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Putting your team on the map

Is your team not getting the recognition and place within the business it deserves? Then you could benefit from team branding.

When we think about successful branding, we often focus on how it inspires loyalty from an external customer base.

What we often forget though, is the power of branding to raise the profile of an internal team and to cement its position within a business. The fact is: branding is an essential part of raising a profile and defining an internal team or department.

Do you really know what everyone else in the business thinks about your team? How do they think you’re adding value? Discovery and team branding can help you with this. Here are some pointers:

 

Give them something to talk about: design a great team

Whatever you do, remember that your team brand campaign can only be as great as your team itself. So start by having a workshop and brainstorming about your team’s vision and its long term plan. This includes thinking about what employees require from you: What methodology, framework and tools will give weight to the team?

Once your core business objectives are aligned to your brand as team, you can use your communications to drive your profile forwards.[1]

 

What’s your story?

Once you know your vision and plan, work on how this will transform itself into the story behind your team brand and identity. Designing a communication plan with channels tailored to the needs of your stakeholders will build knowledge and awareness. Consistency is also key, and will ensure your target stakeholders stay engaged and interested in your team.

 

Creating valuable content

There are plenty of ways to create these valuable conversations and let people know what your team is all about. Branding and templates can create a professionalised feel and stir that recognition. Inviting people to interactive hubs or other face to face events can build understanding of what your team is all about.

 

It pays to be social

Connected networks and social media are necessary in branding. Today, employees go beyond traditional means to connect across the business and provide information more freely, across many social media.

Communicating about your business through connected networks has become the norm, rather than the exception. In fact, the “rising influence of social media has altered the way we seek, evaluate and engage in work and the employers that offer it.” [2] And as the way employer brands promote themselves changes, so should your communications strategies and plans.

 

Having an authentic voice

Consider creating real content, by using team members as brand ambassadors, and by letting them talk freely across specific media. In turn, this creates the opportunity for employees to create their own, much more realistic, picture.[3]

 

I hope this is food for thought. What are your ideas on internal branding?

 

Find out more about how we helped to put a competency development team on the map.

[1] http://www.slideshare.net/TBWA_Corporate/tbwa-7-trends-to-disrupt-employer-branding

[2] http://www.slideshare.net/thetalentproject/bpx-round-table-employer-branding

[3] http://www.slideshare.net/thetalentproject/bpx-round-table-employer-branding

How to inspire people with business change

We all know that a business’s long-term success often comes down to its people.

It’s the employee’s belief in a cause, their dedication and their passion to carry forward a vision, that takes a business into the future. How do you keep them excited? You inspire them.

This is easier said than done. Bound by business etiquette and corporate processes, it often seems difficult to inspire people on a personal level. Nevertheless, that was exactly our goal when we organised a recent conference in Denmark, where 100 of our client’s global stakeholders came together to collaborate and shape future business operations.

 

Empowering your workforce

The key goal of the conference was for people to learn something new, and to feel empowered enough to take away their new-found knowledge, integrate it into their everyday work, and truly make the business’s vision their own. As was the purpose of the conference, it was essential to turn momentary excitement into conviction – in turn creating true employee engagement and a sustainable campaign.

 

Learning and sharing knowledge

One of the key elements of our conference was giving people some food-for-thought in the shape of concrete business examples from their global peers. We highlighted different ways of working, ideas, processes and behaviours, which we saw as best-practice examples and which attendees could ‘take home’ with them and use in their own streams of work. It was important to us as well to show people that these things are possible; take away some of their fears and reservations, and empower them.

 

There’s always something for everyone

Something else we wanted to bring across to people was that there isn’t just one way to do things. The communications channels we used throughout the conference reflected exactly that. We made used of a diverse range of presentations, speakers and hosts, much video content, and of course engaging print materials. As different attendees tend to respond better to different communications channels, we wanted to make sure there was something there for everyone, and every participant had the chance to find inspiration in the content.

 

Creating a can-do attitude

Most importantly, we wanted to make sure attendees could create their own content, shape their own stories, right then and there. And so we involved everyone directly. We made use of collaborative work-shops and team-building exercises, and we used hand-held electronic voting devices, through which everyone could discuss and feed back thoughts and ideas immediately. Having worked closely with participants to create conference materials in the first place to give them involvement and ownership, we also featured people in pre-filmed video footage and published materials. This made for more personal discussions, but also created a ‘can-do attitude’ amongst people, showing them that whatever they want to accomplish, it is indeed possible.

