Engaging employees to deliver a different brand experience

Payless ShoeSource: Engaging employees to deliver a different brand experience


After a long, sustained period of expansion and growth by 2002, Payless ShoeSource began to experience significant stagnation in its business performance.

Built on the strength of its famously efficient supply chain operations, the company was struggling to find new customers for its product. Store-to-store sales figures had declined for more than a year, the stock price had flattened and customer satisfaction scores were below acceptable levels.

The company undertook an aggressive business strategy shift to revitalize the brand, aiming to “democratize fashion” by offering high-end styles to customers seeking bargain prices.


  • Partnered with the strategy and senior teams to drive alignment on strategy out of which emerged a compelling story, message platform and business case for engagement.
  • Designed annual leadership conferences to create a shared experience, connect associates to customers and build on strategy execution.
  • Trained field and corporate leaders to integrate the message platform into their work processes to disperse ownership of the story across the enterprise.
  • Developed a drumbeat to drive the pace of change with communication “interventions” and shine a light on successes.


  • Trained more than 300 leaders to tell the company’s strategic story.
  • The annual leadership conference attracted more than 1,200 attendees, creating a shared experience for associates across the organization.
  • Dramatic shift in organization’s thinking and adoption of new ways of working, reflected by such survey scores as:
    • 49 percent increase in employee “understanding of the business strategy”
      (from 47 to 96 percent).
    • 42 percent increase in employee “understanding of [their own] role in strategy execution” (from 49 to 91 percent).
    • 41 percent increase in employee recognition of “what to do differently” to deliver on strategy (from 40 to 81 percent).

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