Can We Invite a Motivational Speaker For Our Leadership Meet?


Divya heads HR at Isle Management and is in discussion with her management team on their annual employee survey results. They are dismayed by what they read.  They invite their business leaders to decode the findings. Here is an excerpt from their conversation. I invite you to share your views on this case.

Divya: “It is difficult to comprehend that our managers are not motivated enough. We do so much to engage them all around the year and they are the face of the organization for their teams.”

Tony (IT head): “I agree.  We provide industry leading benefits and offer opportunities to progress in their careers. What more can anyone ask for?”

Isabel (Finance leader): (nodding her head) “Completely agree. There is so much of investment we make – sending them for seminars, conferences and trainings. Despite that they feel they are not engaged enough. I don’t get it”.

Violet (business partner): “I have spent months explaining how we can look at last year’s findings and make the workplace come alive. We do so many engaging activities, support the business with insights to improve connection – yet….(her voice fades).

Anil (strategy head): “It is an unhealthy sign. Indicates that leaders are not sufficiently motivated to lead their teams. We have shown them where we are heading as a company and what we expect of them. What more can be expected?”

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Divya: “Thinking aloud – why don’t we call for a leadership meet?”

Anil: “What will we achieve?”

Divya: “It will be good to get them away from the workplace, get fresh perspectives and open their minds to newer ways of engaging”

Tony: “But how?”

Divya: “By inviting an inspirational speaker from outside to address our leaders!”

Violet: “What a wonderful idea. How clever!”

Anil: “I like it. Let us do this. I am sure people will love to be motivated. We tried and it didn’t work. So hopefully, someone else can.”

Isabel (sounding apprehensive): “Sorry folks, I am not sure about this. What will happen after this person speaks?”

Divya (looking offended): “What do you mean Isabel? The speaker will inspire our leaders and they will go forth and inspire others”

Tony: “Yes, if we get Milind Kumar, the expert sociologist who studied how people interact in different cultures or Michel Rotwik, the futurist who can read your future by looking at your nails or Kanishka Godbole, the renowned doctor who has performed multiple heart surgeries and is listed as a Tinkle Book of Records holder.  Or even, Karthik Pillai who ran the 20km marathon backwards”.

Isabel (looking in disbelief): “You sure?”

Tony: “It will work– I can see how our leaders will emerge mesmerized, committed and energized by this interaction. They will then be able to apply insights to engage their teams”

Isabel: “Hmm, I am not sure though.”

She excuses herself from the meeting and walks back to her desk thinking if what she heard was really true. This group is thinking of calling an external speaker who will inspire their leaders? She wants to discuss this topic again with Divya and revisit this thinking altogether. Is her feeling unfounded? Will this really not work? What do you think?

5 Ways To Communicate Your Community Effort Responsibly


Communicating your organization’s social responsibilities is more than just an expectation. It is critical to the success of your organization’s credibility as a business. In this post I am sharing a few tips that can help you frame your CSR communication responsibly.

  • Timely updates: Keeping your internal and external stakeholders posted about the rationale, progress and impact in a timely manner sends a strong signal about your organization’s commitment to CSR. Sharing your calendar of activities, volunteering opportunities and milestones helps stakeholders know what to expect and how to engage. Bringing out your CSR reports on time and ensuring it is accessible on all your relevant channels can improve your standing as a responsible citizen.
  • Focus on societal impact: Rather than highlight the activities and events on the causes your organization supports it is helpful to focus on the value they deliver to society. As in, did the initiative have a long term impact on the community? Did it improve the lives of people it hoped to touch? Was it inclusive in its approach? Has it changed how the issue is perceived now in the community? By linking your CSR work with the end outcomes you can help your stakeholders appreciate what it takes to add value to the world.

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  • Recognize your champions: No CSR program is done in isolation. It needs the collective might of stakeholders, inside and outside the organization to deliver tangible and sustainable results. Make it a point to recognize those individuals and groups who have contributed to the success of your initiatives. Highlight key supporters and share their stories. There is nothing more powerful than having champions get their share of the spotlight.
  • Share learning: Every initiative will have its highs and lows and by sharing such learning you not just indicate your transparency but also the heart of your organization. Your stakeholders can see through ‘promotions’ but only when you share your vulnerabilities do they recognize your character. If you have made a mistake in a program, be it a decision or an approach, do also call out how you plan to remedy the issue for future initiatives.
  • Invite feedback: Not every CSR initiative may go as per your plan. Often, limited resources, the internal business environment or lack of collaboration can hurt progress. By openly discussing issues and seeking direct feedback you have a good chance of improving your value and relationship with stakeholders. Talk about how decisions were made and the rationale taken so that everyone is on the same page with your CSR mission.

