Increase the impact of your messaging

Messaging defines the point we’re trying to get across, whether it’s an individual engaged in casual conversation, a political leader making a speech, or a company telegraphing the value of its brand. But often, messaging is too complicated and overblown.

To be useful, messages need to be internalized by those who deliver them. Not rote memorization, but a deep-seated understanding of what needs to be communicated.

Take these five principles to heart when crafting your messages to reach your audiences more effectively:

1. Messages are ideas, not copy.

This is where most messaging falls down. It’s a matter of understanding what a message actually is. The message isn’t the words you use. It is the “sticky” thought you want your audience to remember ten minutes after you’ve walked out of the room.

More importantly, the message should never appear in copy! In the 1992 Presidential primaries, then-candidate George Bush inadvertently read aloud a note inserted into his speech by an aide: “Message: I care.” That aide understood the true nature of messaging: It’s the thought that counts. The language you use to deliver that thought is something else entirely.

2. Keep it simple.

The simpler the message, the more memorable it will be – and therefore, the more useful for you and meaningful for your audience. No one will remember a long paragraph loaded with detail or a complex sentence. Everyone can remember a straightforward idea, expressed simply.

A sales associate should not have to refer to a written guide to remember what should be communicated. Use whatever words are necessary to deliver the thought but keep the message itself as simple as possible. Secondary messaging can be created to support and add dimension but should never get in the way of communicating the pure, clear idea of the main message.

3. Keep it streamlined.

How many messages could you remember if you had to? Less is definitely more. Your set of main messages should encompass what you need to communicate but be flexible enough to carry multiple meanings depending on the language used to communicate the thought.

For example, a message like “We make a meaningful difference in people’s lives” might come through in copy about products, social responsibility, client relationships or the workplace environment. Different words, different audiences, different uses, but the same core message.

4. Make it relevant.

The only messages that will be remembered are the ones that the recipient finds meaningful and compelling. Often, we see companies so wrapped up in their internal structure and culture that they lose sight of the fact that to an outside audience, none of that matters much. Or the message may fall back on meaningless platitudes.

Craft credible messages that those on the receiving end can relate to, with just enough detail to make what you communicate meaningful.

5. Use it wisely.

It’s neither necessary nor wise to say everything, every time. It is, however, necessary to send the message repeatedly and in different ways to make sure it sticks.

Choose the proof points and supporting messages you use to make your point in a way that resonates with your audience. Also, be selective in which messages you send at any given time: If you’re lucky, your audience might take away one or two thoughts, so it’s best to focus and stay on-topic. Trying to get six ideas across will only muddy the waters.

How to Reshape Collaborative Brainstorming to Mine for Creative Inspiration

As Design Thinking continues to change how innovation is achieved by many product and service providers worldwide, the traditional tools and techniques for capturing and incorporating the voice of the consumer are in much need of reshaping as well. Conventional focus groups serve their purpose when planned and facilitated well. Likewise, collaborative brainstorming sessions need to be well crafted and executed to take advantage of what participating consumers, clients and creatives do best.
Our brand of Design Thinking features a tool kit of methodologies including Co-Magination® Sessions that take group collaborative brainstorming to a new and more productive level. Beyond obvious distinctions to many focus group and consumer-centric collaborative sessions (e.g. keeping all participants in the same room(s), and live illustrative capture of seed ideas as output throughout), here are five tips that can make any session more effective, with output that is more prolific and inspiring.

1. Appreciate that Everyone Is Creative, or Can Be.

To some extent, everyone can be creative, especially if invited to become part of a creative team as a unique and valued contributor. Introduce consumer participants as the experts in their individual experiences with the category, products or services you are re-imagining together. They will take pride in contributing their expertise, perspective and experience, as no one else can.

2. Work Together as Creative Peers.

Beyond the clichéd “there are no bad ideas,” we live by “there are no bad voices,” or at least no more important ones than others. Working shoulder-to-shoulder, likely for the first time, clients, consumers and design innovators become empathic and constructive collaborators when there is no perceived hierarchy in the group. This democratic approach will surprise you by the quality of the insight and inspiration it produces, and the passion it is often voiced with.

3. Make it Engaging, Make It Interesting, and Make It Fun.

Participants can all too easily shut down if they feel they are in for two hours of seated Q&A. Get them up, get them thinking, and make sure everyone is comfortable and responsible for contributing. All activities should relate to the session’s area of focus. No frivolous, off-topic chit-chat, “creative squeaky toys,” play-doh or beanbag chairs, unless any of those are relevant to the task at hand. These can be a distraction and a waste of your valuable time together. Through various exercises including role playing, accelerated reenactments, competitive breakouts, mini presentations, among others, get everyone to immerse themselves in the moment, draw from their individual life experiences and check their self-consciousness at the door.

