Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs, Ryan Giggs

posted by Scott McKenzie

There is a story that George Best used to tell about a night he spent in a hotel with a former Miss World. He received a knock on the door from the hotel porter who was bringing up his bags. On surveying the scene… beautiful woman, a bed full of bank notes and a magnum of champagne on ice… the porter is said to have remarked “where did it all go wrong George?”.

This story came to mind this week as we see the story “hidden” by the super-injunction became public knowledge.

When Ryan Giggs first burst onto the scene in the early 90’s there were many comparisons with Best. Both were quick, skilful wingers. Both were dark, brooding Celts. Both played for Manchester United.

From there the comparions fall a little bit flat. George Best was probably the most talented player of his generation but was more or less washed up and retired by the time he was in his late 20’s.

Giggs by comparison is still a pivotal member of the United first team – a team which has just won the Premier League and is in the Champions League Final this coming Saturday. He is 37 years old. An age when most professional football players have long since retired.

But it is now matters off the pitch which threaten to damage the legacy, reputation and, dare I say, “brand” of Ryan Giggs. Up until now the Giggs brand has been more or less liked by everyone from mothers (including mine!) to blokes down the pub.  Indeed a friend who works in football once told me that Ryan Giggs was one of the nicest guys he’d ever met.

 Up until now, Ryan Giggs has been quietly regarded as a national treasure – not quite the Queen Mother but not far off it.

That reputation is now under severe threat. And while he has shied away from the limelight throughout his career  it will now be very much thrust upon him. Superinjunction or not.

Incidentally I don’t know of a single PR person who would have followed the same path as Schillings and threatened anyone and everyone talking about the case on Twitter… in my view this has caused the most long term reputational damage.

Much now will rest on the shoulders of wily Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Will he be able to give the right advice to Giggs? Will he be able to ensure that the United team provides the right level of support to their colleague? Will he be able to ensure that Giggs is still motivated and productive in his workplace? Most notably against the mighty Barcelona on Saturday night.

The nation, indeed the World, will be watching on Saturday night to see the results of Sir Alex’s work.

Scotland’s shame

posted by Scott McKenzie

Those of you (the majority) who are not interested in the parochial world of Scottish football will have missed a quite disgraceful incident at a match that took place in Edinburgh last night.

Neil Lennon, the Celtic FC manager, was assaulted by a fan who ran a full 50 metres before police and stewards eventually caught up with him. What is more galling is that Mr Lennon has had to put up with death threats and indeed the very real threat of receiving mail bombs in the post. In that context he is very lucky indeed not to be seriously hurt.

So what does this incident tell us?

Well, frankly it makes me feel ashamed to be Scottish. The motives behind the assault and the death threats are purely sectarian. But I don’t want to dwell on the neanderthal nature of people who support this hatred (it’s just too depressing).

Instead I am keen to understand what other workplaces would see a leader have to put up with such public, intense and very personal danger? Professional boxers?  UN Peacekeepers? High profile politicians perhaps?

How do they focus on performing in the day job when the world around them is so chaotic and threatening? And what can those of us who work in high-intensity, but less life-threatening working environments learn from these experiences?  How do they perform already difficult tasks under such enormous pressure?

And for the record Celtic won 3-0 last night keeping their slim hopes of winning the championship alive. Perhaps we should invite Neil Lennon to talk at one of our H&K events…

Talking of which please keep 15th June free in your diaries. With the London Olympics just round the corner we’re planning an event around how employees can act as key advocates of brand and sponsorship campaigns. More details to follow in my upcoming blogs…

The big day

posted by Scott McKenzie

So after months of anticipation today is the big day.

Sitting here in my front room in the centre of London there is a real sense of excitement. Messages of support are coming in from all over the world. A brief scan of my twitter and facebook accounts make it clear that there is a feelgood factor beginning to build.

Yes there is no doubt that the world is watching with baited breath. Will my daughter finally crack this potty-training lark?

What you thought I was talking about something else?

Okay, okay I admit it. I am a curmudgeon. I see the Royal Family as an anachronistic institution. And while I wish the young couple the very best on their wedding day I am genuinely ambivalent about their big event. The constant hyperbolic media attention is leaving me cold. Surely this should not be a story that displaces war, revolution and natural disasters from the news headlines?

But it has. So what to do when you appear to be in a minority of one?

Grudgingly try to get into the spirit of things I guess. We are currently listening to the playlist from our own wedding last year. Sarah will switch the telly on at 10.50am to see that dress. And we will wander along to Rosemary Gardens for the specially arranged community fete later today…

Honestly? I will probably be wearing a pained expression for much of the day.

