March 8, 2013
As we face more talk of triple-dip recessions there’s patently too much doom and gloom about and it can be sapping stuff, especially for line managers on the front line. But as the ancient wisdom goes, the fast track to feeling more empowered is to focus on what you can personally influence. We all have some degree of empowerment in the workplace, even if it fees like “blowing into the wind” at times, whether we’re the CEO or a supervisor. And even if we can only influence the apparently little things, they all add up over time.
If the barrage of statistics is to be believed (and it’s not fair just to trust the bad news), companies with high employee engagement levels grow on average 4.5 times faster than those with low levels (Hays 2010).
As I illustrate in Brand Champions, engaged employees are:
I - involved
P - proactive
E - energised and energising
So, if you’re keen to nurture these characteristics in your colleagues, why not try these top tips to promote the engagement drive within your own organisation. As you’ll realise, most are within your control and most of them are free:
1. Give recognition
If someone has done well, let them know you know it. A simple thank you goes a long way to increasing engagement even if it’s one colleague at a time, so “catch” them doing the right thing.
2. Give constructive feedback
Managers giving little or no feedback to their workers fail to engage 98 per cent of them, according to a 2009 study by Gallup. Let employees know how they are doing and what they can do to improve. It’s worth giving your first-line managers in particular training on how to do this.
3. Incentivise good work
Ensure that your HR processes are hard-wired to recognise objectives that are “on brand” and “on strategy”.
4. Create an engaging culture
An open door policy creates an approachable feel to the office, where employees feel comfortable. Ensure management have a physical presence in the office and are role models for your core values.
5. Involve people
Self-managing teams are engagement nirvana. Involving people in company decisions will make them feel part of the organisation and give them a real sense of ownership.
6.Keep people informed
Don’t assume that people don’t know or don’t need to know. They will appreciate being in the loop about any changes in the company. Internal communication must do more than SOS (send out stuff).
7. Encourage suggestions and input
Let them know their opinions count…. chances are the answers to your issues can be solved in-house.
8. Promote role models
Rather than favouring favourites look to unusual suspects for examples of great practice and celebrate them. This will engage more people than you can imagine.
9. Encourage training, development and a career path
Stress the benefits of working for your brand including developing new skills and having a career path in return for development. Relationships count but they need to be nurtured.
10. Focus on their talents
Get to know the “real people” who work for you. Play some games. Find out what talents they have or want to have. Use these when delegating projects to ensure they are using their talents and developing in the right areas.
For more free employee engagement resources, pick up a copy of Ian’s latest book, Brand Champions.
February 26, 2013
The branded bunting was out in profusion and I certainly witnessed plenty of determined, progressive intent when I was fortunate enough to visit several of India’s leading brands and participate in the state and business sponsored debate about Brand India some years ago now.
So it’s not without concern that we learn that the most valuable brands in India: State Bank of India; Tata Motors and Reliance Industries have seen a recent decline in their net brand worth of as much as 13%.
According to the WARC site, Unni Krishnan, Brand Finance brand strategy director, believes that the larger organisations “face serious challenges in their ability to transform themselves in line with the changes taking place in the market”. And according to Professor YLR Moorthi of IIM Bangalore, external factors like global economic volatility, cost pressures and corruption scandals are all “external worries” threatening to undermine the confidence of most Indian brands. As we know only too well in the West, when the “signature” brands come under threat, so does the nation brand.
In an article first published in the India Economic Times, then by Admap/WARC, then updated for the book Nation Branding (2009) under the title “Whose Brand is Flagging Now”*, we warned of the dangers inherent in brands that send mixed signals to the market, that promise one thing in their advertising and livery yet deliver something else.
With particular reference to Indian brands and the Brand India debate, we pointed to the almost paradoxical juxtaposition of a rational, overly professionalised inclination in some of the brand positioning that perhaps belied the somewhat bureaucratic reality of day-to-day corporate operations. We argued then, and still do, for a more authentic and powerful blending of the best aspects of the aforementioned characteristics with the unscripted, buccaneering, spiritual, almost chaotic and certainly pioneering traits that are undeniably as much a part of a tantalising national culture and which need to be embraced not just begrudgingly accommodated.
