Do your engagement efforts at work seem to backfire? Brady Wilson believes he knows why. Wilson, who has dubbed himself the Human Energy Architect, believes the more companies focus on engagement, the more they drain employee productivity. His book, Beyond Engagement: A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need, presents leadership principles for managing energy, and the science behind them.

Looking at how the brain affects employee engagement, Wilson and his team at Juice Inc., discovered that when an individual lacks energy, specific cognitive functions diminish: the ability to predict outcomes, focus, regulate emotions and initiate action. The result is a drop in innovation and value creation.

“Why does this matter?” Wilson asks. “The customer experience is entirely at the mercy of the employee experience. And customers want a human experience—-they want to experience a brand at an emotional level. Yet, depleted of energy, employees will provide customer service in an impersonal, mechanical and transactional way.”

Wilson says when engagement initiatives focus on unlocking discretionary effort rather than on generating energy, employees work harder and longer, but all they’re doing is putting out fires when they could be creating solutions that prevent fires in the first place.

Employers who focus on energy also acknowledge that employees respond to engagement emotionally, rather than rationally. The emotional aspect is a focus of the book’s principles, one of which asks managers to partner with employees, rather than act as a parent. Instead of assuming employees have deficiencies that need to be overcome, leaders should approach workers as peers who can collaborate on success and hold one another accountable.

Five Minutes With Martin Varley, Customer Focus

What if you could press a button and magically transform artwork into a perfect logo for virtually any type of promotional product? Martin Varley believes his company’s latest creation,, provides that magic button. The CEO of business services provider Customer Focus, formerly Trade Only, spoke with PPB about his latest development and the reason behind the company’s name change.

Martin Varley Martin Varley

PPB Why did you shift from being known as Trade Only to Customer Focus?

Varley Trade Only is a generic term in Europe for a type of supplier. It’s a great domain but it didn’t reflect what we actually do. We are a technology and information company, and our technology isn’t just used in the promotional products and related markets; we thought it was appropriate to have a name that reflected that.

PPB Your company operates in the business services sphere. As the supply chain’s approach to sales evolves, how do you see companies like yours adapting or being affected by the change?

Varley We’re probably driving some of that change. My passion has always been to know how to drive efficiency. If you gather all of the information you need for an order once, you never have to do it again. Currently the challenge in the industry is that we have all these platforms for gathering information, and they are a little inefficient.

PPB What are the origins of Artworktool, and what is its basic function?

Varley We knew a few years ago that what was needed was an ecommerce platform, so we put together a solution called The Perfect Store. It holds the perfect amount of products from QCA-certified suppliers, and every product has a price for every option possible. The store also offers virtual samples and allows the user to send customer-approved art to the supplier.

Artworktool can be part of a Perfect Store website ... it allows you to have a button on the site, and it knows what to look for. The ‘canvas’ for a product is set to the correct printable dimensions. No other solution can deliver factory-ready artwork in any format. It’s a cross between Adobe Illustrator, Instagram and Dropbox.

PPB How does Artworktool empower users?

Varley Artworktool is an enabler to businesses and citizen artists. If you create a logo, you can share it or keep it private, or sell it. The analogy in promotional products is that you want to see what a product looks like before you pay for it. A virtual sample increases the likelihood of a purchase.




A trivial administrative task that is time-consuming, often handed off to lower-level employees by management and seen as an impediment to workplace morale. Try these tips for keeping administrivia from ruling your workday.

Dedicate A Day To Busywork

If you’ve got a grip on your schedule, save up your operational activities—those that aren’t crucial to the bottom line—to avoid dropping in and out of housekeeping mode in order to put out other fires. If a full day is still too much, try blocking off 10 to 20 minutes a day, one to three days a week, to knock it out and get it off your mind.

Divide And Conquer

If you need help tackling your administrivial tasks, hand over the jobs that don’t require your singular expertise or knowledge to complete. This frees up your time while ensuring every piece of administrivia gets the attention it deserves.

