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Employee engagement ideas and employee alignment best practices

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Employee engagement ideas and employee alignment best practices

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We live in a marketing world of explosive change: new channels, newly empowered consumers and a new commitment by brands to re-write old rules. So why is it so much still hasn’t changed about how brands engage their own employees?

But isn’t it all one brand? And isn’t it all dependent on creating a distinctive and great experience—with employees at the core? We think so. It’s time for new words to describe employee engagement—words that speak to a new approach to the field. Instead of employee engagement, how about Brand Experience Alignment?

We live in a marketing world of explosive change: new channels, newly empowered consumers and a new commitment by brands to re-write old rules. So why is it so much still hasn’t changed about how brands engage their own employees?

But isn’t it all one brand? And isn’t it all dependent on creating a distinctive and great experience—with employees at the core? We think so. It’s time for new words to describe employee engagement—words that speak to a new approach to the field. Instead of employee engagement, how about Brand Experience Alignment?

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Employee engagement ideas and employee alignment best practices

  1. 1. EMPLOYEES COME FIRST (NOT CUSTOMERS) HOW EXPERIENCE BRANDS ALIGN THEIR PEOPLE AND ACHIEVE BETTER OUTCOMES
  2. 2. TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION: 3 NEW WORDS FOR THE UNTAPPED MARKETING OPPORTUNITY OF ALL TIME WHY EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT 5 PROGRAMS RARELY WORK BRAND TO EVERYONE 7 EMPLOYEE ALIGNMENT: 9 A COOL WAY TO MAKE MORE MONEY LESS YAMMERING, MORE HAMMERING 11 DON’T ASK ME, I JUST WORK HERE 13 WHY BRANDS THAT ACE SHOPPER 15 MARKETING WILL BE HUMAN (NOT DIGITAL) IN PRAISE OF STORYTELLING 17 /2
  3. 3. INTRODUCTION: NEW WORDS FOR THE UNTAPPED MARKETING OPPORTUNITY OF ALL TIME Liz Bigham We live in a marketing world of explosive own those physical brand spaces where retail and other staff change: new channels, newly empowered interact with customers. consumers and a new commitment by brands But isn’t it all one brand? And isn’t it all dependent on creating to re-write old rules. a distinctive and great experience—with employees at the core? So why is it so much still hasn’t changed about how brands We think so. It’s time for new words to describe employee engage their own employees? engagement—words that speak to a new approach to the field. Instead of employee engagement, how about Brand Experience Aligning employees behind brand and business goals is the most Alignment? fundamental thing that companies can do to improve their brand experience. This human element of brand-building is arguably the Brand great untapped marketing opportunity of our time. What’s at stake is your brand. Customers don’t vow revenge on Debbie in customer service—they take it out on your brand. Yet most companies struggle. Brand is what you do, how you behave and interact; it’s a One reason may be fragmentation of ownership in client verb, not a noun. organizations. Inspiring employees around mission, vision and Experience culture is often owned by Internal Communications, Corporate What really matters is the experience. If you strive to create Communications or Human Resources. Meanwhile, capital “m” positive and differentiating experiences for your staff and for Marketing and Brand Management types own defining and your customers and consumers, your brand will gain an edge. communicating the brand’s values and stories to customers and consumers. And yet a third group of corporate decision-makers /3
  4. 4. Alignment Where it starts is alignment. Align your staff so that they understand and believe in what the brand stands for and can relay that to customers and consumers. Align your organization so that your people (and agencies) are working together. Words matter. It may well be that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet—but we don’t think there are many organizations that can afford to risk confusion among their staff or their customers about what they stand for and what their experience is. To be a successful people-driven brand in the 21st century, your thinking about brand and your thinking about people need to be perfectly aligned. To be a leading experience brand of the 21st century, you have to ban talk of “internal communications,” you have to move beyond language like “building a strong employment brand,” and you need to accept that mere “employee engagement” is not enough. It’s time for Brand Experience Alignment. Liz Bigham is SVP, Director of Marketing and lives in Brooklyn. /4
