Monday, 31 March 2008

Every Little Helps?

A friend of mine yesterday challenged me to find something good about Tesco's employee engagement policy. She (Lea, of the Unchained Guide) is fiercly anti-monopolies and as such not a fan of Tesco, however she wondered what someone who hadn't already formed strong opinions on the subject might think. Find Lea's original blog on the subject here. And my reply below.

I've never worked for Tesco, so like any relationship, I can only look at the one Tesco has with its employees from the outside and make guesses as to what it feels like to be in it...

I think its harsh to judge David Richardson for taking the opportunity to justify employee engagement spend when he sees it reflected in the bottom line. The quantative results of employee engagement can be hard to measure and if you have a direct correlation with sales performance that's going to leverage more cash from Mr CFO, I say go for it.

It seems to me on the plus side that Tesco have an exceptional commitment to Training & Development, available to anyone who wants it. If there ever was a glass ceiling there, they did away with it long ago. They also look to have excellent in-house comms and the structure in place to listen to their staff (and customers) as well as talk at them.

That said, its astonishing how much the Tesco recruitment site reads as if it was written for consumers, instead of prospective employees. Pretty much every sentance about employee welfare finishes with; 'because then you'll look after our customers'. Which isn't awful, its just very upfront about where Tesco's focus lies. In fact they even have a list of Stakeholders on their site and customers, not employees, are at the top of it.

The other thing that makes fascinating reading is the "Meet our People" section. All the employees biogs show them to be energised and motivated, but not one of them made any reference, even an obtuse one, to Every Little Helps. Almost without exception these people talk about fast promotions, professional achievements and the scope for them to go as far as their ambition will take them as fast as their ability can keep up. And there's nothing wrong with that at all. (In fact given the nature of Tesco's own expansion it makes perfect sense). Its just it makes me wonder if a single one of them actually buys into the brand.

Every little helps? What if I told you the slogan was: Tesco - MORE. FASTER. FOR EVERYONE.

Would you buy it?

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Starbucks do it again

When it comes to talking about employee engagement you really can't do it for very long before you mention Starbucks. Its like trying to eat a doughnut without brushing the sugar off your mouth - not possible.

I went to the Starbucks website this morning, trying to find out about the termination of their HR outsourcing contract with Convergys - I thought I might find it at the back end of the site, perhaps under a media tab. However all thoughts of this were forgotten when I got to the site.

What do you think was on the very front page of Was it:

A) Pictures of the latest cinnamon dolce mocha choca latte
B) PR blurb about fair trade coffee beans
C) A letter to its employees

C! Nothing except a letter to its employees, or partners as they would have it, on the front page of I could barely contain my glee at the brilliance of it. The letter is about the ruling by a judge in California that shift supervisors should not share in the tips of baristas,0,50639.story . Have a read and see what you think. Starbucks think its wrong, and they're going to appeal.

In writing a letter to their employees on the front page of their website, Starbucks cover off 3 messages in one fell swoop.

1) You, our partners are our single most important audience.

2) Hello consumers, we think our employees are the most important part of our business. Isn't that refreshing? Come drink our coffee. Even though we're a massive chain, we're really just one big family.

3) Here is the information we want you both to know about our position on this ruling.

The benefits of employee engagement can be hard to measure, (although I'd argue that in Starbucks case they're clearly demonstrable) but when you remember that an employer that values its empoyees is appealing to consumers... oooh, its just win, win, win, win, win

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Thanks... but no thanks

A friend of mine is just starting an incredibly successful business (to be). Finding her on the net, one eager young thing sent in a CV on spec, along with a lovely covering letter saying how much she admired the site. She sounded great - but the business isn't ready to start hiring.

As soon as that thank-you-but-no-thank-you letter gets sent, this girl will turn from prospective employee back into prospective consumer. So, how can you refuse someone a position but still encourage them to feel positively about your company?

Firstly we need to define what we mean by positive. Positive isn't the same as nice. You don't have to invite them in and feed them biscuits while you stroke their arm and say "Its not you, its us!". You just need to make the rejection experience an accurate reflection of your brand.

Lea's business is an indepent guide to independent stores with a very clear tone of voice (accessible, friendly, trusted) and its success is based entirely around its inherent brand promise to be honest. So in this case the rejection should reinforce that brand by being friendly but candid. (Unchained is trustworthy) If possible she should recommend a couple of other places where the prospective employee might try looking for a job, (Unchained is helpful and knowledegable).

It is not possible to make every experience that anyone ever has of your company an enjoyable one. However if you remain true to your brand values in everything that you do, you can make sure that its always positive.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

A matter of opinion

Ooooh... my first post on my new blog. What shall I say? Where shall I start? After all, who am I to spout my opinions?

Sure, I do internal comms for Jack. And I know about employee engagement. And I know ALL about translating employer brands into brand experiences for internal audiences. And I have pretty clear views on what works and what doesn't.

I also know though, that usually opinions aren't enough in this new world of ours - there aren't many CCOs who are willing to bet their buck on a gut instinct. Internal comms programmes need to justify themselves with evaluation and measurement just like everyone else (and how do you do that when you're not contributing directly to the bottom line?).

So just saying what I think without having to justify it, kind of goes against the grain... but I reckon I could get used to it.

Back to me and my opinions. Are they worth sharing? Well if there's one thing I've learnt in this business, its that its always better to say something, than not to communicate at all.