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Archive for June, 2009

Business Measurement of Employee Communication Strategies

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

Business measurement is the key to strategic employee communication. Firstly you identify a business issue and then decide how you can measure the impact your employee communication strategy had on the improvement of that issue. The main point here is that you need to be clear about what business outcomes an employee communication strategy can impact and then to agree with line management how you will measure the impact on the business. Lets now take a look at these two aspects.

Firstly the issue should be centered around the customer experience. Generally this will involve a process that the customer must engage in, in order to obtain your product or service. At every step of this process employees are able to make improvements, so it appears a natural choice. The important fact to consider is the external factors that may be impacting on the situation. Therefore you need to ensure that your employee communication strategy will be able to influence a positive outcome and there wont be overriding factors outside your control. The second aspect about measurement is that at the outset you and the client area need to agree on how you will measure the impact of your strategy. If you do this at the beginning it will be easier to control any discrepancies that may occur throughout the project. For instance, a major product fault causes an overload of enquiries via your call centre. So, the time customers need to wait on hold for their call to be answered is not reduced, but instead is significantly increased, the direct opposite results your employee communication strategy was to achieve. So when working with an operations area be clear about the work environment and factors that will impact on the measurement of your strategy.

How Do You Decide Which Business Objective Employee Communication Can Impact

The business objective should be an issue that connects employees and customers and can quickly indicate results. The more complicated the business objectives are, you will require a more detailed plan for all aspects of the project. For instance, a new advertising campaign, an upgrade in technology, and other issues may all impact on the level of success in achieving your employee communication objectives. If there is a clear plan, defining roles and responsibilities, actions and timeframes, this will provide a framework against which the employee communication strategy can be measured. Business objectives and issues will be clear early on.

How To Determine What Is The Realistic Impact And Measurement For Employee Communication

We have examined how to decide on the business objective, here we are looking at measurement. You need to be able to measure results in a tangible way. These may include:
• Reduction in customer complaints
• Improvement in time spent waiting on hold in a call centre
• Increased sales for a particular product or service
• Improvement in customer satisfaction tracking research
• Human resources indicators such as reduced absenteeism, increased productivity

These are some suggestions, there are of course other fields that can be used for measurement. The key is to ensure that the method of measurement is tangible and can be achieved.

So the suggested next steps are:

1. Identify a business issue you think employee communication can impact on.
2. List the employee communication strategies you could implement.
3. List how you think the employee communication impact could be measured in business outcomes.
4. Identify the reasons why you think these measures will be achieved.

By doing the above you will be well on the way to demonstrating to the senior executive team that employee communication is a strategic partner in the business, not a support service.

How To Communicate Organizational Values

Monday, June 1st, 2009

I don’t think I have ever met a leader that wasn’t serious about his or her intent to communicate the organization’s values. There it was on the list of what a leader must stand for, and the intent is admirable. It is the execution of the intent and the follow up behaviours that cause concern.

So here is an example of how NOT to do it. The CEO of this organization decided that a new set of values was essential for the business. His reasoning was based on feedback from the staff survey, poor communication skills of manager’s, a general lack of trust, a perceived lack of focus on the customer, both within the organization and externally.

An external consultant was called in to facilitate a values session with the senior management at an off site retreat. There was plenty of white paper, robust discussion and at the of the day they all agreed on the values and pledged that they would now walk the talk and display the values in their working day. These values were the usual, in this case Customer Focus was central and other themes were honesty in our communication with others, trust in the people we work with, teamwork is how we work, open communication and so on.

So then the employee communication team was called in and were asked to design a communication strategy around this. Posters were produced and framed, the usual graphics had the central value with the others around this, a booklet was printed and distributed to all employees and each manager was given the task of conducting a values workshop with their teams. The way this worked each group picked a value and then worked on what they thought the organization was doing well about this value and what could be improved. Many hours were spent on this and then they reported back to the whole team.

So far so good. And that was it. Nothing else ever happened, no-one ever heard anything else about the values workshops, the CEO ticked it off his list, a job done, employees were engaged because they participated in workshops right? Wrong.

In fact this process caused more headaches than anything else. This organization went on to restructure, downsize and expected employees to work longer hours and do more with less. The senior managers began to panic about their job security so they became more withdrawn rather than open and honest, the focus was on budgets and not the customer and the values became a talking point amongst employees for what they did not stand for.

This is how it could have been improved.

Once the value workshops were over then the information collated from the teams could have been discussed by selected employees and then the ideas for improvement could have been communicated face to face via managers to staff using team briefings. Each team could have been required to monitor the impact of those improvements and to build on those and measure the impact either via sales in the case of the customer, or via the staff survey in the case of employees, here I am talking about topics such as open and honest communication, teamwork and so on.

Engaging employees in the process of change by communicating a new set of organizational values only works if you construct strategy that is directly integrated with the work that they do. And most importantly you need to measure the impact of those activities. It is only by doing this that you bring values to life and real change to an organization.