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Employee engagement ideas and employee alignment best practices

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?

Employee engagement ideas and employee alignment best practices

  3. 3. INTRODUCTION:NEW WORDS FOR THEUNTAPPED MARKETINGOPPORTUNITY OFALL TIMELiz BighamWe live in a marketing world of explosive own those physical brand spaces where retail and other staffchange: 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 creatingto 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 employeeengage their own employees? engagement—words that speak to a new approach to the field. Instead of employee engagement, how about Brand ExperienceAligning employees behind brand and business goals is the most Alignment?fundamental thing that companies can do to improve their brandexperience. This human element of brand-building is arguably the Brandgreat 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 aOne reason may be fragmentation of ownership in client verb, not a noun.organizations. Inspiring employees around mission, vision and Experienceculture is often owned by Internal Communications, Corporate What really matters is the experience. If you strive to createCommunications or Human Resources. Meanwhile, capital “m” positive and differentiating experiences for your staff and forMarketing 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 andconsumers. 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 wouldsmell as sweet—but we don’t think there are many organizationsthat can afford to risk confusion among their staff or their customersabout what they stand for and what their experience is.To be a successful people-driven brand in the 21st century, yourthinking about brand and your thinking about people need to beperfectly aligned.To be a leading experience brand of the 21st century, you have toban talk of “internal communications,” you have to move beyondlanguage like “building a strong employment brand,” and youneed 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 EMPLOYEEENGAGEMENTPROGRAMS RARELYWORKBritt BullaAlmost every organization holds theiremployees up as a core, precious asset.Especially now, as the economy rumbles backto life and the job market becomes moreactive and fluid, companies will be doingmore to retain their best performers and findthe next generation of talent.Employee engagement programs are often at the center of thoseretention and attraction activities. Nearly every company has somekind of initiative designed to connect with, inspire and motivateemployees – they’re used as an important form of non-monetarycompensation and are often the key channel for companies tokeep abreast of employee mood and concerns. They’re held upas silver bullets to differentiate one company from another whenwinning the “war on talent” is top of mind for executives.The problem is that they usually don’t make the difference thatthey 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 infor 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 corporatecommunications, with the vast majority of information flowing #4: They’re not helpful in the 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 usefulthe workload, with no real opportunity for dialogue. Instead of outcome: motivation, productivity, happiness. Usually, engagementcreating an opportunity for companies to engage, we get more programs cast their utility in macro terms, like overall health andclutter 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 usuallyconflict 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 simplemessaging aligns with the corporation’s strategic goals and business things that make the work experience better. Engagement programsambition. Internal engagement loses effectiveness when internal often miss the opportunity to empower managers in the middle–thoseaudiences 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 outBy way of example, Citi’s “Citi never sleeps” tagline may have at a restaurant for a team member who went above and beyond onbeen compelling to customers but many employees participating a project… an invitation to completely unplug for a weekend or anin 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, giveemployees engage—ignoring the conversations that managers more tools to engage and inspire, and ultimately provideemployees are already having. employees with a richer, more useful and appreciative experience.Social connectivity has blended the lines between work andpersonal life, and employees are sharing and conversing aboutissues relevant to work in forums like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr,YouTube and more traditional online discussion boards. That’s Britt Bulla is VP, Directorwhere 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 inperson engagement, because employees have access to forums Jack Morton’sthat they already see as effective and genuine, and have already New York office.self-identified the issues that are most pressing. When engagementprograms don’t incorporate these issues and don’t offer channels /6
