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Inside DSN’s Best Places to Work

Podcast episode 30

Article by: Todd Eliason | Publisher and Editor in Chief, Direct Selling News
Nancy Tobler
October 1, 2018

What makes a company a great place to work? Every year, Direct Selling News runs a feature that asks this exact question to identify which direct sales companies score high among their employees.

On this episode of the MLM.com Podcast, we invited Todd Eliason—DSN’s Editor-in-chief—to give us the inside scoop on their selection process. Along the way he let us know why having loyal employees matters to a company’s bottom line.

Listen in to hear Todd’s insights into some of the ways that direct sales companies excel at keeping their employees happy and some of the areas we need to improve.

Full transcript

Nancy Tobler: Welcome to The MLM.com Podcast. I’m Nancy Tobler, guest hosting for Kenny Rawlins. Our guest today is Todd Eliason. Todd has 25 years of direct selling experience serving in various marketing, content development, and publishing roles. His name may sound familiar to some of you as he’s worked with many companies as the founding managing editor of Success from Home, a monthly newsstand magazine that has served the direct selling community since 2005. He’s currently the publisher and editor-in-chief at Direct Selling News, a role assumed back in April of this year. We have Todd on the podcast today to talk about a feature in Direct Selling News—Best Places to Work. So, let’s just start off and have you Todd tell us a little bit about how Great Places to Work got started and why you did it.

Todd Eliason: You bet! Great to be with you as well. We all know that direct selling is the original “people business.” Right? We’re great at measuring field engagement and success but that’s only obviously one side of the coin of the people equation. So back in 2015, my predecessor—Lauren Lawley Head (who I’m sure many of the listeners know)—she partnered with Quantum Workplace. They’re an HR technology company and they created a program to help celebrate the important role direct selling companies play as employers in the marketplace and to identify the best of the best when it comes to creating engaging work environments. We all know that employees play a huge role in the success of any company whether it’s developing and helping manufacture product, fulfilling orders, supporting the field, planning and executing events. Obviously, they’re very needed in the whole organizational scheme.

Nancy Tobler: I was just thinking that in Utah Valley (where we’re located), Nu Skin is the second largest employer in Utah Valley. I think the number one employer is Brigham Young University. So, it’s a huge employer. They’re probably in a stone’s throw… 15 companies from where we’re at so it’s a big industry at least in our local area.

Todd Eliason: And Nu Skin is one of our three-time winners of the Best Places to Work. So, they get it. They’ve been very, very successful in the past three years and in keeping their employees happy and engaged.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: As we know, the demand—at Nu Skin and obviously every company in Utah and around the world—the demand for top talent is getting fierce. In fact, I did some research here in the past month and according to the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants, they asked all these C-Suite leaders: “What is your most pressing issue?” and they listed 10 different things. The number one concern was a “failure to attract and retain top talent” and I was very surprised by this because number two was creating business models (because of disruptive technologies) and number three was volatility in cash flow. So, number two and three could be number one on many lists but failure to attract and retain talent was their top concern. So again, companies need to really focus on this because again talent, going forward, is gonna be tough to get.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Well, the turnover rate is just astonishing. I think the average is like 3.4 years now where just a generation ahead of me, you worked at the same company your entire life.

Todd Eliason: [chuckles]

Nancy Tobler: So, in 50 years we’ve really seen it go just incredibly down in terms of sticking with a company.

Todd Eliason: Exactly. I mean and today’s Millennials… if they don’t… in fact I got some another great stat here according to Quantum [Workplace] who does a survey for us… yeah this is amazing. The average cost to hire an employee is $4,129, and 33% of those new hires are going to start looking for a new job within the first six months at the organization, and one in four will leave before their one-year anniversary. That tells you a few things. Obviously, it’s very expensive to hire people.

Nancy Tobler: Right.

Todd Eliason: But also, companies have like a six-month window before people are going to start looking for other jobs if they don’t like it there.

Nancy Tobler: Right.

Todd Eliason: And… Millennials… certain things are very important to them. A lot of times it’s not money, it’s not salary. It’s like… can they work from home?

Nancy Tobler: Right.

