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Does Nordstrom really care? Do YOUR employees care?

My sister Jackie was kind enough to order a tube of lipstick for me while I was traveling and have it shipped to my house.  But when a rather large cardboard box arrived at my house this weekend, I was perplexed.  Did I order something?

I noticed the box was very lightweight, so when I opened it up, it revealed a small tube of lipstick. Small item inside an almost empty, large box. What really caught my attention was the printed message on the outside of the shipping box:

NORDSTROM CARES:  Taking care of the planet is part of how we take care of our customers.  Our boxes are made using at least 30% post-consumer recycled content.  Please reuse or recycle.  Visit to learn more about Nordstrom’s commitment to sustainability.

I cannot even count all the ways this makes Nordstrom look out of touch.  And I suspect this is typical of many companies who say they are committed to sustainability, diversity, empowerment, etc. It shows up as greenwashing to me.

While Nordstrom built their reputation on customer service, do you think Nordstrom employees truly feel empowered? If so, I wonder why a company employee has not raised the issue about finding a better way to ship very small items, so we are not wasting precious resources. If Nordstrom really does care about the planet, then they would welcome suggestions from employees, vendors and customers on how they can improve.

What initiatives and priorities do you say you have in YOUR company?  Good communication?  Collaboration and Teamwork? Sustainability?  Diversity?  Are they just words, or do they have real meaning and are they alive and well?

If your priority is “Good communication” – does the CEO hold regular all-hands meetings to keep everyone updated and informed on the company’s priorities, challenges, successes and issues?  Do you coach your managers on how to be good listeners and leaders and survey your employees regularly? Or do you depend on your HR person to send over-generalized emails out to all employees saying they are appreciated and you are providing lunch? Bleh.

If your priority is “Collaboration and Teamwork” – do you find ways to put together cross-functional teams to solve the real problems in the company?  Do you have a process that encourages the people who actually DO the work to voice their concerns and suggestions for improvement?  Do you publicly thank people when they bring up something management was not aware of? Even if it made a leader or manager uncomfortable? Or do you let all of your managers do their own version of “teamwork and collaboration”?

If “Sustainability” is a priority, have you eliminated all copy machines and limited the printers to encourage employees to NOT print, when they can operate electronically?  Do you actively recycle within the company and provide training and resources to your employees so they can learn to recycle at home?  Have you eliminated all plastic water bottles on company property and use water dispensers and glasses for drinking?  Does everyone know why the lights are dimmed in the office and have you educated all employees on saving energy?  Or does your company just complete sustainability reports for your top customers without really educating your staff on what more they can do?

And if “Diversity” is a priority, have you done a baseline survey of the demographics of your employees by department, to see if the make-up of your leadership team and employees at all levels is homogenous?  One of my clients recently told me that he was shocked to find out that his company is not as diverse as he thought they were (he saw the stats for the first time).  Is your leadership team a mix of genders, ages, and ethnicities? In your warehouse operations, are all the supervisors men and all the line workers women?  That’s not diversity. When recruiting for open positions, do you make a concerted effort to find candidates who don’t look like everyone else? Yes, it takes a lot more effort.

So, my message is this:  Is what you say the same as how you act?  Do you say you “Care about the planet”, but make no significant effort to reduce your carbon footprint?  Do you say you value employee ideas and input, but don’t have a process in place to ensure it is easy for an employee to share their ideas?

Just because you don’t get ideas from employees, doesn’t mean they don’t have them.  A true leader manages by walking around (MBWA) and gently encourages and extracts ideas from employees.  They publicly thank their team members for making suggestions, even if they cannot be easily implemented.

Instead of complaining about the work ethic of Gen Y and Gen Z, how about asking for their suggestions and input about their real concerns?  Show them YOU care…..and that will encourage THEM to care, too.

Onward and upward,

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