4. Make Sure You Have the Right Creative Talent.

We deploy our Design Innovators into the mix to be inspired by the collaborative output. Although consumer and client participants may be creative, insightful and full of great ideas, most are not able to articulate or visualize what a real world feature, attribute or concept might look or feel like. The talent and experience of your creative team is key to translating spoken whim into viable, visible direction, spontaneously, for iterative enhancement and directional validation.

5. Don’t Be Misled by Personal Favorites.

And finally, don’t put too much weight on participant selected “favorite ideas.” Do however listen to how they defend their preferred directions to learn what pet peeves and inconveniences they want to solve. In traditional focus groups and even in many collaborative group sessions, clients and facilitators are easily tempted to take consumer input as direction. We prefer to use it as inspiration. There’s a goldmine there, if you know what you’re listening for.

Building Brands from the Inside, Out

What is a brand?

Your company’s brand is the window of opportunity to link the internal and external sides of your business to impact the bottom line. In practice, it is the sum of the distinctive experiences your company delivers to your customers, prospects, media, investors, employees and other key audiences.

Many large organizations like Deloitte and GE recognize the roles HR and branding together play in the wider business, but many smaller companies have yet to take advantage of the links between HR and branding.

We are on a mission to show the need for HR and branding to work together – or as Meghan M. Biro says, ‘It’s Time To Get Real: ‘Humanize Your Brand.’

Here are five ways HR professionals can shape organizational development through exceptional partnerships between HR and branding:

  1. Become best friends with your branding colleagues! Make it your mission to learn the messages that are being delivered to your customers and educate employees on what those messages mean for them and how they interact with each other. But, don’t stop there! Enlist the help of your branding and marketing team colleagues to shape employee messages to meet the needs of employees and customers alike in an engaging and motivational way, while aligned to HR best practices…

Head over to TalentCulture to learn more top tips!

How to Beat the Odds and Ensure a More Successful Acquisition

Unfortunately, mergers aren’t always successful. Some fail because one company overestimates the worth of the other—and overpays. Other times, failure can be linked to a lack of synergy in services, products, resources or markets. But history—and a recent KPMG study reveal that cultural misalignment among other issues put the failure rate of mergers at 83%. And it’s culture that drives employee behavior. Before the merger papers are signed, here are five tips to help you make sure your acquisition will be smoothly integrated into your business.

1. Assess the cultural gaps

The acquiring firm should compare and contrasts its own cultural behaviors with the acquired firm to determine what they share and what’s different. Is the management command and control, or more democratic? Is one company staffed with long-tenured employees and the other with Millenials? Performance reviews, employee on-boarding practices, and internal communications are just some of the processes that should be evaluated and compared side-by-side. This will reveal insights where the greatest degree of changes may be required.

2. Identify the strengths and values of the acquired brand

Companies with well-defined brands may have strong values built on a legacy of service and production. It’s important to evaluate the strength of the established brand and consider how to keep any valuable and unique equities that characterize their culture.

3. Create a realistic timeline for the integration process

Integrating an acquisition into your organization requires a timeline that takes into account the unique cultures of both companies. The initial assessment will tell you the areas to go slow or speed up. Identify key milestones such as a stabilized workforce and when HR platforms are fully incorporated. Play out different scenarios for change before you start the process. The benefits of doing so means you’ll have a smoother period of transition if you know where you’re headed.

4. Chart the specific areas for cultural and operational transition

Acquiring a company takes more than just assuming another business. There are operational issues in factories, systems in HR, communication brand standards and employees to consider. Assign teams to manage different areas that can coordinate what needs to be done across organization. Create a cross-functional “merger” team with representatives from both companies to have a “two-way” view of the process.

5. Build a communication strategy to keep everyone informed

Change produces anxiety. Lack of information prompts rumor. As a central element of an acquisition process, build a communication strategy that informs and engages all stakeholders from both acquirer and the acquired organization during the transition process. Go beyond Town Hall and occasional newsletters. Consider two-way feedback between both sides of the acquisition through internal online forums and workshops.

