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Friday, December 12, 2008

Inward Strategic Consulting Announces A New "Talent Branding" Practice to Coincide With Its 10th Anniversary

Inward Strategic Consulting Announces A New "Talent Branding" Practice to Coincide With Its 10th Anniversary

New partner Jeff Cordes to drive practice and joins Phil Hornthal in the Chicago office


READ JEFF'S NEW ARTICLE ON DRIVING RESULTS THROUGH TALENT BRANDING!

Boston, December 11, 2008. Inward Strategic Consulting, an international internal/external brand, communications, and market research firm, is proud to announce on its 10th anniversary the launch of a global Talent Branding practice. Attracting and retaining the best talent is a strategic imperative for organizations that strive to create a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In making his announcement, Allan Steinmetz, CEO and founder of Inward Strategic Consulting, said, "Without doubt, one of the more important issues we hear about from our global clients is how to effectively communicate with their staff to ensure their loyalty and long-term retention while recruiting the best and brightest in the marketplace." The Talent Branding practice compliments Inward's internal branding, external brand, team alignment, and market research capabilities. According to Steinmetz, "With this service line we can finally help clients integrate all their brand initiatives, from their recruitment and retention messages to external marketing and advertising efforts, with their internal brand. We now have all the component parts to provide a full-service suite that senior HR and marketing executives require."

Inward's Talent Branding practice will be championed by Jeff Cordes, a seasoned, highly recognized talent-acquisition professional. Jeff is the President of talentRISE LLC, a full-service recruitment outsourcing and talent optimization company. Prior to talentRISE, Jeff launched and was the Managing Director of CareerBuilder.com's global talent acquisition consulting division. Jeff has more than two decades of experience with such companies as IBM, Home Depot, and Ryder Logistics. Jeff was also Chief Talent officer for Xpedior (an Inward Client), Apropos Technology, and NCI. At IBM Global Services, and James Martin, he led the recruitment and HR consulting practices.

Steinmetz continued, "I have been aware of Jeff for several years and would often ask his advice and counsel informally. Now, to be able to have him as a partner and to offer his capabilities to clients directly makes me feel complete. Jeff's credentials and experience will help clients deliver results, especially in today's economic environment where managing talent is a priority. He is a terrific person and a gentleman who truly cares about employees and will add substantial value to our clients HR issues."

To help launch this new Talent Branding practice, Jeff Cordes has written a thought leadership article discussing the components and integration of successful employment branding.

Please click on the following link to read this insightful thought leadership:

http://www.inwardconsulting.com/docs/Talent-Branding-Drives-Results.pdf


The new Talent Branding practice will be located in Inward's Chicago market, where Jeff will work closely with Phil Hornthal, Managing Director of the Chicago market. Hornthal continues to provide a full suite of capabilities within the area. "Phil's integrated marketing and strategy experience, coupled with his sports marketing knowhow, makes him an ideal choice to expand our presence further in the Chicago market," explained Steinmetz. "Phil has the right strategic insight and creativity combination that clients appreciate."

Phil has worked for some of the most prestigious and respected consulting firms in a variety of integrated marketing roles. At Accenture (then Andersen Consulting), he was a member of the worldwide marketing group that served the consulting-practice area and marketing director of the Central Region. At AT&T, Phil helped launch a new consulting practice; generating qualified leads and revenue for the AT&T Solutions division. He also worked in sports marketing sponsorships, sales and marketing leadership training, and experiential-event marketing.

"I am very excited Jeff is joining me to partner in the Chicago market. I've seen how Inward's participatory workshops help organizations accomplish their objectives. Adding Talent Branding brings incremental value to our suite of brand offerings," said Hornthal. "I'm looking forward to continuing growing Inward's presence in Chicago with Jeff's and Allan's help. We will become a critical resource for Chicago-area companies with recruitment, external branding, internal change communication, marketing organizational alignment, and market-research needs."

Jeff can be reached at jeffcordes@inwardconsulting.com or (630) 561-7390. Phil is at phil@inwardconsulting.com or (312) 560-9000.

