We find striking differences between the emotional profiles of employees ready to leave an organization, and those most likely to stay. Understanding these differences  provides the basis for more effective communications. This holds true, whether you’re trying to optimize a $4 million dollar annual event or the next installment in your field communications program.

What filters are your field people wearing?
The table shows the emotional profiles of two groups of field sales reps.  In the first column are those most likely to leave the company. On the right are the scores of the more committed group.

What messages will each take away from your next meeting?


Expected Success
Do your employees expect to win? Do they expect your company to win in the marketplace?

Your employees’ beliefs about their ability to meet or exceed their own targets are related to—but distinct from—their beliefs about the organization’s ability to achieve its financial goals.

Will there be a steady stream of new products that will keep me ahead of my targets?

Will the Company’s financial success translate to my own personal success?

Questions of this nature must be addressed if you want your organization to perform at its highest potential.

Designing your Pre-Post survey process
So what should a process look like that is designed to assess the emotions and underlying attitudes in your organization? We think any system should meet the following six criteria.

  1. Yield Strategic Insights — First, the process must provide a platform to capture strategic insights. Your research should use measures that have high correlation with to  your overall objectives.
  2. Diagnostic and Evaluative Power — The process must provide both diagnostic and evaluative components. That is, it must help you understand the current situation as a means to improving your current programs as well as provide input to help assess the meeting for next year.
  3. Quick and Easy for Employees — Third, the system must be painless for employees to implement. That means survey questions that are easy to answer, without the need for guessing an ‘acceptable’ answer. It also means being able to completing the survey in just a few minutes. In today’s high stress environments, even those few minutes for non-selling activity can cause resentment in the field.
  4. Risk-Free Guarantee — Fourth, the process needs to be perceived by employees as risk-free. It must be implemented anonymously. There can be no suspicion that an individual’s answers will ever be used inappropriately by management. Confidentiality goes hand in hand with providing data on emotions and commitment to the organization.
  5. Statistical Validity and Reliability — Of course, the instrument(s) employed must measure what it is they are supposed to measure (validity) and must do so reliably (must achieve the same results if repeated.) This requirement is best addressed by using well documented measurement scales composed of question batteries that have been tested in a variety of settings and proven to hold up to rigorous scrutiny.
  6. Strong Support from Management — Finally, those asked to participate in any measurement process need to perceive strong support from their management. This applies to both Field Management as well as those back at the Corporate office.

There are two issues here. First, is whether it’s worth taking the time to answer the questions in the first place. Even if ‘required’ to do so, employees will only give the survey minimal attention if they don’t believe management thinks it’s important. The second issue is that there is an implied transaction in the survey process. If I agree to answer the questions,  I expect someone will actually listen to my responses. If employees suspect lackluster support from management, their answers will reflect a lack of attention to the questions themselves. Attention begets attention!


Following are questions we’re often asked about the eMotivate™ process.

How is the eMotivate™ survey fielded?
We employ an online survey methodology An invitation is sent to each group of employees via email. Embedded in the email is a link which takes the employee to a website where they can complete the survey.

How long does the survey take to complete?
On average, the survey takes between 5-7 minutes to complete. Some, of course, will take a bit longer but most can finish the exercise within a very brief time period.

Can the eMotivate™ instrument be customized?
The eMotivate survey instrument is tailored to the specifics of your organization. The survey website itself can even be customized to have a familiar look and feel for your employees.

For the most part our questions remain constant but we do fine tune them to reflect your organization’s name and industry. The classification questions will be adapted to fit the needs of your organization. For example, we would capture the specific roles and geographic divisions that reflect your management structure.

Finally, most organizations are concerned with one or two significant issues amongst their field staff. One such example would be high turnover while another might be differences in performance between geographic divisions or market segments. We will create a special set of questions to address the issues you identify and use responses to those questions as ‘dependent variables’. That way, we can look to see which of the main factors are most highly correlated with your variables of concern.

When is the best time to conduct the pre-meeting survey?
Typically, the best time to conduct the first round of the eMotivate  survey is 3-4 months prior to your annual meeting. This allows sufficient time to develop a strategy for incorporating the findings into development of meeting messaging and creative.

Is there a minimum sample size required for the eMotivate  process?
Experience suggests that the eMotivate results are most meaningful with at least 250 responses to the survey. This number allows the results to be examined among several sub-groups while retaining statistical significance. 

Case Study: Connecting the Dots

Our client is preparing for an annual meeting when he realizes he’s somewhat unsure about the ‘mood’ of the organization – and how that could affect the impact of the meeting. Recent changes had left many employees nervous about the coming year.

 Survey Results
We worked with the client to implement a pre-meeting eMotivate survey.

One of the most powerful insights was the degree to which employees felt a disconnect between their own personal success and that of the corporation. When asked about their expectations for the company, they reported a belief that the strategy would be a winner in the marketplace. On the other hand, they were unable to make the translation of corporate success to a positive outlook for themselves as part of the company.

Our client realized that much of the meeting’s content had been planned around a theme promoting the likelihood of corporate success in the new year. Subsequently, messages were reframed to highlight all the ways in which corporate success was likely to result in individual rewards.  The meeting follow-up showed a powerful impact of the message and a resulting lift in field sales motivation.


Rick Cornish creates communications that inform, influence and inspire… helping organizations increase sales, promote unity and persuade their people to embrace change. Working in video, corporate meetings, event marketing and more; Rick delivers purposeful creative that drives business results and builds stronger brands.


By Rick Cornish and Andy Perkins
© 2008 Flying Colors Incorporated
© 2013 Rick Cornish LLC
All Right Reserved
May be quoted in print or online publications with attribution.
May not be reproduced, sold, or distributed without the expressed, written consent of Rick Cornish LLC.

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