Category Archives: internal marketing

When BLOG goes FLOG!!!

Cue shameless self-promotion music.  FADE IN.

A nice review on by someone I actually don’t know about my book available (chime) here for the US and here for UK and Europe.  Couldn’t have said it better myself!

 Super short, but speaks volumes, October 5, 2010

Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Talent Journey: the 55-Minute Guide to Employee Communication, (Paperback)

The cover of this book is deceptively simple, and it is obviously a short read. But don’t be fooled–this book is chock-full of information. Not a single page is wasted. Anyone in human resources, management, communications, marketing…heck, anyone from any department of a business with more than one employee could benefit from the information in this concise little volume. I’ve read it twice since receiving it three days ago, marked it up in pencil and pen, plastered it with sticky notes, and have ordered two more for coworkers. The Talent Journey is exactly what I was looking for when I stumbled upon it; it offers straightforward advice on how to communicate your company’s vision, mission and values to every current and potential employee, gaining their understanding, buy-in and long-term loyalty to your brand. The book doesn’t focus on any one type or size of business, or advocate any one particular method of communication. Rather, it offers an overview of common-sense options and advice that you can adapt to your position in your company in your location.

More evidence that C-level ambitions for the “people” functions aren’t the wild goose chase some would suggest

A communicator in the CEO role at SONY.

Marketing, PR and IT people heading leading media and communication groups.

And now, Kellogg’s hires who do become their new head of HR?

(Drum roll please) …. Karen McCormick, former Chief Executive of Cheshire Building Society (see People Management  news).

Soooo … I guess there are some imteresting implications and inferences that can be drawn from this:

- Mile-deep, inch wide specialists – whether in internal communications, HR or wherever – will hit a glass ceiling

- The development of broader business strategy and commercial skills will provide opportunities to enter C-level leadership roles

- Or the opposite – the specialists will simply hit the glass ceiling because of a lack of these skills and external commercially minded folks (with less functional expertise) will become their bosses.


The battle lines are drawn

Over at CommScrum, we have opened a debate about what the CommScrum team has identified as a quite fundamental issue in the world of employee communications – the debate about the professional communicator’s place in the world of business.  Everything seems to boil down to this – from my Typology of Internal Communicators to a belief in Systems Thinking to debates about Best Practice vs Innovation.  We’re getting to the nitty gritty DNA of the future of our profession.

We’ve danced around the issue before, several times, which is why we chose to tackle it head on with this post.  It will be interesting to see what unfolds.

In a way, though, having seen at least one response, I can more or less predict the conversation, the players and their perspectives.  Odd that we’re finding the DNA, and and the same time there is a significant cadre – who boast having “trained” thousands of communicators – who are probably holding us back.  I shudder to think of the long term lack of value being delivered by 5,000 people trained to toe the company line and churn out great communications and never challenge anyone in authority since communicators should know their place.

It actually saddens me.  Henry Kissinger was once asked why academics were so vitriolic in their arguments, and he replied, “Because the rewards are so small.”  Which I think just about sums it up.

There is a change in the wings.  Old world ex-journalists, and glorified writers and social scientists with a research bent, and PR hacks who couldn’t stand the heat, those who came in from the cold and picked up the baton of “internal communications” will be a dying breed, and good riddance to them.  These are the people who are terrified of confrontation, fear the CEO and any executive, and just want the quiet life debating tone of voice, whether anal-retentive has a hyphen or not, and churning out polished content for other people.  That it’s a packaging job, someone else does the thinking bit. Contribution to the enterprise? Pretty scarce, so no wonder they bemoan execs not valuing what they do for a living.

One of my favourite light bulb moments was way back in university in speech communication class when I learned about something called “the assimilation contrast effect” – which holds that sometimes even if someone agrees with you, if you are too aggressive in presenting your argument they will intuitively disagree with you.  We’ll see plenty of that I’m sure on both sides.

But I must turn to my personal experience, and I can count numerous occasions in the previous year alone where being a “professional communicator” by name had little to do with the value I have created for my clients. Where my perspective as a communicator, no doubt informed by many other experience, factors, and experiences, transcended with effortless ease “communication” and put me squarely in “leadership and strategy” territory.  Which doesn’t mean I can’t see that your line spacing is off, your grammar lacks parallelism, the document is off-register, the photo is poorly cropped, the copy needs to be adapted for the web, the navigation and user experience are not working, the metrics are not in place, etc., etc.

