TRENDS AND ISSUES IN THE WORLD
OF CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS
Why putting employees genuinely
at the heart of the organisation is about
genuinely listening to individual needs
July / August 08
Welcome to the July/August edition of Directions Supplement.
In this issue we go inside the organisation and look at why taking the time to
Owning a vision – How British Gas Business employees
involve employees, ask questions and listen is vital for successful employee generated a new vision for the company. Lindsey Oliver
engagement (cups of tea not obligatory).
speaks to Directions.
Lindsey Oliver of British Gas Energy and Penny Lawson of ITV shed some light
on how they have listened to and involved their employees in decision making
What was the background to the project? What did the Ideas Team responsible for
and ways of working which affect the whole company. And Tom Smith of Lane4, Why was a new vision required? the vision do?
a leading performance development consultancy, and Stuart MacKenzie of Significant changes in our industry and The senior and then wider Leadership Team
Maynard Leigh, a leading behavioural change consultancy, look at different in our senior management team over the had already done a lot of work around the
ways of creating the organisational conditions for engagement. previous two to three years meant our old vision, with mixed results! So they handed
vision ‘Real people enabling businesses to do it over to the Vision Ideas Team as the
What’s so great about working at Google? either partially engaged or partially business’ was losing its meaning and wasn’t recognised ‘voice of the people’ to see what
According to Avinash Kaushik1 who spent 11 disengaged. It seems to us that this is actually resonating with our people any more. This they could do with it.
months working there and wrote a blog about less of an engagement gap, and more of a was made particularly clear in 2007 through
it, it is not only that the food in the canteen is gaping void – as well as a lot of latent energy Lindsey Oliver the feedback we received from our people What was the vision that was developed?
superb, but that the chefs come and ask you and potential waiting to be released. Employee Engagement Manager
via the Financial Times and Sunday Times Our new vision is ‘Energy Experts powering
what you think about the food – ‘to your utter British Gas Energy
Best Companies surveys and our own British business’ and is supported by six
shock the first few times. They actually care’. Avinash’s story embodies Towers Perrin’s statements which describe how we’ll achieve
conclusion that the organisation itself is annual employee engagement survey.
it, including ‘we value and invest in our people’
Of course, Avinash writes in his blog about the most powerful influencer of employee How did employees get involved? and ‘we get every bill right first time’. In quite
other great things about working at Google, engagement and that companies have When we examined the feedback we had a unique turn of events, the vision didn’t
like the scale of the impact you can have, the ‘a real opportunity to dramatically improve received, we were able to see five clear actually get final approval from the board.
green policies and the brilliant people. But this engagement levels, starting with listening themes that our people felt needed addressing It was the Ideas Team who had the final say,
does illustrate that small things can make a to what their own employees have to say’2. and were very important to them. These and it was their final say we have today. Badar
big difference. And if you can make a person themes were around leadership visibility, was involved throughout the process but it
feel that the organisation cares by asking them Olivia Sprinkel
personal growth, empowerment, recognition was fully owned, agreed and finalised by the
what they think about the food, how would it Head of Employee Engagement
and of course vision and direction. Ideas Team.
make people feel if you asked them about the salterbaxter
direction of the organisation? Or what we should firstname.lastname@example.org In January 2008 our MD, Badar Khan, sent What’s the key difference between the vision
be doing about climate change? And doing so
“All the focus was out a simple e-mail to the whole business originally developed by the Leadership Team
in such a way that people feel listened to, feel immediately placed summarising the five key themes, asking for and that developed by the Ideas Team?
that they have an influence – and also that volunteers who would be keen to be involved The Ideas Team took the wording and the
Anyone for a cup of tea? on ‘How can we in developing ideas and initiatives that would sentiment that the Leadership Team had
they have a responsibility.
We are running a breakfast seminar exploring achieve the vision?’” address each one. developed and simplified it. The original
It is probably fair to assume that Avinash some of the issues raised here in more depth version was a bit too detailed and prescriptive
is not one of the ‘massive middle’ that We received over 100 responses and so set up – not, well, visionary enough. The Ideas Team
in September. five cross-functional, cross-level Ideas Teams
professional services firm Towers Perrin brought a level of confidence that we could
identified in their Global Workforce survey For more information and of 20 people, each responsible for working on ‘drill down’ into the detail at a later stage
of nearly 90,000 employees in 18 countries. to book a place, email Louise at a different theme. Each team was allocated a and that it wasn’t required up front.
These are the 71% of employees who are email@example.com volunteer Chairperson from our Employee
Engagement Champion network and sponsored
by a Director who gave them support and
guidance when they needed it.
http://tiny.cc/RqylZ (a shortcut to Avinash Kaushik’s blog post)
http://tiny.cc/EuhRN (a shortcut to the relevant page on Towers Perrin’s website)
In the spirit of questioning and listening, we’d love to hear British Gas Business (BGB) is the B2B arm of British Gas.
what you think. All of these articles can be found online at: Just under 2,500 employees at five sites who are mainly office-
www.salterbaxter.wordpress.com. Do you agree? Or not? Please based and include account managers, billing, debt, and sales.
share and take part in the debate. Plus tell us what you think
are the most important issues that businesses face today in In 2008, British Gas Business was listed in the Financial Times
engaging employees. Top 50 Best Workplaces UK index for the fourth year running.