The perception of your company’s CSR is directly related to how you responsibly communicate your effort. Through proactive, authentic and inclusive communication behavior you can positively engage your stakeholders for the better.

6 Ways to Improve Your Employee Newsletter’s Success Quotient


Corporate in-house newsletters have progressed over the years from ‘entertaining’ employees to helping ‘identify’ with the firm.  Very often these newsletters are a ‘good to have’ and serve expectations of internal stakeholders as it captures key business stories, policies and processes. As one of the many channels for engaging employees the newsletter’s value and impact can often go unnoticed unless managed, measured and communicated effectively.

20160402_112300In this post I offer a few recommendations to enhance the effectiveness of your newsletter and make it a credible and recognized vehicle of employee involvement, commitment and identification.

  • Access: At a preliminary level it will help to know if your newsletter is received by the audience you target. Unless you have a way to track open rates or know the read count (for an electronic version) it can be tough to demonstrate the value and impact of the channel. If you have employees who work at remote sites or are on the move giving access via mobile devices is a must. Knowing how employees access the newsletter on their devices can come handy while making tweaks to the medium of engagement. With a printed newsletter the appropriate placement and promotion can help improve reach and visibility.
  • Consistency: Bringing out the edition in a timely manner is as important as just releasing it. Be it a weekly or a quarterly edition, employees expect to receive important company news continually. If you have promised a schedule sticking to it consistently can improve your channel’s credibility over time. With an electronic version the time of publishing is important – ideally sending it when most of your staff is available or likely to open the communication is beneficial. You can gather insights from employee feedback or from your own internal analytics.
  • Balance: Employees will expect to see a good mix of coverage from most, if not all parts of the business. Sharing stories that show different dimensions of the organization’s character can help improve acceptability. Also, seeking and increasing crowdsourced content from employees is an excellent way to gain readership.
  • Content: Apart from measuring readability use text analysis to gauge language usage that helps improves employees’ identification with your organization. For example, words like ‘we’ and ‘our’ are more likely to build a feeling of community as compared to ‘corporate speak’. Try an audio section for those who prefer to download podcasts and listen during their commute. Provide ways for employees to share stories – an easy to use template with an example to boot. Also consider an Archives section or a Search option.
  • Feedback: Nothing can beat asking for feedback and including snippets in your editions – showing what is working for staff and what can be improved. Have a clear and effective method for employees to share feedback, an online survey or an e-mail ID, for example. Involve them in the process of enhancing the newsletter – in focus groups, as part of an editorial council or in a forum to gather key updates from the business. They can also be the sounding board for new ideas and approaches you want to take with the newsletter. Providing a feedback form or a quiz on the content are other ways to measure the success of your newsletter.
  • Test: One step that can solve many issues of usability is to get employees to take a tour of the newsletter’s sections and check if it is intuitive and simple to navigate. Designing the newsletter with the audience at the heart of your communication can improve its appeal and reduce your effort in marketing the channel.

Hopeful these tips help in making your newsletter inclusive, relevant and memorable. Keen to know what you think.

Of Storytelling, Insecurities and Living In The Now


You don’t often meet a person with an eclectic mix of skills and passion – ranging from community management to screenwriting who can bring storytelling to life with personal experiences and anecdotes.

At a NASSCOM led Marketing & Communication Forum interaction today at Bengaluru I had the opportunity to listen to Daniel Martin Eckhart, the Vice President at Swiss Re, the author of novels such as The Champ, Barnaby Smith and Home and a‘Grimme-Prize’ nominee.

What struck me most was his humility – he has served in the Army, United Nations and with the Vatican apart from a variety of roles in his current organization.  To now inspiring employees at the workplace to be themselves and creating a community of brand ambassadors from within. He had mastered his craft and yet his simplicity and willingness to become better shone through.

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While his address did depart to cover philosophy, life lessons and books the messages on storytelling and the need to be authentic and courageous were relevant for communicators. He believes that organizations that enlist and encourage employees to share more about themselves and be ‘real’ will become stronger.

Here are my key take-aways from his talk. Hopefully, these insights will come in handy when you think about your communication.