ABOUT INWARD STRATEGIC CONSULTING
Inward Strategic Consulting has offices in Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Orlando. The company specializes in marketing strategy development, change management, external branding and internal change communications, and now, talent branding. Inward also offers a full suite of qualitative and quantitative market research including benchmarking, employee brand/engagement surveys (called ChangeFX), and best-practices research. The firm conducts both public and private workshops and training. To learn more about Inward, please go to www.inwardconsulting.com.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Stop The Negativity

There's no question about it. The unpredictable rise in energy costs is having a dramatic impact on every industry and every individual. For both service providers and customers, it is causing frustration, tight budgets, lost jobs, and escalating pricing. But most of all, in my opinion, it is affecting how employees and customers are reacting to the circumstances and treating one another. Companies must address this and reverse this negativity to preserve goodwill and create loyalty.

Companies need help reversing this negativity to preserve goodwill and create loyalty. Employee marketing programs and behavior need to be closely coupled with external consumer marketing programs. It's long past time to retrain employees how to treat customers. Whatever happened to "the customer is always right" and "say it with a smile"?

Airlines: the best (or worst!) example

The airline industry is probably the best example of this negativity, causing havoc among the consuming public, shareholders, and airline employees.

Like many of you I am a frequent domestic and international traveler. We have all witnessed angered customers and ticket agents coming close to throwing punches, impatient gate agents curtly corralling customers like cattle (no eye contact, no thank you, no have a nice flight), baggage claim managers who laugh at customers with lost luggage woes. Perhaps most startling of all, we overhear flight attendants, right in front of customers, badmouthing their own employers for a lack of appreciation. Employees wear strike buttons and tell customers that the airlines don't know what they are doing.

And airlines don't make it easy on their employees. JetBlue's recent announcement that the airline will charge passengers $7 for a pillow-and-blanket kit, even though it comes with a $5 coupon to any item from retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond, will be a tough sell for flight attendants.

"Replacing our old, recycled pillows and blankets with this state-of-the-art, high-quality take home kit is an eco-conscious, health-conscious and customer-conscious decision," is how Brett Muney, general manager of product development for JetBlue, spun it. "We are constantly seeking ways to enhance the in-flight experience for our customers, and providing them the option to purchase the world's cleanest travel pillow and a fleece blanket at an affordable price delivers on that promise."

State of the art? Customer- and eco-conscious? World's cleanest? Does JetBlue really think we're falling for this self-serving line? It's painfully obvious the airline figured that charging for pillows and blankets would add incremental revenue to the flight, plus reap a bonus by blending the charge with a promotional coupon through a sponsor. Flight attendants will have a tough sell ahead of them, and the negative effect of trying to sell this program to passengers affects the attendants' ability to be positive brand ambassadors. I bet the whole idea will be abandoned when JetBlue gets an all-too-predictable backlash from its customers.

Are your customers, employees, and shareholders facing a similar situation?

Confidence is broken in the airline business on all sides. There is an urgent need to instill employee engagement and reverse this unfortunate situation. Many will ask, how can you afford to do this in an era of cost cutting and unexpected oil-price increases? My question, however, is this: How can you not address this urgent situation and make your people brand advocates and emissaries for what you need to achieve? Companies who recognize that employees are the face to the brand and manage effective internal communication and advocacy provide an incremental 19.5% shareholder value, according to a recent Watson Wyatt study.

Inward Strategic Consulting is a leader in successful change management and behavioral communications. We help companies transform their employees into customer advocates and change their behavior to support brand values. The experiential methods we have designed are creative, and they work.

If you and your team would like to learn how to achieve internal and employee branding that changes behavior and wins over your own people, please contact us. Put a stop to the doom and gloom by recognizing that your people are the face of your brand, and that their behavior needs realignment.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Tribute to Michael Hammer 1948-2008

The business world lost one of its best and brightest business gurus this past week. Dr. Michael Hammer unfortunately passed away at an early age as a result of a devastating brain bleed. He was a visionary who shaped the reengineering revolution in the late 90s with his book "Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution". He was a counselor and mentor to many of the most successful CEOs and helped countless corporations improve performance and efficiency while attaining the highest levels of quality and throughput. He trained armies of thousands of people through his public workshops and training programs with a focus on process redesign and organization transformation. His ideas and processes touched many.