July / August 08
How did you communicate the new vision?
Badar and his senior team communicated
The main roll-out activity will be the ‘Vision in
a box’ – a pack of support material that will be
Creating the right environment – Tom Smith, an
the vision to all our people via a series of
roadshows at venues close to each site over
used at team meetings to drill down into the
detail to make it come to life for all our people.
occupational psychologist by trade, shares some
a period of 3–4 weeks. The actual ‘reveal’ was
through an ‘Apprentice’ style video showing The main objective, however, is to relate all of the secrets that have made Lane4 the MPF
our existing activity back to our vision, not
how the vision had been created, starring,
you’ve guessed it, our Ideas Team. Badar and create a standalone programme around it – (Managing Partners Forum) 2008 Best Professional
that’s where people will best be able to make
his team then went into detail about how we
would achieve our vision and supporting the connections. Firm to Work For.
statements over the coming years. What would you say was the key lesson
that you learnt from this process? A company band might not be one of For us, well-being surpasses simply
People were then given the opportunity to
Simply that involving people in decisions that the recognised techniques of employee ‘feeling good’, we believe in building great
discuss what they’d heard in small teams
they have an interest in and that affect them engagement. But for us it is all part and parcel relationships and strong levels of trust
and fed back to the whole group about what
is the right thing to do. If you want buy-in of creating the right environment at work. with each other. The research shows that
excited them about the vision and what they
then involvement from the start makes individuals who have strong relationships with
personally thought they needed to do At the heart of our approach is a ‘belief in
it much easier. co-workers and their line manager are more
differently to help achieve it. potential’. It is about supporting personal and likely to be engaged at work. For example,
professional development to allow people to sociability is a strong part of our culture both
Because our people had ultimately been
become the best they can be. This is facilitated informally and formally. We have quarterly
responsible for developing the vision,
Tom Smith by a strong coaching culture. Monthly ‘Magic company days which allow busy people time
throughout the launch there were no
Head of Organisational Mondays’ help us share learning as well as to connect, catch-up and review performance
quibbles about its validity. All the focus was
Development being a vehicle for business updates, and we against our goals. We are also regulars at the
immediately placed on ‘How can we achieve
Lane4, a performance are all entitled to 10 development days and annual Corporate Games, have ‘Work Club
the vision?’ rather than ‘Is this right?’. As
Mi development consultancy optional sabbaticals. Environment’ groups for New Skills, Sports
such, we’ve achieved a high level of buy-in nt
and this has given the subsequent roll-out and We all have a clear connection to the vision & Well-Being, Outings & Excursions and of
communication a real sense of momentum. of the organisation through a balanced course the Lane4 band that performs at our
People stepped up and offered to lead various scorecard mechanism, which helps us to social events. Through these activities we
initiatives to support the development of “For us, well-being balance, amongst other things, our well-being are able to have different types and levels of
each statement, it was quite something to conversations and discover mutual interests,
witness. The end result will be a continuation
surpasses simply in an organisation with a strong drive towards
all of which are essential to creating the right
achievement. Our own individual scorecard
of the roll-out, heavily influenced by the ‘feeling good’, we connects to our team’s scorecard, which supportive yet high performance environment.
feedback received. believe in building connects to the organisation’s. Managers When high levels of rapport exist, between
at Lane4 are encouraged to continually
What other plans do you have for great relationships challenge and support their teams, creating
individuals, managers and teams, you have
engagement around the vision the essential foundation to build strong
going forward? and strong levels an environment where individuals have the engagement at all levels. Not to mention
confidence to be innovative and to flourish
We’ve already had ‘Vision barbeques’ at all of trust with and are more likely to understand the true
a pretty good band.
sites. With so much change to take in at the
roadshows, a chance to reflect on the vision each other.” value of their contribution.
and then discuss in an informal, fun atmosphere
a week or so later has proved a hit.
e hi p
“It was really exciting to be part of a team working alongside Badar
shaping the vision and future strategy for BGB. The group itself was
a diverse mix of people from across all parts of the business and we
each brought different perspectives and ideas to the table. Over a
series of sessions we shared and shaped our ideas to come up with
the vision we have today. Everyone was very passionate about the
final result and we have all been delighted at the enthusiastic
response from the business.”
Lindsey Willars – Chair of the Vision Ideas Team and Solution Delivery Manager, British Gas Business IS
July / August 08
Cooking up a storm – Penny Lawson explains how ITV’s Inspiring meaning – Stuart MacKenzie
young blood have been tasked with getting people suggests that engagement begins with
working together in a new way. a sense of meaning.