  • If it is worth sharing, do so: Many of us avoid putting our thoughts down and sharing it widely because we fear exposure, rejection or disapproval. He feels sharing your insecurities is cathartic – you foster dialogue and conversations and help others understand themselves through your own writing. Most people will either read and comment or share your writing but in their process of reflection they will grow personally.
  • Recognize those who share: To have an open culture where ideas and views are valued it is important to recognize and groom employees who are willing to share. In a knowledge intensive environment, there is nothing more powerful than having employees who can be themselves.
  • The world will be about ‘right brained’ activity: With automation catching up at the workplace all process oriented activities will be machine-led making creativity a key skill that will needed among employees. Getting employees to break the routine and think out of the box are essential today.
  • Find the heart in your content: Daniel explained that information can only get you so far while communicating. If you need your audience to believe and relate it needs to be about the core. Look for emotional hooks. Go deeper with your content and address what your audience wants, rather than communicate from your perspective.
  • Bring your whole self to work: This tip related to identification at the workplace and how one can balance having multiple identities – personal and professional and yet be who you want to be. It is definitely an area for organizations to consider while engaging employees.
  • Listen to your audience: He felt that we hear what we want to say in our own heads. It doesn’t mean others get the message. As communicators our role is to help the audience not just receive the message but understand the narrative.
  • Writing is about ‘showing up’: Many are good at managing writers but probably aren’t hands-on when it comes to writing themselves. He advised communicators to sharpen their writing muscle to gain commitment from your readers and be viewed as a credible communicator. As a communication professional writing is an essential skill and is about ‘brand ambassadorship’. Write so that it matters to employees and write in your own voice, he encouraged.
  • Make stories personal and emotional: According to Daniel it is about you and therefore bringing your own views to the table matters most. Seek the personal and emotional aspects to make a story come alive. Look for the ones people care about and make stories that enrich others’ lives.
  • Don’t ask for permission: Often, we default to others for approvals even when we are empowered to make a difference. He believes that leading with passion and conviction can create a human moment. Do what is right and take the lead. If we are doing more of the same, can we get better?
  • Be in the now: This one is my favorite! Daniel called out that we waste time looking at information together in meetings. Rather than discuss and make decisions basis insights very often meetings are held to ‘talk to’ people about information which is available to read. He encourages communicators to avoid this trap and send pre-reads so that everyone comes to the discussion with views and not information.

Interestingly, right after the session I spoke with a fellow communicator. She lamented how she had 10 blog posts written up and waiting – yet hadn’t published them because she wasn’t sure they were ‘ready’! After listening to Daniel, I think the time is now!

 

 

 

5 CSR Trends in 2016 and Beyond


It is now two years since the Indian government passed the CSR 2% spend legislation, the first country to mandate spending for corporate social responsibility. Most companies are reflecting on the impact of their CSR commitment as they audit, refine and improve their interventions. While there are discussions on the impact this law has made trends indicate opportunities that practitioners and leaders can tap to  make the most of their CSR strategies.

  • Rise of the employee advocate and activist

Customers are known to relate with brands that do credible charitable work. It is no different with employees who join and advocate brands that are socially conscious. Indian employees are said to give the most regard to an organization’s behavior with society. With increased visibility on CSR work done by organizations employees often identify with causes and lead initiatives that matter beyond their firm’s purview. Organizations need to encourage employees to be their own selves and actively pursue their interests that serve the communities around.

  • Opportunities in inter-organizational collaboration

Although there are reports of underspending and uncertainty about the guidelines there are opportunities for organizations to collaborate with each other and make a larger impact outside just their immediate neighborhood. With organizations facing similar challenges on the ground and broadly investing in similar areas joining hands for the common good is going to pick up steam.

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  • Focus on measurement and engagement

The call to gauge impact of CSR continues to increase. With the legislation the case for change is now even stronger. Organizations will weigh human impact value vs long term societal improvements as they craft their measurement metrics. Likewise, organizations will consider measures to gauge the effectiveness of CSR initiatives and related branding.

  • Increase in accountability and rigor

As CSR becomes more strategic in nature organizations will continue to be more transparent in their processes and interventions. The necessity for companies to report CSR work and spend will rise and practitioners will be expected to be equipped with different skills that improve engagement with stakeholders and be more accountable for actions they take.

  • Need for CSR specialists

With multiple courses on offer to groom the future CSR leader organizations will revisit how they hire specialists for the role. Over the years people who manage CSR has seen their roles increase in scope and scale. The specialist will need to think strategically about the domain, build relationships and tell stories of change. There will be focus and attention to train employees to be better volunteers of change, a responsibility that the CSR specialist will own.

Have a point of view? Keen to hear what you think.

Shall We Give Freebies to Improve Our Sign-up Rates?


Dinesh is delighted that his project, an online learning platform will be launched in his company. This will change the way employees gain business perspectives and learn from each other. He invites his HR and Communication leaders, Tanya and Vini for a discussion on the launch plan.

Dinesh: “Hello Tanya and Vini. Thank you for joining. I am very excited that we are about to launch this fantastic system. I am sure our employees will love it.”