How to Leverage Technology to Enhance Your Employee Review Process

More and more, research is showing that the traditional annual review process is clunky, time consuming, and failing to deliver the results employees, managers and organizations need. But, review data is vital for assessing role competencies and for understanding talent development needs. That’s why many HR teams are redefining their employee review processes through new technology. These five tips can help you make the most of technology to enhance your employee review process.

1. Drive accessibility through technology to enable 360° peer reviews

When building a brand-aligned employee review process, it’s vital that all employees be able to give and receive feedback to ensure non-biased and fair reviews. However, some employees on the factory floor or working out of an office may not have computer access. An easily accessible, web-app review tool can enable 360-degree feedback from all employees. It can drive engagement and deliver valuable data about how well employees are living your brand.

2. Align your employee reviews to desired brand-focused behaviors

When creating a new employee review process, technology can help you to measure brand-focused goals such as brand personality attributes or brand service principles. The key is creating a metric that makes it easy for managers and peers to assess employees against brand behaviors, which are pivotal to keeping the brand promise that you make to your customers.

3. Keep technology simple to capture valuable data

An easy-to-use, dynamic interface is key when adopting new technology. If it’s helpful, people will use it. Create a simple, portable tool that allows employees to provide real-time feedback about their peers who are living brand behaviors and you will collect valuable review data. With so much of what employees do in the workplace now online, the ability to record how employees perform is easier than ever. The more data you have, the more you can inform training, development, recognition and hiring needs all aligned to your brand strategy.

4. Technology is only part of the process

Peer review technology enlightens the wider review process; it is not the only source of information. The data makes it easy to have frequent and periodic two-way conversations between managers and employees to discuss the performance and development needs of each person.

5. Technology is just a tool

Technology doesn’t drive brand engagement; brand engagement drives the use of employee review technology. Technology is a useful tool to collect information for employee reviews and for employees themselves to see their part in the review process. New technology can enhance how employees work, but if it is not aligned to organizational goals, it will be useless. Using data to inform effective development conversations is the key to getting the most from your technology.

Create Recruitment Messaging That Will Attract the Right Candidates for Your Brand

Finding candidates is tough. Finding the right candidates can be even tougher. But, recruiting the best candidates is key for growing your business successfully. Getting the best people in the door means using your organization’s external brand to identify the prospects that can best execute that strategy. To find the right employees for your business, take a more brand-aligned approach to recruitment. These five tips can help you attract the best candidates to your organization:

1. Create brand consistency across recruitment outlets

When a candidate searches for a job on your internal recruitment pages, LinkedIn, Career Builder, or Glassdoor, they get an impression of your company and that impression influences whether candidates will apply.

Many websites offer standard templates that make it easy to adopt their format. Be careful following their templates means you lose an opportunity to create a consistent brand message across all channels. Using your own template gives you better control of the recruitment process to find the best-fit employees for your business. Write your job description headline in the same unique brand voice as all your marketing communications.

2. Differentiate your company from competitors

Your brand is how your customers differentiate your product or service from your competitors. Unfortunately, many companies use boilerplate text in a recruitment ad that’s not appealing to applicants. To get the best candidates for your roles, communicate the key differences of your product or service throughout all parts of the recruitment process. Including, when messaging to internal and external candidates, during the complete interview procedure, and when making final offers to candidates.

3. Use language to entice and engage

To engage applicants, you need to use engaging language. If applicants feel as though you have invested little time in recruiting them, they are likely to be the kind of people who will invest little time in your company. By describing your company’s mission, vision and values so that people know who you are and what you stand for and by spending time explaining the position in honest terms applicants gain real insight into the open position. This way, you get applicants who are prepared for what’s the job offer and who are passionate about your brand.

4. Make templates easy to implement by your entire HR team

Needs change, roles change, and so do your HR employees who create the recruitment ads. Using a template that describes the basic recruitment details aligned to your company’s brand ensures uniformity across the recruitment process. As a result, you will receive a consistent caliber of applicants across your organization.

5. After recruiting, drive your brand across your HR practices

Once you have people in the door, it’s easy to think they will settle into your culture because you’ve spent the time to find the right fit. However, if you don’t continue the ‘on brand’ experience, people will quickly feel the recruitment messages they received were misleading and they will not understand how to deliver your brand promise. Drive your brand through onboarding, recognition and reward, and ongoing development to keep employees engaged and aligned to your organizational goals.

Educate Employees on Your Brand to Drive Your Business Strategy

A brand is much more than a name for a company, a product or service. The power of a brand runs much deeper. A brand holds with it an expectation of service, product type, product variety, reliability, fun or loyalty. It should be a total experience, driven by a set of values that are aligned to your business strategy and demonstrated daily by your employees.