Sorry to disappoint myself, but I am not a unique snowflake.  I can’t be alone in this.  Maybe I’m longer in the tooth than some, but I refuse to believe that the majority of my professional contemporaries can’t tell similar tales.  Those not in the “communication as a noun” camp, that is.

Examples …

  • Rebranding project for one of the world’s leading financial software providers.  Arguing with the CEO, a quite determined, impressive and intimidating man, about the strategy for his business and differentiating based on what makes them unique.  Winning.  Views taken aboard.  Strategy influenced.  Organisational structure affected and operational infrastructure being adapted.
  • Using communication and an inside-out approach for a leading professional services firm to re-articulate their values and positioning when the Chairman, CEO and MDs all just wanted “communication” in  the form of a new logo.  Forced them to confront what they “really” stood for, to pick a “Value Discipline” and relentlessly pursue it in strategy, operations and, yes, communications.  Converted the unbelievers.  Successful and award-winning communications as the “outcome”, but the “noun” stuff is icing on the proverbial cake.
  • Creating an EVP or a client with such a resonant and robust business case behind it that it has wormed its way up the chain – with the CEO using EVP-borrowed terms in the annual and CR reports; with the brand being adapted as relevant from Europe to Asia.
  • Working with a global investment bank to determine that the values that they want to express and an EVP are actually the values they ought to express as a brand (in their circumstances). And winning, against some heavyweight opposition.
  • And other times, I fail too.

… and there are more.

This is important.  We can’t tolerate amongst us the smug middle manager who can quote seventeen research papers and studies refuting any point you make, yet who can’t demonstrate any contribution other than justification of his or her own job and ticking the boxes on the way to a juicy pension by not rocking the boat.  We can’t tolerate the “I’ve trained 1,000 communicators” mentality – that does not confer moral authority.  OK – those who can, do – and those who can’t, train. We can’t tolerate the communicator who touches their forelock and says “sir” and “ma’am” when the CEO says deliver. The ones who seem to think that pragmatism is incompatible with a strategic mindset (I love that one – the last refuge of the scoundrel in my book).

The CEOs I know are human beings.  Often wealthy and powerful.  But equally isolated and lonely and seeking someone to tell them what they don’t want to hear from their yes men.  And if yours isn’t one of them, to paraphrase Mark Darby, go somewhere and find one.  Life is too short.

It comes back to the confidence vs competence debate.  And being able to influence.  And to be able to make your case and prove not only your value, but to help create new value in other parts of the organisation.  Along the way making it clear that anyone who doesn’t like you “sticking your nose into their business” should identified as an empire builder, and if their empire is not maximising value to act accordingly.  Sounds like leadership to me.

Next step?  Get a sheet of paper.  Left hand column: attributes of communicators who see their world as a noun; the limited world view.  Right hand column: attributes of communicators who think the professional can and should do more.

You do the rest.

McLeod Mk II

The BIS has just published a revised report on employee engagement and this site.  On first view I like it; it covers most of the bases is a good consolidation of all the disparate stuff out there.

I still think it is woefully light on employer brand and employee brand engagement – and still takes a perhaps understandable very “siloed” view of the whole affair. But you could do far worse spending £24.99 on some long-winded business book on the subject!

The young and the restless Indian

Malavika  R Harita is the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Focus in India and one of my colleagues in the MS&L Group Brand & Talent Practice that I head globally.  I asked Malavika to provide an insight into the Indian talent communication and employee engagement market – I hope that you find this guest blog on DTIM as interesting as I do!

The Young and the Restless Indian

Young. Restless. Ambitious. Probably less than focused. Trying to prove a point in an extremely competitive environment, there were 1.2 billion of us at last count. In a hurry. To get that car, that house, that foreign posting. All that Dad never had.

Born in New India. Not the India their parents grew up in, where simple living and high thinking were the order of the day. Where frugality, thrift, and saving for a rainy day thrived. The India we call “Bharath”. Very different from the globalized India we are today with increasing consumerism, Westernization (the jury is still out on whether that is a good or bad thing), and a completely different set of priorities.

