Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People
June 30th, 2016

The Significance of Brand Ambassadorship


I’ve been speaking about employees as organisations most important Brand Ambassadors for quite a long time now. It was, therefore great to go the Recruitment Festival – RecFest and hear people directly or indirectly speak of the importance of both employees and potential employees as Brand Ambassadors.

First was House of Fraser with a five minutes recruitment video in which employees spoke about their experience of working in the organisation. Critically talking not so much about the jobs that they do, but how they felt working within the environment. Resounding in my mind is people talking about being able to bring themselves to the workplace and be themselves. This is critical to me, as I specialise in Human Value Optimisation, which is all about optimising the value that individuals have to offer and how it is utilised, be in education, the workplace or wider society.

House of Fraser through their advert demonstrated the glamour of retail, though if we are to be honest, this isn’t really a true reflection of most retail environments. Most important of all, was the message of what it feels like working within the environment. From now on, when I bump into House of Fraser employees, I will ask them what it’s like working with the organisation as their response will be a key test of the authenticity of the advert. Not so much for me, but for the people that will apply to work with the organisation and perhaps gain employment with the organisation. True Brand Ambassadorship goes beyond the banded messages of an organisation to the everyday experiences and feedback of each and every individual employee.

I still remember meeting with the Chief Executive of a major House Builder. He told me all about the organisation’s ethos and approach. It sounded really good – I was impressed. A few weeks later, a bumped into the husband of a friend who turned out to work for the same organisation. With very little prompting, he spoke excited of his employer. Although he used different words, he virtually mirrored the sentiments expressed by his Chief Executive.  I hope that when I speak to House of Fraser employees they do the same, as that is true Brand Ambassadorship.

I was glad that RecFest didn’t just speak of the Brand Ambassadorship from perspective of the current employee. There was also the talk from Lorraine Scroope of The Hire Lab who spoke of the recruitment system that her organisation had developed to make the recruitment process more interactive and human. As I come from an HR Systems background with the viewpoint that HR (and Recruitment) are not just tools for management processes, but key strategic enablers, I’m very much excited about The Hire Lab and look forward to a demonstration.

I’m conscious that none of this provides the Why of the importance of Brand Ambassadorship and what employees and prospective employees think and say about organisations. It was therefore great to have Virgin present to talk of the financial costs when prospective employees (as is the case of employees) have a bad experience with an organisation and go home and mention this to friends and family members a like, with the result that they all stop using the organisation’s services.

The talks that I heard at RecFest have given me the extra boost to go forward and continue to talk about employees and prospective employees alike. I hope this provides food for thought for you to.


Susan Popoola is the Managing Director of Conning Towers Ltd, an HR firm focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation for Innovative, High Potential organisations.  She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.

Copyright 2016. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

March 11th, 2015

The End

I recently read the headline of an article entitled “the beginning”, strangely I found myself thinking of endings. Not totally off point as often for something to begin, something else must end.

They say all good things must come to an end. I don’t believe it’s ALL things. However sometimes they just do. Not because we didn’t give our best, stopped caring or what have you – sometimes things just change and the synergy is just not there – it becomes hard work and/or it ceases to be fulfilling.

This happens on a personal level in the various relationships we have. It also happens within various work environments. Often the signs are there long before we realise that its time to bring a chapter to a close.  There may be agitations, irritations and frustrations – ultimately it’s not as fulfilling as it used to be and/or people seem to act different towards us and we suddenly become increasingly aware of all that’s wrong.

When we finally realise its not working any more we typically try to do one more thing; to give things another go  – no one wants to be seen as someone that has given up or failed.

If we have the opportunity to talk to a representative of the other party sometimes we do so in a desperate bid to make things work. If they are willing and able to put things in place or changes things or if both parties are willing to work together – all may be well and good, as things just may turn around.

Often times though things have changed for a reason – a change in strategy, focus and priorities and so though the heart may be willing the reality is things are different and sticking around under those circumstances often ends up doing more harm than good.

I once worked with an HR director who said that when employees tell her they want to leave she never tries to persuade them to stay, as they will soon leave anyway.

