How Sociable is Your CEO?

Is your CEO very sociable? I don’t mean a party animal or schmoozer. I mean in their use of Imagesocial media. The great advantage of social media is that CEOs can speak direct to employees on a regular basis. Being able to integrate onsite visits with regular video updates to explain the strategy is a boon for the modern CEO, and welcome by many employees.

However, if you’re still making the business case for social media then it is useful to benchmark your CEO aganist their peers, and a new report by Weber Shandwick is a useful resource you can tap to help make your case.

Back in 2010 Weber Shandwick released their first study, Socialising Your CEO: From (Un)Social to Social, which was one of the earliest quantitative explorations of CEO social engagement. The analysis revealed that the majority of CEOs from the world’s largest companies were not engaging online with external stakeholders and thus missing out on opportunities to deepen their company reputations and customer relations.

They have followed this up with a refreshed analysis based on last year on how the leaders of the world’s most elite companies are evolving socially. Weber Shandwick considered a CEO “social”  if he or she does at least one of the following: engages on the company website, appears in a video on the company YouTube channel, has a public and verifiable social network profile or authors an external blog.

The study finds that in the two years 2010 to 2012 use of social media has doubled from 33% to 66%, with the most popular social media channel for CEOs by far the video, posted on YouTube, the company website or webTV.

Other social networks are less influential. in fact the past two years has seen flat growth in CEOs using social networks such as Facebook to strut their stuff.

CEOs in the United States are the most sociable of their breed. About 80% of American CEOs use social media, compared to 67% in Europe and 55% in APAC.

Perhaps surprisingly, CEOs in the job for more than 3 years (79%) are much more likely to be sociable than those (48%) in the first three years of their tenure. This might suggest that CEOs do not initially make heavy of use social media to promote themselves or establish authority, preferring to use social media once they are confident in their positon and to reinforce their image.

So, read the report, do your homework and take your CEO out for a quiet drink and explain why they need to be doing more, and how internal communications will be more powerful with a CEO using social media effectively, and that the BBC, CNN, Fox or other external channels are not the be all and end all of the CEO’s telly work. Because another finding of the report is that companies with the highest reputation (81%) have CEOs who are the most sociable!

You can find the whole report here:

http://webershandwick.co.uk/#!/thinking/library/socialising_your_ceo_ii/

Of course, if you’d prefer to read about CEO party animals, then check out this link:

http://www.businessinsider.com/wall-streets-biggest-party-animals-2011-7?op=1

Values, whose values?

Nothing like sharing values to become one big, happy family!

Nothing like sharing values to become one big, happy family!

Companies love to have their values, and there is much to be said for them. However, how these values are communicated, and whose values they are is where the trouble starts. Splendid rhetoric does not make values stick; it simply creates more communication noise. It could be said there is something insulting about how companies have traditionally gone about the business of values, as if their employees need to be told what their values are. So, here’s a little opportunity to test your leadership, or client, against this overlapping triumvirate of tell-tale signs you need to look out for to see if the values proposition needs revisiting.

1. The leadership has decided on the values!

The Problem: In other words, the HR department went to page 69 of the “How to do HR” manual and picked out a bunch of values that seemed about right. The point is, how are these values decided and how are they launched within the organization? The other point is that if you do a study of values across all businesses you will find there is great similarity, and if you do so within an industry peer group you will find they maybe have one value different from others but again very much the same. The key then is not WHAT values are chosen, but HOW they are chosen. Since the train has left this particular station in most companies, the main challenge remains how you communicate these values and engage your employees so that they embrace the company values chosen for them.

Solution: on one level values are intuitive, most people like to think they are accountable, sharing, excellent and more besides. They may well feel that being told what values they have is a little insulting, so you need to engage them on values and create an environment where employees can interpret them in a common way and share the values narrative. It is worth considering going through a more inclusive values change, if you feel the current ones have been decided too top-down. There may be an opportunity to revise your values in consultation with employees, perhaps reduce the number or change the wording.

2. We just promote the heck out of our values!

The Problem: You mean without asking employees? As in point 1, the train has usually left the station, but you can use employee surveys and polls to learn their perceptions of the values and how they translate them into their own work.  If you have taken a more inclusive approach in choosing values, the next step is to ensure there is an emotional connection. We can all have an intellectual debate about the paragon human values, but learning to live them is much more difficult. How high level values translate into the workplace is even more difficult.

Solution: broadcasting anything in Internal Communications doesn’t work, but especially so in values management. You’re looking for a connection, a dialogue around the values, so that employees can participate in how these values are lived and continue to evolve in the company.

3. If our managers will only shout loud enough the employees will live our values!

Problem: Values are chosen by senior management and reflect the leadership position and values, and what they think employees should value. As you reach through the organization you might just find this is quite a stretch. Managers need support to communicate values effectively and work with employees to find ways how they may translate values into their work, with their specific context in mind.

Solution: provide managers with adequate toolkits and training to live the values themselves and to become values managers who can encourage these values to be lived within the department, unit or team. Find regular opportunities to have dialogue on vales, and to celebrate their presence in the workplace.

 

I’m sure most companies will say they have a good set of values and take them seriously, but I raise the question here of whether there is only a superficial use of values and suggest we test the depth of values management with our organization. This is no time for reheated rhetoric or pious proclamation; values are much more exciting for an organization than is traditionally understood.

 

Internal Communications is Boring!

