Sunday, December 1, 2013

Is Employee Engagement Worth All the Effort?

by Tom Hinton

It’s no coincidence that most of the best-in-class companies also have fiercely loyal and dedicated workforces. When top-performing CEOs from companies like Apple, Amazon, Southwest, Starbucks and Berkshire Hathaway talk about why their companies are most admired, they always cite their people and, specifically, employee engagement as one of the keys to their profitability and success.

What exactly is Employee Engagement? I define it as a person’s emotional connection to their company. Twenty years ago, it was enough to merely pay your employees a fair wage and provide good working conditions. Today, however, things have changed in the workplace. Your best and brightest employees have choices. They won’t settle for the status quo. This is why your company and its management team must challenge employees with meaningful goals and assignments. Leaders must set the bar high with a corporate visions that inspire employees and tasks them to help customers use the company’s products and services to make the world a better place. This is how the era of Employee Engagement is defined.
How can your company or organization successfully engage its employees? Having learned by trial and error over the past 15 years, here are three keys steps I recommend:

1.     Take the Pulse of your Workforce. There’s no point in running a race if you don’t know where the starting point and finish line are, right? So, it’s imperative that you assess how your employees are feeling about their company, their work, and their ability to contribute to its success in meaningful ways. We always conduct an in-depth assessment that includes a cross-section of employees as all levels of the company. What we learn is invaluable and helps leaders chart their course for innovation, improvement and implementing a strategy for long-term growth and customer loyalty.

2.     Fix What Doesn’t Work and Fix it Fast!  Once you’ve completed the assessment phase, you will know exactly what is working and what is broken in your organization. Trust me, your employees will tell you. The next step is to challenge your management team to fix it – and fix it fast! The key here is to demonstrate forward progress. Don’t be surprised if your management team resists. Most managers are not visionaries and they are comfortable with the status quo. So, be prepared to kick a few butts and shake things up in order to demonstrate you mean business! Effective leaders understand the status quo is a fatal flaw in any organization.  This step requires courage and conviction.             

If your company has been stuck in neutral for some time, your employees will be favorably impressed by any significant action you take to implement positive changes that help them do a better job and get better results. This is why it’s important to prioritize the things that you need to fix, change or improve within each department and business unit. Basically, you have 90 days to act if you want to have any credibility as a leader.  People will embrace your new vision, but only if they see actions after words.  Remember the words of Ray Kroc, who put McDonald’s on the global map. Kroc said, “People are like bananas. They’re either green and ripening or yellow and rotting!” You always need to keep your people greening.

3.     Set the Bar High.  Most companies under-challenge their employees. As a leader, you need to set the bar high by inspiring your people with a vision that challenges them to be the best. This means soliciting their ideas, asking them to make a commitment to be the best, and incentivizing them to reach that bar. Then, you need to give them the tools and resources necessary to accomplish that vision. Finally, as the leader, you must always be the “voice of success” and be relentless in your pursuit of your vision. This is how you convert followers into believers, and believers into evangelists.                                                     

As your employees make progress and achieve various levels of success, be sure to reward and recognize them. Salute and praise your top performers in each department. Invite them to share their success stories with others in the company including other divisions. Create a culture of “success and celebration” within your organization that motivates your employees to raise their performance levels and inspires them to set the bar even higher while achieving new records for sales, productivity, innovation and cost savings. 

This is the stuff success is made of. This is how good companies become great, and great companies become legendary. Employee Engagement is a key part of every company’s success formula.

About the Author:  Tom Hinton is president of the American Consumer Council. For more information, please contact: 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Consumers Feeling So-So as 2013 Winds Down

It’s been a so-so year for American consumers as 2013 winds down. While consumers are less pessimistic in November about their economic prospects, the impact of October’s partial government shutdown, the lack of any meaningful accomplishments by the Congress, and the embarrassing mislaunch of the ObamaCare website all contributed to a ho-hum reaction from consumers.

Bloomberg’s Christopher Wellisz ( reports that the gap between positive and negative expectations for the economy shrank to minus 14 from a two-year low of minus 31 in October, according to data from the Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index. That's positive news.