On a personal level, Michael was a dear and close friend of mine as well as professional mentor. Ten years ago at a Labor Day BBQ at my home, he encouraged me to establish our firm and create a proprietary approach to engage and enroll employees around change, effective communication and process redesign. He said at the time, "That unless companies motivate and inspire employees to accept change, the company will never be successful at obtaining buy-in and accelerated performance." Indeed, in a 1996 interview with the Wall Street Journal, he admitted that he and other reengineering proponents hadn't paid enough attention to people. "I wasn't smart enough about that," Dr. Hammer said, "I was reflecting my engineering background and was insufficiently appreciative of the human dimension. I've learned that it's critical." After the millennium, he often talked about the importance of employee buy-in and acceptance of change suggesting focusing on the advocates of change and the eradication/elimination of the opponents of change.

He was the brightest person I have ever met with a wide variety of interests and curiosities. He enjoyed antiquities, ancient maps, modern architecture and design, global exploration to his far off places and Jewish biblical scholarship and study. He was a pillar within our close community and a very generous yet private philanthropist. Most of all he was a loving husband, father and a good friend. I will miss him dearly.

-Allan

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Forrester Research Confirms Value of Customer Advocates

Recently, Forrester Research embarked on a groundbreaking research project on transforming employees into brand advocates. As part of its due diligence, several company executives, academics, and industry thought leaders were interviewed. I was fortunate enough to be included and spent an hour with researchers over the phone. The results of the report are further proof and acknowledgment, through major case studies, that companies can successfully use employees as their brand advocates.

Forrester interviewed a number of experts besides me from consulting firms and academia as well as marketing executives from organizations representing telecommunications, hospitality, airlines and healthcare. The report said that "Marketers spend significant dollars to promote their brands. However, if employees aren't aligned with and rallied around that brand, then delivery of the brand promise is broken, leading to suboptimal customer experiences, missed opportunities for brand differentiation, and even customer defection. A first step in building internal brand advocacy is the assessment of the current level of brand engagement of employees. To help this assessment process, Forrester provides a framework to segment employees into four groups based on their level of brand advocacy: brand resisters, brand learners, brand believers, and brand advocates." ("Stimulate Employee Brand Advocacy", Forrester Research, Inc., April 2008).

Through its Leadership Board programs Forrester's clients leverage a combination of proprietary research, analyst expertise and the collective wisdom and experience of their executive peer group. Turning Employees into Brand Advocates is just one example of the ways in which senior marketers have benefited from their participation in these communities. To learn more about Forrester, the Leadership Boards and view some of our research briefs, please visit http://www.forrester.com/Leadershipboards/CMOGroup.

How Inward Can Help

The independent report from Forrester Research hit our sweet spot - at Inward, we are pioneers in creating successful programs that inspire employee brand advocacy and enable it to thrive and prosper. We'd welcome the opportunity to chat with you about your current issues and advance your plans for putting a proper employee brand advocate program in place. Let us share with you our internal-brand credentials presentation, and Change FX - our Employee Engagement Measurement tool, with a demonstration including several case histories and best practices.

If you would like to see either of these presentations created by Inward, please let us know and we can arrange an on-line demonstration for you and your staff.

Enjoy the rest of the Summer!

-Allan

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hard /Simple/Easy

Over the past few years I have talked with many CEOs, Marketing Directors and HR Directors regarding their greatest assets and challenge, their people. In each instance, I am told that all the process redesign, organizational transformations and technology innovations that were planned in the new millennium are nearly completed. But despite the monetary investments and the ensuing internal chaos created, the anticipated payoffs are not having the large payout everyone expected.

When their plans worked successfully, it was because their people, not software or technology that implemented the innovations, and embraced the change. People are making the difference.

They cite the critical factors to be:

  • An effective understanding what the change is all about
  • Communicating a relevant message explaining how employees should adjust their behavior
  • Introducing new fresh experiential communication ideas for gaining their attention and buy-in

Sage advice; "Hard/Simple/Easy" - Paul Hingham, the retired CMO of Wal-Mart Stores once spoke at our regular Inward Breakfast Forum in Boston. In his talk to over 75 senior business executives from notable companies throughout New England, he said something very profound that has stayed with me ever since. He conveyed an idea he called "Hard/Simple/Easy."

