Tag Archives: strategy

Portugal’s secret to colleague engagement

Increased employee engagement is a common goal for businesses. However, if raising wages or reducing working hours isn’t a plausible option for you, Portugal proves there are alternative approaches you can take.

Increases in colleague engagement can often be explained by traditional improvements to a business, such as higher wages, reduced working hours and better leadership. Occasionally an anomaly arises, providing a unique insight into other areas, and when it does we must seize it with both hands.

Employers in Portugal have been doing just that. Between 2013 and 2016, the average employee in Portugal was working longer and earning less, in worse working environments and under lower quality leadership.

However, there has also been an increase in colleague engagement during the same period. This contrasts greatly to their European neighbours, whose increased or decreased engagement correlates directly to the wages of colleagues and hours worked.*

Nadim Habib, Visiting Professor at the Nova School of Business and Economics in Lisbon, said: “The Portuguese financial crisis effectively killed off the weaker organisations in the country. In contrast, the organisations that survived have come out stronger, with a more international outlook and with better management structures and practices.”

While we would advise it best to avoid a country-wide financial crisis to shake up the way you boost engagement within your company, the key changes that the period brought about can be acknowledged and adopted to reap the same benefits.

According to Professor Habib, lower salaries force organisations to seek other ways to provide employees with a sense of purpose and engagement.

These include:
• Sharing and discussing strategy with all employees
• Giving colleagues the freedom to figure out the solutions to projects themselves, contributing to company successes
• Having more meaningful conversations about career prospects
• Allowing employees to have more involvement in cross departmental projects
• Celebrating good work.

Cultural elements have also affected the engagement levels of colleagues in Portuguese businesses.

“Portugal still has a significant number of large family businesses who bring a family logic to the organisation, making employees feel part of something bigger,” explained Professor Habib.

“Because we are a small country, we are closer to each other and therefore good management practices are easier to see and copy. This speeds up adoption of good employee engagement methodologies.”

* Effectory International and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Guest blog: how to be a real IC pro

Sean Williams, owner of Communication AMMO and managing consultant for True Digital Communications, blogs about why measurement is the key to better IC for your business.

We shouldn’t need to say it. As internal communicators, we’re one of the few in an organisation who can take the pulse of the firm. Even in our editorial roles, we talk to people all the time.

We (hopefully) know the business, its goals, challenges, strengths. We understand leadership’s priorities and how communication can help move them forward.

We’re the experts. You might say that in some ways, we need to change how we approach our work. We have to change as professionals.

We need to make decisions based on facts and data, not conjecture and conventional wisdom. That takes research.

I’m not saying it all has to be quantitative, academically bullet-proof (though that doesn’t hurt), but we’re the only ones who can bring employee intelligence forward to the leadership.

We need to find the balance between just executing and doing proper outreach, judging the effectiveness of our messaging, channels, tools and techniques.

Imagine a conversation with your boss like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got 400 hits on our strategy story last week!

Boss – So?

You – Uhhhhhh.

Been there? It should be more like this:

Boss – What’s happening with our employees?

You – We got a lot of comments on the strategy story. Most were OK, but a couple of them make me think we need to test some other ways of explaining the strategy to make it more relevant to more people. I followed up with a couple of calls to some people, and I have some ideas about what to do differently.

B – Tell me more!

Sean Williams
Sean Williams

That’s a different dynamic. We need more research up front, more evaluation during our communication activities, and more measurement afterwards to connect with business objectives.

I know internal commsters are totally slammed, but this is about being a serious business person. No other department gets away with ignoring this vital discipline.

The fact is that the ‘traditional’ IC person – the ex-journalist who primarily is a writer/editor, who has little experience within the operations of the business, and/or whose educational background is outside the business world – may be considered an endangered species.

In the US, IC is usually part of HR, PR, or occasionally the legal department. There is little professional education focused on the strategic assets of IC, except for the Corporate Executive Board (which now offers the IC Black Belt programme begun by Melcrum).

There still is too much emphasis on the ‘tools’ of IC – enterprise social networks, intranets, SharePoint and the like – and not enough on the research, measurement and evaluation that tests connections between employee communication effectiveness and business results.

