My Book Out Today!

Yes, today’s the big day! My new book on using dialogue to engage with employees in organizations of all kinds, published in London today!

Thanks to the wonderful people at Kogan Page!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0749470119/ref=s9_simh_gw_p14_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=0J8ZQQXFAB6XRT75JJAV&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=455344027&pf_rd_i=468294

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.

 

Stand and Deliver! Office Workers Can Lose Weight by Standing at Work Says Scientist.

According to an exercise expert, office workers should stand up to do their work in order to lose weight. This could lead to all sorts of interesting office arrangements, perhaps even smaller cubicles!

Should we stand or no, what say you?

 

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Adam Ant could have used his own song in the intervening years?

See the full story here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-20947605

What Value does Internal Comms add? Try these six steps to keeping your best employees for a start!

Losing employees is an administrative burden and a cost. However, it is more than that. It is a change to dynamics in the workplace. The departure of an employee can be unsettling in

It's not happy employees but engaged ones you want to stay

It’s not happy employees but engaged ones you want to stay

the period leading up to them leaving and afterwards, plus there are issues related to whether they are leaving or being pushed.

This is no small concern, after all 40% of workers will start looking for a new job within the first half of this year, and 69% say they’re already been looking, at least keeping an eye out for opportunities. Meanwhile, people are habitually changing jobs on a regular basis, with 25- to 34-year-olds currently holding their jobs for an average 2.7 years, down from 3 years in 1983.

A Different Take on Human Capital?

A Different Take on Human Capital?

Other issues include knowledge management. You have perhaps trained those leaving, and certainly added to the skill-base they take with them. They are taking that knowledge with them, and your organization is left with the job of replenishing or salvaging what you can of their knowledge before they leave.

People leaving is also a recruitment issue about how well staff are retained, and what people say about you when they leave. Disgruntled employees and ex-employees can put off a lot of talent.

There are doubtless many other reasons you can think of why keeping your best employees is a jolly good idea, but let’s look at the role internal communications can play in doing just that, by following a five step programme.

  1. Involvement: having an internal communications approach which involves employees keeps their sense of belonging, and has the added attraction of making it harder for them to make a break. However, it’s not happyemployees you want (though it’s nice when they’re happy), but engaged and involved employees.
  2. Value: valuing employees, not just financially but in terms of what they contribute, goes a long way and has to move beyond the rhetoric of “values” to provide the support to help employees value each other in their day-to-day work through their words and actions.
  3. Work/Life balance: promoting a work/life balance and supporting leisure or rest away from work communicates values far more than any campaign slogan can achieve. The boasts of “look how hard I’m working!” or “I was working until 2am!” are not attitudes that play out so well today, and behaving in this way can be counterproductive in any case.
  4. Reward: it’s one thing to advocate reward, it’s another to do so effectively. This is not just about pay packets, people feel rewarded in many ways at work. Company awards, recognition in the internal magazine, a chance to speak at the company annual staff meeting are among the various ways you can communicate reward. People are rewarded not just by money but also by their experience of being an employee, and this is often forgotten.
  5. The path ahead: how inspiring are your internal communications? Do they tell the story of what your organization is doing? If employees can visualize their future in the organization they are more likely to stay.

As with all things, internal communications overlaps with other functions when you look at the implications of this five-step programme, but one value you can offer immediately is to start the dialogue internally that can shape the future.

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 

Don’t Sit on Your R’s, Keep Engaging Your Employees

If you want to retain talent you cannot rest on your laurels, you need to work to reatin talent. Here are some ways employees can be kept loyal, instead of letting your human capital walk out the door to another company.

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This is some advice from the leadership of Fishbowl, a software inventory company, posted in Harvard Business Review. The suggest you follow the “5 R’s” of employee relationships

Check the posting here:

http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/11/five_ways_to_retain_employees.html?referral=00563&cm_mmc=email-_-newsletter-_-daily_alert-_-alert_date&utm_source=newsletter_daily_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alert_date

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.

How to Communicate Internally for Success in a Merger – Part 1

The truth, and the context we need to consider, is that there is no such thing as a merger. There are only hostile and friendly takeovers.

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There is nothing as energising for communicators than a merger. The pace can be electric, the role of communicator takes centre stage. The constant calls from media, the very strong elastic between the CEO and the lead communicator to ensure immediate attention, and the work required to get the messages and words right, all make it arguably the most demanding work a communicator can do in their career. I have been fortunate to have leadership roles in two mergers, from very different perspectives; first, as the head of corporate communications, and second, as a head of internal communications.

The challenge is great, and the rewards of success are sweet. At the beginning of the merger, there is little time for sleep or rest, and business as usual takes a back seat to the task of dancing with the media, first to avoid comment and later to inform the world of a momentous occasion in the life of the company. At the end, in the event there is a new name and brand for the newly merged company, watching fellow employees cheer as a new brand is unveiled for the first time can be memorable.

In between life can be a rollercoaster, with uncertainty over whether the merger will be completed for sure, the new org chart, the necessary secrecy of brand development and everything else challenging the communicator to perform to the max. The attention during all this time tends to be external. The employees are at worse often left in the dark, or at best placed second in priority. Yet, when all the excitement is over, and the investment banker and media circus has left town, what are you left with? The employees are the ones who are expected to embrace and live the new business and brand, but they have been left at the previous station.

The truth, and the context we need to consider, is that there is no such thing as a merger. There are only hostile and friendly takeovers. In this context, there is fear on both sides. Speak to both sides of the merger and you will sniff out fears on both sides, though admittedly less on the stronger side of the deal, but even then there are reasons to be fearful.

Just like all other aspects of the business, internal communications needs are greatest during a merger or acquisition. The org chart is often ill-defined, and employees are left wondering who their new boss will be, and from what side of the merger will they come. There is mutual suspicion. In integration teams, those involved may often be talking themselves literally out of a job. In reorganising the new department structure, the leaders may themselves be out-structured, even the head of communications!

The suspicion and uncertainty is both endemic and systemic. Employees cope by living in a tension between what they know and what they fear. They know for the moment they have a job, but fear their job will be gone tomorrow. They know they have a boss, but fear a new boss will come in from the other side of the deal. They know the culture and “how things are done around here,” but fear the culture will fracture or be replaced, and things will “go downhill from here.”

What is the heart of these very real and understandable concerns? Lack of trust. What is the solution? Building trust.

Look out on Monday morning for Part 2 of this blog… featuring the Seven Steps to merger heaven!

Recognizing Internal Comms

Recognizing Internal Comms

I made the point yesterday about recognizing internal comms as a need but a lack of dedicated resources, and lo and behold PR Week in the UK reports on the Chartered Insititute of Public Relations releasing research concluding the same. Follow the link to find the detail.

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