He explained that Wal-Mart executives realized early on that they had to work "hard" to make complex concepts "simple" so that employees throughout the organization could understand what was expected of them and change their attitudes and behaviors accordingly to support an idea. He said getting processes to be simple may be very difficult at first and may take a long time. However, when they do get to where it becomes "Simple", everything gets "Easy". "People understand "Easy" a lot more than "hard"", Hingham says. "When it becomes "Easy", its like cheating!" Everything falls in place. The employees, the company and customers, through the employees, know what is expected of them and what to expect from others. Work happens faster. People know how they will be judged. Employees are happier and customers are more satisfied. Quality improves. Profits go up. It becomes a repeatable cycle that revolves and gains internal momentum with each turn.

Business executives have a responsibility to improve enterprise efficiency and effectiveness and grow revenue while reducing costs. (Sounds hard, right?) The complexity of attaining this goal can be extremely difficult for even the "best of the best" executive. All of us need to work "Hard" to make complex processes "Simple" so that all our efforts become "Easy". The first step in this formula is recognizing the importance and power of employees as important assets who need to get on board and support the strategy just as much as you do.

If you want the productivity and growth investments you have made to pay off, you need to combine the idea of recognizing the importance of your people as assets with the notion of Hard/Simple /Easy. Sometimes getting through the first step is also hard if you have never done it before and therefore many companies need help. If this is something you would like to learn more about, drop me a line and I'd be happy chat with you on how to get started.

Regards,

-Allan

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

India Vs. India

Last year we helped a major Indian conglomerate re-brand itself for a global launch. It involved multiple visits to on site locations in India, but with each trip comes a new learning lesson. Visits to exotic places are always full of intrigue and anticipation: But since I had been to the region before, I knew what to expect. Or so I thought.

But on this trip I was stunned by a dramatic integrated advertising campaign launched by the Times of India, called India vs. India. The Times kicked it off on New Year's Day, on the front page. That's right; no news appeared on that morning's front page. This was followed by major, spectacular billboards and posters, which appeared everywhere, arriving overnight as if by magic. Next came a parade of Indian celebrities who endorsed the "Anthem" (as they called this) on TV advertisements. This was a highly orchestrated campaign that quickly became celebrated, espousing the idea that there are two India's, working against one another and preventing India from being the global power that it ought to be. It was a call to arms to unite around the idea of one India, to be progressive, to heal the country's divisions, and to look toward the future. The thought was summarized with a tagline: India poised-Our time is now.

The copy reads like poetry. Here are a few lines.

There are two India's in this country. One India is straining at the leash, eager to spring forth and live up to all the adjectives that the world has been showering recently upon us. The other India is the leash. The other India says, give me a chance and I'll prove myself. The other India says, Prove yourself first and then maybe I'll give you a chance. One India lives in optimism of our hearts. The other India lurks in skepticism of our minds. One India wants. The other India hopes. One India leads. The other India follows.

It's powerful copy.

As an American, after seeing this campaign unfold, I couldn't keep myself from wondering whether this idea is just as relevant here. Do factions and discord within our political and business arenas hold us back from becoming even greater than we are now? Is it time for the marketing and media community to do something as dramatic as India vs. India to unite the country or its industry around a common purpose and a vision of the future?

My thoughts then wandered over to our marketing industry. Can we make an India vs. India comparison? Do we even have unity around the value of marketing? Are clients and agencies/PR firms on the same page? Who is the "leash" and who is "straining the leash" in our industry? Clients seem to concentrate on growth, attracting new customers and growing market share, while agencies and-yes--even consulting firms, frequently focus on creative ideas and new technologies. They often win awards, but do little to attract new clients. Some of them are fixed on the almighty 30-second TV commercial, while others on rely on interactive internet marketing. Are we suffering from Marketing vs. Marketing?

The answer, in my opinion, is marketing integration. Marketing should never be exclusively one thing or another. It should do whatever it takes to solve the client's problems and unite around that solution. Use all available techniques, media, creativity and technology to help the client's business grow and improve its market share. That does not mean simply doing what the client wants, but providing new ideas, insights and perspectives, no matter what creative medium might be used.

