A magazine recently interviewed me about one of my books: Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes. On the face of it, they could have been any glossy publication. However, talking to the chief Executive, I discovered that whilst they were very much a profit-making outfit, they also had a strategy of employing and training the long-term unemployed.
“I didn’t know that” I exclaimed, “I’m going to pay special attention to the publication from now on” I added. We both then went on to discuss how organisations can make people aware of such strategies without appearing to brag.
It reminded me of a story I had heard about how Coco-Cola has on the occasion put supplies for NGOs on the back of its lorries and delivered them to remote areas without making any charges, because they were going to those areas anyway, and it would be difficult for the NGOs to get to such areas by themselves. People don’t often here about things like this that they do, yet I love to hear about such initiatives. However, again, if they made announcements through their corporate PR teams, questions could be raised about their sincerity and motives.
I believe customers and wider society should know about the values, ethos and approach of organisations. It’s nice for them to be made aware of the things that they do naturally that make a difference beyond “bolt on” Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives which I believe also have a place as done properly they do make a difference.
So how do organisations make us aware of what they do naturally at a high level and more generally with their more routine services, their ethics, approach etc.?
I believe that customers know a fair amount about the services that they receive, the products they buy and how they are treated. They can begin to tell the story of a brand. However the people that really know the brand are the employees – in many ways they are the brand and how they behaviour determines what a brand is way more than marketing materials and PR.
The question then is how can we make sure that they effectively represent the brand message that we would like and become true Brand Ambassadors for us?
- I would say that in the first place, an organisation should have clear values, vision and purpose, that employees are a part of because not only have they helped to design them, but because employees are recruited because they share the same values and believe in the vision and purpose helping to demonstrate consistency and authenticity throughout the organisation.
- Employees should be a true part of an organisation’s journey. Being kept abreast of what’s going on and why – even being part of the process of developing ideas.
- Organisations should create an atmosphere that celebrates and shares successes – at an individual, local/departmental level and at an organisation wide level.
- As much as possible organisations should trust their employees and provide a degree of awareness when things go wrong or aren’t; working properly – providing them with a context of what is happening/has happened; why and what is being done about. After all, employees are probably going to hear rumours anyway, so it’s best that they hear things from the management. They in turn may talk publically about what’s going on and are more likely to do so positively if they’ve heard the story from the true source
- Generally, employees will talk about the place where they work to friends, family and others too. If they enjoy the environment in which they work, feel engaged; well treated and supported they are likely to tell a positive story – so treat them well.
- Encourage the positive use of social media by employees, but with clear guidelines on what is acceptable.
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 PerspectiveandConsequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013
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