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With Trust at the heart of any successful relationship — be it personal or business — it’s no wonder that leaders and organizations have made it a priority.

Yet, organizational Trust remains elusive for even the most noteworthy companies.

So, should Trust be a corporate goal?

We explore this topic in the latest issue of CommonSense for the C-Suite.

Hope you find it useful and relevant.

Best,

Gary

Gary F. Grates
Principal

p.s. You can download a PDF of this month’s newsletter by right-mouse clicking here.

Getting lost in the haze of competing brands and information overload is relatively easy today.

The key for leaders and communicators alike is getting people to hear you again!

But how does that happen? Can it be managed?

This issue of CommonSense for the C-Suite analyzes the approaches that can be considered to reignite interest in your brand.

We hope you find it useful and relevant.

Regards,

Gary

p.s. You can download a PDF of this month’s newsletter by right-mouse clicking here.

Most people can relate to having sat in the so-called “cheap” seats at a sporting or entertainment event.

But there is a new section being experimented with: the “Tweet” Seats.

At the Palm Beach Opera, a section has been carved out for people who are willing to not only attend a performance of say, Madame Butterfly, but also tweet about their experience during the performance.  Palm Beach is one example of a growing trend among opera-, symphony-, and theatregoers around the country attending free performances of popular shows and sharing their time with others through social media.

It’s all about taking advantage of the power of word-of-mouth marketing in the digital age.  Rather than rely on critics, promoters are relying on personal recommendations to create buzz and generate sales.

Early results from such outreach have been overwhelmingly positive meaning “Tweet” seats may be on the way to replacing “cheap” seats at your local sporting or entertainment venue.

So what is truly innovative?

An excellent article in the May 23 WSJ — You Call That Innovation? — reported on how the word itself has lost its meaning because of overuse and hyperbole.  According to the article, the word “innovation” was mentioned some “33,528 times last year” by companies according to a search of annual and quarterly reports filed with the SEC.

As communicators, we are often told by organizations that they are “innovative” and that “innovation” is a differentiator for them.  As such, we are tasked with promoting this by using the word “Innovation” in all our messaging.

Much like “Quality” in the 80s and “Change” in the 90s, “Innovation” and “Strategy” are today’s meaningless terms in business language.

So what can leaders and communicators do?

Actually a few things.  First, eliminate the term from the company narrative. Second, look at what is trly innovative outside of your industry and learn from it; and Third, determine what customers and employees define as innovative and then seek to fulfill those things so they are mouthing the term not you.

The latter point is actually taking a page out of Apple.  The company does things seen as innovative making the audience define the term, which is how it should be!

Speaking of learning from others, let’s look at the Canadian grocery store chain, Loblaws, for inspiration.   In 2006, Loblaws entered into a relationship with fashiion guru Joe Mimran of Club Monaco fame to design a clothing line for its stores.

Loblaws remember is a grocery store chain not a fashion or designer store.   The result was called – Joe Fresh – a line of afforable edgy basics in glorious colors, which actually become a strong driver of revenue for the grocery chain during the recession.

Joe Fresh has grown from its grocery store incubator and now boasts 17 stand-alone salons including New York and Toronto and is now the fourth largest clothing retailer in Canada!

Now that’s innovative!

Delta Air Lines recently announced it’s buying an oil refinery in an attempt to save hundreds of millions of dollars off its annual fuel bill.

Talk about a new model!

Pundits are calling it an innovative move to manage the business – especially with fuel comprising upwards of 40% of an airlines costs.   The strategy is being seen as the first wave of new business approaches by companies looking to better compete in an uncertain, constantly changing world.  Rather than be a passive spectator as fueol costs continue to rise, the company is making a defensive investment.

While the purchase isn’t risk free, it certainly reshuffles the deck competitively and places other airlines in a potential cathc-up mode.

The beauty of this action is that even a staid, conservative industry can push itself to a new place and in so doing generate new value.

In working on and studying hundreds of organizational (internal) communicatons efforts including immersion in employee satisfaction research over the last several years, we have coalesced our thinking around four distinct types of employees comprising today’s workforce.
Comprehending these archetypes can be the difference between nurturing an engaged workforce or expending time and energy for little or no return.   Please note that the following archetypes may not be applicable to every organization but can serve as a strategic pivot point for planning.
The Four Types of Employee Archetypes:
  1. Career oriented/strong company pride – respectful of status quo
    This group tends to be long-time employees who have had successful careers in the company.  They are highly engaged but often blind about the opportunities and gaps inherent in the culture and business.  They are also more often than not the ones who state in meetings that “we tried that before and it failed” or “good idea but won’t work here.”
  2. High potential/high achievement – catalyst for change
    The most powerful group in any organization.  High potential, talented and committed to winning.  Can be frustrated by inertia and perceived lack of discipline and commitment to change.  This is the key target for any  leadership and internal communications effort!
  3. Productive/satisfied – 8-5 folks
    A large population of the workforce sits here…come to work every day, do their jobs, and are generally satisfied with the way thing are.
  4. Marginally effective/highly critical – “Victim” mentality
    Typically the smallest group within a workforce but also the  most dangerous in terms of culture deterioration.  These folks tend to gossip the most, work the least and trash every company decision inside and outside the company.