No more Marketing vs. Marketing. It's time for Marketing AND Marketing.

Is it time to examine America vs. America? Or marketing vs. marketing? Please send me your thoughts. Let me know your opinions on this topic and let's see if we can apply the same logic to our business and political culture.

Happy Spring!

-Allan

Monday, April 14, 2008

Culture Clash

Recently, I read a shocking piece of business news in the Boston Globe.

An article reported 81% of executives surveyed believe their people work in isolation from the rest of the company because of negative manager attitudes that cause friction between departments.

Why is this a surprise? Anyone who has worked in a large cross-functional organization knows this is the way it is today.

The American Management Association, who sponsored the study, went on to report that:

  • 59% blamed their corporate culture for preventing departments from working together
  • 50% said some units place their own priorities ahead of employees goals, resulting in friction
  • When asked what the most pressing problems they have faced because of isolations; 74% mentioned wars between managers 72% pointed to lack of cooperation, 60% said power struggles; 51% said putting unit goals ahead of company goals.

I believe this cultural clash, a direct result of senior management mistakes, causes the loss of productivity, reduces employee retention, contributes to loss of profits and efficiency, and ultimately produces poor customer experiences.

Why does this occur? Because management takes employee commitment for granted. They expect employees to act and behave in accordance with the interests of the company, but it does not work that way. In fact, according to recent Gallup survey, 80% of employees are minimally committed to their company’s goals.

So what should companies do about this epidemic problem? Here are our specific actionable solutions.

  • The senior management team must articulate the culture and behavior that is expected within the company through a process called Visioneering. It starts with personal vision that grows into a team vision and blossoms into a corporate vision, with defined action steps and deliverables. (Take a look at our site for details or give us a call)
  • Management must reinforce the behavior with personal, team and corporate accountability for their actions. Deviant behavior and lack of collaboration should never be tolerated. The credibility of the company is at risk and is more important than individuals.
  • Inward Marketing is necessary to communicate the change experientially so that employees see the message as relevant to their jobs. They need to understand what the consequences of effective cultures can achieve.
  • Recognition and Reward programs that celebrate successes. Celebrate actions that focus on customer interaction, positive experiences and wins. Do not focus on internal strife and negative cross-functional behavior.
  • Measure behavior and actions through employee research with the help of Inward’s ChangeFX. It will illustrate success and failures by different employee groupings and offer prescriptive diagnostics for improvement.
  • Segment your employee populations just like you would an external marketing campaign. Do not allow the message and the medium to be the same for everyone. People react differently and comprehend messages in their own way.
  • Plan, execute and reinforce the program in thirds. Spend a third of your time and budget on planning the strategy for your culture; a third on rolling out the communications so people understand what it means and the final third reinforcing the message for several years so that it takes hold. All too often, this final reinforcement if overlooked and results in lost spending.

What would you rather have: a company that is focused as a unified team on the customer and trying to displace the competition or dysfunctional silos of people working against each other and fighting turf wars where little ever gets done?

If your company is dealing with a culture clash, please call us. Or forward this email to others in your company who may find this information beneficial (CEO’s, HR Directors, VP’s of Strategy, VP’s of Marketing, VP’s of Communications or Branding). Help us spread the gospel. At the very least, visit our web site to view our white papers and case histories on these topics.

As always, we would appreciate any referrals. If you know of other organizations or associations who could benefit from our approach in marketing/branding, change management, HR communications, team alignment and market research please pass our name to them. We promise to provide the very best service and support.

Spring is in the air!

-Allan

Friday, February 29, 2008

New Innovations in Marketing Leadership Councils

Introduction: What Is a Global Leadership Council?

A Global Leadership Council consists of successful, principle-oriented company CMOs. These leaders, visionaries, and marketing-change proponents demonstrate a powerful commitment to the betterment of marketing across their organization. The Council’s purpose is twofold: to enroll, inspire, and align programs and services for marketing units, and to share best practices to increase efficiencies.