Here are three things that I believe all IC people should focus on right away:

1. Brush up your research skills. We need not become statisticians, but we should gain familiarity with the common measures at the output level – and test the connections to both communication outcomes and to business impact. These can be quantitative and/or qualitative. Take a class, for heaven’s sake. Then do some interviews, convene some focus groups, send out a SurveyMonkey – and use the data to change and improve your plans.

2. Do a time study. Take a hard look at what you and your team are doing day to day. Which activities contribute most significantly to organisational objectives? Which don’t? Stop doing things that don’t add value. Of course, this is a difficult road to drive – but you can refocus on higher value-added activities. The proof will be in the pudding.

3. Ask more questions. We need to understand what is changing, or needs to change, in our organisation. We need to know what we’re trying to accomplish, the objectives and goals of those changes. Ask ‘why?’ What are the reasons behind the decisions we’re making? And, not least, what is the effect on our people? The easy acronym is CORE – it’s what our people want to know about virtually everything.

If we dedicate ourselves to these three tasks, we’ll be well on the way to becoming the IC pros of the future.

Case study: Engaging the workforce at the North Pole

Elf engagement at the North Pole has been overhauled, resulting in its highest ever engagement score. We asked the Chief Elf Officer (CEO) how they’ve done it.

What’s the history behind employee engagement at the North Pole?

Being an elf’s a vocation so, although it will never make them ‘welfy’, we’re lucky that our workforce is a dedicated one. Making wishes come true on Christmas Day is an amazing project to be part of.

However, just because our elves are passionate, it doesn’t mean we have it easy. Until you’ve seen the operation we run, it’s hard to imagine the level of preparation required to ensure that Christmas Eve runs without a hitch and that the right presents are delivered, on time, to 1.9 billion children.

What are your biggest challenges?

Elves enter the profession as youngsters, and employee turnover is extremely low. Our oldest elf is 3,548 years old! Keeping them engaged for so many years and introducing new ways of working to those who are set in their ways is tricky. Then there’s the post-Christmas lull to contend with. Plus, we employ 550,000 elves, so uniting them is another challenge.

What is your strategy for keeping them engaged?

Since Christmas 2015, it’s been to empower, involve and appreciate them, every day.

It’s not groundbreaking, but it works. We want the elves to understand that they are all important parts of a giant jigsaw, grasp the bigger picture of where they fit in, and know that they can make a huge difference. And lastly, we have made Santa far more visible, following feedback that the elves thought he was always off eating mince pies, yet still got most of the glory at Christmas.

So what have you done differently this year?

We’ve made lots of changes in conjunction with our IC agency. Our biggest success has been introducing an elf app called Appy Christmas. It’s taken a while, but 90 per cent of the workforce has now downloaded it as their schedules and pay slips can be accessed on it.

In December 2015, we began trialling Facebook’s ESN, Workplace, which has turned out to be a wonderful tool for collaborating, networking and generating ideas. Through Workplace Live Santa now broadcasts live video message updates to all elves, wherever they are. It’s broken down barriers between Santa and the elves as he’s so active on it and they can see what he’s really doing – and that he’s a busy guy. Everyone’s on a level playing field on Workplace.

We’ve also relaunched our employee magazine, The Grotto, so it now focuses on in-depth features that you wouldn’t want to read on a screen.

The Tinsels – quarterly awards through which Santa recognises and rewards high-performing elves – have been introduced. They’ve been great for elf-esteem and for ensuring the elves know they’re appreciated.

Lastly, we’ve introduced fortnightly lunch and learn sessions with the reindeer. It’s addressing a disconnect between them and the elves, and now that the elves can remember all of their names, things are really improving.

What does The Grotto app involve?

It’s a great for instantly sharing news and announcements – and it encourages two-way conversation. We use it for polls and pulse checks, which empowers the elves and allows them to have their say. There’s also an Elfstagram section where the elves share Elfies, and Santa occasionally comments on them, which is driving engagement.

What have the results of all this been?

Our elf engagement survey has shown that we have 89 per cent engagement, which is extremely high. More than ever, everyone knows their own roles in conjunction with everyone else’s, which means less error and duplication, and more success.

On most days, you’ll find whistling, cheering and smiling across the workshop, mail house, wrapping and loading departments – everywhere. Safe to say, smiling’s our favourite!