Communicating Sustainability Clearly and Honestly

Posted by Wayne Bates on Sep 13, 2016 8:55:17 AM

Editor's note - Wayne E. Bates, PhD, PE, is principal engineer with Tighe & Bond in Westfield and a facilitator of the AIM Sustinability Roundtable.

Many companies are making progress toward a sustainable business model with initiatives in areas like energy conservation, supply chain, employee engagement, water conservation and community involvement. A common question asked by these organizations is “what efforts and initiatives should we be communicating? To whom should we communicate these efforts? How much information should we provide?”

InnovationSmall-3.jpgThe decision to communicate sustainability programs depends on the nature of your organization, including the type of products or services offered and the interests of stakeholders both inside and outside your organization. Once a decision has been made to communicate, the type and amount of information communicated will depend on the desired level of transparency and stakeholder demands for information.

Sustainability communications should provide insight on where the company has been, where it is, and where it is going on the issue being communicated. For example, a communication on an energy conservation success story should be told in the context of the company’s overall energy goals and how the successful implementation fits into the sustainability strategy.

Most companies with sustainability programs do a decent job of discussing obvious challenges of meeting defined goals and targets. What is often not communicated well are the issues without a solution, initiatives that may be too costly, or initiatives that may take a long time to address. If you don’t acknowledge these unsolved, unfunded, or unplanned issues, someone else may.

Furthermore, if a stakeholder identifies an issue for you and you don’t respond, it may cause a disruption to your business and/or negative press.

Just ask Subway, the fast-food sandwich chain. In 2012 a food blogger reached out to Subway to find out why they use azodicarbonamide (ADA), a bread dough conditioning additive that had been banned in Europe and Australia for health concerns. After not receiving a response from Subway, in February 2014, the blogger publicly called the food chain out for using the additive. She made the point that ADA is used as a plasticizer in commercial products like yoga mats, and encouraged the general public to sign a petition.

The story went viral, the petition received more than 50,000 signatures, and Subway received an onslaught of comments through social media. In less than 60 days, Subway announced that it was removing ADA from its bread in US stores.

Knowledgeable stakeholders know when a company is overemphasizing accomplishments and not discussing certain material issues. Carefully balancing the communication of the goals and targets for on-going initiatives with the acknowledgement of future challenges will let stakeholders know where your organization stands and provide a better understanding of what to expect in future sustainability communications.  

Come join us at the next AIM Sustainability Round Table for a discussion communicating sustainability and hear from expert panelists.

Attend the AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Topics: Management, Sustainability, AIM Sustainability Roundtable

Top Signs that Your Compensation Plan is Broken

Posted by Russ Sullivan on Oct 5, 2015 1:34:42 PM

The first inkling that your company’s compensation system is out of balance often comes when a key performer suddenly leaves to take more money somewhere else.

FourpeopleI have heard the same story many times in the years I have taught compensation management to experienced HR people as part of AIM’s HR Leve Two certificate series – a valuable performer is recruited to another employer, perhaps even a competitor, because the compensation program at your company has drifted away from the market.

What are the top signs that your pay and benefits are out of balance?

  • The company has no job descriptions or poorly written job descriptions.  Not knowing what the job is makes it impossible to know what to pay the job.
  • Title creep.  Companies often award titles, rather than compensation, so there is a disconnect when the employee compares her or his pay to others with the same title outside the company.
  • Lack of salary ranges. There is no understanding of the minimum or maximum value of a particular job.
  • When they do have salary ranges, companies often forego increasing those ranges when they have had a difficult year financially.  The market still moves ahead and so they find themselves out of sync with the market.
  • Lack of consistency among departments in the way in which employees are compensated.  One department is conservative when it comes to pay while another department looks for every opportunity to give money.
  • Across-the-board increases.  The company compensates high performers and low performers with the same percent of increase, leading to a culture of mediocrity.  High performers start to wonder why they put in superior effort when they receive the same increase as an employee who puts in half effort.
  • Failure to periodically check the internal equity of the pay structure.  Companies sometimes make the mistake of hiring people at or above the salaries of workers doing the same job and who have more experience.  This drives turnover.  It is a little like the bank that gives special rewards and rates to new customers, but existing customers are not eligible.
  • Lack of a well-defined pay philosophy.  How does the company want to pay in comparison to the general market?  Does the company want to be a market leader, pay the same as market or be a market laggard?  Having a plan and managing to the plan makes a company more likely to be in control of their compensation system.
  • Trying to manage compensation with people who don’t have expertise in compensation.  You would not go to a general practitioner if you needed back surgery.  Getting the right help is critical.