Before you can expect employees to live your brand, they need to understand what makes a brand unique. These five tips can help you to drive your business strategy by educating employees on your brand:

1. Help employees to understand branding

Many people don’t understand how branding works; but as consumers, we are all used to branding when we make purchase decisions. Your goal is to move employees from having general knowledge of branding as members of a consumer society through to seeing your brand as an organizational asset. Ultimately, they will learn how their roles as employees can be aligned to their brand.

2. Drive the importance of brand positioning

Making your product or service stand out from the competition is paramount if you want to stay in business. Work with your employees to understand what makes your offering different and how they can contribute to that differentiation to help your brand stand out from the crowd. Being successfully differentiated is how to best utilize your blend of employees, products, and culture. Involving employees in defining and shaping your brand also helps to drive employee brand engagement; a key factor in business success.

3. Explore your brand promise

How employees interact with your customers and with each other is integral to your business success. Do your employees also live the promises you make to your consumers? Do they fulfill those promises with every consumer interaction and fellow employee? Educating employees about your brand promise helps them to understand what behaviors they need to display to drive that promised experience to your customers.

Branding isn’t always about big, flashy advertising campaigns. It’s about creating differentiation from your competitors. Every company has a brand. Whether or not you choose to manage your brand, however, can be the difference between success and failure in business.

4. The right brand education can make or break your brand promise

Educating employees on the behaviors needed to live your brand promise is one thing, but using education to change behavior requires creativity. Individualizing training through personalizing your brand for employees and preparing trainers with the right tools to make the most impact for all types of learners helps make new behaviors stick. For example, you can train employees by asking them to apply the brand behaviors to realistic scenarios based on everyday work experiences. Starbucks created a major facility and exhibit to physically immerse managers and employees in the brand experience.

5. Reinforce and instill employee brand behaviors

Reinforcing desired brand behaviors is fundamental to lasting success of employees living the brand. Give people opportunities to practice and be measured on their ability to use their new skills in the real world. Consider initiatives like peer reviews of brand-aligned behavior. Branded recruitment and onboarding programs can also help embed new behaviors for the longer term.

Measuring the Impact of Employee Engagement on Your Stock Price

Organizations make major investments to recruit, train, motivate and retain an exceptional workforce. That’s important because according to The Public Affairs Pulse survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, one-third of Americans form their view of a company’s brand based on their interactions with the company’s employees. That means employee’s attitudes and performance can impact a purchasing decision, which can affect a company’s stock price.

If you’re a publicly traded company, here are five tips to consider when calculating the return on your investment in your human capital:

1. Pay close attention to employees’ evaluations of managers and leaders

Managers wield huge influence in employees’ job satisfaction. An inspiring and supportive manager can drive employee performance, while a punitive, callous boss creates ill will and attrition, which can be costly in terms of recruiting a replacement. Give employees the freedom to evaluate their managers openly and anonymously to identify who your company’s heroes really are.

2. Make sure customer satisfaction surveys align with employee performance reports

When customer satisfaction surveys are excellent, it’s likely that employee performance reports will concur. But sometimes customers may complain about employee service and employee performance reports give an entirely different picture. Check to see both sides of the story to get a balanced view of what’s really going on.

3. Ask employees what kind of benefits they really want

Employee benefits such as health insurance and paid sick leave may be standard, but many employers offer other options including variable work hours, job sharing, and childcare allowances. Asking the majority of employees the kind of benefits they want may help manage benefit budgets by eliminating unwanted options.

4. Look for the hidden reasons people are leaving

Employees may be embarrassed or too angry to offer useful information during an exit interview. It’s important to follow up after an employee leaves to get clarity that can provide future guidance. Look for common issues when employees under the same manager quit. Consider personal issues such as workplace bullying or harassment.

5. Discount Social Media comments and reviews

Social media sites such as Twitter, Glassdoor and Indeed offer employees and customers opportunities to praise or complain about experiences with companies. While this new access to commentary can be enlightening, be wary. Research reveals that people who post on sites represent the extremes of positive and negative. Rarely do those who make up the greater happy middle take the time to post.

How To Reinforce Your Company’s Brand Through Employee Recognition and Reward Programs

Recognizing and rewarding your employees for demonstrating desired brand behaviors breeds a culture in which employees feel nurtured and inspired to act on-brand.