P.S. – Talking of big events you should really get along to the Engage Inside Expo on 5th May. It is an absolute bargain and you will have the opportunity to hear from some outstanding speakers including David MacLeod – who is leading the Government’s Employee Engagement Taskforce

Exit through the gift shop

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’ve got a guilty secret. I’ve been a member of the National Trust for well over 5 years – and I’m under 40. Say it once, say it loud – I enjoy looking round sites of architectural and historical significance! I could make the excuse that it’s a great day out for the family, but I was a member before I was a Mum. Basically I’m a sucker for weathered stone walls, multiple portraits of disturbingly similar family members, and a well-stocked gift shop.

The best one yet was Barrington Court in Somerset. If you’re ever in the area, I urge you to drop in – not just for the amazing Gertrude Jekyll-influenced gardens, but because the house is a fascinating and unique place.  Instead of the usual tapestries, four-posters and chairs with dried teazles on them, there’s nothing. Well, almost nothing.

As you stand in the echoing, empty rooms, you can appreciate their scale and design in a way you couldn’t if they were filled with furniture. And there’s something else – in the old kitchens you can hear the faint sizzle and pop of pig being roasted slowly over an open fire. In the attics there’s the murmur and scratch of generations of owls and owlets (yes, that is what they’re called). And the old schoolroom is filled with ghostly reminiscences of an evacuee, now an elderly man, sharing his memories of the sounds, sights and smells of rural wartime.

What has this got to do with internal communication? A couple of things have been resonating with me since the trip to Barrington Court. Firstly, that sometimes it pays to do the unexpected thing. The National Trust were, for various reasons, left with an empty house, and rather than try and fill it with stuff borrowed from other properties around the country, they decided to find a creative way to work with what they had. Secondly, I learnt that sometimes what you leave out is more important than what you leave in. Leave space for the imagination, and people will fill it themselves, becoming truly engaged in the process.

This was a guest blog by Laura House, Senior Consultant in the Change & Internal Communications team.

How to do a communications audit

posted by Scott McKenzie

My colleague Naomi Goodman and I have noticed a lot of conversation on LinkedIn and the other forums recently discussing internal communication audits, ways to conduct them and how you can gauge effectiveness.

 We’ve done a good few audits for our clients here at H&K, so we thought we should share some thoughts on our methodology; as well as why getting it right is beneficial for an organisation.

 Our five step methodology

 1.       Planning – the inital planning phase is critical in confirming scope and objectives, review existing data and assessing audiences, channels and messages. From this you’ll be able to understand the context, ask the right questions and ultimately, run a successful audit.

2.       Interviews – To get a deeper understanding of the key issues we would recommend conducting some stakeholder interviews. This helps you understand the business priorities and further refine the objectives for the audit. We would suggest keeping the interviews quite structured (with the ability to go off-piste as required). This would involve creating an interview guide to ensure consistent facilitation of the interviews.

3.    Survey – Once you have analysed the results of steps 1 and 2 you should design and conduct a survey, test it and then launch it. Your analysis should help you to get a snapshot of collective views and have statistically robust data. It should also act as a baseline set of results for future surveys.

4.       Focus groups – The quantitatve data from the survey will usually identify a few key trends or issues which warrant further research. We would usually suggest holding some focus groups to understand these key issues a bit more, and/or to test some possible solutions to those issues. We certainly regard Focus groups as a great opportunity to test new ideas.

5.       Recommendations – The final audit report includes the findings from the insight work in steps 2-4 as well as some detailed recommendations for further action. The report would usually include a high-level internal communications strategy with a range of recommended actions and tactics.

 So, conducting a successful audit isn’t a quick task. But is it worth it?

 In one word. Yes.

 If your organisation is going to be successful, employees need to understand what is expected of them and the role they play in achieving the company’s goals.  They need to feel they are playing a meaningful role in your organisation and its future.

 Internal communications can genuinely help you engage your people. But only if the tools and conversations you use to communicate are effective.

An audit is therefore a critical process for listening to what employees need from you, and then just as crucially giving you the evidence you need to respond to their needs.

If you would like to hear more about our experience of communications audits please email me at scott.mckenzie@hillandknowlton.com

The Power of Chocolate Buttons

posted by Scott McKenzie

I am constantly amazed by my daughter’s growing ability to communicate.

She has only just turned two but we are now having quite in-depth conversations about her likes and dislikes, which currently are:

Likes

Dislikes

  • Mummy and daddy’s “telly programmes”
  • Bathtime
  • Getting her hair brushed
  • Naptime
  • Any green vegetables

What has also impressed me is how quickly she has grasped the concept of incentives and rewards. We are currently going through potty training. This has led to various accidents. Some of them quite messy (parenting is not glamorous!).

But the offer of a simple reward – in this case a white chocolate button – seems to have transformed the situation. She now tells us in (just about enough) time when she is ready to use the potty.

And last night her frequent trips to the potty ended up with a whole bag of chocolate buttons. I suppose that’s one way of rewarding good performance!

What we can learn from Robert Owen

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’ve been reflecting a bit more about how “wellbeing” connects to Employee Engagement.