  5. 5. WHY EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMS RARELY WORK Britt Bulla Almost every organization holds their employees up as a core, precious asset. Especially now, as the economy rumbles back to life and the job market becomes more active and fluid, companies will be doing more to retain their best performers and find the next generation of talent. Employee engagement programs are often at the center of those retention and attraction activities. Nearly every company has some kind of initiative designed to connect with, inspire and motivate employees – they’re used as an important form of non-monetary compensation and are often the key channel for companies to keep abreast of employee mood and concerns. They’re held up as silver bullets to differentiate one company from another when winning the “war on talent” is top of mind for executives. The problem is that they usually don’t make the difference that they are intended to make. Four reasons why employee engagement programs often fail (and by implication, how to do better): /5
  6. 6. #1: Corporate messaging campaigns are often mistaken of sharing that are at least as useful and natural as the ones in for engagement programs. use already, they can’t expect to have a seat at the table of frank discourse. They’re often used as just another channel for corporate communications, with the vast majority of information flowing #4: They’re not helpful in the moment. one way from HR out to the masses. It’s one more email or web At the end of the day, engagement isn’t about simple conversation. portal post, more information to read and digest that adds to It has to be about dialogue or interaction to lead to a useful the workload, with no real opportunity for dialogue. Instead of outcome: motivation, productivity, happiness. Usually, engagement creating an opportunity for companies to engage, we get more programs cast their utility in macro terms, like overall health and clutter at best and more frustration and work at worst. wellness, work-life balance and professional development and #2: Engagement programs are often misaligned or in progression. These areas are vital, of course, but they’re usually conflict with the external brand purpose and messaging. driven from a grand corporate level down to the masses. Lots of effort goes into making sure that the external branding and In the course of an employee’s day, help can take the form of simple messaging aligns with the corporation’s strategic goals and business things that make the work experience better. Engagement programs ambition. Internal engagement loses effectiveness when internal often miss the opportunity to empower managers in the middle–those audiences are either not aligned, or have objectives that are at closest to the people who need engaging with–to take simple, low- cross-purposes with the messages that are going out to customers. cost, high-perception value actions that can make a difference: for example, a late-night snack for long hours at the office... a night out By way of example, Citi’s “Citi never sleeps” tagline may have at a restaurant for a team member who went above and beyond on been compelling to customers but many employees participating a project… an invitation to completely unplug for a weekend or an in discussion board conversations visible to the public interpreted offered comp day after meeting a grueling deadline. that message as “We’re going to work you to the bone.” Gestures like this take the onus of engagement away from human #3: Companies try to control the topics in which resources and corporate communications departments, give employees engage—ignoring the conversations that managers more tools to engage and inspire, and ultimately provide employees are already having. employees with a richer, more useful and appreciative experience. Social connectivity has blended the lines between work and personal life, and employees are sharing and conversing about issues relevant to work in forums like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and more traditional online discussion boards. That’s Britt Bulla is VP, Director where real issues (and yes, dirty laundry) have a habit of surfacing. of Strategy, Companies can’t expect to control the agenda of true person-to- based in person engagement, because employees have access to forums Jack Morton’s that they already see as effective and genuine, and have already New York office. self-identified the issues that are most pressing. When engagement programs don’t incorporate these issues and don’t offer channels /6