The Challenges of Engagement

We therefore have a workforce, most of whom are first generation educated, from smaller cities and rural areas, suddenly thrust into large cities where they have to adapt. To a new culture. To new friends. To tough work environments.  And to living away from the family. A brutal severing of the umbilical cord, so to speak. And the freedom which most of them have never experienced before coming as they do from very sheltered, family oriented backgrounds.

From an employer perspective you therefore need to provide the ballast to anchor them to an organization and prevent them from drifting away. There are so many opportunities available, particularly if you are half smart. In boom time, 3 years ago, every engineering graduate had 7 to 8 job offers in hand before they even completed their course. Things have changed now and the current slow-down has come as a tremendous shock to a generation who has never suffered privation before. It has in some ways been a good thing because our traditional Indian way of thinking has re-asserted itself where we value security and loyalty above money alone. Or is that wishful thinking on my part?

2009: The year of HRM

This was one of the toughest years for HR professionals in India. For the first time since India globalized a decade ago, they were faced with downsizing, lay-offs, managing with lean workforces, counseling, retaining key people, training, retraining, and all this with no monetary incentives to leverage.  

The true test will be now. How do you continue to be frugal in terms of compensation but retain employees in spite of the job market opening up again? 

Old vs New

During the boom traditional sectors like manufacturing, hospitality, advertising, and other services lost out to the burgeoning IT, ITES, media telecom, and financial sectors who sucked in anyone with a basic degree and offered them humongous salaries. The premise being they needed arms and legs to just cope with the exponential growth. During the downturn traditional businesses, which are also globalizing, but at a slower pace, have become more attractive in terms of opportunities, remuneration and stability and the balance is tilting slightly away from the IT sector as a preferred destination.

The talent market is also maturing so employees are beginning to ask discerning questions and form perceptions and opinions about prospective employers. The blind rush of the early 2000’s is over. As in any mature market, employees now need to be convinced that they are making the right choices.

The role of communication

The traditional blue and white collar workers of yore who were contented with HR circulars, have been replaced with the more educated, smarter knowledge worker of today. Traditional organizations however still need to adjust to the concept of an open, transparent organization where the power of choice has shifted from the employer to the employee. The other bigger change is the power of the net, and in India, the mobile, for initiating and sustaining dialogs between people.

In my opinion, 2010-11 is the year for building strong Talent Brands in India. Organizations that have the vision and invest the time and resources to do this will emerge not just stronger in terms of existing employee loyalty but more importantly, is right up there in every potential employee’s consideration set.

State of the Union

India is not virgin territory with regard to talent branding. We have organizations that are way up the scale while others pay lip service to the concept of employee engagement. So while there is a lot of overall activity it does not seem to be part of a sustained, strategically directed plan, barring a few organizations who walk the talk. The result is that employee communication gets low priority in the scheme of things since the impact, if any, is not measurable.

Employee branding is the purview of the HR department. The traditional conflict between marcom, marketing, and HR exists with each protecting his/her turf. However with expanding, geographically dispersed workforces, the boundaries are blurring and the current trend is towards an integrated approach giving employee communication a marketing and PR spin. Tangible results are yet to be seen but the seeds of change have been sown.

The full power of digital media has also not been harnessed by most organizations in this space, barring a few. Probably because of the fear that with digital media it’s all out there and you have to learn to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly. A basic lack of understanding that P2P conversations will happen away irrespective of whether the organization is involved or not.

The way I see it, effective talent branding needs a long-term perspective, but most organizations in India are so busy meeting the quarter’s targets in terms of just recruitment that they do not look at the bigger picture of building interest, of building loyalty, of building Lovemarks.

Malavika Harita, CEO, Saatchi & Saatchi Focus, India

Some Statistics

Current Indian population: 1.2 billion.

Estimated to reach 1.53 billion by 2030

500 million people in the workforce growing by about 20 million each year for the next 10 years.Median age: 24.4 years
More than 400,000 tech grads, 2.3 million graduates in other disciplines, over 300,000 post grads every year. (Are they all employable is a subject for another post!)

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