 

I hope this gives you some ideas for your conferences and events. What have you tried that’s got good feedback from people?

Building trust in times of corporate change

During business change, there can be great uncertainty and trust becomes more important than ever before. So how can we reassure and engage employees?

A recent industry benchmarking report (1) found that companies widely agree that there are two main groups that most successfully delivery change communications:

  • Top level leaders, e.g. CEOs or Presidents
  • Frontline supervisors, e.g. managers

From a change management and communications perspective these results are surprising. Both parties are also in control of very different areas. The CEO provides general direction, and the supervisor manages daily activities, and yet they’re both vital in communicating change.

 

Building trust and showing empathy

When communicating change, delivery through the right spokespeople shows sincerity, support and commitment to change from executives and sponsors. And at the heart of the corporation, both CEOs and supervisors tend to have the required knowledge, respect and influence.

In a recent article (2), Dr Graham Dietz – senior lecturer at Durham Business School – explains that building and restoring corporate trust is not rocket science, “but companies must earn it by finding a blend of ability, kindness and integrity.” CEOs as well as supervisors tend to, or at least should, have these abilities.

CEOs in particular may have additional hurdles to overcome here. The 2012 Edelman Trust Barometer (3) confirms that CEOs “had the biggest drop in their trust level in the barometer’s history”, with only 38% finding these leaders credible.

When it comes to building trust, CEO or senior leaders may well want to consider bridging the large gap between boardroom and reception desk. Establishing a more personal relationship, while remaining completely professional, can help create foster stronger employee relationships. If used well, site visits, social media presence or web-cast communications can be an easy way of building trust.

 

Telling an interesting story

Every company tells a unique story. Whoever tells it needs to be able to draw in an audience, inform them, and communicate to them. And there lies great opportunity and responsibility in doing it correctly.

Of course, stories can change over time, but there are certain elements, such as themes and facts that must always be accurate and relevant. Great storytelling establishes trust, and can build a workforce that is happy to rely on its leaders. It can give people direction and a shared sense of purpose, even if this direction will change in the future. Today’s employees want to understand the big picture because it gives meaning to change. Importantly, messages within the story should be aligned with the strategic vision behind change.

 

Only under supervision

Supervisors, on the other hand, who are easily caught up in employees’ daily issues and concerns, may want to consider staying out of political fray, and focus on providing necessary leadership and direction from a distance. Managers deal with more ‘business as usual’ employee issues, but understanding and communicating change is just as essential. Middle managers need to be aware of their role and empowered to fulfil it.

Ultimately, successful change management needs us to identify who needs to play a role in communicating change and to ensure those people have knowledge of the change, communication tools, and a plan to engage people.

 

Sources

Looking ahead: the future role of internal communications

The drivers of change in internal communications aren’t tools and technology, they come from the business and its people.

When thinking about the future of in internal communications, we often think about developments in technology and the possible channels we may be able to use to communicate to employees, e.g. isn’t there an app we can use to update Linda’s team in Liverpool?

However, there is more to internal communications than screens and cables. To be truly effective in the way you communicate to staff, you need to understand how people work (together) and how this changes over time.

Here are some of the top business trends I’ve picked up this year so far:

Trust and transparency top the agenda

In a post-recession era, many organisations – and not just big banking – are slowly rebuilding trust with their customers, but also with their employees. Companies who haven’t made this a priority are slowly losing customers and employees to competitors.

It’s no surprise that we can see investments being made into ‘employer branding’ and more engaging content.

Ultimately communications campaigns seem to becoming more transparent, factual and collaborative: closed boardroom meetings and corporate reports are being replaced by online conferences and blogs.

 

Architecture to promote collaboration

Themes of trust and transparency carry through into modern architecture, where new office designs now offer more collaborative spaces and flexible desk units.

These new ways of working affect the way employees communicate with each other, but also how employers reach out to them. There is a clear trend of communications to become an enabler for open, transparent, and collaborative conversations amongst staff – be it digitally or face-to-face.

We tend to customise communications to the way teams work with each other, and think about when, how and where they receive information.

 

Smarter spending and streamlining

Many corporations continue to tighten their belts and streamline the workforce – Barclay’s loss of 19,000 jobs over the next three years is just one example (1) – and I often notice clients’ hesitancy when being asked to spend big. This is only justified. Because investing smart should be a priority, and even small technology investments can have a big impact.