Todd Eliason: Or all these other perks and benefits that they’re looking for… it’s not a one size fits all either. It depends on the employees and that’s why it’s so important to understand who your employees are, what their needs are, and then almost personalize them as well.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah that’s what I was gonna say because baby boomers were accused of being very flighty when we first hit the market. Part of it is the young people are getting married later and having children later. Getting married and having children tends to settle people down and they stay with a job longer. But those things are changing and so it’s pretty easy to get up and move your apartment when all you’ve got it’s a box full of kitchen tools. That’s all there is to it.

Todd Eliason: Yeah. Times have changed. That’s for sure. And, again, two things that we found out from interviewing some of these “Best Places to Work” companies is they understand that turnover is very disruptive.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: From the toll it takes on the morale to the time it takes to replace that employee. And then that person takes their expertise with them. Right?

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: And employees are on the front lines of communication with their distributors. And losing those people who take care of your top leaders or whatever it may be, once you lose them you got to start over. And it’s hard to get people with direct selling talent and history and experience. So, when you get them you want to be able to keep them.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: That’s why we feel this program is so important.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, I agree. It’s one of my favorite things to read in your magazine and I look closely at it. I think it’s interesting, the differences and yet the similarities at the same time. We’ll talk about that. So how does the company get nominated? I think you’re going to the nomination process now, aren’t you?

Todd Eliason: Yes, yes, we’ve been going since August 4th and it closes October 26. I think that’s a Friday. Companies, all they’ve got to do is go to DirectSellingNews.com. There’ll be a little banner there. What we’ve done this year is nomination requirements have lowered to twenty full-time or part-time corporate headquarters employees. In the past we’ve had a little bit higher number and that’s kind of excluded a few companies. We feel… a lot of new great companies are coming up and again with being able to work from home and part-time they’re outsourcing a lot of things but they’re still great companies, right?

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: So, we’re trying to open that up to a few more companies. So, go on there. Nominate yourself, your company, and then Quantum [Workplace], after the 26 of October, they will take it from there and they’ll conduct the employee engagement surveys and they’ll provide the confidential results and they will also alert us of the finalists at the first of the year. And again, it’s free. It’s open to anybody. And again, each company is going to get a report of how they did. It doesn’t cost anything so there’s no really no reason not to. The survey is great. It’s 30 scored items across six categories. It only takes about 10 minutes. The topics are communication and resources, individual needs, manager effectiveness, personal engagement, team dynamics, and trust and leadership. And again, those are all important pieces to the employee puzzle.

Nancy Tobler: So, does it show them how they compare to other companies or just gives them their statistics?

Todd Eliason: Again, there’s different contests that are going on around the country as well—it’s not just direct selling. And so, it’ll kind of gauge direct selling only and then it will pinpoint those areas companies in our industry do well and also the things they need to work on. But there’s also an aggregate of everything. Quantum [Workplace] has a document called the Ultimate Guide to Best Places to Work. And it’s on our website so when they go there to nominate themselves, they can download a copy of it and it’ll give them all the information about what Quantum does and give them a form. Again they can also customize their survey as well.

Nancy Tobler: Oh. That’s Nice.

Todd Eliason: So, if there’s other areas they want to find out information from their employees on, they can customize it as well. it’s not just going to be those sections. So yeah, it’s a great program and everyone should just get up there and get nominated and then we’ll see what the results are at the first of the year.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Great. well we’ll look forward to it. And I hope companies will jump on the opportunity. So, the next question I was thinking about was… What a great wealth of information you’ve had access to! What were some general takeaways that you’ve seen over the past three years? That great places to work just have these characteristics?

Todd Eliason: Yes. Yeah that’s the beauty of this whole program is that every year we get to see where everybody does well and where we also need help. It will look at last year’s results and kind of compare them. So, we have some great data that we can share with everybody. This year, here the few of the things that companies did really well.

The first is onboarding. It Works!, they grew from a staff from 58 to 207 and the company established you know a formal onboarding program. They included a mentorship component where this person will help them learn the culture, the values, all the expectations, and things like that.

Another one is strong culture.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: Again, we all know this culture is usually a very strong area of our industry. Scentsy, had a great quote. They said when people drive into the parking lot, they want them to be excited to be there. Again, culture is everything! It’s not just how many parties or how many lunches you have for people—all those little things you do. Those are just window dressing. It’s really getting in and finding out what makes a really great workplace? And these companies are doing a great job.

