I like to approach my blogging from a different point of view. Today it’s taking some lessons from our feathered friends!

This is an interesting piece of work based on the work of Milton Olson. I stumbled across it again today by accident and it resonated so strongly that I just had to share it.

Goose Fact 1
As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the birds that follow. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock has 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

Lesson for business
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier, because they are travelling on the thrust of each other.

Goose Fact 2
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson for business
If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

Goose Fact 3
When the lead bird tires, it rotates back into the formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

Lesson for business
It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities, and unique arrangement of gifts, talents, or resources.

Goose Fact 4
The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Lesson for business
We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and to encourage the heart and core values of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Goose Fact 5
When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation to catch up with the flock.

Lesson for business
If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we’re strong.

That’s exactly my skills within employee engagement. I'm an extra goose joining your flock just when you need that little extra uplift. You don’t need to fly alone. This goose has some special skills that will not only keep you moving forward but ensure that you’re in the best shape to take advantage of current conditions.

I love getting under the skin of my clients’ businesses and delivering that little bit extra which makes all the difference – sometimes it might just be a cheerful honk!

With my range of expertise I'll pick you up and keep you flying!

Note: Lessons from Geese was transcribed from a speech given by Angeles Arien at the 1991 Organizational Development Network. It was based on the work of Milton Olson. It circulated to Outward Bound staff throughout the United States.

 
 
Tuesday night saw myself and colleagues representing Rackspace at the National Business Awards where we were finalists in two categories. I've been working for this IT Hosting company as a contractor on and off for a large part of this year and can safely say it's the best company I have ever worked for. Nowhere have I ever seen or felt such passion and excitement for a brand and what it stands for and frankly that brings out the best in me too.

I was exceptionally pleased with the entries I wrote for these awards, the teamwork involved in pulling the words (and then the finalist presentations) together and our place in the shortlist. I knew that Rackspace deserved to be in that group and I was determined to do all I could to ensure their place. It was hard work but it paid off.

We didn't win the top gongs on the night, but I came away with the strongest sense of achievement and the words of none other than our Prime Minister ringing in my ears - "Best of British".

A video message from David Cameron congratulated all of us finalists saying we were an "inspiration not only to the business community but those in government trying to support recovery".


“These awards, they really do show off the best of British...You are the doers and the grafters who will get this country back on its feet. The people who will get our economy growing again. And it’s absolutely right that we should take this moment to recognise what you do”, the Prime Minister said.

Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, then took to the stage and delivered the keynote speech to the room packed full of the country’s top business leaders and entrepreneurs and I was there. I was a part of it and it felt amazing!

I'm proud of Rackspace, being British and proud of myself.
 
 
I admit it has been a while since I wrote here. I tend to pour my soul into my regular blog. However, I wanted to update you on my thoughts about employee surveys! You see, I've been working somewhere that knows how to do it. A place where results come out within a couple of weeks. Where leadership take instant recognisable action to address the problem areas. Where they tackle the root of the problem, rather than the issue itself. I guess it can be done properly after all! 
 
 
I have a confession to make. It’s probably not one an internal communicator should make, but it’s my opinion and I wish to share it. I really don’t see the value in the annual employee survey. Eek, there I said it! Yes, of course there is some use in the thing, but let’s face it, how many times have you been in an organisation where at least one of the following has happened:
  • The survey comes out just at the time either job losses or a large bonus is announced
  • The survey results are finally published four months after the employee diligently completed the form by which time everyone has forgotten what they’d written and have probably changed their minds by then anyway
  • Response rate is less than 50%
  • The team’s manager bribed their colleagues to give good scores so they ‘all look good’
  • Nothing much has changed since last time, or if it has we’re can’t remember
Of course, it’s part of my job to ensure that none of the above are actually allowed to happen. But admit it. They inevitably do.

The employee survey costs a small fortune, takes hours and hours of time and often achieves very little. Don’t get me wrong. There are many companies who perform the exercise very well and both learn and implement a great deal from it. But is there another way?


I was at an event this week where the HR Director of Diesel was asked how he measured engagement. His answer brought joy to my heart. He uses gut feel, instinct. He spends the money he might have spent on a survey doing more of the things he knows his people respond to. Yes, it’s a small business where you can more easily gauge audience reaction, but how refreshing that a director was willing to use that gift we all seem to forget about – intuition.

Isn’t the concept of creating a continuous two-way dialogue something we should embrace  more. Why wait a whole year to discover that your employees don’t trust their Board or that they’d happily recommend your organisation to their friends and family.

