Employee Engagement: A Real Life Example Leveraging SWOT Analysis

January 25th, 2011 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

Engagement Pyramidphoto © 2010 fogfish | more info (via: Wylio)
SWOT Analysis is a valuable tool if you ask the correct questions.  I like to have the staff at companies go through some exercises to prepare them for the SWOT Analysis.  We learn how much they know about the business as well as potential strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.

The post How Much Do Your Employees Know About Your Business? details the seven exercises I have utilized.  Here are the actual responses from the Flower and Gift Shop to visualize how the analysis works.

What I found when asking about current product lines, what percentage of sales and profit each represented and the future direction of each product line I was told the following.

Products/Services % of Sales % of Profit Emphasis
1 Fresh Flowers/Arrangements 50 35-40 same
2 Fruit/Gift Baskets 7 7 same
3 Giftware 30-50 10-25 decrease
4 Plants 25 15 increase
5 Special Occasions 5 3 increase
6 Interior Plantscaping 4 3 increase
7 Silk Arrangements 5 3 decrease
8 Teleflora 7 4 decrease

Thoughts on and results of their recommendations:

Products/Services Comments/Reactions Result
1 Fresh Flowers/Arrangements Same emphasis since core of business.  Increased focus on providing to large corporations. Enacted
2 Fruit/Gift Baskets Same emphasis since ties in with arrangements. Enacted
3 Giftware Cut out the paper goods, candy and the wider assortment. Enacted
4 Plants A category with lower margins was suggested to increase focus to diversify away from fresh flowers. Enacted
5 Special Occasions A pretty small business representing small margins and scheduling difficulties was to be emphasized. Enacted
6 Interior Plantscaping Widen focus to include funeral homes and not just weddings. Enacted
7 Silk Arrangements Focus on commercial not retail. Not done
8 Teleflora Eliminate even though all shops use Teleflora or FTD or similar to get business from outside their geographic area. Not done

New ideas to leverage the physical space and their strengths included:

1.      Commercial Decorating

2.      Coffee Bar

3.      Holding How to Classes

4.      Birthday Parties

5.      School Tours

6.      Photo shooting space because of decorations

7.      Hold Holiday Special Events

The Takeaway

Employees are a powerful source of ideas for how to change your business.  They will offer ideas about product lines to emphasize de-emphasize or discontinue.

Those are the actual responses.  Over to you.  Please comment below.

1.      Will you undertake a similar exercise with your clients or your clients’ employees?

2.      What other exercises would you add?

3.      How would you change any of the exercises?

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  1. Judson Espinol says:

    I love the smell of fresh flowers that is why i always keep them at home in a flower vase. I usually buy them by the dozens. *”‘”, – Take care

  2. Hi Rob,

    We did something similar to what Susan mentioned above at one of my previous jobs. Whenever we ran a marketing campaign, we sent copies to the staff to keep them apprised and “in-the-loop”. This was particularly important for the sales staff as they wanted/needed to be informed of what the marketing department was sending out to their prospects.

  3. Dale says:

    The first order of business is to make sure the organization defines and communicates, in a coherent manner, what employee engagement is. Often issues like commitment, satisfaction, involvement, and the like are used as synonyms for employee engagement. They are not.

    The argument could be made for using a SWOT analysis to provide “meaning” and “challenge” to the employees work and therefore provides some help as you describe. However, what often gets overlooked and why lasting employee engagement is so difficult to achieve is not what the employees know, but who they are!

    Almost from the start of any new learning and change initiative (and keeping employees engaged is learning and change) each employee is asking him or herself a very important question. That question is: Is the organization available to provide the care, support, and help that I might need? If the answer is yes, and organization is available in this regard, then the employees are willing to participate fully in what the organization may ask of them (i.e.SWOT analysis).

    If the employees perceive that the organization has been inconsistent in providing the care, support and help, then the employees are liking to respond in a similar fashion. This inconsistency makes assessing what the employees know about the business or even being open to any new learning and change, very problematic.

    If the employees perceive that the organization has not been available, supportive, and does not care about them, then all bets are off and providing exercises (like the SWOT analysis) is just an exercise in and of itself without much meaning for engaging the employees.

    Dale Hudson
    organizational development, executive coaching, employee engagement

    • Rob Berman says:


      Thanks for the well thought out and crafted comment. Through the process we were able to engage the employees. As we brought them along we did more exercises culminating in the SWOT. The owner also learned which employees needed to leave the team.


  4. Agree with Susan and Keyuri that it’s a good idea to include willing employees. Not least since you find out how much they know about the business as well.

    • Rob Berman says:


      What was interesting about the exercise was that some of the employees were not so willing to participate in the beginning. By taking them through a series of exercises before SWOT we were able to show them what was the plan and to engage them.


  5. Susan Oakes says:

    Hi Rob,

    Great example of including employees. Keyuri mentioned about willing participants and that is key. One way I found at a company I worked for was to give them regular updates about our marketing campaigns or product launches and invite feedback. We then took it further and involved some of them earlier in the process and results were better.

    • Rob Berman says:


      That is exactly what we did. We brought employees in to the process and let them know what was being planned. They helped determine priorities so we had buy in.


  6. Rob — I’m not sure of the process you used within SWOT to determine which activities to increase or decrease. You could make the argument to place more emphasis on the activities that are bringing you the most profit now, such as fresh flowers/arrangements. It may be more difficult to move the needle from 50 to 60% but the effort could be worth more than doubling the 3% profit on interior plantscaping. I’d welcome your thoughts on how the increase/decrease decisions were made.

    • Rob Berman says:


      I used a series of exercises with the employees. The exhibits are a combination of asking them a series of questions about product line sales and profits etc that I outlined in a prior post as well as a SWOT. Please note that the SWOT was with a much smaller group and included the owner. I agree that moving a 3% item does not necessarily make sense. In fact, I recommended shutting down that part of the business because it was a distraction. For sentimental reasons, the owner kept it open. To me, a big challenge facing this company was organization and process. So much waste in the fresh flowers, hence the sales and profit margin contributions not being the same. A number of specific steps were undertaken to “fix” that problem. Also, some of the going forward ideas are at the bottom of the post. These were designed to grow key areas of the business.

      To me the best answer I can give you to increase/decrease was that the owner was very invested in the multi-generation business and did not always make the best decisions for her business. Rationality did not necessarily rule the day.


  7. It does seem like the possibilities are endless. There is so much growth to be had… if only individuals are willing participants.

  8. Rob, I think the reason that I love the SWOT analysis so much is that it resembles what I do when coaching my parent clientele. When they identify goals, we go through a process very similar to what you’ve outlined in your blogs. It is very powerful for individuals and as you have described, business as well. You’re a small business coach Rob!

    • Rob Berman says:


      SWOT works for non-profits as well. I just spent an hour on the phone with someone at a non-profit. My previous SWOT posts were forwarded to her to help on a project. She sent me some questions in the comments and I contacted her. The mission of her non-profit is similar to a non-profit board that I sit on. We talked about how to use SWOT and brainstorming as well as other techniques.


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