Time was when ITV was the only big beast in the “I turn up to work, see my mates and go home. Empowering our young people Traditionally, accepted research shows that
commercial TV jungle. Now there are 300 or so I have a routine, it’s what I’m good at and I’m The project team will illustrate the full life of the three pillars of ‘employee engagement’ are
channels jostling for viewers’ – and therefore happy with it. It’s not as if anyone’s really this programme, borrowing from Goldratt’s ensuring that your people feel valued, involved
advertisers’ – attention, and a limitless range showing me the way.” Theory of Constraints and identifying the key and developed. Whilst these make sense, our
of online channels too. ITV has expanded well constraint/s which limit the current process work in helping companies affect people
beyond making and broadcasting TV shows on What to do? A small team has developed a behaviour suggests there is an equally important
relative to our goals. They’ll factor in both
our flagship UK channel, ITV1. We have a range 360 concept-to-cash process that ensures fourth pillar. This fourth pillar is the need people
market forces and internal constraints, using a
of digital channels; a growing broadband ideas with multiple applications are conceived, have to feel inspired which, in turn, requires
series of hypotheses they’ve developed, about
service including Friends Reunited and a local developed and given the best possible that employees find meaning in their work.
tension points which stop us working together
Penny Lawson news and ads service offering a showcase for support through the complex commissioning Stuart MacKenzie
such as time and money: “I don’t have the
Director of Internal
local TV talent; and production centres in the and international marketing process. We now Managing Director To understand the process of employee
time to make someone else’s department
UK, LA, Sydney, Berlin and Stockholm. want to spread this and make it part of the Maynard Leigh, engagement beyond mere research figures
money. I’m flat out fire fighting for my own.”.
ITV plc DNA of ITV – and quickly. a behavioural we must start by reminding ourselves about
A new company mindset Lesson learnt change consultancy basic human nature. This is where Abraham
It’s now a key requirement of our five year Thinking the unthinkable Maslow started nearly eighty years ago. It is no
A key lesson is to try not to be defensive.
Turnaround plan that every new programme The baton has been passed to a project team coincidence that there is a correlation between
There are four generations of attitude in the
or business idea should be capable of generating made up of our Fast Trackers: young talent the three pillars of feeling valued, involved and
workplace now. They all speak and feel rather
revenue not only from spot advertising on who are spending time in each part of the developed and Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’.
differently about their work, authority and
TV, but from at least two other means: live Company on individual assignments, with few
aspiration and all have something valuable
interactivity, format sales, online games, DVD or no prejudices and legacy attitudes. This The feeling of being valued, both economically
rights, merchandising and so on. With the project is the collaborative core of their next and socially, links directly to Maslow’s need for
economy under considerable pressure, this few months and reports to the directors of Looking to the outcome security and esteem. The desire to be involved
approach is more important than ever. And, it Strategy, HR and Internal Communication. We don’t know what the outcome will look like. and have one’s talents utilised and recognised
requires a new mindset from everyone in the We have asked the Fast Trackers to think And the journey is uncomfortable for many links to the need to belong. Finally, the need to
Company: broader-reaching creativity, sharper the unthinkable and create an experience senior managers, but we’re confident that by be developed, to unlock one’s potential,
commercial sense and a willingness to assist or induction or online training programme or being unwaveringly frank with ourselves and relates to the drive of self-actualisation.
quite different parts of the business (some digital sandpit – to bring the 360 process to ready to trust and empower our young people,
life and involve (rather than tell) people in Self-actualisation is not in fact the highest need,
with different P&Ls) from before. we will create an authentic and engaging step
the new way of working. but something Maslow called ‘self-transcendence’
change in joined up behaviour. Now that’s a
But we know from our most recent staff survey where people feel that they make a difference
phrase I sincerely hope they won’t be using!
that people can find it difficult to work across They will base it on an already successful 360 and serve some purpose. In this way, people
boundaries in ITV; it doesn’t always feel easy format, Hell’s Kitchen, in which a well-known feel engaged in something significant.
or natural. Our programme-makers think chef trains up two teams of celebrities or
members of public with no restaurant Leaders therefore need to know how to create
so differently from our commissioners or meaning if they want true engagement. For
broadband teams, or marketers or salespeople, experience to create a dinner for a restaurant
full of diners. The tension, ritual humiliation example employees respond to organisations
our journalists or international deal-makers that have a reputation for corporate
that staff tell us it feels like a set of different and current food fad has made this an
international success on screen in the USA responsibility or for being a leader in the
companies. And, as for motivation, as one community. Rousing people to outstanding
candid Generation Y colleague put it: and Europe, with associated merchandising.
performance firmly rests on the fourth pillar
of inspiring meaning at work.
“Try not to be defensive. There are four generations of attitude Ask not ‘how much do you want?’, but
‘what matters to you?’.
in the workplace now. They all speak and feel rather differently
about their work, authority and aspiration and all have something
valuable to say.”