Tuesday, 29 January 2019

What's new about trust?

The latest Edelman Trust Barometer provides the usual mix of insights and commentary on public trust. The headline to me was that the relationship people have with their employer is now the one they value most. In the words of Richard Edelman in Davos, “the employer is the most trusted institution in the world.”

This is interesting. At this point in history, we feel our employers are the institutions closest to us. We place our trust in them and expect them to honour that trust, now more than ever. As Richard Edelman expounds, we believe we can influence our employer (he cites the Google walk-out in November last year as an example), we want our employer to play an active role in the local community and we expect our CEO to be a shining light, taking action on social issues without waiting for government.

The crystallisation of the CEO’s role as an ‘activist’, for want of a better term, is an interesting insight that I’m sure will command more exploration and analysis. However, I was disappointed in some of the other conclusions drawn from the research. In particular, the four-part model developed to sum up steps to success: “the new employer-employee contract”, as Edelman have termed it.

The first part talks about the importance of purpose, “a big idea” as Richard Edelman termed it at Davos. In other words, employees believe an organisation should do more than seek profit. That’s hardly news, is it?

Similarly, the second element of the model focuses on ‘Empowering Employees’: this has been central to the concept of employee engagement, and at the heart of high-engagement cultures, for many years. Surely the idea that employees need to be informed and should be your “first order of business” is simply common sense.

The third element suggests employers must ‘Start locally’ by contributing the communities in which they are based. The words may be different, the concept is not new.

Finally, the model’s requirement for ‘CEO Leadership’ breaks little new ground, emphasising as it does that CEOs must be exemplars of an organisation’s values and engage directly with people, on a personal level, both within and beyond the organisation. There is some new context associated with this, given the point around activism and social focus outlined above, but the basic guidance is not a revelation.  

Overall, then, I couldn’t help feeling a tad underwhelmed, as I often am with new models. On this occasion, too, I am reminded of previous (and rather ephemeral) attempts to establish an intangible ‘contract’ between employers and their people.

The research crystallises the context in which organisations are now operating and reinforces the responsibility that employers have. However, many of the solutions proposed, in my view, re-tread familiar ground. Much of the advice already exists in different forms and enlightened employers are already working with it.

I don’t think we need another re-framing of good practice: we need to get on and deliver it. 

Monday, 21 January 2019

What is your ideal day?

Given that a new year often prompts people to think about a new role or next steps, I thought I would dust off this post from a couple of years ago. Hope it is of help to someone. 

A few years ago, when I was weighing up the next step in my career, I was asked a question that really helped me crystallise things. I thought I would share it in case it also helps you.

I was canvassing a range of contacts, clients and former colleagues about what my next move should be. One of them asked me this: “What is your ideal working day?”. 

The question was simple, yet deceptively powerful. It encouraged me to strip away all the different factors and considerations that might otherwise have clouded my thinking. It made me focus on exactly what it is that inspires, excites and motivates me every day and enables me to do my best for the people I work with and for.

It helped me crystallise what I wanted to be doing on the road ahead and led me to set up the communication consultancy I have been running ever since. Without considering that question, and working out how I could bring my ideal day to life, I might not have done things the way I have, or maybe enjoyed it as much as I have.

Everyone’s ‘ideal working day’ is different, and the answer will change over time. I had different views 20 years ago, when I first entered this industry. My aims and priorities will no doubt evolve further in the years ahead. But asking myself the same question every now and then will help me assess this and make sure I’m still doing what I truly want to.

If you’re in a similar position now, or considering your future career path, I’d encourage you to consider that same question. It might give you the clarity or focus you need.

I found my ideal day. I hope you find yours.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

A 'detox' plan for internal communication

It must be January: lots of people I know have suddenly discovered a deep-rooted desire to cleanse  themselves and their lifestyles from every perceived impurity. They’re marching under the banner of ‘wellbeing’ towards the promised land of energy, vitality and self-contentment.

Despite this slight, and rather hypocritical, cynicism - I’ve often considered something similar, but never quite closed the ‘intention-action’ gap - there is a laudable aim here. The idea that we should take a step back and examine how we can look after ourselves a bit better. Shouldn’t we be doing the same as organisations?

We’re all so busy, all the time, that it’s difficult to pause and take a fresh look at how we might improve the effectiveness (and/or efficiency) of internal communication practices. Yet checking the alignment of plans, narrative/messaging, and tools/channel sets with business needs can pay great dividends for the rest of the year. So before 2019 really takes off – and in the manner of all good detox programmes - here is my six-step plan for success:

  • Explore the environment – you’ll probably have plenty of sources of information on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities that you haven’t had the chance to review and interpret. Now is the time to collate such data and derive insights that will help you enhance effectiveness during the year (as well as identifying any gaps in knowledge that you need to fill)
  • Involve stakeholders – you’ll know whose input you require (some will be leaders, others won’t). Approach and gain their views on current effectiveness and future goals for internal communication. If you’ve got time and scope, seek to involve employees more widely (although sometimes maligned, focus groups can be highly productive if you can gain the cross-section of people you need)
  • Articulate objectives – being clear on what you want to achieve, and with whom, is not as easy as it sounds. But drawing on the research and analysis above, it’s a valuable exercise to articulate your overall aims and ‘desired response’ from different employee segments. A simple summary can become a practical reference tool during the year to ensure the messages, activities and tools you employ always align with what you want to achieve
  • Remain focused – it’s easy to be attracted by what’s possible, but is it desirable given your objectives? I’m sure we’ve all seen people fall victim to ‘shiny new toy syndrome’, in which they appear dazzled by the potential of new technology, but introducing such tools isn’t always the answer. Reviewing and refreshing current channels could be a more effective and efficient way of achieving your goals
  • Prioritise activities – don’t try to boil the ocean. As the old adage goes, it’s better to do a few things well rather than spread yourself too thinly. Concentrate on the core programme of activities required to achieve your objectives and augment these when feasible, given budgets and resources
  • Change where needed – last but not least, if you’re picking up signals that things need to change, respond to them. If you set the ball rolling on any exercise like this, you need to heed the findings, or the opportunity for improvement will just wither on the vine.
I’m sure there are many other steps and opportunities, but these are six simple steps that could help you ‘detox’ internal communication and aid alignment with business needs for the year. Even small changes could have a significant impact…