Perhaps it is testimony to this argument that some of India’s smaller branded businesses have bucked the blip amongst the “big beasts” of Indian commerce with, for example, the likes of defence business Mahindra & Mahindra increasing value by 65% and Idea Cellular as well as Axis, a retail bank, growing by 73%. Could it be that their core cultures are still fleet of foot enough to be able to transform rapidly and keep in tune with their core values and the changing needs of their stakeholders, both inside and out?
Perhaps just as importantly, could there be lessons for the likes of TATA and co to learn as they look for ways to reverse this setback in brand value before it becomes a trend? Time, as they say, will doubtless tell.
If you would like a PDF copy of the original article or have any questions about anything in this article, please contact us.
November 6, 2012
The November edition of Admap in which Ian regularly features, explores the vital role of the employee in creating engaging brand experiences whether in the physical or virtual shopping space.
In collaboration with retail environment specialists M Worldwide, Ian asserts that as customer choice increases, employees always make the difference between a truly innovative, enriching and engaging service experience whether delivered online or face-to-face.
He singles out the emergence of holistic brand offerings like Nuffield* and Lloyds Pharmacy as examples of organisations who “get it” and strive to “get it right” by collaborating with and engaging their brand champions to ensure that they fulfill their ambitious service promises.
Click on the link below to read the article in full**:
*Talking about our work creating the Nuffield Service Promise and Champions Engagement strategy, our client said: “You introduced some fantastic ideas, challenged our people to discover what they need to be as leaders, and created high quality, engaging materials.”
**The article is, of course, a collaboration between the authors and the publication and is reproduced with permission of Admap.
Given the importance I place on the unassuming everyman as the pivotal brand champion, that’s good news for those with the wisdom to realise that sustainable brands aren’t forged in the flames of advertising but evolve steadily from within.
While Microsoft; Apple and co continue to attract the sexy headlines in the technology sector, Fujitsu has become the world’s third-largest IT services provider with over 172,000 employees supporting customers in over 100 countries. Very much a brand to watch, Fujitsu’s Next Generation Technical Computing Unit, for example, recently developed the world’s fastest supercomputer.
But just as very few of us are aware of the impact Arm Holdings has had on mobile technology, chances are you probably had no idea about the credentials of this company. And therein lies the cultural essence of the Fujitsu brand.
Fujitsu’s brand attributes are:
At the start of their brand engagement journey around 4 years ago, the leaders were conscious that in order to grow, that growth would need to be outside of Japan and Fujitsu would need to become accepted as a global brand in key markets and among stakeholder groups externally. But they also recognised that the first step on their journey would have to involve gaining and then sustaining the belief, involvement and engagement of their colleagues within.
Standards of modesty (also called demureness or reticence) are aspects of the culture of a country or group of people, at a given point in time. It is a measure against which an individual in a given society or culture, whether a nation-state or a corporate collective, may be judged.
It’s often expressed in social interaction by communicating in a way exhibiting humility, even shyness and is associated with:
- downplaying achievements
- behaviour, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency
- avoiding insincere self-abasement through false or sham modesty, which is a form of boasting
Quite a contrast to the traditionally boastful and über confident philosophy underpinning most marketing campaigns and certainly the flip side of the behavioural coin that has caused so much controversy within the financial services sector.
I recall a long conversation with a senior executive from one of the UK mutuals which took place just before the banking crash. He was lambasting his colleagues for their lack of ambition and was calling for more of a performance culture in terms of risk and reward and wanted this to be driven by people processes like recruitment and appraisal. He didn’t get the chance to make those changes. Yet his business, like many of their more prudent peers, has more than weathered the prolonged and repeated financial storms.
The salutary lesson for that brand is that transformation can be achieved without sacrificing the essence of the brand, provided that essence is sound in the first place of course. This is epitomised by Fujitsu.
There’s a healthy balance about the Fujitsu brand attributes, between listening and responding to changing customer needs; having ambition yet remaining genuine or authentic. It’s a formula that respects the all important notion of being able to back up the promises in the glossy brochures with actions, quietly meeting and exceeding expectations rather than shooting wildly from the lip.