Zurvita, who is a three-time winner, we interviewed them. They had a really great quote. They said it’s so crucial how the goal of your company—the mission and the vision—is communicated to the employee and how it applies to that employee.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: If a person doesn’t know where they stand in that vision, in that goal, and that mission of the company, they’re not going to know “where am I going to go in this company.” So, it’s really important to personalize it and to communicate it to the employees so they know where they fit.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah that’s very powerful. The bigger a company gets the harder that becomes but—

Todd Eliason: Oh yes.

Nancy Tobler: I think great companies like Nu Skin… I think… do they have 4,000 employees? I don’t know some huge number. They still do that.

Todd Eliason: That was one of the data points is it gets harder… As a company gets larger it gets harder for a company to do all these programs. When they’re new and they have not many employees it’s a lot easier. But as they get bigger and they have levels of management… but hats off to Nu Skin, being a three-time winner! They’re a large company and they do a great job making their employees feel engaged and part of the team.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Yeah, those are those are both great—

Todd Eliason: Yeah there was actually one more. It’s based on fun! From theme park visits to sporting events. A lot of the best places to work companies offer a lot of fun things. Like Pure Romance, every Friday they have what they call drink cart Friday, where work stops at three o’clock and every department lead takes a turn it’s stocking the drink cart and passing it through the building. I’m sure this is not non-alcoholic drink.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. [Laughing] Maybe.

Todd Eliason: But just that engagement—the upper executives with the employees is very, very important. So, I thought that was a good one. Again, these are all strong areas that we see usually every year.

Nancy Tobler: So, yeah, so, strong culture, having fun, and then your first one was vision, right? Did I catch the three?

Todd Eliason: Yes. Those are a few of them.

Nancy Tobler: Great. I noticed teamwork and how to foster teamwork. That just jumped out at me as we were looking at the list.

Todd Eliason: Yes. Teams. Getting people in to teams… when you have a team together it helps. You’re part of a team you’re not just by yourself. And another part of that is—this kind of goes to the places where we can actually improve. Part of that survey which is great information is areas where companies [can improve]. One was, some people don’t feel like their opinions count. Another one was change management. Understanding why organizations make changes when they do. And again, that goes to communication.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: Making sure that when something does happen… it could be a reduction in force, it could be someone got laid off, or whatever it is. Any bad news.

Nancy Tobler: Right.

Todd Eliason: That they’re communicating it directly and honestly and quickly so there’s no questions going through the company like [nervously] “hey, what’s going on?” In the absence of information, that’s where things start to go wrong and people going haywire. “Why aren’t we being told what’s going on?” That’s something that [direct sales] companies can do a little better on.

The last one was trust in leadership. Which has been down for the second straight year, which was a little bit concerning. The attributes that go with trust in leadership—there is lower favorability toward believing the organization will be successful in the future, trusting senior leadership to lead the organization to future success, and that senior leaders demonstrate integrity. So again a lot of trust—and that kind of goes back to the first one: when things change and they’re not communicated correctly—trust can erode among the employees. But all these issues kind of interconnected. Right?

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Yeah. Of course.

Todd Eliason: So those are some of the areas that hopefully next year when we [the DSN] do this, we [the industry] do a little bit better on them.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. It’s interesting. That may be a result of sort of where we are as a country. I don’t know I don’t want to get into politics but trust may be just falling. We have to work harder on it than we used to.

Todd Eliason: Well yeah, I mean trust in companies in general… I saw the other day that trust in all sorts of corporations are down for a myriad of reasons. A lot of that is because everyone’s interconnected. It was access. People can I give a bad review pretty quickly and it can spread [distrust].

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. The next question I had was I thought there were some really unusual aspects—things that I had not thought of. Anything that sort of jumped out at you? That surprised you?

Todd Eliason: There was one and I guess it depends on what company you work for maybe. Comparing our data from previous years and actually even the national data from best places to work companies across the board. Benefits and culture are strengths associated with direct selling companies. This was one that kind of stood out to me. 82% of direct selling employees report their employer-provided benefits meet their needs and their families’ needs. So, people are getting paid the money that they want. And that was an increase of 3% from 79% last year.

Nancy Tobler: Wow.

Todd Eliason: So that was a big one. And then an 83% of their employers culture supports their health and well-being. So benefits, salary… I was surprised that that was so high to tell you the truth.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: Usually when these come in… building up for three years you kind of get a pattern of those things that companies do well and those things that they don’t do well. But that one was one that kind of stuck out to me. Like, wow we’re doing really well on benefits and income and taking care of people’s families. And so that was a that was nice to see.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah the work-life balance that came out as I read through the companies. What was it? Nu Skin? That they no longer have a set number of vacation days? That surprised me. I thought “how does that work?” I’d take a vacation day every week.