Customised business applications and social media campaigns are slowly taking over expensive events and print campaigns. We can see continuous growth in collaborative technologies such as intranets and enterprise social networks.

 

Better access to communications

International workers bring different ways of working and culturally different communications preferences with them. At the same time we see a quicker turn-around of employees across most industries.*

These factors increase employee diversity, and there is real employee demand for a larger choice of communications channels; a prerogative only supported by digital media.

Today’s workforce also demands flexibility, e.g. working from home or working late at night is become more and more common. There is a strong movement towards implementing a ‘mobile use only’ workforce, and in some instances the encouragement of ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (4), both of which bring additional flexibility to employee’s ways of working, but also change the way employers communicate to them.

Internal campaigns have started to embrace the ‘mobile comes first’ (5) movement, and have started to design content for mobile technologies only.

 

Rising investments into data protection

Last but not least, the growth in new technologies also requires a look-out for further security protocols. No company should ever live without its social media rules and a sound crisis communications manual.

Monitoring communications and engaging employees through community management ensures all stakeholders get their say, knowledge isn’t lost, and different communities feel engaged and appreciated at all times.

Over all, we can see some clear trends dominating internal communications – such as more collaborative employee platforms and transparent communications. Make the most of them, and never stop listening to what people have to say.

Employee opinions will help you understand which communications work, and which ones do not, and they will help you prepare for the future.

 

*Less and less UK employees remain in the same position for more than three years. (2) Government has also phased out retirement age (3) and our working population ages more quickly. At the same time younger workforces starts to arrive on-site as unpaid interns.

Sources:

  1. Barclay’s loss of 19,000 jobs over the next three years is just one example
  2. http://stats.oecd.org/Index.aspx?DataSetCode=TENURE_AVE#
  3. https://www.gov.uk/retirement-age
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bring_your_own_device
  5. http://blogs.kent.ac.uk/webdev/2012/07/22/mobile-comes-first-responsive-web-design-in-a-mobile-world/
  6. https://www.melcrum.com/research/build-and-manage-ic-function/what-does-future-hold-internal-communication
  7. http://www.slideshare.net/TreforSmith/internal-comms-2014

Communications Strategy: Building messages with visuals

It seems those of us who are natural communicators enjoy using the left hand side of our brains more than anything, to make use of emotions and creativity to solve problems and organise information in an intuitive and instantaneous way.

Communicating large and complicated amounts of information to internal stakeholders, with visual aids, separates project communications from usual internal comms output and engages employees in a way that reflects how we all take on messages in different ways.

The opportunities to boost communications strategy and use little visual helpers are endless:

  • Add a team photograph to your monthly internal company newsletter to make an article much more people focused.
  • Add an illustration to your annual corporate report to break up heavy texts and keep readers engaged.
  • Enrich video footage, such as a stakeholder interview, by adding illustrative imagery or additional voice-over clips that tell the story.
  • Even bringing along a couple of 3D pictures to drive home your message during your next company presentation can be very effective.

Whatever it is, information doesn’t have to be boring. This was once again proven by last year’s Information is Beautiful Awards, the world’s first global awards for data visualization and information design.

Making it onto the Award’s ‘Data Visualisation’ shortlist, for example, Catherine Mulbrandon, shows us that even an overview of top marginal tax rates – yes, not the most thrilling of stories for most of us – can be made exciting.

Communications Strategy

This infographic by Simply Business, recently published by, brings to life research published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and analyses/highlights the importance of UK SMEs within the private sector.

Communications Strategy

 

And another one of my favourite examples: a stylish overview of women being represented in boardrooms around the world by Grant Thornton. Notice how the infographic’s colours help tell the story and make it easier to understand the overall message. It’s certainly nicer than having to read through a 200 page report on the topic.

communications strategy

Of course, the digital arena has long embraced our love of the visual and has added some wonderful interactivity, not least through QR codes and augmented reality.

This little business here created its own set of colourful, playful, and most importantly interactive business cards, by integrating an augmented reality visual, which not only engages but also invites viewers to find out more about the business online.

 

The future of communicating on in the work environment has endless possibilities with augmented reality.

With any of these visualization techniques, do keep your audience in mind. Make sure it works on a practical level and is relevant to your overall message; personalize it to your readers and viewers as much as you can. Otherwise, have fun getting visual and enjoy the results.