Thomas Hinton of the American Consumer Council, a non-profit consumer education organization, stated, “We are basically back to square one in terms of  consumer sentiment prior to the government shutdown.”  Hinton added, “It’s not surprising that consumers have low expectations for government to accomplish anything significant this year. This will not bode well for incumbents in 2014 if the lack of progress continues.”

On a positive note, the American Consumer Council expects 2013 consumer holiday spending to be near last year’s spending levels as a result of improved economic conditions, pent-up demand for necessary consumer items and an aggressive retail campaign to lure shoppers into stores before Thanksgiving. ACC also expects online holiday spending to jump by 7% over 2012 according member responses.

The American Consumer Council is a non-profit consumer education organization with over 142,000 members and 44 state consumer councils. For information, visit:

Thursday, October 10, 2013

ACC Calls on Procter & Gamble and Dopps to Strengthen Safety Features of Tide Pods

The American Consumer Council (ACC) has called upon its members to contact The Procter & Gamble Company and Dopps, the seller and manufacturer of Tide Pods, and demand they strengthen the safety features of this product. 

According to complaints from ACC members and a recent ABC News report, to some kids, the bright colors and bite-size packaging of single-doss packets of laundry detergent look too much like candy. A large number of young children have consumed the Tide Pods and suffered serious repercussions including severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Thomas Hinton, president of the American Consumer Council, said, “While Dopps has taken several steps to address product safety concerns, it’s not enough. Too many children are still accessing this product and suffering serious physical consequences.  We’re asking P&G and Dopps to re-examine their packaging and hamper the product's ease-of-access so children cannot open it so quickly.”  

Hinton added, “It resembles a candy jar and that attracts youngsters to  eat it. P&G and Dopps need to move quickly to change the features and safety packaging of Tide Pods .”

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

American Consumer Council Applauds Credit Unions for Helping Federal Employees

The American Consumer Council (ACC) is giving kudos to credit unions across the nation for their support of furloughed federal employees during the government shutdown.

ACC specifically recognized credit unions such as Fort Knox Federal Credit Union for offering financial assistance to local military, Department of Defense employees and contractors directly affected by the federal government shutdown. Fort Knox FCU is offering to cover their lost pay through an interest free loan. 

ACC's president Thomas Hinton stated, "At a time when so many consumers are negatively affected by the irresponsible actions of the Congress, it's good to know that credit unions are stepping up to help their members through tough times and save the day!"

ACC Meets NCUA Requirements for Association SEGs

The American Consumer Council (ACC) has received an independent legal opinion stating that ACC meets the National Credit Union Administration's (NCUA) "totality of circumstances" test which is required in order to be approved as an associational SEG (Select Employer Group).

The independent legal opinion was requested by a large federally-chartered credit union and rendered by the San Diego law firm of Selzter Caplan McMahon Vitek on October 1st.

In essence, the Legal Opinion states that ACC meets the seven criteria set forth in the Federal Credit Union Act, Section 109(b) that pertains to associations and the requirements necessary to affiliate with a federally-chartered credit union. 

Copies of the Legal Opinion may be obtained by contacting ACC's media office at: 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Have We Forgotten About the Plight of Consumers Hurt in the Recession?

Here's a powerful article that appears in Fortune magazine by Sheila Bair, the former head of the FDIC. We recommend you read it because we think her points are right on and problems still persist!

