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.
In the week since it was first announced, Yahoo!’s policy stopping remote work has created a firestorm focused on the policy and its implications for worker flexibility in general and the tech industry in particular.
So now, for something completely different, I think it’s time to take a closer look at what we can learn from the announcement itself. Here are my top 3 lessons:
#3. The headline matters.¬†¬†”YAHOO! PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION ‚ÄĒ DO NOT FORWARD”. Whatever happened to a subject line so that you know what the memo is about? Instead, here the title is: “Confidential”? Yeah maybe. “Proprietary”. Well isn’t everything that’s done on behalf of the company? “Do not forward.”¬†Anyone who’s worked inside any organization knows this is a redflag to a bull. These legal ‘requirements’ make our institutional leaders less credible with every memo. They are virtually impossible to enforce and the consequences even if they could be are just not that clear.
Mistake #2. Don’t manipulate.¬†The message itself was¬†drafted using the “sandwich method”. You’ve all seen it before. Upbeat good news. Followed by the downbeat less good news. Followed by a little more upbeat good news. It assumes that people won’t be able to handle the news without softening the blow. It’s manipulative and everybody knows it. Manipulation kills relationship.
Now for the biggie…
Mistake #1. Make sure you know who your message is really for. ¬†“Beginning in June, we‚Äôre asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices.” This message isn’t relevant to most employees. ¬†In fact, with over¬†14,000 employees, it turns out there are¬†about 200 remote workers who will be directly affected.
That leaves 13,800 who received the memo and aren’t directly affected. ¬†Of those,¬†there’s a % who are already coming to work every day.¬†This message is completely irrelevant to them except perhaps to make them feel a little smug or proud.
The rest, and there are by all accounts many at Yahoo!, who have taken advantage of the flexible working conditions by staying home for the “cable guy” too often need to know that their behaviour is no longer acceptable. This is a performance management issue. ¬†And, it’s management who, for whatever reason, have not been held accountable. The focus for the communication, once you get beyond the 200 remote workers is management. And making sure they know they are responsible and accountable for their employees being onsite to work and giving them what they need – training, mentoring, support – to be successful.
Their memo, directed at 14,000 employees left virtually all of them wondering what it means for them and speculating with each other, their families, their friends and media online and off.
Now that’s a lesson we can all learn from.
There’s a lot of interest, OK hype, around Google Glass. Let’s face it, the futuristic glasses are pretty cool looking just as a fashion accessory, but add in all the power of a smart phone and well it’s a pretty compelling offer.
Here are some of the features in the current prototypes:
- Responds to voice commands
- Answers questions [since it syncs through the net it means you can search the net - it's a Google product after all]
- Has GPS
- Takes and shares¬†photographs and¬†live video
- Sends and receives text messages and emails
- Provides digital voice assistance that is customized to your personal habits [e.g. weather, traffic]
All this in a range of fashion colours!
At least one of ¬†my luckier, dare I say it geekier, friends [Mitch Joel] has already had a chance to try the Glass. ¬†His take: ¬†”I think this will blow people away.” ¬†I’m pretty sure we can expect that¬†by the end of 2013 we’ll start seeing the Glass on others if we’re not lucky enough to have one ourselves.
So, here’s my question:¬†What impact will Google Glass have on the workplace? ¬†You know it will, so it’s definitely not too soon to start thinking about the potential and planning for the future!
I’ve been struck in the past few weeks by the number of times I see communications go wrong because of one thing. Little or no thought was¬†given to the “audience” for the communication. No one is asking:
- if or how the ‘news’, information, change will impact them;
- what they need or want to know from their point of view;
- how they might feel about it; and
- what they might do with it, or, even
- what the communicator wants them to do with it.
It’s as if communicators are on automatic pilot. ¬†No human empathy or understanding at all.
Unfortunately, internal communicators are especially guilty. ¬†After all of the executive inputs, edits and reviews it’s very easy not to remember who you’re trying to reach.
“All employees” is often the answer. ¬†But not all employees are created equal when you’re doing internal communication. ¬†Some will be affected directly by the thing you’re communicating, some indirectly and some not at all.
Understanding these differences and framing the communication based on impact is one way of increasing meaning. ¬†And, today it’s something we don’t do very well. ¬†It’s got to be the #1 failure of internal communicators. What do you think?
According to “Engage for success“, a government initiative designed to increase employee engagement across the UK, ¬†there are¬†four enablers of employee engagement:
- Visible, empowering leadership providing a¬†strong strategic narrative¬†about the organisation, where it‚Äôs come from and where it‚Äôs going.
- Engaging managers¬†who focus their people and give them scope, treat their people as individuals and coach and stretch their people
- There is¬†employee voice¬†throughout the organisation, for reinforcing and challenging views, between functions and externally, employees are seen as central to the solution.
- There is organisational¬†integrity -¬†the values on the wall are reflected in day to day behaviours. There is no ‚Äėsay ‚Äďdo‚Äô gap
Each of the four enablers is, at its core, a question of communication:¬†The ability of leaders, managers and employees to communicate in a way that involves.¬†
The UK figures they’re losing¬†¬£25.8bn¬†[that would be¬†$40.25 billion!]¬†in GDP annually. ¬†Why? ¬†Employee engagement. Or rather the lack of engaged employees. Now if that doesn’t wake business and government up I don’t know what will.
Employees want to go to work to do a good job. ¬†They want their work to matter. They want to feel involved. ¬†They aren’t. Or they aren’t enough.¬†Shouldn’t encouraging and building the capacity to communicate be a priority? If not, why isn’t it?
