Gina London: Never forget, even bankers are human beings like us
'There are a lot of bankers, you know, so they're very conservative." That's what my client warned me as I was preparing to work with some of his corporate investors. "Yes, but they're still human, right?" I asked. While some of you reading this may want to pause and debate that, I am going to move forward with my premise.
From bankers, auditors or accountants to lawyers, lobbyists, or engineers. From IT professionals to architects to physicians. From shipping to aerospace. No matter what line of work you're in, I've probably worked with members of your industry. And yes, even for you bankers, I am convinced you're all human.
Therefore, let's agree that connecting with people is a critical resource to develop within whatever organisation you find yourself. So, for today, I'll give you a few tips and a quick look at a couple of places that are making real strides when it comes to "humanising".
1 Offer more than your product or service
Regus is a multinational company that specialises in providing office space wherever you need it. What are you looking for? A fully-furnished office? A meeting room? A shared space? A virtual set-up? They've got it.
Ireland country manager Gearoid Collins explains it this way: "When you become a Regus office customer, you can access any of our workplace locations worldwide. We make it very simple too. Our Regus app allows customers to plan their requirements and book facilities globally from the convenience of their phones."
It's a company created to address the changing way we humans work these days. Flexible. Global. Mobile. That's great. And here's what's also great: in addition to workspaces, they provide free encouragement. What does that mean? It means that when you hop online to the Regus homepage, you'll find an engaging magazine that shares stories of other (human) professionals with insights, trends and career advice. A recent headline that jumped out at me was "Quirky corporate perks that really work." Cool. (Note to self: write about those for an upcoming column.) I know. Plenty of other organisations regularly produce blogs, podcasts or other extra material designed to attract prospects and retain customers. But, to me, the look and feel of the Regus 'Work Ireland' e-zine really has that special something.
2 Reimagine your business from a more human perspective
Ronald Reagan once famously said: "The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" Perhaps with that in the back of their minds, the folks at Cork County Council and Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) decided to join forces and overhaul the way employees interact with citizens at County Hall.
The result is the county's newly-established Service Design Centre, cleverly rebranded "Service rePublic". The first of its kind in Ireland, it features an extremely user-friendly website and boasts a team of staff members who have now received special training in understanding how people think and behave.
The effort was guided by Snook, a company with offices in Glasgow and London that helps organisations put "radical change in place by designing services that work for people". Among other things, Snook recommended that the council and CIT establish advisory committees made up of a wide variety of people - from citizen users, to county staff to private businesses and elected officials - to put their diverse experience and opinions into the redesign project.
Government collaborating with academia and business is like hitting the trifecta - all too rare. But the success of this new centre has prompted the groups to host a one-day International Service Design conference at Fota Island in Cork on September 26.
National and international design leaders are invited to come together to share innovations and ideas in hopes of helping others transform services for people in public and private sectors. (Full disclosure, I will be the emcee of this conference so it is certain to be both an informative - and fun - time!)
3 Relate to customers on a more personal level
From print to online pop-ups, we're so bombarded with ads that we're a little numb. It's much more important to build real rapport and relationships with potential buyers.
Gearoid of Regus understands this and that's why he says he makes efforts to get his sales team trained in communications.
"It's a continuous journey of providing support and feedback. We look for listeners and train people to learn how to connect with all types of communication styles. People who can do that can unearth many opportunities that may lie beneath the surface."
Teaching employees how to effectively network and build strong relationships will help no matter what department they're in. All of us can learn how to become sales people if for no other reason than to better sell our ideas and ourselves.
4 Be kind to yourself
I often write about the importance of creating nurturing workplaces for others. But don't forget to be good to yourself too. Whether it's at the gym, the spa or an art class, make time to centre yourself and cultivate a nurturing environment for the human you know the best, you. It's like the joke I say to my daughter, Lulu, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy." I'm sure it goes for bankers too.
Let's share our joint thinking on putting the human experience in the top position. If you or your company is doing something you're proud of, write to Gina in care of SundayBusiness@independent.ie
Gina London is a former CNN anchor and international campaign strategist who is now a director with Fuzion Communications. She serves as media commentator, emcee and corporate consultant. @TheGinaLondon
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