Whilst I’m more I inclined to listen to the language they use, to take the time to understand their reasons and consider how far down the line the individual is; more often than not I do believe she’s right.

For the other cases an organisation’s employee engagement strategies should actually prevent them from reaching the place whereby they consider leaving in the first place. By engagement strategies I’m not necessary talking about anything fancy. More than anything else it’s basic communications be it through open communications that enables employees to speak openly to managers; one to one meetings that assess where employees are/what’s going on; and/or performance management processes that show an employees next steps/plans and whether/how they still fit with the organisation.

The ultimate decision however lies with an individual – it’s easiest to accept and handle things if there is a key incident or if a new and compelling opportunity arises. However one thing I’ve learnt is when it’s time, it’s no use dwindling, you just prolong the pain. So make a plan (openly if its practical to do so), pack your bags and move on. The sooner you do the sooner you end the negativity and open yourself up to fresh, new opportunities

After all not talking about leaving just because someone upset you one day. I’m referring to deep prolonged issues that the different parties aren’t ready/able to work together to resolve.

Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2015. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source.

December 14th, 2014

Little Sister’s Watching Your Brand

A local store close to where I live recently closed for refurbishment. I t re-opened under a different brand, however, browsing round the store and picking up a few pieces I noticed that the staff were largely the same. I went to pay for my items, smiling back at the sales assistant who I’d seen many times before under the old brand, I asked her how she was. “Fine thank you, she responded and how you?” Completing normal pleasantries, I went on to comment on the change to the store, asking her whether the change was a positive thing. Well, it’s better pay for us she responded. That’s good I said. As she checked out my items, she expanded that there was also a greater variety of items for customers and the quality was better with good prices. She went on to ask me if I had one of the brands store cards. Completing my transaction, I went away thinking positively of the store. I would be back, with a confidence about the store – their products, the way they treat their staff and their customers. She had done a great job of marketing the brand without even realising it.

The truth is employees often do. I learn a lot because I have the tendency to interact with staff because I’m interested in them as people. Recently, a friend took me out for dinner as a late birthday treat. We were served by a lovely waitress who patiently came back several times as we kept talking instead of deciding what we wanted to order from the menu. Eventually, I asked her what she would recommend and she politely made a few suggestions, demonstrating a good knowledge of the restaurant’s menu. During brief interactions as she served and cleared the table we learnt that she was moving to a new job in a different industry. We wished her well. As she thanked us, she said that she would miss working at the restaurant that we were dining at pointing out that she had worked in about 10 different eateries and that this was her favourite. I was pleased to here this, as it happens to be one of my favourite restaurants. I would have been somewhat concerned if she had spoke negatively about it. Not only did I think, that I would happily go back again. I also thought that it would be high on the list of places that I would recommend to anyone I knew looking for a waitressing job.

It’s quite different from an experience that I had, had about a month earlier at a different restaurant. The food was okay – nothing to get excited about, but it was cheap and you basically got what you paid for. The waitress who served us was just as polite and competent as the other waitress that I met a month later. Her report of the restaurant was very different. She spoke of how they had tried to pay her below the minimum wage until she had challenged them. She also mentioned how they were inflexible with her hours, constantly asking her to work late hours that meant that she had to walk home in the dark all by herself and I should say that she was only 17. Even though I had a good time with my friend and I was okay with the food, I will think twice before I go back to this restaurant.

I have the tendency to chat quite a bit with staff in restaurants, stores and wherever I go. My starting point is not you and your brand. It’s that these are people that are providing me with a service and that I’m interested in them as people and their welfare. It concerns me if I learn that they that they don’t believe that you value them and treat them well. At times, I’m amazed at how much I learn from them about you.

Maybe they say more to me about you then they say to the average customer/client that they meet, but don’t doubt that they do talk. I do have staff that volunteer information without me soliciting anything from them.

The truth is even if they don’t say anything to people like myself walking through the door of your establishment; they will go home and talk to friends and family. They may even talk to people they meet on their journey to and from work, at the doctors or when they are out shopping. So be aware ‘little sister is watching your brand and learning about it from your employees and may react for good or for bad. So do you know what your employees are saying about you?



Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2014. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

November 30th, 2011

Managing Staff Through The Tough Times

Managing Staff Through The Tough Times

While there are businesses that may be thriving, the recent recession and its aftermath mean that it’s been a tough few years for a lot of businesses.  If we are to be honest things are likely to remain tough for the next few years as we contend with Government cuts, problems with Europe and what have you. The natural instinct under these circumstances is therefore to knuckle down and focus – expecting those that work for us to do the same thing – grateful that unlike so many others they have work.

The tendency is to put structures and processes in place to ensure that we things work both effectively and efficiently – this is something I highly recommend. I also advice on the need to become more stringent about absences and what staff do within work time – this is something else that most businesses will probably be doing now. Additionally most businesses will also be becoming more focused on targets and expect staff to have the same focus.  All of this is perfectly understandable and logical – after all unless a business is run on volunteers and unpaid interns, the people working with you are being paid to get a job done in what is now a very competitive market.

I do believe, that it is, however, important to remember that just as businesses are going through a tough time, so are a lot of people that work with us.  What with the increased costs of living and the possible unemployment of a partner; close family members and/or friends,  this can all very easily serve to put pressure on those fortunate enough to have a job.  This type of pressure on staff may also be enhanced if you have already had to implement reduced hours or a pay freeze for a few years.

So yes, do expect the best from your people, but also please be a bit sensitive too.  Where possible take the time to understand their circumstances. Allow for a little flexibility within your structures and processes if it will help them without being detrimental to the business.

Fundamentally communicate with them on the position of the business, the plans that you have for the business i.e. the strategy and the logic behind it. Be open to their input and ideas – they may actually be the source of input that makes all the difference to your business.

In balancing the requirements of your business with the needs of your staff, I believe you will attain their crucial support and their vey best through the on going tough times that we are all faced with.

Copyright 2011. This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

January 28th, 2011

Value Begets Value

I don’t typically watch Action category movies, but years back I watched the Rambo movies and although I can’t remember much of the story lines there is a particular scene from Rambo II that I have never forgotten.  It’s a scene where Sylvester Stallone a.k.a. Rambo is in a boat with a young Vietnamese lady.

The lady asked Rambo why he was sent on the mission that he was on.  He replied – “because I’m expendable.”  The lady not understanding asked him what expendable means to which he responded – “it’s like someone invites you to a party and you don’t show up, but it doesn’t really matter”.  During a later stage in the film, Rambo was about to embark on a dangerous part of his mission.  As he sets of the lady called out to him and told him “Rambo, you’re not expendable”

The truth is no one should be seen as expendable as every human being is of intrinsic value.  Whether at work, home or play there is a need to understand what individuals unique talents are in order to tap into them.  However, there is additional a more general value that everyone offers that can be tapped into with minimal effort.
I was reminded of this recently when I bumped into an old friend that I hadn’t seen for quite some time.  She told me that she hadn’t been very well and had therefore been compelled to take some time off work.  On the first day that she went back to work she still felt quite drained and so her manager sent her off to see the organisation’s Occupational Psychologist.  It was agreed  that in order to accommodate her, that she should leave work  a couple of hours early over the subsequent few weeks (with full pay) in order to enable her to fully recover.

I also had a conversation with a manager in a school who had an employee in a similar situation.  He allowed her to work from home one day a week in order to prevent her from relapsing.  In many ways these employers were making pragmatic decisions to prevent a situation whereby they ended up with employees who were not able to work to full capacity over extended periods. After all an employee whose health is not 100% is unlikely to be able to work to 100% capacity anyway.  Besides if an employee under such circumstances is to push himself/herself to hard, he/she could end up going of sick again.   Some employers in a similar situations would however, not want to provide their employees with such support for fear that things would be taken for granted.

The truth, however is that for most people just as for my friend, such actions by employers make people feel valued and when they feel that they are valuable to their employers they tend to want to work that much harder to add value to the organisations. Besides which they become the biggest advocates for the organisation.

Susan Popoola
Conning Towers
HR Transformation & Talent Management
Leveraging the Power of People

Copyright 2011 This document is the specific intellectual property of the Conning Towers Consultancy. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.