Thomas Hinton,
President & CEO
American Consumer Council
By Sheila Bair
I told myself I wasn't going to do a "Lehman" column given the media frenzy over this month's five-year anniversary of that institution's bankruptcy. But in researching a new book I am writing for young adults about the 2008 financial crisis, I have been uncomfortably reminded of the hardship so many families encountered because of the crisis, particularly their kids.
Their plight has been largely forgotten in the power politics that have overcome financial reform. It's all about winners and losers, with regulators and reform advocates pitted against a powerful industry lobbying machine, oiled by political money and the grease of revolving door jobs. The objective of protecting the public from another recession brought on by an unstable financial sector seems lost in the Washington shuffle.
So let me recount the heartbreaking memories of the families I have interviewed. They bear tragic similarities. Their problems usually started with a steeply resetting mortgage payment, or job loss or cutback, frequently combined with an unexpected health problem not covered by insurance. Whatever the catalyst, it is almost always followed by high levels of stress for the family, sleepless nights for parents and kids, deteriorating grades at school, lost hope as savings are depleted, and finally the loss of a home. The kids give up their rooms, their pets, their schools, their neighborhoods, and will always live with the traumatic memories of their forced dislocation.
To be sure, many of the parents I have interviewed bear some responsibility for their troubles. As home prices escalated, they repeatedly refinanced their houses to pull out cash. When the housing market turned, they were left with unaffordable mortgage debt, which far exceeded the value of their homes. But these cash-out refis were not always done to pay for fancy vacations or flat screen TVs as apologists for Wall Street would have you believe. Rather, more typically, the money was used to pay for college tuition, medical bills, or simply to help make ends meet.
Several of the families I interviewed never participated in the housing craze. They had traditional 30-year, fixed rate mortgages that they could no longer pay when they lost their jobs or suffered pay cuts. They did nothing wrong except live in a country where we temporarily deluded ourselves into thinking that a "self-regulating" financial sector tethered to a housing asset bubble could provide a solid foundation for prosperity.
These families are now clawing their way back. Many are living in apartments or spartan rental homes. Most have regained employment, but at significantly lower wages. Several have managed to start rebuilding their savings. Their kids have grown to accept getting by with less. Some have foregone college, as their parents depleted their college accounts in a desperate attempt to hold onto their homes. Instead, they join the military or try to find work in a teen labor force which has a 24% unemployment rate. Others go to college by borrowing heavily. They graduate, then move back home, taking a low-paying job. As young people, they should be filled with hope and optimism. Instead, they confront limited job opportunities, reduced standards of living, and mountains of student debt.
Their lives, like so many across the country, are improving only after years of personal struggle. Protecting them from another crisis should be regulators' highest priority.
Some say that the people who participated in the bailouts five years ago (and I was one) are "heroes" because we "saved the system". But it didn't take heroism to throw trillions of government cash at big financial institutions. The true heroes are those regulators who can show the courage to tame the system against the fierce lobbying of the very institutions that benefited from the government's largesse.
As the Lehman bankruptcy assumes its place in the annals of our financial history, it saddens me to think how historians will characterize the timid reform effort that has followed so far. With the Dodd-Frank financial reform law barely one-third implemented, regulators still have the opportunity to make the post-Lehman era their finest hour. I hope they rise to the occasion.
Sheila C. Bair, the chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from 2006 to 2011, is the author of Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street From Wall Street and Wall Street From Itself released in paperback this month

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

In Response to Dr. Keith Leggett's Credit Union Watch Blog of July 10, 2013

Your recent Blog, which referenced the American Consumer Council (ACC), has several errors and inaccuracies that need to be corrected.  For the record, the American Consumer Council is a non-profit consumer education organization with over 140,000 members nationwide. Our focus is consumer advocacy, financial education and corporate social responsibility. Our common bond is very clearly stated in our bylaws and literature.

For you to suggest that consumer-members of ACC should not be eligible to join a credit union is arrogant and discriminatory. It smacks of the typical “Big Bank” gobbledygook that is offensive and condescending to most American consumers. And, let’s be candid here, it’s the reason why so many banks are reviled by consumers. Simply stated, banks have lost our trust.

Consumers haven’t forgotten that is was Big Banks – not credit unions – that betrayed consumers and largely caused the Great Recession with their shady practices and “wheeling n’ dealing” that devastated our retirement and savings accounts. It was Big Banks that deceived consumers with mortgage deals and then illegally foreclosed on millions of consumers’ homes.

At a time when banks have all-but-deserted the average American consumer, credit unions are more vital to the financial success of our members, entrepreneurs and small businesses than ever before. We proudly stand with our credit union partners because they do an outstanding job serving the financial needs of consumers.