Interestingly, leadership and communications tend to focus on this group believing their views can be changed.

The reality is this group should only be targeted by HR, meaning removing them from the company over time.

The Biggest ROI

Employing analytics internally to uncover specific employee groups comprising your workforce provides a new roadmap for communicators in focusing content/context for internal communities in ways that can move the right people forward.

Getting started hinges on one key question: How much of your internal communications is being directed at the right employee segment?

When Scott Thompson joined Yahoo replacing the failed tenure of Carol Bartz, the former New Corp. and PayPal executive promised to bring a fresh perspective and renewed energy to the once innovative company.

He did not mention an inaccurate resume.

Now that Thompson was forced to step down for what he described as an “inadvertent error” claiming  he had received a computer science degree from Stonehill College, Yahoo once again finds itself rudderless.

If you span the business environment today the most difficult thing to earn or improve is Credibility!

Customers seek it.  Employees demand it.  Investors act on it.

The tale at Yahoo is a cautious one for those in a leadership or management position including communicators.  No amount of rhetoric or activity can undo or resolve the situation.  The Board and leadership team must now act in a decisive, open, and engaging manner to restore confidence in the brand including its strategy and direction.

The ultimate goal is to regain credibility internally and with key external stakeholders.

It may just start with checking the next CEO’s resume!

At a time when organizations fight every day to attract and retain talent, people continue to leave organizations for a very disconcerting reason: lack of challenge!  More and more, HR professionals are finding that talent is leaving because there are little or no pathways for them to see where they can make a difference beyond their current position.

So where does the fault lie?

Some argue that leadership must make professional development and career advancement a strategic priority and provide the funding and oversight necessary.  Others suggest that HR professionals need to recalibrate their priorities and focus to identifying and developing talent throughout the enterprise. And still others place the blame on the individual who ultimately should be responsible for their own career advancement.

From an internal communications standpoint, there are two critical questions to answer that will go a long way to changing the situation:  

1)   are your employees an audience or a community?  If it’s the latter, you have a strong chance to engage people in the business in a way that transcends their current responsibilities.  To do so, you need to ensure your content, context, cadence, feedback, system, and infrastructure are aligned to drive specific behavior necessary to move the business forward.

2)   how smart do you want people to be? This is by far the most important question to answer for CEOs and CCOs alike.  The point being that internal communications should be designed to increase employee knowledge, confidence, and action.

Virtually every industry is engaged in myriad challenges and issues that place pressure on organizations in virtually all facets of the business.  A such, having the right talent on hand to address this reality from an innovation, competition,  engagement, and systems perspective is critical to success if not survival.

Everyone in an organization is responsible for keeping people challenged….so, what are you doing?

Whenever we experience a special behavior by an employee of a brand or organization we do business with – something that enhances or improves the relationship – we take notice.

A comforting word, a helpful tip, a pleasant demeanor, or an extra step taken on our behalf are all actions that we notice and appreciate as customers.

In the end, such behaviors “scream” out the values of the brand and project a positive corporate character that is meaningful to both employees and customers.

At the heart of this dynamic are the employees who are responsible for such acts.

As one CEO recently said to an industry group, “you can’t regulate or legislate” this kind of behavior in an employee manual.

The sad truth is that the real “screamers”, those that inherently behave in a manner that exudes confidence and reflects all that is right about the business, are often silent inside their organizations. They eschew superficial recognition efforts.  They don’t typically play corporate politics and are not interested in artificial forms of recognition.

Unfortunately, an enormous amount of time and resources (read: slogans, themes, campaigns, recognition programs) are still being expended on employees who make alot of noise internally but neither have a customer interface role nor the interest in projecting the brand’s ideals.

So how can a leader reinforce, perpetuate and possibly expand behaviors that “scream” the organizational values?

In a word, analytics.

Using data and analysis to better comprehend who and how Silent Screamers view their tenure at the organization as a means to ensure the future is meaningful and productive.  Basically, getting smarter about individual growth and development, which is often more important to this group.

Also, harnessing data from customers on employee behavior and building such recognition into bonus programs and other forms of reinforcement more appropriate to this group.

Further, having Silent Screamers share their experiences in a manner that is not cumbersome or promotional but instructive via social channels internally.

This is only a start for sure.   The real lesson for leaders is that “living one’s brand” is done a thousand times a day in a thousand different ways.  Discerning who is “screaming” those brand ideals among your workforce and perpetuating such behavior in a manner respectful to those employees is trully the Holy Grail.

Analytics get you there!