This blog is about the relationship between organizations and the people who work for them. And, it’s dedicated to the millions of people around the world who go to work every day wanting to do a great job.
Human resource departments talk a lot about the employer brand; the ultimate reflection of the employee experience of the brand. ¬†And given the growing challenge of getting the best people, it‚Äôs something that all business leaders are beginning to worry about.
So, imagine my surprise to read that ‚Äúnearly 30 percent of executives surveyed by search firm Korn/Ferry International said job applicants aren‚Äôt being treated respectfully by potential employers‚ÄĚ! ¬†These executives report the following experiences:
- No confirmation that their application arrived
- Interviews that turn out to have been set up for other candidates
- Interviews that have been set up for the wrong job
- Interviewers who are under prepared
- No follow-up after interviews
- No answers to e-mails or phone messages
- A big black hole.
This isn‚Äôt any old recruitment.¬† This is executive recruitment.¬† Presumably people who have more money and influence than most.¬† Makes you pretty sure that it‚Äôs a lot worse for your average job seeker.
We know bad news travels faster than good news.¬† We know the value of the brand experience as an employee or as a customer.¬† It‚Äôs pure gold.¬† And the erosion of the brand experience a business killer.¬† So, how could we be going so wrong in what seems like such a simple matter ‚Äď basic courtesy?
Could it be because of overworked employees?¬† Sucky values?¬† Bad training?¬† Too many files?¬† Too few hours?¬† Not the right tools to do the job?¬† Or all of the above?
I don‚Äôt know, but as communicators we‚Äôre all about helping our organizations [and their employees] build strong positive relationships with all our stakeholders, so I think it‚Äôs something worth looking into and taking action on. ¬†The employer brand starts here.
Yesterday, my cousin‚Äôs wife [thanks Star], sent me a link to Lightening in a Jar.
It‚Äôs a slide show. It has no special effects.¬† The photography is mediocre.¬† The graphics bland.¬† It‚Äôs got the sappiest music ever. There‚Äôs no action. ¬†No voiceover. ¬†It‚Äôs just a series of¬† pretty dry facts.
I‚Äôve seen it before.¬† It struck me then as it did now.¬† It‚Äôs so¬†cheesy¬†and still so very compelling.¬† Why?
The genius ¬†is that it brings the humanity back to something that is otherwise just conceptual ‚Äď the population of the world [can anyone picture billions], the number of people who wake up hungry [can anyone picture a %?].¬† They take what is otherwise incomprehensible and sometimes overwhelming data and translate it into something very human; something we can all picture ‚Äď a small village of 100 people.¬† It‚Äôs a simple idea, not all that well implemented, and the result is brilliant.
There‚Äôs something for every manager and communicator to learn here. ¬†Conceptual cold hard facts can tell stories that are relevant, meaningful and emotionally powerful! ¬†Now for that simple idea.
Today‚Äôs inspiration comes from C-Notes.¬† The question posed was [and I‚Äôm paraphrasing]:¬† As you design the customer experience do you think about it from a system point of view?¬† Do you think about the balance?
I don‚Äôt think we do.¬† And, we do even less of this kind of thinking when we start talking about the employee experience.¬† We don‚Äôt seem to have/or take the time to really understand these relationships, the kind of experience we want them to have and the implications ¬†that would have on what and how we do things.
It‚Äôs the kind of process that takes up front thinking.¬† It takes time.¬† And it can challenge all kinds of preconceived notions and assumptions.¬† This kind of thoughtful and intentional orientation to organizational change is much more like walking a labyrinth ‚Äď all be it one on steroids ‚Äď than any linear change model would ever suggest.
And in my experience, very few organizations have the will to really think it through; to back up and understand what they are trying to do and the implications that has on their organization and the communities around them.¬† But when they do what happens next is amazing.¬† Teams gain deeper understanding. Decisions that were written in stone are reversed or adjusted. ¬†Opportunities open up that had never existed or been explored.¬† Barriers disappear.¬† Things change for the better; for employees, for customers and for investors.
Has your organization got what it takes for this kind of conversation?
The Edelman Trust Barometer for 2011 is sobering reading as it has been for the past couple of years.¬† Trust is down virtually everywhere.¬† Again!
Buried near the end of the 2011 report is a slide that reads:¬† ‚ÄúRepetition enhances believability‚ÄĚ.