So, Keith, let me help you get your facts right. As with every non-profit organization, ACC has membership eligibility criteria which is listed in our bylaws and on our website. Therefore, it’s misleading for you to suggest that “anyone can join a credit union [or our organization] by checking a box on a credit union application.”  That’s just not true.

Consumers join our organization by completing a membership application and paying the appropriate dues. Every individual who wants to join ACC must meet our membership criteria in order to become a member.  We also provide scholarships to a segment of the consumer population that cannot afford our annual dues.
Also, we actively support many areas of the country where there are large numbers of under-served consumers. Unlike banks, which have closed branches in under-served regions and “blacklisted” many consumers because of simple mistakes they made during their banking transactions (as recently reported in the New York Times), credit unions have been a strong, reliable financial partner with ACC by delivering value-added services at competitive rates to these under-served consumers and regions.

Finally, it’s ludicrous for you to suggest that because a credit union enrolls members of the American Consumer Council that they are somehow “straying from their charter.”  Every credit union is strictly regulated by the NCUA or its state regulator. We have found that the men and women who work tirelessly for the NCUA are dedicated, competent people who follow the letter of the law. This is why ACC must adhere to the same guidelines that every other Select Employer Group (SEG) must adhere to when we put forward a request to have a credit union represent or enroll our members. It’s a cheap shot on your part to blame regulators for doing their job… and a good job at that!

It’s unfortunate your perspective is so lop-sided simply because you work for the American Bankers Association, a good organization but one that really doesn’t embrace the traditional American values of competition and capitalism. How ironic.

Also, it’s obvious from your own blog postings, articles, and statements which I’ve read, that you seem hell-bent on destroying credit unions, which only represent 6% of the financial market; and, in the process, the “little guy.” Certainly, there must be a more enlightened way for you to communicate your views than by knocking the “little guy” – the average American consumer who feels abandoned by the very banks you represent.

While your position at the ABA does give you a platform to espouse your views towards credit unions, it doesn’t give you the right to misstate the facts. Nor, should it give credence to your lop-sided idea that consumers should be denied the right to choose their financial relationships; or, have the right to become members of credit unions; or, suggest that credit unions not be able to legally partner with organizations like the American Consumer Council, whose mission is to help our consumer-members obtain the financial services they need to live their dreams.

Thomas Hinton 
President & CEO
American Consumer Council 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

National Consumer Protection Week: Tips to Make You a Smarter Shopper

Sales pitches and financial advice come at you from every direction—by phone, by mail, and every time you read an ad, go online or turn on your TV. It can seem like a full time job just to sort it all out, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Government agencies, consumer organizations and advocacy groups join forces during National Consumer Protection Week, March 3-9 with shopping strategies and consumer tips to empower you to make better buying decisions and protect your rights in the marketplace.
Start learning now with these tips:

  • A free mobile app can help you check any product or vehicle, new or used, to see if it’s been recalled or has safety complaints? Keep up with recent recalls of things you may have around the house or check on that great thrift shop bargain before you buy. Use the app and mobile site to search by product type and brand name.
  • When your wallet is lost or stolen, there are eight steps you need to take right away (PDF)? A thief won’t waste time trying to cash in on your loss. Learn now so you’ll be ready to protect your identity and your credit as soon as your wallet goes missing.
  • A new federal agency is working to eliminate deceptive and unfair lending practices? Established in 2010, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) works to make sure providers of mortgages, credit cards, student loans and banking services market their products honestly, clearly and legally. Learn more about their work, and their simple tips for protecting yourself.
  • Scammers see tough economic times as an opportunity? Job scams are abundant, as swindlers “guarantee” you an unadvertised job, try to get you to pay for their placement services or tell you that you can get rich by working from home. Learn more about financial scams and saving money at the Federal Trade Commission’s
  • There’s a formula for complaining effectively? If you’re not satisfied with a product or service, use the Consumer Action Handbook’s sample complaint letter to let the company know where they went wrong and how you want them to fix it. To get the free Handbook or its Spanish counterpart, la Guía del Consumidor, visit the consumer protection sections of or