I’ve recently been helping a couple of organisations find ways to re-connect with their employees following record falls in employee confidence and pride in the brands they work for. The conversations we’ve been having with employees have centred around prevailingly negative public perceptions about the way they conduct business, especially the way they market their services and their direct sales techniques.
At the core of their issues have been:
– a growing sense that, while there are theoretically two-way channels in place, they aren’t being listened to
– a growing cynicism about the values the organisation publishes to all stakeholders and the way the leaders talk about customers
– an innate insecurity about the notion of a career given that there is a perception that a growing number of new recruits are either locum workers or job-hopping every 18 months or so and seldom develop proper relationships.
Of course, we’re trying to substantiate their comments with some hard facts. But regardless of how the statistics stack up, these issues were echoed at all levels when we investigated the sliding engagement figures.
Our last meeting was on the 4th of July, a time when there’s much “tootin and hootin” about US Independence. Regardless of your own ideological leanings, it has to be said that there’s a certain pervading clarity about the American way which is rooted in Thomas Jefferson’s work in crafting the Declaration of Independence.
This single document became a powerful manifesto for the creation of a nation, based on clear values and has become a totemic rallying point for the US ideology ever since. Whether you like or agree with American culture, you have to respect the foundations upon which the culture is built.
Given the investment every employee makes in terms of time they devote to the organisations they work for and the role those organisations play in meeting so many of an individuals’ basic and higher order needs, it’s only natural that the relationship between people and their work is going to be an emotional one. To fail to recognise this relationship; to treat people like numbers, to give them an official message about how to behave but unofficially expect them to “win at all costs” or to patronise and dump messages on them using internal marketing and spin is ridiculous.
Values are the fundamental building blocks of a brand. They set the tone and the foundation for the emotional contract between employees and their employer. In a week when yet another brand, this time The News of The World implodes on the back of another values and culture based brand disaster, there must be a ripple of discomfort running through many boardrooms? There certainly should be.
In an age of pressure selling, public sector strikes in the face of banker’s bonuses and pensioners having to choose between heating and eating, what high-profile brand will the powerful social media machine gun focus its sights on next?
Isn’t it time leaders started valuing values again?