First it was the Berlin wall. ¬† Now it’s the cubicle wall. ¬†Workspaces even in the most traditional environments – banks, insurance companies and law offices are changing. And they are changing in pretty radical ways. ¬†Shared work stations, open space and windows, tables, couches and banquettes instead of cubicles and enclosed offices. ¬†Even though the initial motivation of these organizations is cost cutting, according to an article in today’s Globe and Mail employees report an overwhelmingly positive experience and increased productivity.
Perhaps even more interesting, given the focus of this blog, is the implication for communication and change management. ¬†One would hope that there would be something equally inventive, but when faced with some issues “10% of negative comments are about noise and work behaviours that become distractions, the bank is doing training and distributing tip sheets about having consideration for others.” ¬†Good grief! I think the walls just went back up.
“Traditional marketing ‚ÄĒ including advertising, public relations, branding and corporate communications ‚ÄĒ is dead. Many people in traditional marketing roles and organizations may not realize they’re operating within a dead paradigm. But they are. The evidence is clear.” ¬†
Once you move your marketing away from “interruption and manipulation” and you design it around “the success you create for your customers… the value you are creating for you customers…” ¬†everything changes. ¬†And you can’t fake it anymore.
You can’t fake it anymore with your customers for sure. ¬†Which means you can’t fake it with your employees, the communities you work in, the suppliers you work with. ¬†
As communications professionals and leaders are you ready?
Converged media is the new marketing sweet spot.¬†I first heard Jeremiah Owyang¬†talk about it and the implications for institutional branding in spring last year on Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation Podcast.
The idea is that converged media is the proactive, integrated management of three types of media:
- Paid media. This is what we used to think about as advertising. The institution pays a third party to carry their message – newspapers, magazines,¬†television, radio, cinema, direct mail, and paid search.
- Owned media. This is anything the institution carries in it’s own channels – brochures, signage, point of sale, retail outlets, websites, microsites, Facebook fan pages, mobile apps.
- Earned media. This is what happens when the brand experience generates word of mouth discussion – virtual and not. Letters to editors, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Youtube, Flickr, blogs, forums.
It’s a simple and elegant way of looking at the new world of media:
Paid + owned + earned = reputation
Since then I’ve heard and read others on the topic. But, up until now something pretty key seems to be missing. Do you see it?
- Paid media – focus on potential and current customers
- Owned media – focus on customer-focused and
- Earned media – ¬†the objective is to have customer ‘fans’ who love the institution, its products or services so much that they talk favourable about it.
We all know that brands and reputations are built and can be destroyed by employees. Imagine if the integrated media strategy was built with an intentional focus on employees:
Paid media – involving employees¬†and other key internal stakeholders [e.g. strategic suppliers]¬†- as an source of insight, a reality check, pre-launch.
Owned media – including internal communication channels – intranet, town halls and other key institutional meetings, internal micro-blogging [e.g. Yammer], instant messaging, blogs, wikis, sharepoint, orientation programs, feedback systems, newsletters, management, etc.
Earned media – was designed to support and encourage employees, suppliers and their families in being part of the discussion – good, bad and indifferent – and we had a way to learn from the conversation.
Imagine the amplification effect that would happen by including internal stakeholders!
The case for investing budget in internal communication has never been clearer. ¬†What will it take to get internal communicators into the planning, implementation and evaluation of converged media strategies? ¬†¬†
It’s that time of year. Every retailer moves into the black in a flood of promotions and sales – online and off. Fundraisers and not for profits raise the most money for their causes and make their last big push in a flood of messages designed to make us feel bad and hopeful. Everyone is selling. The visual cacophony reaches a crescendo at this time of year.¬†But, visual noise is something we live with throughout the year and in lots of different settings.
At a large local hospital yesterday I got off an elevator in search of the transportation office so I could get a wheelchair for my friend. ¬†I ended up having to ask three people for directions before finding the office. The third said, “The signage is pretty poor”, pointing back at a wall plastered with posters. All different sizes, colours, messages and slammed on the wall with no apparent rhyme or reason. The result: I saw nothing.
Two hours later when I was returning the wheelchair I took a closer look and realized that with a little thought about who the messages were for the impact would be totally different.
Most of the posters were messages for staff about health and safety – three were the same poster. ¬†I guess it was an important problem – slipping and carrying issues. ¬†Two were for visitors, patients and staff: one on cellphone usage that no one – staff, patient or visitor – paid any attention to; one with directions to the transportation office.
The posters were¬†visually different – sizes, colours, fonts, approaches – all competing for attention. ¬†The result was that I didn’t see anything even when I was looking for it: the Times Square effect!
Our organizations are just as bad. In-boxes, bulletin boards [online and off], chatrooms, newsletters, powerpoint presentations, videos not only create information overload but all of this is amplified by the visual noise.
Are your internal communications creating the Times Square effect in your organization?¬†
[I suggest you turn the sound down and go to full screen to get the Times Square effect.]
“Make employees feel they are doing something meaningful.”
“Have and show faith and trust in your team.”
As leaders and communication professionals this is the kind of advice we get. It comes regularly and it comes often.
There’s something deeply wrong.¬†We want to build healthy sustainable relationship with employees. But taking this advice is almost certainly going to kill the relationship.¬†Let’s take a closer look.
First, the work employees do is either meaningful to them or it isn’t. ¬†If we’re ‘making them “feel” that it is, we are manipulating them.
Second, we either have faith and trust our teams or we don’t. ¬†Having and showing faith and trust in our teams when we don’t is also a manipulation. ¬†This time we’re manipulating ourselves.
Neither of approach is sustainable. ¬†And neither is good for relationship.
There’s a manipulation mania out there. Beware. ¬†It’s a bad thing?