Fujitsu’s employee brand engagement champion Julie Clarke is in many respects the apotheosis of the Fujitsu brand, although she would blush at the compliment. Julie has had a long and distinguished career, importantly spanning front line; hr and latterly marketing functions, an important mix of ingredients for the central brand champion. But Julie is characteristically modest about her achievements. She has undoubtedly been instrumental in developing and implementing one of the most comprehensive global employee engagement programmes to have launched since the economic downturn began, very much bucking the global trend. Yet Julie spends most of her time celebrating the pivotal role played by the country champions rather than the centre.
Testimonials from VIP customers, business partners and employees alike are proof positive that in the fourth year of their brand transformation journey, internal and external advocacy levels, colleague communication, good news stories and best practices are on a high despite the global downturn and unforseen natural catastrophes like the Asian Tsunami.
“Our brand engagement journey is the product of constant and ongoing collaboration and is very much the sum of its many parts. We make no secret of the fact that we’ve collaborated with thought partners and external agencies to bring best practices and to help frame our thinking. Brand Engagement was pretty much my bible as I transitioned from HR to Marketing as it speaks to both audiences and sets out the key stages while recognising that the nature of the journey differs from one brand to the next.
Some of our key milestones along the way have included:
- creating a compelling business case for change
- obtaining buy-in at senior leadership level first
- identifying senior sponsors and champions
- simplifying the engagement programme into 4, bite-size phases
- collaborating across hr and marketing
- encouraging everyone to think global but act local and personalise content for their markets
- investing in local training and development
- improving internal communication substantially
- building on the Fujitsu legacy, not reinventing the wheel
- working within the prevailing culture rather than imposing alien approaches
- setting hard and soft goals
- sharing best practices and celebrating wins
- creating a network of credible local brand champions as catalysts and ambassadors
- managing the evolution of the Fujitsu brand story in the context of the wider strategy
It was always our aim to ensure that the programme had local ownership. We’re really seeing momentum now in the form of regional stories and best practices and are well into the embedding and reinforcing stage where the role of local champions will become increasingly important. It’s great to see some of the very real customer case studies making the link between the Fujitsu values and the bottom line.”
There’s clearly still work to be done and challenges to face before Fujitsu assumes the position in the pantheon of global brands that it quietly aspires to. But built as it is on a platform of modesty, realism and engagement-driven innovation, blossoming steadily rather than erupting aggressively, Fujitsu is very much a brand of its time.
* Julie Clarke and her Fujitsu brand engagement story will be one of the brand champion case studies to feature alongside brands like M&S and Arm Holdings in Brand Challenger, the third book in the Brand Engagement trilogy.
The controversial talk about cost cutting and “austerity measures” has been relentless in the lengthy aftershock of the financial crisis. Most worryingly for organisations in general is the apparent fact that what are wrongly referred to as the “discretionary soft skills disciplines” including training and development; internal communication/employee engagement; brand engagement and culture development are constantly under threat just when they’re needed the most.
A large part of the reason for this is that the finances for these disciplines wrongly fall into the discretionary spend category making them the first victims of cutbacks.
But there’s a very obvious flipside to the blinkered cost argument.
Market research leader Gallup asserts that in 2008 alone, the cost of disengagement to the UK economy was between £59bn – £64bn and an IES/Work Foundation report found that, if organisations increased investment in engagement practices by just 10%, they would increase profits by up to £2k per employee per year. (source Employee Engagement Today, vol 2, Autumn 09).
As someone who has first hand experience of the impact disaffected employees can have on business performance and brand management, I believe these to be conservative figures, but they still make a very strong point.
David Bolchover, in his book The Living Dead*, states that in the UK alone, doctors receive over 9 million “suspect” requests for sick notes per year. This is equivalent to the entire population of Sweden.
His book came out during the good times.
In addition one in three midweek visitors to a major theme park are reputedly “pulling a sickie” from work. Great news for the entertainment industry but worrying for HR departments. It also begs the question where do the theme park employees go when they fancy a duvet day?