  7. 7. BRAND TO EVERYONE Ben Taylor People often talk about “B to C” (business to consumer) versus “B to B” (business to business) marketing. We’re passionate believers in something different: “B to E,” or brand to everyone. Significant brand equity resides at home with employees. Leveraging this equity requires so much more than just communicating the company vision, values and mission—the passive “employee best practices” box that most companies tick without thinking. Organizations that inspire and activate their staff base to live their brand are more successful—by “live” we mean that they actively deliver the brand promise to customers and fully understand and embrace the brand’s personality, voice and culture. Of course the value of employees living the brand is particularly important to service-led organizations: The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company is a famous example. There’s no cookie cutter to what the Ritz-Carlton experience looks like: décor, guests and lobby designs around the world are diverse. But there’s absolute congruity in what the brand experience feels like: utter consistency in the service and culture of staff—and that’s a big reason guests have allegiance to The Ritz-Carlton brand. It took /7
  8. 8. extensive training, communication, meetings, the famous daily line-ups, and indoctrination in what The Ritz-Carlton brand means (e.g., a wallet-sized “credo card” that constantly reminds staff of what the brand stands for). As a consequence, Ritz-Carlton has one of the most loyal and motivated workforces any organization could wish for. They create sales and save money (staff attrition is minimal compared to many of its competitors). But it’s not just service brands that gain by aligning employees. Product-based organizations benefit when their employees are evangelists of the brand: in a digital world, everyone potentially has a voice directly to customers and consumers. Beyond sales, the value to an organization of having a happy and engaged employee community and a great brand culture and personality is priceless. We have helped leading product-based companies develop employee engagement strategies specifically with this in mind. One in particular applies a similar planning approach to staff brand alignment as it does its significant customer advertising program. On an annual basis we help map out a communications portfolio that combines digital communications, brand experiences (segmented to the different employee stakeholder groups), awards, and incentives. The result is an evolving program that allows the company to develop its products through feedback to management, and critically to measure how aligned its workforce is to its brand, how better informed they are to do their work and how motivated they are to do a better job (and stay with the organization). By “everyone” we mean all the people who have an impact on or a stake in your business—and that includes employees, not as an after-thought but as an integral and prioritized audience. Ben Taylor is President of Asia-Pacific and lives in Beijing. /8
  9. 9. EMPLOYEE ALIGNMENT: A COOL WAY TO MAKE MORE MONEY Steve Mooney Zappos says that culture is more important than technology. JetBlue says it hires comedians rather than train employees to be funny. When Google learned that the middle managers who created compelling internal culture outperformed those with greater technical expertise, it undertook a comprehensive study to uncover performance drivers. What do these front-running companies know that we don’t? For starters, all three are focused on creating dynamic internal brand experiences that match their external brand promises. They are passionately focused on their internal brand—and they “get” that aligning their employees is way to be more profitable. Indeed, Towers Watson has shown (through research it has been gathering for over a decade) that companies with “exponential” levels of employee engagement outperform those with low levels of engagement in clear financial terms, delivering operating margin that is three times higher. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is dogged in his focus on culture as a strategic weapon—with financial impact: /9
  10. 10. “…By promoting the perks of a highly social company where workers get free sodas and popcorn, decorate their cubicles, are invited to share their ideas and can climb the career ladder from inside, Zappos is able to pay below market salaries for its more senior workers. ‘We want them to work for us for reasons other than money,’ Mr. Hsieh said …The company rejects qualified applicants who don’t buy into the corporate philosophy…Mr. Hsieh’s success has been built in part on his ability to anatomize the way people crave connections with others, and turn those insights into a business plan.” (Source: The New York Times) All three of these companies market to their employees as they market to their most important customers. After all, aren’t employees as important as customers? Would you ever consider sending a single unformatted email to your most coveted customers informing them of a new product or service—and then expect a return? So why do so many executives do just that? Applying the most basic of marketing processes to your people will result in superior results. Segment your audience, profile them and then be creative with communication and culture initiatives. Using a closely related strategy, JetBlue focuses on recruitment and onboarding to drive brand inside the company. At what rate are your employees turning over? At 15% attrition, a company replaces its entire staff in seven years, and half in three-and-a-half years. Hire for culture; you can train for skills. And remember: Zappos plays up the perks and saves a ton on the salary line. In fact, they claim that it’s harder to get a job at Zappos than it is to get into Harvard. Cool! Steve Mooney is SVP, Managing Director of Jack’s Boston office. /10