I recently watched a fantastic BBC documentary on the co-operative movement. One of the founders Robert Owen has become a bit of hero to me .

Owen was literally a hundred years ahead of his time. He sought to build working environments which were safe, sustainable and sustaining for those involved. He was aiming to build communities which were genuinely collaborative, where colleagues worked for the greater good.

Profits were ploughed back into the business. Investments made in the working environment, living conditions and education.

Indeed, there was a real focus on taking children out of poverty and putting them in purpose-built schools – at a time when there was no state education system and children commonly worked in factories and mills in truly appalling conditions. I have no doubt that all of these initiatives were key factors in genuinely engaging employees.

Owen was a visionary and a philanthropist. A leader in every sense. His ideas shaped the co-operative movement which has given us great companies like  the John Lewis Partnership.

As our Prime Minister puts his weight behind employee engagement, and struggles to bring his vision of a Big Society to life he would do well to reflect on Robert Owen’s work.

Indeed you could say the same for our business leaders as they bring their organisations through this economic crisis, and prepare them for growth.

These leaders are demanding more innovation, more productivity and more discretionary effort from their employee. They would do well to think back to Robert Owen and ask themselves what they are offering in return?

Are we in the armbands business?

posted by Scott McKenzie

I’m not the first to say that change is a continual process. But we often fall into the trap of thinking that we can ‘do’ change, when the truth is  we are all of us being carried along by an invisible and unacknowledged  ocean swell, made up  of hundreds of decisions, actions, circumstances beyond our control .

There we are, happily doggy-paddling, or grimly front-crawling away, our own destination in mind, when we stop and tread water for a moment, only to discover that we are suddenly a lot further out than we thought, and being swept even further out with every passing moment.

As communicators, our role is often simply to draw people’s attention to a change that is already happening. The risks are self-evident; we can’t let people drown, we don’t want them to panic, we need them to keep swimming. We need to find a way to support employees through the change in direction – give them some armbands, if you like.

So it’s a case of letting them know I’m swimming beside them, so they don’t feel alone. I match my stroke to theirs and keep reminding them where we’re headed. That way they can work with, not against, the wave.

This was a guest blog by Laura House, Senior Consultant in the Change & Internal Communications practice here at Hill & Knowlton

Employee Engagement and the Big Society

posted by Scott McKenzie

The Prime Minister launched his Employee Engagement Taskforce yesterday.

He even managed to make a fairly explicit link with his “Big Society” agenda – “This initiative fits well with our agenda of devolved power and authority”…

This should be exciting. After all having a senior sponsor like Dave will surely help raise the importance of engaging employees in workplaces across the UK. Right?

So why am I a feeling a bit underwhelmed? Maybe it’s because we have been here before. Indeed with the very same authors.

I like David MacLeod - he is a passionate advocate of employee engagement and has done more than most to put it on the agenda of Chief Executives. Much of what was in his original report should be regarded as best practice. But has it really had the impact it originally promised?

I am also concerned that the rhetoric being used here is… well a wee bit fluffy… For example, I don’t think our agenda here is really about “coming up with new approaches to help people improve [employees] wellbeing”.

It is actually much more hard-headed than that. It’s about connecting employees with the purpose of the organisation in a meaningful way. In other words if I believe in what I’m doing, and see how it fits into the organisation’s objectives, then I’m far more likely to be productive.

So it’s far more about the bottom line than making people feel happy.

P.S. – I see a lot of HR Directors in the list of taskforce participants… it would be disappointing if once again Communications had been over-looked as a critical stakeholder…

How Gypsies can embrace change…

posted by Scott McKenzie

One of the great things about working at H&K as every now and again I get a request that completely bemuses me.

So when my colleague Lou Watson asked me for my views on what the Gypsy community should be doing to “embrace change” I was initially dumbfounded. She later explained it was for an article in Corp Comms magazine  (you can read the full article here).

I will confess I know relatively little about the Gypsy community. And am not one of the many millions of viewers of the scarily popular My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding

But even allowing for that it did make me think that the big principles of change should still apply – whether it’s for a community or an organisation. Right?

So here’s what I suggested as a five step approach:

1. Set out the case for change: Leaders in the Gypsy community need to explain their vision for the future of their community. Including the societal and economic imperatives driving the need for change.

 2. Leaders need to act as role-models:  leaders in the community need to step up and be voices for that change.

 3. Engage the Gypsy community (ies): Leaders need to bring their community with them, actively consulting, listening to concerns and demonstrating how they’re responding to feedback.

 4. Reach beyond your borders: Leaders need to identify and consult with advocates for the Gypsy community in broader society seeing politicians, police and community groups as allies not adversaries to explain a new vision and gain buy-in and support along the way.

 5. Celebrate successes: Visibly demonstrate where examples of the new type of community are working in practice and keep praising your heroes to help people see that the new vision for the community is becoming a reality.

I hope that constitutes good advice… I would value your views!