A 2006 study by ISR found that a 5% improvement in the overall level of employee engagement converts into a 25-85% increase in profits for service oriented organisations.
A survey of 500 Fortune 100 companies, published in the book Optimizing Talent by Sharkey and Eccher in 2010 revealed that if you improved culture to support Talent Management 1 point you would generate a 10 percent gain in financial results. Conversely if you improved your performance management system by three points, you would get no improvement in business outcomes. Culture, Strategic Alignment and L&D came out as the top3 change levers.
Jack Welch, legendary former CEO of GE, identified employee engagement as the most important barometer of organizational performance (Business Week, May 3, 2006 “A Healthy Company).
The CBI reports that apparent sickness absence costs the UK economy more than £13bn a year, backed up in the 2011 PWC research into the direct and indirect cost of absenteeism.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s 2010 report, Creating an Engaged Workforce found that just under a third of employees are actively engaged with their work at any one time. The 2010 Putting it in Perspective report from ORC International found that although levels of job satisfaction have increased slightly across the UK, organisational pride and the confidence of employees to speak up and make their voices heard has dropped.
It’s literally “pick a survey, any survey” as they’re all saying virtually the same thing. But business case for employee engagement at an individual business level aside, recovery of these figures alone would go a long way towards solving the various national debt problems.
Yet encouraging people to “go the extra mile” is an apparent goal of the government-backed, so-called employee engagement task force and there is widespread acknowledgement that increasing levels of engagement across the UK could really help to boost productivity.
We need our organisations to function if the economy is to function.
There are no organisations without people.
Performance is not sustainable without engagement.
Most engagement initiatives can be at least cost neutral if properly conceived and implemented. The visionary organisations have already moved on from setting their HR and finance dept the task of proving the business case and have been energising, mobilising and re-connecting their people for some time now.
Begs the real question…..other than surveying your people, what are you doing to bridge the engagement gap where you work?
March 28, 2012
In Part 1 I listed the issues poisoning and undermining the engagement landscape.
1. Measure what you treasure: We’ve criticised the measurement industry which has grown up around employee engagement, largely on the grounds that the processes are all too often too cumbersome and there’s far too great a lag between recognition of the problem and action. When directors are obsessed with quarterly reporting and expect to move on every couple of years, what’s the use of a bi-annual staff survey?
We’ve also spoken in the past however, about the need for some form of measurement to win round the left-brained, data-worshipping cynics and to create a stake in the ground from which improvement can be tracked.
It’s far better however, to ask a few powerful questions and take swift action to address the issues highlighted. It sends out a signal that the leaders care, especially if they can see swift results. After all, there’s usually time to dig deeper at a later stage and to involve more people in that process.
2. Pull together a brand coalition: Sustainable brands are built on sustainable stakeholder involvement inside and out and side to side. Constructing and maintaining a united and consistent picture of the business is very important if the business is to back up the promises made about the brand. This can’t happen in isolation, however, and needs at least HR; Marketing and Comms working in concert to address the process and behavioural challenges.
3. Think beehive, think culture: I can’t think of a board room where “the way we do things” isn’t tabled daily. Yet so few attempt to clarify what that means in practice, usually fearing the consequences of shaking the beehive. Organisations are the sum of the behaviour of the people who work for them. You can’t engage people unless you understand them. Involvement is key to engagement, so find a way to understand the current norms and then work with the decision makers to create a compelling picture of the culture required to deliver the goals, strategy and vision and an engagement programme to bring it to life, role modelling that desired culture as you go. If in doubt, ask a trusted advisor to lend a hand in shaping and facilitating the journey.
4. Lead by example: It’s tough at the top. But that’s what you’re paid for. Remember how you used to look to your leaders for cues about how to behave, and how not to? That never changes. Yes, organisations have had to adapt to prevailing social norms and become more democratic and affiliative in leadership style. So-called social media and the communication revolution is going to ensure that this trend continues. The modern manager simply has to lad by example if they’re to sustain a career within a sustainable business. Values-based leadership is a powerful development strategy, as is mentoring and hugely cost-effective. These are tough times but how are leadership development budgets or even personal development budgets being spent where you work? And what’s the opportunity cost of a disengaged workforce?