Register for HR Level Two Certificate Series

Topics: Compensation, Management, Human Resources

CEO Must Also Be Chief Sales Officer

Posted by Veda Ferlazzo Clark on Feb 9, 2015 1:49:49 PM

An increasingly complex and competitive business environment demands a clearly defined sales process to drive profitable growth in any company.

Two_WomenThe CEO must set the context for the sales and marketing strategy, with a focus on key performance indicators, process, pipeline management, and a common sales methodology and system.

Jim Ayraud, president of Next Level, Inc. said, “Sales can no longer be only about relationships and generating as many proposals as possible. Sales is not a random process, but a carefully planned systematic approach that helps potential customers see well-defined differentiation in the products and services recommended.”

Ayraud recently led a discussion about sales management with a dozen chief executive officers who are members of the AIM CEO Connection.  He delineated the CEO’s role in sales:

  • Serve as the chief sales officer with critical customers;
  • Be chief story teller, to express clearly and passionately what the company does;
  • Define performance indicators to track progress towards monthly revenue goals;
  • Participate in the “war game,” challenging salespeople to define behaviors that drive success;
  • Give candid feedback to hold the sales and sales leadership team accountable;
  • Constantly ask “What are we missing?” and “If we could do one thing better, what would it be?”

The CEO alone can align the sales organization with the overall needs of the customer and company. And the most successful CEOs do so with passion. Recall that Estee Lauder famously said, "I have never worked a day in my life without selling. If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard."

The AIM CEO Connection brings together CEOs to talk about important topics with their peers to help them make critical decisions that will drive their company’s growth. Each session of the CEO Connection includes a presentation from an outside expert, open discussion about current issues, and a company tour.

CEO Connection groups are currently running in both southeastern and northeastern Massachusetts with room for one or two additional participants. A third sessions will begin soon in central Massachusetts.

Manufacturing/industrial CEOs interested to learn more about the AIM CEO Connection may contact Brian Gilmore ( or Gary MacDonald (  


Topics: Management, Sales Management, AIM CEO Connection

Expert: CEO Defines Workplace Climate

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Dec 15, 2014 8:48:17 AM

Today’s competitive environment demands fully engaged employees at all levels of an organization.  The CEO must define the leadership agenda that will drive employee engagement and superior performance for an organization, an expert told the AIM CEO Connection recently.

Two_WomenMike Maginn, president of Singularity Group, said, “Creating a workplace climate where people feel eager to deal with challenges, where they want to contribute ideas, and where they feel personally valued is the job of the CEO.  It’s a critical job, and the good news is that there are some defined, specific actions that leaders can take to change or improve the climate.”

Maginn led a discussion about culture and climate with a dozen chief executive officers who are members of the North Shore AIM CEO Connection.  He helped the CEOs explore the nature of culture and climate:

  • Culture consists of the norms and values of an organization and defines acceptable behavior.
  • Climate is what it feels like to work in an organization, which drives employee engagement.
  • Dimensions such as clarity, standards, responsibility, recognition, teamwork, and commitment define climate.
  • Climate dimensions can be measured.
  • Day-to-day leadership actions create climate.
  • A change in leadership actions will lead to a change in climate.

There is no “right” culture and climate, so the CEO must delineate the needs of the company and its customers to capture the essence of the culture and climate that will drive the organization in the right direction.

Veda Ferlazzo Clark, the former chief executive who moderates CEO Connection, said, “CEOs are always concerned about the culture of their organization and how they can affect it to maximize performance. It often feels amorphous, but the concept of climate is specific and actionable and can help CEOs and their senior managers feel as though they can make real change.” 

The CEO Connection brings together CEOs to talk about important topics with their peers to help them make critical decisions that will drive their company’s growth. Each session of the CEO Connection includes a presentation from an outside expert, open discussion about current issues, and a company tour.

Manufacturing/industrial CEOs interested to learn more about the AIM CEO Connection may contact me ( or Gary MacDonald ( 

Topics: CEO, Management, Manufacturing

Work Force Grant Will Allow AIM to Provide Free Training for Supervisors

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Oct 16, 2014 3:48:00 PM

Employers will be able to improve the skills of their key supervisors at no cost under a $200,000 grant awarded to Associated Industries of Massachusetts today by the state Workforce Training Fund Program (WTFP).

FourpeopleAIM’s supervisory/leadership training series was among 10 initiatives to win grants under the WTFP Regional Training Capacity Pilot Program.

The grants, announced this afternoon at UPS in Watertown, are designed to meet regional demands for training that may not have the scope or scale to merit a standard Workforce Training Grant. The awards will also help larger organizations that want to offer leadership education to limited populations of new hires, a leadership bench player or newly promoted supervisor.