Now, the barometer is all about organizations and trust [external], but it reminded me how often I‚Äôve ended up in conversations where the theme has been something like:¬† ‚ÄúWell I told them last quarter‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ¬† ‚ÄúWe published it in the employee newsletter last spring‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ¬† ‚ÄúWe had a town hall ‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ¬† ‚ÄúThe e-mail went last week‚Ä¶‚ÄĚ¬† ‚ÄúWhy don‚Äôt they get it?‚ÄĚ
Are there any lessons here?
It‚Äôs easy inside organizations to assume that because we‚Äôve said it once everybody not only gets it they believe it.¬† I‚Äôm guessing that the same rules that apply outside apply in ‚Äď the more we repeat, the more channels we use, the more different ways we find to say it the higher the likelihood that employees will not only hear it but will believe it.
And it‚Äôs easy inside organizations to assume that because we‚Äôve done one employee survey we really get it.¬† What‚Äôs interesting is that if being believable when you‚Äôre sending means you need to repeat it then maybe we need to be more aware when we‚Äôre on receive too!
Are we dismissing things we‚Äôve only seen or heard once or twice from employees in formal surveys?¬† How much opportunity are we giving to employees to express themselves repeatedly and through multiple channels?¬† And if we are, how often are we pulling their feedback together in a meaningful way?
An occasional post on a really great idea for employee communications
‚Äď simple and high impact.
For those of you who don‚Äôt know, The Bay was incorporated ‚Äú‚Ä¶by British royal charter in 1670 as The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson’s Bay‚ÄĚ making it ‚Äú‚Ä¶ the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the¬†oldest in the world.‚ÄĚ [source] ¬†I grew up knowing it as The Hudson Bay Company.¬† Somewhere along the line it became HBC and The Bay.
And somewhere along the line the adventure was over.¬† The Bay had become a tired and dowdy department store owned by venture capitalists.¬† You couldn‚Äôt even find a Hudson Bay Company Point Blanket anywhere in the store.
And somewhere along the line over 70,000 employees and millions of customers had lost the spirit. Products were uninteresting. ¬†And the service was nonexistent or surly.
Enter Bonnie Brooks, Chief Adventurer (aka President and CEO), The Bay, Hudson’s Bay Company. The store, here in Montreal, looks the same from the outside.¬† But inside there‚Äôs a lot going on and it‚Äôs all good.
In the two years since she was named, Bonnie Brooks has managed to transform this dying department store. And she‚Äôs done it by going back to basics: ¬†Building pride in the founding spirit of adventure and discovery. ¬†The things that connect the business to this incredible 400 year history that had been lost. ¬†And, she’s managed to take mostly hourly minimum-wage employees with her by building their pride – in the institution, in leadership and in the work they do for customers every day. ¬†Genius.
She‚Äôs ‚Äúinvited employees on a mission‚ÄĚ.¬† A mission to engage with the business and their customers.¬† And they are.¬† Their pride in the company and what they are doing is palpable.
She’s managed in a very short time to reignite pride in the institution and the heritage and tradition of the past. ¬†She’s changed the employee experience. ¬†And in doing so she’s changed the customer experience.
A simple idea.¬† Incredibly well executed.¬† Good for employees. ¬†Good for customers. ¬†And good for The Bay.
PS: ¬†The iconic blanket¬†stripes are now trademark protected and you can now find the Hudson Bay Company Point blankets, pillows and other gift items that reflect the traditional bay colours and spirit in their in-store boutiques.
Maybe it’s due to the Time Warped posts, but I’ve been thinking about … ¬†yes, you guessed it Star Trek. And I discovered something pretty interesting. ¬†Somewhere between Star Trek and Star Trek: The next generation the communication officer disappeared. What happened?
Remember Uhura, she was the communication officer on Star Trek. She was a major character in this early version of the show. ¬†Communication was a technical challenge and seemed pretty transactional. I always felt the character was barely hanging on getting her ‚Äėphone‚Äô to work. Uhura seemed like a female Scotty ‚Äď “Captain, the dilithium crystal is overheating. We‚Äôre going to blow up.‚ÄĚ
By Star Trek the next generation the communication officer is gone [or at least not a main character] to be replaced instead by Deanna Troi, the empath. She’s just there. No big drama. No big “oh my god can she do it? Can she get us out of this mess?” She’s just present and adding value by helping the Captain navigate the different creatures and cultures they encounter. She’s all about relationships. And, technology serves only in as much as it supports the relationship.