Want to know the problem with internal communications? It’s boring. This is the problem. It is boring because communicators make it boring, and because top management only pay lip service to it at worse, or at best do not commit the right resources in terms of people and budget to make internal communications truly effective.

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As a result, internal communications is like those boring Ronseal advertisements you may have seen: does exactly what it says on the tin.

Now, I’ve got your attention, here’s the good news! This need not be the case. Indeed, there are many companies working very hard at tackling internal communications, but they are a minority and there is till much potential left untapped. The potential for internal communications is exciting. If companies are going to change, live their values, fulfill their brand promise and all those expectations launched by the leadership and raised by external communications and branding, then they have to get their employees engaged. Shouting louder is not what is effective, nor is spin.

Internal communications is about engaging the imagination of employees and showing them where they fit within the corporate story. The art is to make the company story their story, and vice-versa.

If this message is not understood by leadership, and their communicators, then their organization will not be making the most of what used to be called human capital. They are not releasing the energy and good will the vast majority of employees have. After all, they spend so much of their life at work, why wouldn’t they want to be engaged? Yes, there are many for whom a job is just a job, and the money is just the money, but they are also imaginative human beings seeking fulfillment in their life. Work is part of understanding fulfillment.

If internal communications going to change, then leadership and communicators together must realize the following:

1. It is first and foremost about people, not sales figures, profits or, God forbid, the CEO’s vision.

The key is to put your focus on your people.

2. It is about imagination, something we all have to varying degrees, and which is what inspires us to action. We want to imagine what is possible for us, what lies ahead in our personal journey, and we like to tell stories about ourselves, others and our work.

The key is to harness that imagination.

3. It is about why people are inspired and productive. It is not about, excuse the non-corporate sounding language, crappy campaigns or selling your employees the latest wheeze. It is about involving and recognizing. It is about really motivating stuff. Like what? Like a job well done.

The key is to inspire and recognize your employees.

So, in fact, internal communications is not boring, or at least it doesn’t need to be. Employees are fascinating. They have many stories to tell that reflect the company values. The values your company spouts about already exist in people. The point is to inspire your people. The art is to foreground this.

Internal communications has a key role to play that connects the company to changing cultural norms and values. All companies face this, but do all companies recognize what this means? Yes, internal communications does what it says on the tin, but the work is much more challenging than any boring advertisement can capture. And if the leadership understand what internal communications means, then perhaps they will put more attention on it, more budget into it and staff it at a more senior level. This is the challenge internal communications faces, and this post has stated this and done exactly what it says on the tin.

I am thankful to Ronseal for their wonderful advertisements that inspired this blog, and you can see one of the many Ronseal videos here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXznmGz2fy4 

Seven Internal Comms Steps to Merger Heaven!

 How to Communicate Internally for Success in a Merger – Part 2

You may have sold the merger to investors, but you need to sell it to your people. This makes internal communications more like a political campaign than a traditional internal communication plan.

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As explained in Part 1, the dialogue a newly merged company needs to embark upon is one of building trust. Here are some steps communicators can implement to promote trust in their company, and which help to create a strategy and a programme for internal communications change for employee success.

Step 1:

Charity begins at home: get your communicators working together at the earliest opportunity, starting with workshops and all-hands calls. This will help you identify the skills you can leverage, promote common teamwork in the new paradigm and break down barriers to trust. If communicators cannot break down the silos, then what hope for the business units?

Step 2:
Such workshops can also be promoted in the integration work of the business units, and communications can be part of this by training managers to communicate better. This is a new business, so the old ways and perceptions need to be challenged by a new and transparent way of communicating

Step 3:
Get the CEO and leaders out and about, visiting sites or holding townhalls. You may have sold the merger to investors, but you need to sell it to your people. This makes internal communications more like a political campaign than a traditional internal communication plan. You want hearts and minds, and direct engagement will save a host of hours and days crafting messages, brochures and e-mails. Treat employees like swing voters and remember, people often vote for they guy they met than the one who stays away from the constituency, whatever the message or the traditional ties.

Step 4:
Undertake an effective employee feedback programme, using an external author so you get an honest view of what employees are thinking and feeling. They are often keen to embrace the new company, but they are looking for a new source of certainty. They will offer helpful advice to management. They will also tell you what was wrong in the old company, because they may feel there is an opportunity to change things for the better in the new company.

Step 5:
You are learning about the other side of the merger yourself, and may find pockets of poor morale, since there may be a perception of being on “the losing side.” You need to find out more and seek ways to engage these employees, and ensure they are fit and ready for the journey.

Step 6:
From branding to daily use of language, you need to build a new verbal and visual language that engages everyone. Old company visuals and language reinforce the past. The new vocabulary can help employees feel engaged. Where old materials are kept, it should be for good reason and understandable to employees.

Step 7:
Finally, understand one thing, employees are feeling vulnerable in the wake of a merger or acquisition, and they have many questions. They are also, on the whole, reasonable people willing to give the benefit of the doubt. As in all internal communications, treat employees with respect, speak the truth to them, and explain the rationale for an action or holding back on detail, and they will be accepting, so long as it resonates with them and rings true.

 
These are just some of the first steps to thinking through an effective internal communications approach. Engaging your employees at the earliest stage in a merger, indeed in any change management, will help you take them with you on the exciting journey your business leaders want the company to take to achieve enduring success.

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