Are Your Employees Engaged?

Pic courtesy Scott Adam's Dilbert

Challenging times show an organisation’s ability on creating a high performance organisation through work culture and the employees attitude towards performance.  One of the factors affecting the employees’ attitude is the depth of engagement that the employees have with their corporate brand.

The stronger and deeper the engagement between the employee and the brand, the more productive and effective the manifestation of the brand to its stakeholders.

The organisation or corporate brand is brought to life through the employees across all management levels. Senior management is the de-facto ‘role-model’ whose attitude and behaviour is replicated by mid and junior management in peer-to-peer interaction and in external business dealings. Thus being a key influencer in the overall brand experience that a stakeholder gets to feel.

In the current business environment, with product based differentiation extremely difficult, highly competitive market segments and low competitive advantages coupled with  fragmented consumer segments with low loyalty towards brands, how can an organisation ensure a strong brand identity?

Continuous advertising of the brand communicating the same old key message is no longer an effective solution. Doing what one was doing in the past, prior to the global recession, no longer holds well in assuring brand profitability. Today an organisation’s BOD (board of directors) is only interested in “growth and profitability” simultaneously.

As a COO how do you deliver this?

By having a 100% consumer centric view that brings forth:

  1. Leadership through innovative practices,
  2. Creativity in growth planning and
  3. Ensures brand risk management

The key here is the 100% consumer-centric approach. This will lead the strategic planning process and provide a clear roadmap that would have to be communicated (to employees) and implemented.

Through the communication and clear instructions of process (i.e. what and how to do) there will come about a attitudinal shift amongst employees resulting in effectiveness. Through this shift the organisation would be able to move, albeit slowly but surely, towards a continuous growth path.

But, beware, the path to achieveing such attitudinal shift is not an easy one! In order to achieve the results planned for, it’s often necessary to make some very hard choices that include changing the way work has been done till date.

One of these hard choices is for senior management to change in their approach to work, in order to affect the results. I.E.:To bring about change in ‘preference for the brand’ the organisation’s senior management cannot keep doing what they have always done. Senior management in the key functions of HR, Production, IT, Marketing and Finance need to be innovative in their functional roles. They need to be ingenious and creative.

The lead for such an environment will come from the CEO/COO. As a COO you would need to lead by example and constantly demonstrate innovation and effectiveness.

No change means zero sum game! There’s an old saying– “You can’t do what you’ve always done and expect better results.
It’s that simple!

To achieve effective results, an organisation must step up its game. After all, its consumers have. Given the times, their approach to a brand experience and their purchasing behaviour has radically altered. If an organisation doesn’t recognise this and take account of it in its business process, it’s driving its brand to the ground!

Bringing about such a change can be categorised as ‘adopting innovative practices’ — taking a totally new approach to the issue at hand keeping the key stakeholder’s benefit in mind.

Two critical resources would be needed to ensure success:

A.      Identifying High Performers’ and empowering and having them engaged.

  • High Performers are problem-solvers, not the excuse-makers. Rather than wallow in hardship or defeat, they take positive steps. They are motivated when others aren’t. They stay focused on the desired outcome and creatively work on figuring out a way even when everything’s stacked against them. What separates High Performers from the rest is how they respond to difficult challenges and the roadblocks in front of them.
  • The engagement process for a high performer needs to be quite different from rest of the employees. The high performers are ultimately the organisation’s internal and external ‘brand champions’ ie. They represent the dynamism and effectiveness of the brand. Thus they need to be empowered first or brought on board to develop the strategic business direction and thus have ownership which will bring about engagement.

B. Clearly understanding the strategic insight from the stakeholder’s perspective in terms of what their need is—i.e. in simple marketing parlance this means knowing what’s the consumer’s subconscious need or want that the brand must fulfil:

  • E.g.: for a financial service product such as credit card, it would be key to know why exactly the consumer needs a credit card. Is it regulatory requirements? Is it peer pressure? Is it an unsaid social status announcement? Delving into this would automatically bring out the consumer’s financial knowledge base covering spending and savings habit. This would provide for risk coverage as well as fixing of credit limit (and thereby aid in restricting bad debts for the financial institution). Additionally, identifying the specific need would open up a ‘direct’ avenue for brand communication, possibly using social media, to help the consumer and thereby aid in the relationship development between the brand and the consumer.

Such strategic marketing approach is considered ‘innovative’ as it uses cross-industry best practices coupled  with core target audience research, socio-economic and cultural trend mapping. Without  such new approachs an organisation would end up doing what it was doing in the past and not achieve any positive results.

The lead for such changes in the work culture has to come from the senior management. Recognising the change areas, identifying required skill sets and direction setting can only come about through leading by example and identifying the high performers who can put in place a changing work culture.

Without innovative leadership and a focussed brand growth and profitability approach at the senior management level, an organisation would lurch on in its day-to-day activity resembling a ‘headless chicken run’.

Net result—employees would become ‘captive’ brand stakeholders with absolutely no engagement with the brand and in it just for the salary! An extremely harmful and dangerous scenario for any corporate brand, as the brand experience, that would manifest externally from such employees would be disastrous.

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Published by

Joy Abdullah

I create brand, financial and people value for an organization by linking its leadership, strategy, engagement and communications into one cohesive story.

2 thoughts on “Are Your Employees Engaged?”

  1. I like the approach of asking a fundamental question of how deep is your employees’ engagement with the brand.I also agree that you emphasise the responsibility to lead and demonstrate the changes to COO, CEO and senior management.

    My little experience with corporations big and small is that middle managers are fully aware of the importance of keeping up with change yet are frustrated with the kind of changes that need to be implemented and the slow implementation of the changes drummed to them.

    The fastest and smart way to tackle this backlog is to find the right leaders with a combination of good values, high morale, loads of creativity, anti procrastinator and definitely risk takers.

    1. Salaam Sharifah,

      It’s the finding the “right leaders’ with the preferred combination of values that is the problem area.

      If you take a look at large corporates, the senior management puts their own agenda’s ahead of the business objective, and this occurs more out of either:
      (A) ignorance of the environment
      (B) Disconnect with employees (and their attitude)
      OR
      (C) Simply having a ‘deliver’ the financial result only approach.

      Where entreprenuerial ventures or mid-sized businesses are concerned, financial sustenance and working capital requirements put such ‘soft” (brand assets) much after financial requirements of the business.

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