  11. 11. LESS YAMMERING, MORE HAMMERING: EMPLOYEE ALIGNMENT IS ABOUT DOING, NOT TALKING Tom Michael Have you noticed how cynical many people are about “employee engagement” programs? On the face of it, they have ample reason. There’s the money problem: it’s hard to fund one-time, all- out efforts to “engage” employees. There’s the fragmentation problem: “the employee team” (as distinct from “the customer team”) might brainstorm programs that will engage employees around some factors that should transcend—like the brand, or its values, or a great new product. Then there’s the “is that it?” factor: the blitz of internal marketing and messaging, posters and signs, maybe a celebration moment or a beer bash… all of which immediately fade into the background as life returns to normal. It doesn’t have to be this way. Your employee engagement doesn’t have to be expensive, episodic and isolated. “Good” employee engagement is led by doing, not talking, and it’s integral to the culture and behavior of the organization. Brands that do a great job of employee engagement bake it into their very essence. It’s not a program or a goal; it’s simply how they operate. Here’s a very tangible example. Google provides employees a /11
  12. 12. unique culinary experience. It didn’t just happen: Sergey Brin and There will always be a place for the large employee programs. Larry Page interviewed 25 candidates before selecting Charlie But the big opportunity for the rest of us is to find ways to extend Ayers as Head Chef. Setting aside the possibility they were only what we’re already doing to employees—to turn well-funded after the samples, they devoted the time to selecting the right chef customer programs into employee engagement opportunities as so they’d ensure employees would be well fed, feel well taken care well. The experiences created feed on themselves–employees of, and devote their energy to innovation and advancement. This experience the brand and the message, become better brand small example is repeated often at Google: the head of HR went ambassadors themselves, and improve the experience through through 14 interviews before he was hired. This is a company their participation. that takes its time to hire the right people for key jobs (and yes, Head Chef apparently is critical). An even better approach to employee engagement—and one we’re seeing more of—doesn’t focus on employees in isolation but views Tom Michael is employees as integral and integrated in the customer conversation. VP, Senior Strategist, These programs break down the traditional silos of marketing and currently residing the internal organization, using a program intended for customers to in Texas. also engage employees, or using the technology built for customers to empower and engage employees. A great example is Dell’s EmployeeStorm, their online community for employees to ask questions and brainstorm about virtually anything, from café menus to product innovations and business strategy. It was born not from HR or a desire to improve the employee culture, but from a consumer-facing program: IdeaStorm. Four months after launching the customer-facing community, Dell launched the same concept internally. Another example is a health care organization that was launching a customer-facing website to drive engagement, spark conversation and get people to think about the organization in a new way. They launched the program with their employees first, to give them a chance to experience the organization’s new voice, and to participate in the conversation. So when the program went live to consumers, it was already a thriving community of dialogue, discussion and debate. And the employees themselves had an opportunity to embrace and experience the essence of the new brand. /12
  13. 13. DON’T ASK ME, I JUST WORK HERE Tim Leighton In the UK, Mary Portas—a popular retail guru dubbed “Mary Queen of Shops” (thanks to her expertise, not her credit card bill)—recently presented a primetime television series focusing on how leading retailers are letting their customers down with bad in-store experiences. You might be surprised that anyone would bother to make a TV series about this. After all, the UK is surely a byword for bad customer service. It’s all part of the olde worlde charm, right? Wrong. In an age of demanding consumers and failing brands, the need to create compelling and rewarding retail experiences has come into sharp focus. Even here in the UK. During the “Secret Shopper” series we saw a number of stores that were failing to provide anything close to a good customer experience, from cell phones to estate agents (AKA realtors) to fashion. And it seemed pretty clear that one factor, above all else, always determined the outcome. /13