5. Appreciate the power of appreciative comms: Last but not least, conscripted armies of favourites don’t build sustainable brands. Cynics don’t destroy them either. Brands are undermined by a million small cuts; insidiousness and passivity leading to what I call “creeping brand death” like the spreading darkness in The Never Ending Story. The thriving brands, however, have champions everywhere in all shapes and sizes who feel connected because they believe in what they’re hearing via the internal communication channels and their values resonate with what they experience at work not just what they hear the leaders saying. So be appreciative and start actively seeking out examples of best practice behaviour that exemplifies the business you want to see and celebrate it. Good news is infectious, especially in dark days.
If you would like to know more about the detail underpinning these 5 approaches which are all based upon recent case studies or would prefer a confidential chat about the engagement issues you’re facing, please contact Ian.
Plan A at M&S (because there can be no plan B)
Back at the start of the year, I facilitated the first in a series of executive networking breakfasts, this time featuring Mike Barry, Head of Sustainable Business
Mike wouldn’t call himself an iconoclast. But the first of many myths he debunked over the croissants was the notion that a corporate conscience was somehow a luxury for the boom times. A sustainable brand embraces the full range of stakeholders, inside and out, engaging the key communities with a compelling vision and conveying a genuine sense of corporate responsibility reflected in both the value set they project and the behaviour they demonstrate.
The evolution of sustainability at M&S covered the philanthropic and fair trade touchstones we would all expect. It is an extension of the CEO’s vision of the growing power of customer and NGO communities. And it is a powerful motivator for managing reputation risk. But few of the gathered executives listening to Mike’s story could have expected that the drivers of sustainability within M&S now include:
- continuously managing down their cost base
- the increasing power of customers and the citizenship movement, liberated by new media and powerful communication tools
- the impulse to stay ahead of the competition who in many cases are adopting an increasingly visionary stance and often seeking to differentiate themselves as brands who are sustainable, focused on all stakeholder groups and are here to stay
- the need to continuously drive innovation through engagement or run the risk of being undermined by a disruptive, game-changing development in their core market
As most businesses tiptoe tentatively into 2012, organisations across sectors are under unprecedented pressure given the ongoing turmoil in world markets. Leaders are under fire as never before and they need all their stakeholders on side, acting as advocates for the brand. To achieve this they have to encourage inspirational and silo-busting thinking. Yet the notion that developing a culture of sustainability detracts from the day job or is a complicated or complex process is the second of the major myths undermined during the discussion.
Mike highlighted the following key milestones in the development of their strategy:
- the appointment of a self-managing role-model champion or catalyst
- the close integration of what we refer to as the brand trilogy of Communications; HR and Marketing working in harmony with the core team
- having a strategy and a plan (an overlapping 5 year one in this case)
- focusing on a consistent set of key metrics accessible to all, especially line managers
- linking a significant percentage of reward to the programme
- clear leadership, sponsorship and role-modelling from the top
- sharing and reinforcing best practices through supporting communication
- creating a compelling brand for the programme
- creating a network of local champions to re-educate; engage and drive “viral change”
- engaging, educating and inspiring stakeholders across the 4 Cs: community; colleagues; customers and corporate
- focusing minds on a few high-profile engagement events but encouraging local initiative, empowerment and innovation
To a large extent, Mike was preaching to the converted. Stakeholder integration has always been at the heart the Brand Engagement philosophy. But even the assembled group of like minds couldn’t fail to be impressed by the multi-million pound financial benefits the M&S management information system has directly attributed to their Plan A sustainability strategy. The scale of tangible benefits represents quite a compelling business case for the doubters, especially in a downturn and that’s before a value is attributed to the so-called intangibles like employee engagement levels; customer advocacy and good will.
Needless to say, the questions from the floor ranging from “how to simplify the engagement process” through to “how to adapt the programme for a global audience” and the resulting discussion could easily have filled the day. We’ll be pleased to share the outputs and insights at greater length if you drop us a line. Better still, join us at a future meeting of the Executive Breakfast club.