“A large segment of leadership teams are comprised of home-grown, high potential people who have shown technical ability, but who have not had the chance to learn the human relations and decision making skills that are important to helping others succeed,” said Gary MacDonald, Executive Vice President of AIM.

“AIM’s Supervisory Skills program focuses on these complementary skill sets, resulting in better retention of talent, a more engaged and adaptive workforce, and improved productivity and bottom-line results.”

MacDonald said companies face a multitude of internal and external issues that can be resolved, minimized or avoided by good supervisory and leadership practices:

  • Retention and turnover
  • Legal compliance and understanding of obligations under the law
  • Hiring the right person
  • Effective communication practices
  • Delegation and prioritization
  • Identifying and solving problems
  • Becoming an agent for and a leader of organizational change
  • Generating ideas and innovation
  • Developing and working in teams with multicultural & multigenerational members
  • Increasing employee performance
  • Understanding leadership responsibilities and accountabilities.

AIM plans to run its Supervisory Skills program multiple times during 2015 in five locations – Bridgewater, Burlington, Fitchburg, Holyoke and Marlborough.  The program content is applicable to any industry.

The Regional Training Capacity Pilot Program awarded grants to other organizations for computer skills, English for Speakers of other Languages, Manufacturing Skills and Process Improvement. The 10 grants total a $2 million state investment in work force training.

"We are very interested in helping small businesses access the fund either individually or through collaborations with other businesses with similar needs.” said Nancy Snyder, President and CEO of Commonwealth Corporation, which administers the funds for the Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  “This program allows small businesses that may not otherwise apply for a grant on their own to quickly gain access to training on topics in highest demand.” 

AIM delivers hundreds of supervisory skills training sessions each year in seminar and private settings. The staff of 10 instructors averages several decades of management and human resources experience across a variety of industries.

“The grant provides employers with a unique opportunity to improve productivity, build leadership and address legal compliance concerns at no out-of-pocket cost,” said Lori Bourgoin, Vice President of Educational Programs at AIM.

“Nothing drives workforce engagement, productivity and retention more than front-line leadership.  Well trained supervisors determine whether employees support change or resist, grow into the business or tune out.”

Please contact Bourgoin ( at AIM for more information.


Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Management, Human Resources, Workforce Training

CEOs Play Central Role in Lean Transformation

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Jul 8, 2014 10:38:01 AM

Chief executives are pivotal to the success of lean manufacturing, two transformation experts told the AIM CEO Connection recently.

ManufacturingWorkerSmallSusan Janus and Joe Griffin, Regional Managers at the Massachusetts Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), said CEOs must initiate, motivate and participate in efforts to improve value and reduce waste through lean principles. That role includes clearly defining roles and responsibilities, and holding people accountable for results.

“Implementing lean is a real test of CEO vision and leadership,” Janus said.

“Can the CEO persuade everyone to buy in and follow through? Can the CEO create a culture that allows the customer to pull value from the organization?”

Janus and Griffin led a discussion on The Role of the CEO in Lean with a dozen chief executives taking part in the CEO Connection in Attleboro. The peer group allows CEOs to meet on a monthly basis to share knowledge and develop the leadership skills needed to direct companies through times of change.

Lean manufacturing requires a company to identify the value in its production process while eliminating anything for which the customer should not pay. The objective is to reduce the waste that resides in product defects, overproduction, time delays, transportation of materials and equipment, excess inventory, motion and underutilized employees.

The CEO must set the tone, according to Janus:

  • Understand that lean process starts with the customer;
  • Convey to employees that lean is an organizational mindset and way of life;
  • Prepare for the fact that lean requires deep understanding;
  • Model the way; lead by example; participate;
  • Select priorities and stay focused;
  • Provide a roadmap - translate throughout the organization

“Above all else, the CEO must develop talent and enable others to carry out lean,” Janus said. “That means believing in everyone’s ability to contribute, training for knowledge and skill, and developing champions who can drive the process.”

Veda Clark, the former chief executive who moderates CEO Connection, said participants choose the topics for each meeting and that there was keen interest in the management role in lean process. Each session of the CEO Connection includes a presentation from an outside expert, open discussion and a company tour.

“These CEOs learn a tremendous amount from one another. It’s a uniquely valuable exercise for people who are sometimes very much on their own in making important decisions,” Clark said.