  14. 14. Employee alignment. So here’s the inescapable truth folks: In an experience economy, like it or not, your employees hold nearly all the chips. One example—a fashion chain store—was particularly memorable and surprising. You've probably been somewhere just like it at And that’s not just in retail. It’s just as true in utilities, healthcare, some point in your life and witnessed for yourself the unenviable travel or manufacturing. Frontline or not frontline, these people formula of disinterested staff, frustrated customers and poor sales. ARE your brand; their every action and interaction can add value to or, indeed, destroy your brand. Well, it turned out that the training these particular employees got was a scrappy sheet of copier paper stuck to the back of the Your employees are your brand equity. staff washroom door. It contained a less than inspiring blend of customer service platitudes and tips on how to deal with shoplifters. But you might just have to let them know. Perhaps this was not going to help them live the brand. And set them free. But then Mary worked her magic. She devised an inspiring vision Thanks Mary. of how the in-store experience could be transformed and, central to the concept were... you guessed it... the staff themselves. And, boy, did they respond. Tim Leighton is VP, Creative They weren't given a rule book. They weren't even briefed on a Strategy Director, based in set of carefully tuned brand values, pillars or pyramids. They were Jack Morton’s inspired and empowered to become part of a vision they cared London office. about; something exciting and transformative. Their once sullen faces lit up. They got involved. Their passion and enthusiasm became infectious and, yes, sales went up. We've seen it time and time again with our own clients, like when we helped one of the world’s great automotive brands redesign the experience customers have when they visit the dealership, armed with the simple insight—that the dealership experience should match the quality of the cars themselves. And it’s not limited to our clients’ own employees: we’ve helped mobile device makers engage their retail partners’ staff to convey excitement about the brand’s products (not always easy when that brand isn’t even their employer, but essential to both brands’ success). /14
  15. 15. WHY BRANDS THAT ACE SHOPPER MARKETING WILL BE HUMAN (NOT DIGITAL) Matt Jones So the smart, technology-enabled, reality- augmented era of digital automation is upon us. And CEOs everywhere can breathe a long sigh of relief. Because the performance of their brands no longer relies on an endless and expensive search for talent. Instead, it will now be driven by servers and clouds, apps and algorithms, user interfaces and voice recognition software. Or so they wished. In fact, success is as reliant as it ever was on people—only more so. The best-known paradox of our age is that despite living in a hyper-connected age, the most influential medium for brand-building is word of mouth (case in point, The Thank You Economy). We’re living in a marketing-saturated, product- commoditized world where experiences are the only reliable way to cut through and differentiate (see The Experience Economy). And the power of “Thank You + Experience” means that brands that deliver differentiated experiences will be rewarded more than at any time in history. /15
  16. 16. Now surely there are great experiences that don’t rely on great Because in a world where everything else is the same (and people? Yes—to a point. Google’s genius lies in its algorithms. anything different is copied, rapidly) it’s your people’s behavior Amazon’s in its user experience and logistics. And Netflix’s in its that makes the difference. Brands have been saying it for years, pricing and ease of use. Their people are essential, but they’re but now it’s time to do it. So what was employee and customer behind the scenes—the brand experience doesn’t overtly rely on service training now needs to become brand behavior alignment. how employees interact with customers. In short, no more service; now the focus must be experience. But these brands are the exception. For every Google, there are ten consumer electronics brands whose products are sold and serviced by (at best) their employees or (at worst) some else’s. For every Netflix, there are ten service providers whose customers Matt Jones is seek out support from real people. And for every Amazon, there Global SVP, Strategy & are a hundred retailers, banks, airlines, and hotel groups whose Creative, customer service is delivered by uniformed (and often uninformed) based in Sydney. people, not by failproof digital platforms. In the past, the people behind these brands have gotten their fair share of focus. But now they need to receive their unfair share. Because the front line is where shopping decisions are made, where sales are closed, where experiences are delivered, and where brands are built. The front line is where shoppers, overwhelmed by advertising and