Tapping into Employee Passion

By:  Karen Warlin

Strategy / Tactics

Employees are extremely passionate about what they do – we need to tap into their passion and competitive spirit to get them jazzed again.  We need them to pull together as a team, and refocus on making the best products in the industry, which means helping them understand the business strategy, how the company is following the strategy and including them in the success of the organization. For example,

·         Key Messages:

o        Think about what you want employees to remember about this time and frame your messaging and actions around that.  This shouldn’t be a time of reactionary communication – employees want to understand the long-term view and see it played out as outlined.  

o        Identify your audiences and determine if there is different messaging for each (leaders, managers, employees, Europe, Japan, etc.)

·         Process: will you go directly to employees or try to cascade the information?  If going directly, try to build in a “heads up” for leaders / managers, perhaps a day before it goes out more broadly, so that they have time to prepare and ask questions themselves

·         Following a change communication approach (announce, educate, adopt and sustain), we can help employees get up to speed on the current state as well as what’s going to happen. The announcement about the current state of business has already been made.  Now we need to help them understand why the decisions were made and how the business will turn around.

·         Educate:

o        Design your early communications around the business strategy and what’s been done to manage to the strategy, including the purchase of the other brands.  It sounds like the purchase was announced, but there was little follow up to help employees understand the value to the business, so now they see these as negatives.  Highlight how these businesses have done, and how they’ve contributed to the success of the company.

o        Provide a global view – how does Europe and Japan impact the overall business?  

o        Also create a link between macroeconomics and impact to your business.  Given the current economy, highlight media reports that might impact your business so employees understand what influences the success of the company.  This is not a doom and gloom effort – just something that helps employees understand the bigger picture as well as help them understand that the current situation was unforeseen, but that you have a strategy in place to manage through it. Perhaps also include competitive information?

o        A tactic might be the monthly meetings you mentioned or perhaps some type of a brief communication campaign that gets employees up to speed quickly. A video on the intranet might work —

·         Adopt:

o        Once employees are educated about the strategy, continue to reinforce the messaging through your regular channels.  Connect everything you can back to the strategy so employees really see that there is a plan in place and leaders are managing to it.  This would include success stories from your various stores (green buildings, pricing changes) as well as any more bumps in the road – if something doesn’t go as planned, help employees understand why and where it fits into the bigger picture.

o        Remain transparent and share as much as you can about the business, and ask for employee input.  Reach out to employees to get their thoughts on initiatives, and recognize them for any ideas that are put in place. The idea here is for employees to get back to seeing that they have a stake in the business, and help draw a line of sight so they know what they can do to help turn it around.

o        One tactic we talked about was a regular business update that included North America, Europe and Japan, which would provide employees with a global view of the organization, as well as how all three legs support the stool.  Perhaps it could also include any external influences that impact the business.

o        You could also consider some social media venues, like Yammer or a CEO blog, where employees could get real time information.

·         Sustain:

o        This would be the ongoing communication efforts, past when the business has begun to turn around; need to review the communication strategy and build it out again for the next effort (how to start bringing back “takeaways”; maintaining leadership communication, etc.)

o        This is also where you would measure the success of your efforts, and make any necessary tweaks to keep employees interested and invested.


Measurement could be via small group meetings again, or via a survey.  I believe you talked about some survey data that could be used as a baseline.


·         Themes

o        Visuals and themes are important in this kind of an effort – they help employees know what the information is about and that they need to pay attention –

o        Rather than using financial information, we talked about using snow as a gauge “We need to get to 15 feet, and right now we’re at 7” and building visuals around that imagery.