To truly make your brand a part of your company’s culture, you have to make it personal for your employees. That means translating your brand strategy to manifest in their everyday actions. Recognizing and rewarding the success of their actions is paramount to creating a loyal and inspired workforce.

So while you may be both recognizing and rewarding your employees, ask yourself: Are you managing your program in a way that supports your overall business strategy and conveys your company’s brand values? To create a recognition and rewards program that will reinforce your brand and support your business strategy, here are our five tips.

1. Define on-brand behavior

Many organizations reward their employees, but are they prompting the brand-focused behaviors in the right way? To drive on-brand behavior, you must create “real-life” brand definitions that are relevant and meaningful to all employees. Creating actionable brand definitions helps employees see how being brand-conscious can be done. It helps them understand how putting thoughts into actions will create lasting brand impressions on customers or other key constituencies. It provides evidence of how business processes and the culture of the company communicate brand messages even if there isn’t face-to-face contact with customers.

2. Recognize first, then reward

Rewards programs help reinforce behaviors, but recognizing employees can be even more valuable. Recognition is something employees have earned that can never be taken from them. A simple verbal thank you, a genuine hand written note, or a visit with a senior leader are invaluable forms of recognition. Reinforcing on-brand behaviors through appropriate reward ensures employees will be motivated. Successful reward programs could include a special parking space nearer the office. Or allowing an employee to share the story behind the reason for recognition at a company Lunch and Learn.

3. Model winning behaviors through brand ambassadors

Employees who receive frequent recognition and reward are your true brand ambassadors. These people naturally model the on-brand behaviors to those around them. Leverage those exemplary employees by using their approaches to inform and support recruitment, onboarding and training programs.

4. Enable any employee to recognize on-brand behavior

Recognition for a job well done or demonstrating brand behaviors can come from anywhere: a manager, a leader, a customer or a peer. When an employee recognizes brand behavior, it’s really a two-way street: the “recognizer” must be familiar enough with the behavior to see it in a co-worker. When employees receive recognition from a variety of sources, it is likely to reinforce them to continue the behavior in the future.

5. Find out who in your organization is going unrecognized

Employees who don’t ever receive recognition are worthy of your attention, too. Find out the reason why some people are going unrecognized. Whether it’s their lack of understanding about the brand, infrequent education or even personal issues, it’s important to find out if it’s something about the individual employee or a sign of wider organizational issues.

Engagement in the Workplace: Make it Meaningful

When employees are engaged they want to go the extra mile for their organization. It occurs when employees feel a sense of connectedness, belonging to, and responsibility for an organization’s success. They care about the organization’s future and the future of those within it.

To engage employees, a deeper understanding of human nature is needed. These five tips can help you bring inspiration and drive to your workforce:

1. Inspire to engage

Helping your employees to understand why they do the work they do and the value that it adds to your organization’s goals, will help them to feel more connected to your company and more motivated to achieve for its growth. However, creating ‘the why’ needs to be done in a meaningful and heartfelt way and not focused on financial gain for the company. An employee wants to feel they are making a difference, not simply making your dollars.

2. Appreciate people to get more than their baseline

Often managers think that because someone is paid for their work, they do not need extra recognition. Unfortunately, by taking that approach, you will only get the basic work requirements from your employee. However, if an employee feels appreciated for the work they do, and they see that are making a difference; they will be driven to reach new heights. When you recognize your employees for their efforts, be sure to that you recognize them for the things you want them to repeat. If you want to see your employees engage in more teamwork, don’t reward them for meeting individual targets. Creating a peer-to-peer feedback and reward mechanism that encourages employees to learn about their peer’s work to be in line for recognition is one way to achieve this.

3. Make diversity a reality

People from different backgrounds, cultures and countries think differently. I’ve known this in theory throughout my career, but only when I moved to a new country did I realize the real difference cultural factors make in decision-making. Diverse teams allow people to learn from each other’s varied backgrounds to create solutions that excite and engage those working on them and produce increased revenue for your organization.

4. Create a mobile workforce

Giving employees the opportunity to visit different parts of the business helps them to build new networks, learn new ways of working and it sparks innovative ideas. Mobility also helps employees to feel more valued because they feel invested in and, therefore, integral to the organization’s success.

5. Build communities

Communities of employees with shared interests and goals, encourages collaboration on projects even when people are dispersed globally or functionally. Examples include Google Hangouts, Slack, Facebook and other social networking tools. They also create awareness of product, processes or services that work well elsewhere in the business. Communities help people to connect the dots in their organizations so that they gain a deeper understanding of where they fit and where they can add a new perspective.

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