Sunday 17 November 2019

Gina London: 'Unleash the power that's within your organisation'

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Gina London

For all the importance of creating a customer-centric company I've been hearing as I travel the world on the corporate conference circuit (I'm off to a four-day conference in Varna, Bulgaria, as soon as I file this week's column), a new focus is gaining momentum. There's a shift toward the importance of creating and nurturing an 'employee-centric' company.

It just makes sense, doesn't it? If you want your customers to be happy, first ensure your family of employees is happy.

1 Understand the power of ongoing motivation

The number one refrain I hear at business conferences is 'how to attract and retain talent'. How to address this need is to analyse and assess your organisation's internal communications. Let's start at the heart.

Millennials demand engagement and motivation in the workplace. If you're still operating from a managerial foundation that believes a job is just a job, and employees don't need to be motivated or inspired, it's time for a wake-up call.

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Young people spending at least eight hours doing something every day are not going to be satisfied simply making widgets. They want to make a difference.

As Apple's Steve Jobs once said: "We're here to make a dent in the universe, otherwise why even be here?" Employees want to know the purpose behind the role they are playing.

If they understand that and can contribute to enriching it, they will easily dedicate more than their required eight hours.

As a senior leader, it's your responsibility to make sure your company has a clear purpose. What is it? Does everyone know it? Does it still have an impact today? Is it time for a refresh?

2 Adopt two-way communication platforms

Today's demand for more flattened organisations requires more communication tools, not fewer. Reinforce your commitment to a new, refreshed sense of purpose by adopting a two-way communications approach.

Yes, I'm talking about a way for people on the front line to interact internally with the CEO.

Some groups I've spoken to are afraid of some sort of Moses and the Red Sea kind of rush, that will flood the corner office if they give 'regular workers' this kind of access.

But, in an age where these same employees can take an idea, concern, or even a grievance straight to the public through Twitter or another social platform, why resist providing an internal avenue first? Employees already have a voice.

You can help guide it, by steering them to a contained place where the issue may be resolved successfully and confidentially.

This approach also eliminates that old style of cascading information 'top-down', which too often results in misunderstandings, delays and apathy due to limited opportunities for direct feedback.

Replace those annual workplace surveys nobody fills out any more by initiating ongoing two-way communication.

Tracking responsibility and following up on responses are critical components of maintaining such a platform, of course.

3 Embrace transparency

More communication results in more transparency, which is another clarion cry from millennials.

They won't get this if they don't have a mechanism to share their ideas and concerns directly with higher-ups. They refuse to only be talked to. They want to be a part of the conversation.

But not only millennials. Gallup's recent global survey found 87pc of employees don't feel engaged at work. Regardless of age.

That's pretty much all of us, isn't it? We all need to trust that we have a way to communicate and that we are being told the truth by management.

And again, do not fear over-sharing if you have built a work environment of trust and support.

Earlier this month, when a Facebook employee secretly recorded an internal communications meeting between CEO Mark Zuckerberg and the rest of his team, and leaked it to the press, it could have prompted the leaders to clamp down and raise a dome of silence.

Instead, they decided to publicly live-stream the next internal meeting.

More sharing. Not less.

4 Encourage everyone in your organisation to become a brand ambassador

On Tuesday, I spoke before a gathering of 'brand influencers' for the Irish-UK hotelier Dalata Group. The individuals came from hotels all around the region and from every hotel department; food and beverage, front desk, you name it.

They were hand-selected by their managers as people who showed initiative and vitality. Wonderful.

But don't forget that each of your employees can become an active advocate for your company.

They all have access to social media platforms that can become more than a place to post photos of holidays, children, pets and meals.

They can also post team parties, colleagues, cool branded swag - anything that isn't proprietary.

Depending on the services or products that your company produces, your employees are all also potential consumers. Their honest social promotions can ripple out better than the best advertising campaigns.

Don't save the awareness, marketing and engagement campaigns for external comms. Make sure your internal audience gets plenty of the good stuff too.

Research shows the number one thing employees want - more than wages or vacation days - is to be valued. Show them you care.

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