Creating a More Strategic Role for Marketing: The Greatest Challenge

One of the greatest challenges today is to transition marketing from a purely tactical to a more strategic role. With respect to new product development in particular, the need is acute. Marketing must do a better job of identifying unmet needs in the marketplace, offering competitive intelligence, and then assuring that new products are relevant and solve real customer problems. This last objective, identifying the “voice of the customer,” is particularly important and often lacking.

When marketing is only involved at the tail end of the process, with a rather limited charter to make products seem desirable to the target audience, chances are that there won’t be a desirable product to market.

There are several areas of great interest to global corporations for CMOs to explore in frequent Council meetings, including the major themes and trends outlined below.

Setting Mission and Vision

One of the Global Leadership Council’s first activities must be to draft and achieve agreement on the group’s mission and vision as well as establish guidelines for participation and responsibilities. Clearly defining who is responsible and empowered for what types of actions or decisions is critical. Inward Strategic Consulting recommends a Visioneering™ Session, a facilitated workshop to create team-wide mission and vision.

A key topic these days for any marketing organization is accountability in all of its facets: brand value, advertising effectiveness, promotional payout, etc. Equally important is quickly building an apparatus that measures marketing and advertising impact with speed and efficiency, and has credibility with the entire senior leadership team.

Reviewing Marketing Operations

Another timely topic for the Council is to address its own marketing operations. How does the Council compare to peers and best practices, and how can its effectiveness be increased? An industry benchmark study would shed light on this topic.

Going From Selling-In to Selling-Out…Internal Branding is Important!

A major leadership challenge today has to do with employees. Many executives are asking a single over-arching question:

“How do we get the most out of our people so that we achieve the company’s profit and long-term growth objectives?”

We’re not just considering marketing people here but all employees—from the executive councils to mailroom operations and security desks.

The concerns and worries from marketing executives with regards to the employee challenge generally fall under five categories:

1. Inspiring and Influencing: This point relates to the executive’s leadership skill itself, the ability to command attention and respect, to draw and inspire followers, and to motivate them towards a vision and a goal.

  • How do we instill in our people the same degree of enthusiasm and commitment that we have for the company’s vision and mission?
  • How do we encourage employees to commit to “stretch” goals, and how do we help them achieve these goals?
  • How do we inspire our people to come to the office filled with energy and enthusiasm, ready to take on all the possibilities and opportunities that the day presents? How do we turn our company into a humming, thriving hive of human activity where great ideas pour forth in endless succession amid the din of competing voices and laughter?

2. Teamwork: Executives are faced with the challenge of bringing together people with different backgrounds—academic, technical, cultural and ethnic, political and religious—and getting them to work as a team. This challenge takes on gargantuan proportions in multi-category global settings where executives must lead international teams from several disciplines towards a common goal.

  • How do we channel all the intellect and energy coming from so many sources into a single focused beam?
  • It’s hard enough to get consensus from a few talented and outspoken people sitting around a conference table. So how do we do this with a hundred people from a dozen countries? How can we get them all to talk as one?
  • And then how do we get these people to act as one? How do we do it without over-centralization, without slowing down speed-to-market, without dampening individual and local initiative?
  • How can we improve our use of technology for this purpose? And can we do it without losing the human element?

3. Innovation: Competitive pressure—not just from players within the same industry but from other wholly unexpected sources—has made innovation an imperative to corporate survival. The challenge many marketing managers face is promoting innovation, especially in those large and successful organizations whose key executives indulge, paradoxically, in feelings of complacency and false invulnerability.

  • How do we drive our people to think out of the box? We need scientists who can tweak molecules into breakthrough product formulations. We need production personnel who can consistently make on-standard products at the least cost possible; marketers who can magically differentiate our brands from the competition’s. Advertising, PR, and promotions agencies must be able to thrust our brands in the face of consumers and communicate our message in provocative and memorable ways. Salespeople must place our brands wherever our consumers shop, merchandising them in ways that cannot fail to grab attention.
  • How can we train our people to think more like entrepreneurs? How can we get them to ask the question: “If this were my own business, what would I do if I was faced with this situation?”
  • How do you encourage risk-taking? How do you push people to the edge and give them the courage to jump and find out if they can fly? What if they have a fear of flying?