  7. 7. BRAND TO EVERYONEBen TaylorPeople often talk about “B to C” (businessto consumer) versus “B to B” (business tobusiness) marketing. We’re passionatebelievers in something different: “B to E,” orbrand to everyone.Significant brand equity resides at home with employees. Leveragingthis equity requires so much more than just communicating thecompany vision, values and mission—the passive “employeebest practices” box that most companies tick without thinking.Organizations that inspire and activate their staff base to live theirbrand are more successful—by “live” we mean that they activelydeliver the brand promise to customers and fully understand andembrace the brand’s personality, voice and culture.Of course the value of employees living the brand is particularlyimportant to service-led organizations: The Ritz-Carlton HotelCompany is a famous example. There’s no cookie cutter towhat the Ritz-Carlton experience looks like: décor, guestsand lobby designs around the world are diverse. But there’sabsolute congruity in what the brand experience feels like: utterconsistency in the service and culture of staff—and that’s a bigreason guests have allegiance to The Ritz-Carlton brand. It took /7
  8. 8. extensive training, communication, meetings, the famous dailyline-ups, and indoctrination in what The Ritz-Carlton brand means(e.g., a wallet-sized “credo card” that constantly reminds staff ofwhat the brand stands for). As a consequence, Ritz-Carlton hasone of the most loyal and motivated workforces any organizationcould wish for. They create sales and save money (staff attrition isminimal 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 areevangelists of the brand: in a digital world, everyone potentiallyhas a voice directly to customers and consumers. Beyond sales,the value to an organization of having a happy and engagedemployee community and a great brand culture and personalityis priceless. We have helped leading product-based companiesdevelop employee engagement strategies specifically with this in mind.One in particular applies a similar planning approach to staffbrand alignment as it does its significant customer advertisingprogram. On an annual basis we help map out a communicationsportfolio that combines digital communications, brand experiences(segmented to the different employee stakeholder groups), awards,and incentives. The result is an evolving program that allows thecompany 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 motivatedthey are to do a better job (and stay with the organization).By “everyone” we mean all the people who have an impact on ora stake in your business—and that includes employees, not as anafter-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 MAKEMORE MONEYSteve MooneyZappos says that culture is more importantthan technology.JetBlue says it hires comedians rather than train employees to be funny.When Google learned that the middle managers who createdcompelling internal culture outperformed those with greatertechnical expertise, it undertook a comprehensive study touncover performance drivers.What do these front-running companies know that we don’t?For starters, all three are focused on creating dynamic internalbrand experiences that match their external brand promises. Theyare 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 beengathering for over a decade) that companies with “exponential”levels of employee engagement outperform those with low levelsof engagement in clear financial terms, delivering operatingmargin that is three times higher.Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, is dogged in his focus on cultureas 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 theymarket to their most important customers. After all, aren’t employeesas important as customers? Would you ever consider sending asingle unformatted email to your most coveted customers informingthem of a new product or service—and then expect a return? Sowhy do so many executives do just that? Applying the most basicof marketing processes to your people will result in superior results.Segment your audience, profile them and then be creative withcommunication and culture initiatives.Using a closely related strategy, JetBlue focuses on recruitmentand onboarding to drive brand inside the company. At what rateare your employees turning over? At 15% attrition, a companyreplaces its entire staff in seven years, and half in three-and-a-halfyears. Hire for culture; you can train for skills.And remember: Zappos plays up the perks and saves a ton onthe salary line. In fact, they claim that it’s harder to get a job atZappos 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:EMPLOYEEALIGNMENT ISABOUT DOING,NOT TALKINGTom MichaelHave you noticed how cynical manypeople are about “employee engagement”programs? On the face of it, they haveample reason.There’s the money problem: it’s hard to fund one-time, all-out efforts to “engage” employees. There’s the fragmentationproblem: “the employee team” (as distinct from “the customerteam”) might brainstorm programs that will engage employeesaround some factors that should transcend—like the brand, orits values, or a great new product. Then there’s the “is that it?”factor: the blitz of internal marketing and messaging, postersand signs, maybe a celebration moment or a beer bash… allof which immediately fade into the background as life returnsto normal.It doesn’t have to be this way. Your employee engagementdoesn’t have to be expensive, episodic and isolated.