I don‚Äôt know about you, but I‚Äôd rather see our profession evolve in the direction of Diana Troi. More empath than technician. What will it take? ¬†[check out the Commscrum discussion on LinkedIn: ¬†Building communication mastery in a cross-disciplinary inside/out world and here]
I‚Äôve always thought that once we moved from typing on machines the days of the acronym would be over.¬† Why do we need them?¬† We don‚Äôt need to push keys up and down to type in the same words over and over.¬† We can search and replace in one stroke.
I was so wrong. Acronyms are alive and thriving in every organization I work with.
Acronyms are short form.¬† They’re code.¬† They‚Äôre kind of cool ‚Äď you can make them spell catchy words like DEVIL [development in logistics ‚Äď thanks to my dad who loved creating sticky acronyms for projects he led]. They‚Äôre the part of the language that proves you‚Äôre part of the ‘in’ group ‚Äď the ones that know what the acronyms mean.¬† Until you don‚Äôt.
I remember joining a large global company about a decade ago.¬† Engineering was key to this business and so were engineers.¬† And engineers love acronyms [an unproven theory].¬† Anyway, I went to meeting after meeting in those early days just trying to wade through the acronyms.
There was one meeting that stands out.¬† Somewhere about 5 minutes into the meeting someone referred to ‚ÄúXMNP‚ÄĚ [acronym disguised to protect the innocent].¬† The discussion got incredibly animated and built to a crescendo when about an hour in I realized that there were two groups in the room.¬† They both used ‚ÄúXMNP‚ÄĚ acronym.¬† And they both used it in different ways.¬† They were fighting about different things.¬† No one had really thought about what the initials meant since they’d made them up and except for the new person in the room who asked they might not have.
And that‚Äôs when I realized the real power of acronyms is to obscure and confuse.¬† If you‚Äôre not in favour of obscuring and confusing then I think you know what you have to do.
The first time I ever heard the term authentic used in an organizational setting was only a few years ago and it might have been the last time it made any sense.
I was doing a small project for Nike‚Äôs Marketing team at their head office in Portland, Oregon.¬† They often referred to authentic Nike.¬† At first I thought it was some meaningless corporate jargon [there‚Äôs generally a lot of that going around at HQs wherever they are].¬† It took me a while, but I finally realized that for them a product was authentic Nike only if it had been designed with a world class athlete to improve their personal performance.¬† Now, that‚Äôs authentic.
Three years ago, The Authentic Enterprise concluded that¬† ‚Äú‚Ä¶authenticity will be the coin of the realm for successful corporations and for those who lead them.‚ÄĚ And, that ‚ÄúCommunicators are uniquely positioned to become experts on the new art and science of organizational trust.‚ÄĚ¬† Now, I need to say up front that I generally find this whitepaper interesting and compelling.¬† And not surprisingly I‚Äôm pretty keen about their conclusions for communicators.
The problem I have is that this paper and the discussion that has followed is based on two flawed assumptions:
- Institutions can be other than authentic
- Being authentic is always going to be good.
I don‚Äôt believe either of these assumptions are true.
First, how could an institution be anything other than authentic.¬† They are what they are.¬† They do what they do. Their behaviours and actions, the decisions they take or don‚Äôt take reflect their underlying beliefs and values.¬† And, whether you like them or not they are a totally authentic.
Second, authenticity has lost its meaning.¬† For Nike it was real and good.¬† The challenge for many institutions today is that what is authentic is not that good.¬† What’s real is not good.¬† Think of British Petroleum or the Vatican. Their behaviours and actions tells us much about their authentic institution and it‚Äôs not good.
Importantly, though authentic and transparent are often talked about in the same breath, you don‚Äôt have to be transparent for anyone to get who you really are and what you stand for.¬† Here‚Äôs an example:
A young friend of mine, a recent MBA grad, got a job offer from a fortune 100 global ¬†high-tech company early this summer. ¬†He was told that his candidacy had to go through the CEO.¬† ¬†¬†He stopped his job search ‚Äď he‚Äôd received and accepted a formal offer [reflects his values].¬† It‚Äôs been weeks and still no word.¬† This one act tells us a lot about this organization.¬† And, perhaps more than my young friend would like to know.¬† First, even though one of their 5 values is respect they have put a young debt-ridden new grad in this position.¬† Second I believe my friend can be confident that control will be one of the most important underlying values ‚Äď not innovation or accountability.¬†¬† Two other values that are listed on their site.
On being authentic.¬† That’s easy.¬† Now how to make institutions authentic and forces for good?