On this occasion we were pleased to be joined by my Brand Engaged colleagues and senior executive contacts from the following brands: Pfizer; British Library; Barclays; HSBC; John Lewis; RBS; Fujitsu; McDonalds; Tullow Oil; Vodafone and Rio Tinto.
* If you’re interested in the noton of sustainability, values and mutuality take a look at this editon of Ian’s People Management blog
Ian writes: I was more delighted than usual to recently receive a card from the leadership team of a particular client company who have had more than their fair share of challenges, most of which would put the usual corporate change travails to shame.
The Northern Ireland Tourist Board was one of the brand development case studies I featured in Brand Champions.
I’m sure I don’t have to labour the difficulties they have faced in turning around stakeholder perspectives about visiting their country.
I’m sure I don’t really have to mention the impressive advertising and marketing campaign they have embarked upon to chart the re-awakening of that beautiful part of these islands as you’ve doubtless seen it already.
I possibly don’t even have to point out the huge leaps forward Belfast has made as a City destination of choice; or the way the pride of the people of Northern Ireland has blossomed as they have grown in confidence and joined together to embrace the future, regardless of the hostile financial backdrop or ever-testing political landscape.
What you probably don’t appreciate, however, is that the transformation of the Northern Ireland brand started and has been continuously role-modelled from within. Alan Clarke and his team at the tourist board have been on a journey of transformation that has ensured that they walk the advertising talk in terms of the values, behaviours and culture they cultivate and perpetuate when they’re promoting their national brand. They are passionate about delivering on the brand promise and are now rightly proud of the fact that they can invite visitors to share in their stories, a far cry from the bitterness of the past.
It’s incredibly heartening to see the fledgling signature projects like the Giant’s Causeway re-development and Titanic exhibition come to life as planned and to witness the passion, confidence and pride with which they are being promoted. That wouldn’t have been possible without the internal engagement signature projects which gave the brand refresh its backbone by leading with the values and transforming the corporate culture. Many congratulations to the senior leadership team and your colleagues for what has been a real team effort throughout.
Take a look at the NITB website to see what’s happening in Northern Ireland in 2012, experience a dose of positivity and to witness a brand flourishing from within.
If you haven’t visited yet, you really don’t know what you’ve been missing.
March 20, 2012
I was pleased to be sent a recent report in which the team received some fabulous feedback about a service and brand champions workshop designed and delivered for a new client as part of a brand transformation programme.
Having been around the block a few times however, (so to speak), we unfortunately had to temper the excitement about the event by looking to the future and the fact that a change programme never survives or thrives on the back of the catalysing event, no matter how inspiring it may be.
Any serious attempt to improve an internal culture needs to be accompanied by serious initiatives covering each of the following phases:
1 Evaluating and defining
2.Communicating and engaging
3. Educating and learning
4. Sustaining and motivating
And when you arrive at phase 4, yes, you’ve guessed it, you start at 1 again.
Unfortunately, too many change programmes are dogged by a short-termist notion of performance and mistaking action for progress or SOS (sending out stuff) versus engagement-led communication. Hence the obsession with “giving good conference” or “giving good copy”.
Lasting change is largely the product of behaviour change. Based on the principle that it’s far better to do a few things well and succeed in some way rather than attempting too much and failing completely, why not try the following:
1. When measuring, why not ask your colleagues/customers whether they would recommend your organisation to their friends (advocacy) and then dig into the detail?
2. When communicating, try using the term colleagues rather than staff, or employee; talent rather than resources; mentors rather than managers and see the difference it makes.
3. When attempting to educate, upskill or train, treble the amount of interactive, hands-on and delegate-led sessions at the expense of facilitator speeches and see what happens.
4. Ensure that the project or programme team as well as the senior leaders first and foremost role-model the values or standards they are seeking to transform by ensuring they receive regular feedback from their internal stakeholders.
The internal change agent’s lot is seldom a happy and almost always a thankless one.
But be brave, keep the faith, keep it simple and best of luck!
And if you lose your way, shout!