“Good” employee engagement is led by doing, not talking, andit’s integral to the culture and behavior of the organization. Brandsthat do a great job of employee engagement bake it into their veryessence. 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 extendAyers as Head Chef. Setting aside the possibility they were only what we’re already doing to employees—to turn well-fundedafter the samples, they devoted the time to selecting the right chef customer programs into employee engagement opportunities asso they’d ensure employees would be well fed, feel well taken care well. The experiences created feed on themselves–employeesof, and devote their energy to innovation and advancement. This experience the brand and the message, become better brandsmall example is repeated often at Google: the head of HR went ambassadors themselves, and improve the experience throughthrough 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’reseeing more of—doesn’t focus on employees in isolation but views Tom Michael isemployees as integral and integrated in the customer conversation. VP, Senior Strategist,These programs break down the traditional silos of marketing and currently residingthe internal organization, using a program intended for customers to in Texas.also engage employees, or using the technology built for customersto empower and engage employees.A great example is Dell’s EmployeeStorm, their online community foremployees 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 afterlaunching the customer-facing community, Dell launched the sameconcept internally.Another example is a health care organization that was launchinga customer-facing website to drive engagement, spark conversationand get people to think about the organization in a new way. Theylaunched the program with their employees first, to give them a chanceto experience the organization’s new voice, and to participate in theconversation. So when the program went live to consumers, it wasalready a thriving community of dialogue, discussion and debate.And the employees themselves had an opportunity to embrace andexperience the essence of the new brand. /12
  13. 13. DON’T ASK ME,I JUST WORK HERETim LeightonIn the UK, Mary Portas—a popular retailguru dubbed “Mary Queen of Shops”(thanks to her expertise, not her creditcard bill)—recently presented a primetimetelevision series focusing on how leadingretailers are letting their customers downwith bad in-store experiences.You might be surprised that anyone would bother to make a TVseries about this. After all, the UK is surely a byword for badcustomer 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 experienceshas come into sharp focus. Even here in the UK.During the “Secret Shopper” series we saw a number of storesthat were failing to provide anything close to a good customerexperience, from cell phones to estate agents (AKA realtors) tofashion. And it seemed pretty clear that one factor, above allelse, 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 memorableand surprising. Youve 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 peopleformula 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 employeesgot 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 ofcustomer 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, centralto the concept were... you guessed it... the staff themselves.And, boy, did they respond. Tim Leighton is VP, CreativeThey werent given a rule book. They werent even briefed on a Strategy Director, based inset of carefully tuned brand values, pillars or pyramids. They were Jack Morton’sinspired 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 andenthusiasm became infectious and, yes, sales went up.Weve seen it time and time again with our own clients, like whenwe helped one of the world’s great automotive brands redesign theexperience customers have when they visit the dealership, armedwith the simple insight—that the dealership experience shouldmatch the quality of the cars themselves. And it’s not limited toour clients’ own employees: we’ve helped mobile device makersengage their retail partners’ staff to convey excitement about thebrand’s products (not always easy when that brand isn’t eventheir employer, but essential to both brands’ success). /14
  15. 15. WHY BRANDSTHAT ACE SHOPPERMARKETING WILL BEHUMAN(NOT DIGITAL)Matt JonesSo the smart, technology-enabled, reality-augmented era of digital automation isupon us. And CEOs everywhere can breathea long sigh of relief. Because the performanceof their brands no longer relies on anendless and expensive search for talent.Instead, it will now be driven by serversand clouds, apps and algorithms, userinterfaces and voice recognition software.Or so they wished.In fact, success is as reliant as it ever was on people—onlymore so. The best-known paradox of our age is that despiteliving in a hyper-connected age, the most influential mediumfor brand-building is word of mouth (case in point, The ThankYou Economy). We’re living in a marketing-saturated, product-commoditized world where experiences are the only reliable wayto cut through and differentiate (see The Experience Economy).And the power of “Thank You + Experience” means that brandsthat deliver differentiated experiences will be rewarded morethan 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 (andpeople? Yes—to