The south shore group is looking to recruit three additional CEOs, while recruiting is underway for a north-of-Boston AIM CEO Connection. Manufacturing CEO’s interested to learn more about the AIM CEO Connection should contact either Brian Gilmore ( or Gary MacDonald ( 


Topics: CEO, Management, Manufacturing

Is Your Sales Team on Track for a Good Year?

Posted by Jack Derby on Mar 3, 2014 11:03:00 AM

You're two months into the year, and already you should have a pretty good idea as to whether your sales team is tuned, armed with the right tools and ready for another rough-and-tumble few quarters.

Sales ManagementJust a few questions you should be asking yourself right now:

  1. Are you confident that your sales and marketing teams are aligned, working cooperatively and taking full advantage of new technologies?
  2. Do you have a formal, but flexible enough sales process where everyone is playing by the same rules, with the same playbook and on the same team?
  3. What should your sales channel mix look like in the future? Which web-based investments should you make to support your sales efforts?
  4. Do you have enough sales people, reps or distributors? Are they the right people with the right skills for the future? Is your organization’s hiring, culture and goal-setting aligned with the new sales and marketing systems you will need to scale your business?
  5. With web-based B2B sales technologies, is your sales force best organized by traditional geographical boundaries, or is it better organized by product, by customer, or some other way? 
  6. Have you assessed the future of your selling process and how the web has and will continue to dramatically alter your lead generation and sales funnel and methodologies of selling?
  7. Do you know how to intelligently evaluate new investment requirements in CRM, marketing automation, content marketing, lead scoring and more?

We address all of these questions and many more at the semi-annual AIM/Derby Sales Management Boot Camp, which will run next on April 6-8 at the MIT Endicott House just outside Boston.

Why a two-and-a-half day Boot Camp? Because something amazing happens when 30 CEOs and senior sales-management executives spend three days on a campus interacting with one another and learning new strategies to increase sales revenue.

The session begins on Sunday at 5 p.m. with a networking reception, dinner and case-study review, and runs through mid-afternoon on Tuesday, just in time for you to impact the remainder of 2014. Our instructors are successful CEOs who have a track record of building successful sales organizations.

The objectives:

  • Develop a clear strategy, a measurable process, and leading-edge tools.
  • Improve sales productivity 20-30 percent.
  • Aggressively grow revenues and margins in 2014.
  • Forecast with 90 percent plus accuracy.
  • Accelerate closing rates and reduce sales cycles.
  • Successfully hire, compensate and retain A-level teams.

Learn More about the Sales Management Boot Camp

Topics: Management, Sales Management, Revenue

Epidemic of Addiction to Painkillers Seeps into the Workplace

Posted by Lori Bourgoin on Jul 10, 2012 3:06:00 PM

Few employers are aware that epidemic misuse of legal, highly addictive and heavily regulated prescription painkillers is seeping into the workplace. Even fewer companies know how to manage a problem that federal authorities say kills more Americans each year than overdoses of cocaine and heroin - combined.

DrugsA research letter in the Archives of Internal Medicine found recently that use of prescription painkillers without a medical need increased 75 percent from 2002 to 2010.  Men and people ages 26 to 49 saw the largest increase, taking the drugs on average 200 or more days a year. More than 15,500 people fatally overdosed on pills such as OxyContin and Vicodin in 2009, more than double since 2002, the paper said.

Those numbers make it inevitable that the prescription painkiller problem will show up in the workplace. The impact of drug abuse is not only a burden on productivity, absenteeism, relationships and workplace safety; it also brings legal compliance complexity through the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, and Department of Transportation regulations to name a few.

Identifying opiate problems in your workplace is first step to managing the issue. Red flags may include:

  • Absenteeism and on-the-job absenteeism: An employee takes longer and more frequent breaks, comes in late, and will often be 'missing in action;'
  • High accident rate: Clumsy and unfocused, disregard of standards.
  • Difficulty concentrating and confusion;
  • Inconsistent work patterns, e.g. becoming unable to take initiative or work independently;
  • Reduced knowledge/technical skills: No longer stays on top of the game;
  • Change in behavior and attitudes: Behaves inappropriately, becomes emotional, or withdrawn, with poor relationships at work; and
  • Lower job quality and productivity.

It’s not always the employer who will recognize potential addiction.  An employee will sometimes self-identify an addiction and solicit help to get clean.

What should an employer do or not do in these circumstances?  What are the best practices in terms of protecting the business as well as helping the employee?

The key areas of focus include:

  • Review relevant policies to ensure clarity among everyone in the organization on how these concerns will be handled;
  • Inventory benefits available to address addition;
  • Train direct line supervisors on how to react when the concern, or suspected concern arise in the workplace; and
  • Analyze your past practices and identify outside resources.