Todd Eliason: We should probably call them and kind of say “hey, how does that work for you?” I’m sure sure a lot of people would be calling them saying “how you doing that?”

Nancy Tobler: Yeah I thought it was fascinating. But I thought, “wow good for them.” Right there obviously has to be some mechanism that they’re tracking that? I have no idea. But anyway, I thought it was fascinating. Anything you thought you would see? Any question you wish that you were asking that you’re not?

Todd Eliason: You know that’s always something that we always will evaluate. Going into this… we’ll be making the survey here in a month or so. I’ll get with the team and see what… and again we’re always open for people to let us know “these things should be on the survey.” We’re not the arbiter of what makes a good company. Our best ideas come from companies themselves!

Nancy Tobler: Yeah.

Todd Eliason: My email address is in the magazine. It’s TEliason@directsellingnews.com. Send me an email and let me know what you guys think should be in here.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah, I’ll think through that and see if there’s something I thought was missing. I didn’t know that they had a question on salary and health. I was surprised that that wasn’t something that at least you talked about in the interviews. So, it does talk about salary and benefits?

Todd Eliason: Yes, all the benefits… you have to read a little bit deeper into the cover story and you’ll see those. But yeah but that was one that I was amazed at to tell you the truth.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Well I think it matters. I think people need to have enough money to live and then those little perks kick in and make our life fun. Like you talked about earlier. So great! Anything else you want to tell us about great places to work?

Todd Eliason: Well I think that the benefits to doing it are great, for companies. The one thing that we’ve learned is that high levels of engagement are linked to better employee retention, higher productivity, more profit, and even market share. So, if those aren’t important to executives, I’m not sure what are! It’s a free service. Get on the website. Get nominated. If you become a finalist, we’ll give you a little logo that you can put on the bottom of your website. And again, because people who are who are looking to apply, they’re gonna come to your website and see what you’re all about. If you have a little logo on there that says you were voted a finalist in the best places to work, that’s gonna speak volumes to people and it’s going to get more people applying to your company.

Nancy Tobler: Perfect.

Todd Eliason: It’s easy. They get free information. And they’re gonna get some great data and, again, we’ve also lowered that to 20 full- and part-time employees. So, there’s no reason not to!

Nancy Tobler: Yeah. Great. Perfect. Well I’m waiting for you to do one on supplier companies. So, I think that would be interesting as well.

Todd Eliason: Hey that could be in the offerings as well. So, we might be doing that here soon too.

Nancy Tobler: Yeah well InfoTrax sponsors MLM.com as you know. I think there are some suppliers companies to work for.

Todd Eliason: Well InfoTrax has been a very good friend of Direct Selling News and we appreciate you and all that you have done for the magazine. And you guys do a wonderful job on MLM.com as well.

Nancy Tobler: Well, thank you.

Todd Eliason: So, and I’ve got a bookmark and you guys do a great job so. I appreciate the time today very much.

Nancy Tobler: Thank you. Thank you so much Todd. Thank you for your expertise, your thoughtfulness on great places to work! I just think it’s such an important area that companies need to look at and should be looking at. So again, thank you so much.

Todd Eliason: All right!

Nancy Tobler: Thank you for listening to this episode of the MLM.com Podcast. I’m Nancy Tobler, MLM.com’s Editor-in-chief, guest hosting for Kenny Rawlins. I want to thank Todd Eliason for giving us his time and insider’s perspective on the Direct Selling News’ Great Places to Work feature. I also want to thank Dave Payne and Jana Bangerter for producing this episode. Thank you again for listening and if you want to thank us for the work we do here at MLM.com, we love it when listeners comment, like, rate, follow, and share. Thank you!


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The MLM.com Podcast, How to Start a Direct Sales Company, How to Run a Direct Sales Company

Todd Eliason | Publisher and Editor in Chief, Direct Selling News

Todd Eliason has 25 years of direct selling experience, serving in various marketing, content development, and publishing roles. He has...

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Nancy Tobler

Nancy Tobler has a PhD in communication from the University of Utah. She specializes in research on how organizations change,...

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