Driving by the local church which has provided a great number of inspirations for past blog posts, they had on their billboard the statement “if our prayers are empty words so is G-d’s response” As many of you know I never talk religion in this space, and will not begin now, but it did bring up an interesting question.
What if our organizational message is nothing more than empty words? Listen to management and their response to what is keeping them up at night and many will tell you it is the lack of engagement from their employees and the lack of loyalty to the organization.
The problem here is that what is keeping them up at night is brought on by their own doing. In the name of corporate image, management issues these statements which sound good on paper but in reality mean nothing.
Consider these examples.
Our human capital assets quickly learn how much meaning is behind the words expressed by management. It becomes the basis for their commitment to the organization. We are now faced with a generational issue in the workplace that does not believe a word that is said. They have learned that actions are more important than what is said. The problem is in the long run it directly affects how our organizations survive.
The Voice of the Customer (Employee)
Our organizations receive messages from two sides of the marketplace. The first is from the outside of the organization, represented by the customers who hire us to deliver what they need better, faster, and quicker than our competitors. They are telling us what they need to be successful in the ever-changing market. They tell us what it is that they are willing to pay for that is part of our service package.
At the same time we are hearing from those customers from the outside the organization, we are hearing from those customers we have internally. We either clearly or implied led them to believe that as an organizational family we would provide certain conditions to the workplace. All too often organizations tend to forget that understanding. We consider those human capital assets as expense items rather than the critical element in our success as an organization. We forget that it is their knowledge that keeps us afloat. When we provide either internal or external customers with a message that is not based in our true intentions we tell them that we can’t be trusted. We are telling them that the brand we present is a false one. This leaves them with only two recourses. The first is to stay despite the untruths or they can take their business or knowledge and take it else where in the market.
The Correct Message – Truth in Brand
It is critical that we take the time to reconsider our messages to all our stakeholders because they are the ones that determine whether our brand is authentic or a ruse in the market. They are the ones who direct us in the direction of fight or flight. We can do this through the following actions:
Strategy # 1: Our messages are aligned with the correct strategic initiatives – Management must make the decisions as to the direction that the organization is headed. This direction should be aligned with the intent to meet the demands of the customers. If the basis of the decision is purely bottom line, the tendency is to make wrong decisions. The correct initiatives are centered on eliminating waste while still preserving the organizational values. The initiatives should be centered on the resources of the organization and how they meet the demands of the customer.
Strategy #2: Our messages are aligned with the goal of being the best place to work? – Are you headed towards Chapter 7? If you are not the message that should be found in your communications is that unless we are filing for dissolution, there will never be a layoff. What we promise is that if we have a change in customer demand we will retool and retrain existing assets to meet the new demands. The goal of any organization should be that they are the employer of choice in the market. The quality of their message will determine this goal. The message has to be that we respect the employee for their value. They are no longer just a line on the P&L.
Strategy #3: Our messages are aligned with effective response to the needs of our stakeholders – I will not get into a full blown argument in this strategy, other than saying if you are only concerned with the needs of shareholders you are selling the organization short. Our authentic message to everyone who has a stake in the success of our business must be consistent. The message must be the same to your suppliers, your investors, your staff and your management. The objective is to extend the belief that we can be expected to follow the message we are putting out on the street.
Strategy #4: Our messages are centered on the importance of the customer to the organization – We need to say clearly and often that our customers are the central building block of the organization. We are confronted with a two- legged stool. The first leg is the outside customer who without their presence in our organization, we would not have an organization. The second leg is represented by the human capital assets that we have added to the organization to meet the demands of the customers. Without this balance both sides of the scale suffer.
Yesterday is the past, today is the present
We can’t make up for the mistakes of our organizational past. We can however ensure that we have learned from our mistakes. It is critical that when we release communication efforts that our messages are based in the true belief that our message clearly manifests who we are as an organization. We are fully aware that there is power in the word, but it must be genuine in not only its message but also its intent. We are in a world where platitudes no longer solidify the brand of the organization.