Guard Your Time From Intrusions

If you’ve successfully carved out time to address your administrivia, don’t let co-workers or technology steer you off course. Close your email and web browser, put your phone on silent and—if you have one—close the office door.


Tech Talk

The Big Problem With Big Data

Data is the sexy new tool for businesses that want to know exactly what customers want, how they want to get it and from whom they want it. But all that data is problematic, says author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell, because it can’t tell us why. Speaking at a mobile marketing analytics event, Gladwell told technologists that data increases marketers’ confidence but not their accuracy. That’s because data can’t reveal the nature of consumer behavior—whether it’s generational or developmental, he says.

So while data for sites such as Facebook and Snapchat can tell marketers about the current climate, it doesn’t reveal how those sites will be used in five or 10 years. So what’s the lesson Gladwell wants marketers to learn? Don’t use data to predict a target population’s online behavior. Instead, he says, “find the truth in the data.”



Banking On Science To Build A Brand

If you’ve seen one bank brochure, you’ve seen them all, right? Consumer banks don’t always execute creative branding strategies, and the vanilla approach hurts their efforts to attract customers. The best way to determine what branding elements will help financial institutions stand out against competitors is to invest in research, according to The Financial Brand, a digital publication aimed at financial institution marketing professionals.

Using research to determine what’s important to a target customer can help banks craft messaging that reflects a broad strategy and that also directly answers questions about specific attributes. Once the value proposition is molded into a clear message, a design can be created to illustrate the message.


Market Share

Engineering A New Dress Code

Programmers at Hewlett-Packard are being told to ditch the t-shirts and hoodies and join the business-casual crowd at the office. Though programmers are traditionally not customer-facing employees, HP executives who sent their staff a memo on the new dress code believed customers who might visit the IT company’s offices would be put off by the casual appearance of its resident geniuses.

The mandate wasn’t well received, of course, despite programmers not being the only employee group targeted by the mandate. Some critics have said the dress code is a hint at the company’s upcoming division into two separate entities—HP, Inc. and HP Business Enterprises—and possible reduction in workforce numbers. Leaders at HP say the dress code can be attractive to job applicants who see dressing in business apparel as a sign of success.

There’s a glimmer of hope for programmers who have a hankering for off-kilter apparel, yet still need to make a good impression at a dressy workplace. Irreverent crowdfunded clothing company Betabrand caught wind of the mandate and crafted a satirical PSA in support of the t-shirt-clad programming crowd, bringing attention to its quirky collection of apparel (and to job openings at its own offices).

Betabrand’s offerings for men include paisley steak-patterned collared shirts and the Suitsy, a one-piece business suit composed of a shirt, jacket and pants. Women are offered dress-pant sweatpants and dress-pant yoga pants in several styles and colors. Take that, dress code.



Targeted Advertising At Your Fingertips

Not content with simply providing news on the go to its mobile customers, The New York Times plans to launch mobile advertising that focuses on key moments in the user’s day. The idea is to pair ads, called Mobile Moments, with Times pieces that keep readers informed and inspired. Mobile Moments will consist of targeted short stories called Screenplays created by the Times’s commercial content group, T Brand Studio.

“Mobile Moments is the first phase of a long-term, mobile, native advertising solution that will continue to evolve,” says Sebastian Tomich, senior vice president of advertising and innovation at The New York Times. “Based on the success our newsroom has had with moment-based targeting for its journalism, the commercial side of our organization has adopted similar tools, templates and insights, and tailored them to suit our advertisers’ needs.”

The news company has already experienced success with moment-driven, personalized journalism that’s delivered to mobile users at specific times throughout the day, when those users may be looking for particular types of content. The Times has also begun creating one-sentence stories for Apple Watch.

Scheduled for a fall launch, content for Mobile Moments may be generated by an advertiser or be custom-built by T Brand Studio. Content may be a graphic, video, interactive piece or a swipeable series of short stories.