a point. Google’s genius lies in its algorithms. anything different is copied, rapidly) it’s your people’s behaviorAmazon’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 customerbehind the scenes—the brand experience doesn’t overtly rely on service training now needs to become brand behavior 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 areten consumer electronics brands whose products are sold andserviced by (at best) their employees or (at worst) some else’s. Forevery Netflix, there are ten service providers whose customers Matt Jones isseek 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 fairshare 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, andwhere brands are built.The front line is where shoppers, overwhelmed by advertisingand empowered by reviews and word of mouth, make theirfinal decisions about a new phone or a new TV. And traditionalshopper marketing tactics, focused on point of purchase displaysand punchy retail promotions, are not enough. Instead, the newshopper marketing needs to be focused on the alignment of theretail representative around the brand and product story. All themore so if that representative works for a third-party retail groupselling multiple competitor brands. In short, no more sales; nowthe 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 buyersbecome brand loyalists (or not). And it’s where the behavior anddecisions of the people who represent your brand are shaping thefuture right now. /16
  17. 17. IN PRAISE OFSTORYTELLINGHelen GraneyIt’s easy to be overly cerebral and intel-lectual when discussing the subject ofemployee alignment. After all, it’s a seriousbusiness with big potential impact (positiveor negative) on the brand and the business.But let’s never underestimate the power of emotion, especiallywhen it comes to brands and building a strong internal brandwith employees.Let’s be honest: one of the pitfalls of what used to be called“internal communications” has always been the potential toinspire 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-waywebcasts and the like.Storytelling—both as a genre and as a medium of employeeengagement—helps brands avoid the potential pitfall ofcommunications-induced skepticism and distrust. Storytellingcan humanize messages and make them meaningful on apersonal scale—adding authenticity and relevance that meanthe 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’sexperience. Giving employees the means to share stories andpersonal observations. Opening up channels and platforms—from internal blogs to physical environments—where staff canbring strategy and culture to life. Stories that connect people withpeople on an emotional level, humanizing business concepts andhelping to shape behavior.Storytelling that works has the potential to build understanding andevangelism inside an organization in a way no CEO email is likelyto do. And in this digital age, it can spread like wildfire online.A delightful recent discovery was a YouTube video featuring anemployee in the service department of American brand RedWingsShoes—which captured more brilliantly than any corporatemission statement ever could what the brand truly stands for.Of course the opposite can also happen: negative stories canalso spread like wildfire online. So it’s all the more critical forbrands to work hard to create the channels and the inspiration foremployees to tell positive stories to each other and to customersand consumers.It will pay dividends for your brand. Helen Graney is SVP, Managing Director of Australia. /18
  19. 19. WHY EMPLOYEEFOR MORE INFORMATION:ENGAGEMENTCONTACT LIZ BIGHAM AT LIZ_BIGHAM@JACKMORTON.COMPROGRAMS DON’TFOLLOW US ON TWITTER @JACKMORTONVISIT US ONLINE AT JACKMORTON.COMWORKREAD OUR BLOG AT BLOG.JACKMORTON.COMBritt BullaAlmost every organization holds their employeesup as a core, precious asset. Especially now, asthe economy rumbles back to life, the job marketbecomes more active and fluid, companies will bedoing more to retain their best performers and findthe next generation of talent.Almost every organization holds their employees up as a core,precious asset. Especially now, as the economy rumbles back tolife, the job market becomes more active and fluid, companieswill be doing more to retain their best performers and find thenext generation of WORLDWIDE is a global brand experienceJACK MORTON We create experiences that strengthen relationshipsEmployee engagement programs are often at the center ofbetween brands and the people who matter most to them—those retention and attraction activities. Nearly every companythereby helping our clients become talked-about experiencehas some kind of initiative designed to connect with, inspirebrands. Rated among the top marketing services agenciesand motivate employees – they’re used as an important formworldwide, we integrate live and online experiences, digitalof non-monetary compensation and often the key channel forand social media and branded 3D environments that engagecompanies to keep abreast of employee mood and concerns.and inspire consumers, business partners and employees. OurThey’re held up as silver bullets to differentiate one companystaff work across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific as part offrom anotheran ideas-led agency culture.© Jack Morton Worldwide 2011 /19