“The use of prescription painkillers in the workplace can impact workplace safety and productivity.  With this in mind, it is important that employers implement a written drug-free workplace policy that addresses prescription drug use in the workplace,” said Amy Royal, an employment lawyer at Royal LLP in Northampton.

“In addition, supervisors should be trained to recognize the warning signs of prescription drug use and to know what their role is in enforcing the company’s drug-free workplace policy.”

Royal will be among the participants in August when AIM conducts a Webinar providing legal, medical and HR approaches to managing painkiller addiction in the workplace. The session will take place August 2 from 10 – 11:15 a.m. It is free to AIM members and $75 for non-members.

Click me

And feel free to contact me at with your questions.

Topics: Employment Law, Management, Human Resources

Who is the Most Respected CEO in the World?

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Aug 30, 2011 2:09:00 PM

Steve Jobs’ resignation as chief executive of Apple Computer on August 25 has raised a familiar question around the water cooler: Who is the most respected CEO in the world?

JobsIt’s no surprise that the iconoclastic Jobs comes up often in that conversation. The Apple founder returned in 1996 to the company he founded and developed a string of products - the iMac, the iPod, iTunes, the iPhone, and the iPad - that remade consumer electronics.  Macolytes argue that Jobs brought a unique ability to know what consumers wanted before they knew they wanted it.

Who else might be the uber-CEO?

How about New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, builder of one of the most valuable sports franchises on the planet, who worked through personal tragedy last month to play a key role in ending the National Football League labor dispute?

Or Indra Nooyi, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PepsiCo, and one of the most powerful female executives in the world, overseeing the world's largest portfolio of billion-dollar food and beverage brands, including 19 different product lines that each generate more than $1 billion in annual retail sales.

Or Alan Mulally, the former Boeing chief executive who returned Ford Motor Company to profitability without a government-sponsored bankruptcy?

Who gets your vote as the world’s most respected CEO and why? Let the debate begin.  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Topics: CEO, Management

Is Your Company's Immune System Killing Innovation?

Posted by Gary MacDonald on Aug 13, 2010 9:45:00 AM

The innovative ideas that represent your company’s future often appear in a raw and flawed state. They are murky and a bit vague, imperfect in some way.  They’re also fragile and easy targets for an organization’s “immune system.” 

InnovationThe same organizational antibodies that suppress potentially harmful actions can also dispose of valuable innovations before they have a chance to mature.  What distinguishes successful, world-class companies such as Intel, Google and EMC from “also-rans” is a culture capable of separating marginal ideas that need to be eliminated from true innovations to be nurtured. 

Can you think of 10 ways to kill an idea?  How about 20?

When I facilitate AIM’s Fostering Innovation seminars, it’s not unusual for a team to generate – in less than ten minutes - as many as 50 ways to kill an idea.  They’re often relayed from long-ago but not-forgotten personal experience.  It’s easy.  Anyone can do it.  And it’s habit.  When you add non-verbal communications such as tone and body language, to the actual words being said, anyone possesses a potent enough arsenal to do the job quite handily. 

Early suppression of innovations can compound into a cultural reality, requiring innovators to make a heroic effort to push an idea through all the active and passive barriers.  How many people possess that assertiveness and stamina?

This does NOT mean an organization should implement every proposed initiative.  In fact, a high percentage ultimately won’t make sense.  But the critical point is that they are allowed to mature.  Instead of “Yes, but…,” think and say “Yes, and…”  Instead of “It costs too much” think and say “How can we show a stronger ROI on this?”  And look interested and enthused throughout.  Create forums, ground rules and a culture that supports, develops and selects the next generation of initiatives in your business.

Innovation and risk tolerance are cornerstones of long run viability and effectiveness.  Oddly enough, it is often commercially successful companies that are most vulnerable to the suppression of these qualities. 

First of all they’re busy meeting all those urgent customer demands.  The longer run nature of innovation seldom has the same urgency and can easily be crowded out. Secondly, success and stability can lead to a certain organizational complacency.  As the author Jim Collins puts it so succinctly “Good is the enemy of great.”  Entrepreneurial thinkers within the organization tend to quit and leave or quit and stay.  And your organization is the weaker for it.

Keep an entrepreneurial flair alive and well in your organization by creating avenues and time for the advancement and vetting of ideas.  Recognize and stop the comfortable and easy habit of killing them off prematurely.  Don’t allow for contributions to the process, insist upon them.  Then, with a balance of patience and persistence, you’ll see those raw ideas develop into the gems that strengthen your business.

I welcome your comments below.

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Management, Innovation

Subscribe to our blog

Browse by Tag