A few years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find even one organisation with a communication plan that addressed possibly its biggest captive audience – its employees. Today, we’ve thankfully made progress from there and understand that the employee pool of an organisation could be the largest source of brand ambassadors we can tap; hence the drive towards better internal communications.
Lest you think that should be easy, let me assure you more often than not, employees are the most jaded ‘consumers’ of the brand in question. Because they know what’s happening backstage; they know the promises you didn’t keep and because irrespective of how well their brand is perceived, if they are ignored, they will ignore the brand too.
How do we make the shift from staff to ambassadors?
Communicate … communicate … communicate
There is no over-emphasising this. In the day-to-day running of the business and chasing targets, most organisations and leaders forget to communicate their whole purpose and vision to the ones helping them deliver it. Whether this is taken up in the form of leadership communication, CEO blogs or even more dynamic channels like ambient, ensure your people know what larger purpose they come to work towards, every day. Let them know when plans change, when people change and certainly when you want a cultural change. And let them know before they read it elsewhere.
Most people will give a little extra to a job and be more invested in a company where their leadership knows their name and meets them as much as possible. Organise townhalls, walkabouts, open house, team lunches, coffee and cookie session; there’s a whole world of ways to meet with your employees; including greeting them in corridors or elevators. Let them know who you are, and that you know who they are. People who feel seen and heard will always go the extra mile for you.
Of course, I don’t mean organisations should be asking each employee how to run the company. But there is enough evidence that creating organisation level feedback mechanisms, whether formal or informal is a far more effective way for leadership to understand the real bottlenecks stalling progress as well as what is going right for the company. There is almost a visible change in attitude when you ask people to share what they think is going right/wrong. See your employees as internal customers and tap into them for feedback and insights – a more cost-effective and direct process than hiring an expensive external consultancy. Fair warning, not all of it may be useful, but some of the useful information will more than make up for it.
Let’s get one thing straight. People don’t work for organisations, people work for people. If I feel my leader is someone I can relate to and learn from, I will be more prone to supporting their vision and ambition. Leaders should share more, especially through more informal channels like blogs. Share your experiences; maybe your trip to Davos and what you learnt there; your last workshop and how it helped you change your perspective; share your disappointment at the lower than expected results; share your delight at an intern who impressed you with their brilliance. There is a post script here: there is such a thing as too much sharing, so don’t go into the personal stuff. For example, political views, sexual orientation/experiences are no-go areas.
Give a damn/care
Leaders who actually care if a policy is employee friendly are my favourite type of people. Many policies look great on paper, but don’t work on-ground, or have not taken into consideration many local factors. I was at a leading MNC, when they renewed their Flexi-Working Policy and it was a great move. It took into consideration a whole set of lifestyles and considerations of the diverse people it employed across many countries and truly gave them an opportunity to work basis their needs, irrespective of seniority or privileges – without sacrificing the quality of work.
This one is really simple, but many organisations still don’t get it right. Yes, there will be a lot of people questioning why someone else got promoted, but in my experience, if you’ve got a half decent set of people working for you, there will be many more who will realise someone is watching out for the performers and if they deliver, they can be there too. That translates into a far more motivated and inspired team. A team that believes their organisation is looking out for them.
These are by no means the complete list of things that can be done. But it is the small things that matter most, even in large organisations. And unless you’re a company that creates weapons of mass destruction, you too can turn your staff into your biggest ambassadors*; sometimes even if you are a company that does create those weapons.
The views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of Reputation Today.