Tanya: “I am yet to get familiar with the tool but from what you say it does sound like a cool initiative. What is your plan for launch?”

Vini: (joining the conversation) “Before that Dinesh, could you explain the rationale behind this decision? Why do we need this tool? What wasn’t working currently and how do you think our employees will perceive it?”

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Dinesh: “No problem.  Our employees have always wanted something like this – an opportunity to reach out and learn from each other. They sought a place where it can be managed centrally rather than going through a bureaucratic process of approvals to take trainings externally or internally.”

Tanya: “I hear you. So we have moved the learning modules online and it is now a faster way to learn, right?”

Dinesh: “Right. It also improves how we manage our budgets better”.

Vini: “You haven’t explained how employees will perceive this? What will motivate them to participate and use this tool?”

Dinesh: “Ah yes, I feel they will enjoy the new experience of moving online. Our audience is young and they are all web savvy – so guessing it will be a breeze. Also, we plan to give some give-aways for people to join the tool online. I am keen to get a high participation rates. ”

Vini: “Give-aways? Why? What is the measure of success?”

Dinesh: “You know how it is – people love to get freebies and incentives to participate. No harm in giving them a reason!”

Tanya: “Hmm. I am unsure if that is the right approach. Does it not give the feeling that we are enticing employees to do what they are expected to do? Learning is fundamental in life. It is their company and their learning tool. So they should better use it, right?”

Dinesh: “I disagree. Our employees are busy and don’t have the time. They must be coaxed to participate and learn”.

Vini (shaking his head): “This is not right. It goes against our values and culture! Can we rethink the approach again?”

Dinesh is unimpressed. He feels it is the right approach to take and doesn’t understand the resistance he is facing.

What do you think? How can you help Dinesh be successful?

How Do I Find My Career ‘Sweet Spot’?


A few days ago I received an e-mail from a person seeking advice on switching careers. This individual serves as a journalist with a leading publication in the city and is keen to move into corporate and internal communications.

She asked me for recommendations to change tracks and if certain qualifications such as an MBA do matter. She acknowledges that it probably needs more just a degree and that with her media and journalism background it might be easier to make the transition.

Her questions got me thinking about what people can do to break out of the rut, navigate their careers in communications and find their calling in life.

Irrespective of the degrees you have or the experience you have amassed it isn’t easy to decode what is the best way forward.  Often, we flit from one job or company to the other hoping to find the ‘perfect’ role. Some find their ‘sweet spot’ quicker while others struggle to come to terms with the world around them.

Talking about the sweet spot – if you are a tennis player you can probably relate to that effortless feeling you get when the ball connects with the middle of your racquet giving you the maximum speed and impact. Likewise, in cricket – it is that touch when the ball flies off the middle of your bat and you know exactly where it will head  towards the boundary line and past the outstretched hands of the fielder.

In the real world, to me it means the intersection between your passion, proficiency and positioning.

Career sweetspot model

You are only able to make the most appropriate choice and switch when you hit your sweet spot in life and therefore your career. But what do you need to do to get there and how will you find it?

Let’s break these down.

Passion is probably the easiest to relate to.  It about what you enjoy doing the most,that suits your personality and gives you the most happiness. You will experience this when what you do engages you mindfully. Social science researchers call it being ‘in the flow’. Consider letting your passion show at work and in life. Stay focused and grounded.

Proficiency is about skill, aptitude and expertise that helps you make a positive difference. Think of how you can be most qualified to make a mark. This means you need to be well versed with your area of work and are a go-to person people reach out to. Have you done enough to demonstrate your know-how in your field? Is there sufficient acknowledgement of your ability in your community, peer-group and among other stakeholders?

Finally, positioning relates to how you differentiate yourself from others out there. This is probably much harder to get a measure of. Positioning, in the marketing sense is creating a niche in the minds of customers. It is about serving the needs of the community, your organization, your team, your country and the world. Think of how you can solve a pressing issue or improve a niggling situation or drive a key agenda. You can only position yourself when you have a nose for sensing gaps that need answers to.

All the 3 circles are interrelated – you can’t just be passionate and not be proficient in areas that matter. Or be proficient in your work and yet not have the drive to get things done. Likewise, you can’t position yourself when you aren’t focused and adept in your area of work.

How long will it take to find your ‘sweet spot’? It is a journey and not a destination.  By being aware of these three circles and how they fit your life and career you have a better chance of shaping your ‘sweet spot’.

In short, stay curious, connected and committed and you will find your ‘sweet spot’.

Keen to hear your views. Look forward to reading them here.