Employees Can Be Your Most Important Change Agents

Employees as change agents

Employees as change agents

The Internet and the explosive growth of social networks have changed the way companies do business.

They must choose among many communications channels to build their brands.

Their employees can help but are often ignored by companies who still rely on advertising to push out their products and services.

Transforming Your Business

Companies could control their brands when advertising was king. That’s old, old. Companies no longer define their brands. Consumers do by their posts to social media, word of mouth, and permission marketing, the term coined by thought leader Seth Godin.

It’s not an overstatement to say that business transformation will only be accomplished by gaining the commitment of employees at all levels to drive growth and performance. The key to ensuring success is consistency of communications to the right people at the right time with the right messages. Employees can be the conduits.

Companies are struggling to control their brand essence and key messages. Communicating positive news is more important than ever in the 24/7 news cycle and with an Internet that can circulate good – and bad – news around the globe in a matter of seconds.

Employees as Brand Advocates

But many companies are overlooking their most important brand advocates to the outside world – their own employees — because they don’t engage their employees in the process.

It is employees who are most often the primary interface between the company and its customers. But the media is an increasingly intrusive “partner” as reporters pounce on every bad piece of company news – often coming from the mouths of unhappy employees who are left out of the loop about important new company developments.

Online chat rooms and social networking sites such Twitter and Facebook provide a public platform for employees – and customers — to vent their grievances.

New technologies are transforming the way companies do business. But employees are underutilized as advocates of change. They are not being motivated to rally around the company’s mission and goals.

A Failure of Communication

Organizations such as Pfizer and IBM are leaders in engaging with their employees to benefit their companies. The internal communication efforts of other companies often fail because:

•    Behaviors don’t match the message, especially senior executive behaviors
•    Communicating is not viewed as an important process
•    Communication is blocked at many levels – up, down and across
•    Complicated and lengthy approval processes prevent timely distribution of information
•    Employees don’t hear things first, thus a loss of faith develops
•    Too much is communicated and more important messages are lost in the clutter
•    Employees are turning to external message boards and social networks for news about their own company

Companies that find their employees turning to the Internet as their primary source of information about the company they work for have lost their most vital change agents.

Is your company engaging its employees to help drive business transformation?

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Comments

  1. Good post Jeannette.

    The problems you describe mainly happens when top managment are managers and not leaders. The fact that all on C-level regard themselves as leaders is another story:-)

    Isn’t it amazing that such managers don’t understand the damage even one employee wenting their grievances online can cause?

    Or worse if the angry employee in question has a friend at the New York Times who gets an article published in said publication. Then a small company can easily go bancrupt and multinationals will lose millions.

    • Catarina — so true. It’s the “head-in-the-sand” syndrome. They just can’t believe that bad news will get out because as the bosses they feel they can control everything. As you point out, the news media is just dying to get the inside scoop and can always find a disgruntled employee to give it to them.

  2. Boy can I relate to this. When my former company was going through a buyout. Instead of keeping everyone informed, the senior leadership shut every form of communication down and reprimanded the employees for engaging as well. The fact was we were all getting the facts from our online stream and it was spot on. In the end the company was sold and half of the employees lost their jobs. The brand was not in a good way when the company changed hands and it still struggles with a bad rep on streets today… Sigh!

    • Susan — What you experienced is not uncommon. Listen to this one: quite a few years ago my company was acquired and planned to move its offices from NY to Denver. A number of people were offered jobs in the Denver and others were let go with severance. The “lucky” ones sold their homes and bought new houses in Denver. Guess what? The acquiring firm knew all along that it was going to shut down the company and move all the jobs to LA. The people who were set to move to Denver were let go. Can you believe it? True story.

  3. Dan – I’m pleased you can still use a “smile” face even though you’ve had bad experiences yourself with companies that don’t communicate.

  4. To be honest I am not sure it is a case of head in the sand. I think they are still getting their heads around the best way to do it. That said I worked for Pfizer in the early 90s and even back then they were fantastic about communication with their employees. The division I was in was getting sold and around the world knew what was happening and each step. They also took steps to help those affected which I still remember.

    • Susan — Pfizer’s intranet is mind-boggling.The head of global internal communications gave me a tour in preparation for our joint presentation to HR.com. They apply practically no filters on what employees can say and they have over 100K employees and even more vendors who have access to the network. It’s quite extraordinary. They are way ahead of the curve.

  5. “Employees are underutilized as advocates of change.” That holds true whether for business or for the education field. Not that I necessarily advocate treating public schooling like its a business, but it wouldn’t hurt to give it a try. Lack of communication in mission and goals will be what drives education in this country into the ground. Teachers are not valued as advocates of change, which means education will continue to be stagnant rather than transformative.

  6. Jeannette, I’d be curious of what you think about my perspective on change agents. I agree with you that employees are the key move the whole ship in a new promising direction.

    • Kashif – thanks for stopping by. I read your post on change agents and left you a comment with my thoughts. Employees no doubt can help in moving in a new direction. They can also be stumbling blocks.