4. Customer Service: With most competing products offering comparable performance, often the differentiating advantage belongs to the company that gives the best customer service.

  • How do we motivate our front-line people to give the best customer service? To provide the most memorable and delightful experience possible, so that customers cannot help but rave and refer us to their friends?
  • Likewise, how do we motivate back-office and support teams to help the front-liners in this goal of turning customers into raving fans?

5. People Retention: Many marketing managers are very concerned about the painstaking process and huge cost of screening, hiring, and training people.

  • How do we attract the best people in the industry? How do we create a reputation among top university graduates and practicing professionals that our company is the industry Mecca for job challenge and empowerment, compensation and benefits, and skills development?
  • How do we retain people once they’re in? What environment—cultural and physical—should we create that will encourage them to stay? What is the optimum pay and perks package that will satisfy and keep them from considering a move to another company?
  • How do we help our people keep a proper work-life balance, prevent them from burning out, and ensure that they receive support for what they do at our company from the people who matter to them most—their families?

Focusing on Customer Service/Experience (Through the Brand)

CMOs have similar concerns about the teams they manage:

  • How well is the team integrating product solutions that will provide a seamless experience for the customer, not just our customers?
  • Does the team have a collective view of who the customer is?
  • How much do team members know about the health of a well-known brand in each of their markets? Often there is confusion between brand salience and brand comprehension. This could be a particularly important distinction if customers have been affected by the recent mortgage meltdown.
  • How well does the team understand the online channel for customer acquisition and customer management? How about strategies for developing alternative business practices, such as collecting payments in developing countries?

Sharing Success Stories

Sharing success stories and pinpointing strategies that can be leveraged in other geographies have major benefits, helping break down two common syndromes:

  • "Not invented here."
  • "They didn't come up with it/pay for it, so why should I share what I did? Will I get the credit?"

Identifying Internal Experts

Identifying the internal experts and best-practice centers for various skills and topics creates a framework for networking internally.

Assessing Competitive Intelligence

A fairly accepted practice is anticipating the next moves your global competitors are likely to make against you and run an exercise where you actually try to beat yourself. In other words, think like your competitors and create products, strategies, programs, and processes to out-compete yourself. This excellent exercise forces you to leave your own comfortable thinking and assumptions and look at your organization and offerings from your competitors' point of view.

Using Analytics, Measurement, and Web 2.0

Here are three issues for the Council to consider:

  • Use marketing analytics to improve marketing ROI and reallocate resources to reflect this mission. Marketing automation should also be explored.
  • How do you collectively measure success? Measurement is important! While it has always been on the agenda, it has definitely risen in significance over the last few years. And, if nothing else, measurement can extend a CMO's tenure in these days of "24-months-and-out" thinking on the part of CEOs.
  • There is a lot to share and learn in of all the Web 2.0 activities. Many interesting topics for discussion and analysis can be generated by looking at trend forecasts, such as demographic/firmagraphic and World Future Society.

Playing War Games and Simulations

Take time out and think of your company as the competition to yourself:

Examine your strategy. Conduct an exhaustive analysis the same way you do when you plan a new marketing program against your traditional competitive set.

  • Reexamine your key unique differentiation, personality traits, leverage points, and messaging platform.

You’ll come up with some fresh ideas that can be implemented as brand extensions and product innovations.

Conclusion: What’s next for the Global Leadership Council?

In summary, Global Leadership Councils are a wonderful way to incorporate best practices, communicate with peers and your marketing groups, leverage existing talents inside the organization and instill a sense of openness and communications within marketing departments. When they are done right and led from the top, they have the potential to instill change and inspire leadership from all employees.

We hope you have found this thought leadership piece insightful and helpful to your marketing challenges that may lie ahead. If you would like to chat with us about your specific marketing/communications issues or would like Inward to help you build a Global Leadership Council, give us a call or email us at any time. We’d be happy to brainstorm unique solutions for your specific situation. If you have any suggestions for future thought leadership topics you would like to see addressed, please let us know and we will do our best to provide you with information that best focuses your challenges.