empowered by reviews and word of mouth, make their final decisions about a new phone or a new TV. And traditional shopper marketing tactics, focused on point of purchase displays and punchy retail promotions, are not enough. Instead, the new shopper marketing needs to be focused on the alignment of the retail representative around the brand and product story. All the more so if that representative works for a third-party retail group selling multiple competitor brands. In short, no more sales; now the focus must be experience. The front line is also where owners return for support, for upgrades, and for rewards for their loyalty. It’s where occasional buyers become brand loyalists (or not). And it’s where the behavior and decisions of the people who represent your brand are shaping the future right now. /16
  17. 17. IN PRAISE OF STORYTELLING Helen Graney It’s easy to be overly cerebral and intel- lectual when discussing the subject of employee alignment. After all, it’s a serious business with big potential impact (positive or negative) on the brand and the business. But let’s never underestimate the power of emotion, especially when it comes to brands and building a strong internal brand with employees. Let’s be honest: one of the pitfalls of what used to be called “internal communications” has always been the potential to inspire not understanding and belief but cynicism and dismissal. That’s especially true of messages delivered via one-way, top- down, executive to the masses media—emails, memos, one-way webcasts and the like. Storytelling—both as a genre and as a medium of employee engagement—helps brands avoid the potential pitfall of communications-induced skepticism and distrust. Storytelling can humanize messages and make them meaningful on a personal scale—adding authenticity and relevance that mean the messages are more likely to be heard and acted on. /17
  18. 18. What do we mean by storytelling? First-person narrative. Personifying a process through a colleague’s or customer’s experience. Giving employees the means to share stories and personal observations. Opening up channels and platforms— from internal blogs to physical environments—where staff can bring strategy and culture to life. Stories that connect people with people on an emotional level, humanizing business concepts and helping to shape behavior. Storytelling that works has the potential to build understanding and evangelism inside an organization in a way no CEO email is likely to do. And in this digital age, it can spread like wildfire online. A delightful recent discovery was a YouTube video featuring an employee in the service department of American brand RedWings Shoes—which captured more brilliantly than any corporate mission statement ever could what the brand truly stands for. Of course the opposite can also happen: negative stories can also spread like wildfire online. So it’s all the more critical for brands to work hard to create the channels and the inspiration for employees to tell positive stories to each other and to customers and consumers. It will pay dividends for your brand. Helen Graney is SVP, Managing Director of Australia. /18
  19. 19. WHY EMPLOYEE FOR MORE INFORMATION: ENGAGEMENT CONTACT LIZ BIGHAM AT LIZ_BIGHAM@JACKMORTON.COM PROGRAMS DON’T FOLLOW US ON TWITTER @JACKMORTON VISIT US ONLINE AT JACKMORTON.COM WORK READ OUR BLOG AT BLOG.JACKMORTON.COM Britt Bulla Almost every organization holds their employees up as a core, precious asset. Especially now, as the economy rumbles back to life, the job market becomes more active and fluid, companies will be doing more to retain their best performers and find the next generation of talent. Almost every organization holds their employees up as a core, precious asset. Especially now, as the economy rumbles back to life, the job market becomes more active and fluid, companies will be doing more to retain their best performers and find the next generation of WORLDWIDE is a global brand experience JACK MORTON talent. agency. We create experiences that strengthen relationships Employee engagement programs are often at the center of between brands and the people who matter most to them— those retention and attraction activities. Nearly every company thereby helping our clients become talked-about experience has some kind of initiative designed to connect with, inspire brands. Rated among the top marketing services agencies and motivate employees – they’re used as an important form worldwide, we integrate live and online experiences, digital of non-monetary compensation and often the key channel for and social media and branded 3D environments that engage companies to keep abreast of employee mood and concerns. and inspire consumers, business partners and employees. Our They’re held up as silver bullets to differentiate one company staff work across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific as part of from another an ideas-led agency culture. © Jack Morton Worldwide 2011 /19

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