Regards,

-Allan

Monday, January 28, 2008

Shaking Off Change Fatigue

A large financial services company once called us in to discuss a pressing change communications challenge. What could they do to shake off Change Fatigue and get their organization inspired and motivated again? What a great question--many companies are facing the same challenge right now.

From the late 90's through early 2000, this company had benefited from growing revenues, and expanded their staff and facilities, benefits and outside resources. But going into 2004, they have worked through poor financial performance, massive layoffs, cutbacks of 401k contributions, facility closings, and outsourcing-even offshoring-of IT jobs. As a result, the morale of the remaining staff was terrible.

Now, every time the company announces a new initiative, the reaction is less than enthusiastic. Once, the mood of the company was positive, spirited, committed and enthusiastic. But now, the organization is tired after so much bad news, cynical about the future, distrustful of management, and wary of changing their habits. In a nutshell, the employees are taking a wait and see attitude, everyone still wondering if they will be the next to go. And, as the economy improves and more jobs become available, the risk grows that disillusioned employees will take off with the company's intellectual capital and know how, and create even more problems.

Is your organization also suffering from Change Fatigue? Is your company depressed? Are there pockets of unhappiness? Is a culture of skepticism taking hold and spreading? What can management do? How can you stop this from spiraling and paralyzing performance?

Obviously, economic recovery and improved financial performance will help. But apart from improving the bottom line, what else can management do? The first step is for senior management to seriously demonstrate commitment to their employees. They must show them that their morale is strategically important to the company's future, and that they are committed to improving the situation.

Some additional suggestions for effective change management communications and shaking off Change Fatigue:

    - Be proactive. Develop a clear plan to communicate the status of the key issues that affect employee morale. Make it clear how positive behavior in support of the business objectives will improve the situation. Let employees know that they can help and enroll staff to contribute to the solution.

    - Keep the lines of communications open, between the CEO and every employee, and between middle management and their staff. You need to convey a feeling that managers are really accessible, and that they care about their employees' feelings.

    - Focus on issues that matter most. Explain the facts contributing to each problem, what options you had for resolving them, and how you reached your decisions. Most important, your communications should emphasize what actions and decisions mean to the employee, in a relevant and honest fashion. If you don't have an answer, say so. Never lie, never duck answering.

    - Establish a regular, scheduled communications calendar that people can rely upon: for instance, an email from the CEO the first Tuesday of every month at 4:00, or a weekly Monday voice mail message. Name these events to lend them importance, so that people look forward to them and seek them out. The Ford Motor Company calls an important news announcement a "Blue Letter," while the President of the United States talks to the people every Saturday in radio "Fireside Chats."

    - Use your regular communications sessions to provide updates and progress reports on each of the core topics that matter most. Remember to stay on point.

    - Make sure the message and communications are meaningful and relevant, and conveyed them in a way that resonates with employees. Avoid premiums like t-shirts and hats, and don't go over the top with gimmicks like sky writers or parachutes dropping down with banners. Your medium should reflect your serious message: it's OK to have some fun, but you need to strike the right balance.

    - If possible, encourage small CEO interactions and meetings. Employees should hear first hand what the company is doing, and learn why decisions are being made and how they will impact people as individuals. Prepare and rehearse key talking points and reinforce these points frequently during the sessions.

    - Create a place on your intranet where people can retrieve factual information, and see what management has to say on the issues and what they are doing about them. Update it regularly. If you withhold honest, factual information the rumor mill will work overtime to fill in the gaps and create a new problem.

    - Avoid unscheduled and untimely news jolts that scare the organization or can be taken out of context and misinterpreted. Manage the implications of the news, just as you would an external PR campaign.

    - Conduct research and seek out employee feedback on the major issues that affect them, their attitudes and their behavior. The research should be hands on, conducted by senior people to demonstrate that they care about the situation and are committed to improving it.

If you would like to explore your specific Change Fatigue situation and how to address it, let me know. I personally will assist you. And if you know a company that would benefit from our help, please pass the link to this blog on to them and ask them to visit our web site at www.inwardconsulting.com

While I have your attention, do you have issues you would like me to address in the next blog posting? If so, please drop me a line and I'll be happy to share my ideas with you.

Meanwhile, here's to a productive 2008!

Best Regards,

Allan