Every organisation with a pc has at its disposal the tools to gather information for free – just start a blog and ask questions. Or you could even try that most basic of tools - talking! 


Use your budget wisely and trust your instincts.
periods,

 
 
 

A company that cares about the morale of its colleagues will ensure that not only are those facing and experiencing redundancy are the beneficiaries of clear, well-thought out and sensitive communication, but that those left behind can remain engaged and focus on the task in hand. A communicator's role in these times needs to be a master in tact and diplomacy. How do you raise the morale of those staying without upsetting those facing the unemployment line? And, just as importantly, with those working notice periods, how do you keep them engaged in the goals of the very business which is putting them out of work?

Honesty is, as ever, the best policy. Understanding why your role is redundant - and I stress here your 'role' and not 'you' helps to keep loyalty and engagement. In most cases, it is nothing personal. Demonstrating your understanding of what that person is going through, showing empathy and praising a job well done all help to keep the motivation going.

Don't forget to keep talking to those that will remain. It is only natural that most will feel insecure, wondering 'who's next?'. Celebrate success and discuss the reasons behind failure. Now, more than ever, is the time for a bit of transparency. Share your situation with your colleagues, instill that feeling of 'we're all in this together'; 'together we are stronger'. Keep the focus on engagement and ensure that everyone can have a voice.

 
 

So, what is employee engagement and why should you bothered about it? Well, I could spout off for hours singing the virtues of engaged employees and I know I'd get through to some people. However, there are others among you who like a bit of theory and fact in with their recipes for success, so here we go. Read it and think!

In 2006, The Conference Board published a report titled, "Employee Engagement, A Review of Current Research and Its Implications."  It was based on a review of 12 major studies conducted during the preceding four years.  After sifting through the data, they ultimately arrived at a definition for employee engagement that illustrates its potential impact on organizational performance: "A heightened emotional connection that an employee feels for his or her organization, that influences him or her to exert greater discretionary effort to his or her work."  Not a bad formula for winning. In other words it's about instilling pride in your employee for the company they work for, ensuring that they work as hard for you as they might for themselves. It's about being a part of something special and knowing where you fit in and how your contribution is vital to the success of the whole.

So, what difference does it actually make to the bottom line? In this day and age isn't it more important to just get products and services out the door as competively as possible while making a sustainable profit? What's my ROI in investing in an engaged workforce?

Here’s some quantitative validation for greater engagement.  In an HR Magazine article published in March 2007 titled, "Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR's Strategic Role," author Nancy Lockwood reported on some remarkable research data.  It showed that employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization.  That's serious bottom line impact no matter how you measure it.

So, who is responsible for achieving this state of nirvana. Well, I could try and drum up work by insisting that it's your internal communications team bringing everyone together and of course, to a certain degree I'd be right! However, we all know that communication is just a part of it and factors such as benefits, working environment, training, future prospects and such like all have their role to play. But without communication how can you expect your employees to fully understand all that you give them as well as all you can and need to achieve? In times of recession do employees naturally feel less engaged as they fear for their jobs, or see their colleagues leaving. Communication is knot holding the sail up - open up your spinakker and let the wind of message move your business through the turbulent waves streaks ahead of your competition!





 
 

We can't all work for the most interesting and exciting companies in the world, not many companies can afford massage chairs and chill out zones but there is no reason why we can't instill passion in what we do to all our employees. Every business is on a journey and your colleagues are your passengers. What are they seeing out of window? What is keeping them entertained? How much do they understand about what it is that keeps the business going, what your ambitions are and how their role can impact those ambitions? Tell them, and do this in the most engaging way you can. This is what I love about internal communications - the opportunity to bring strategy to life through storytelling, evoking some drama, bringing your characters to life. Who are your characters? Well, your colleagues, your Board, stakeholders and your products & services. If people don't get what it is you're trying to achieve then change the story - add the drama! To me, internal communications is a great opportunity of have fun in the workplace and still see the results in the bottom line.

 
 

Communications is a process not an event. It is an ongoing two-way dialogue between management and employees. We no longer live in an era where the 'boss' tells the 'workers' what to do and expects them to just get on with it. Successful companies instead must engage their 'colleagues' in their business strategy and keep them engaged. However, you just can't expect the multitudes to turn up for work and just get it. The role of the communicator is to embed that understanding and, in an ideal world, create a culture with a passion for success where everyone becomes a stakeholder.

I pity the poor souls at RBS trying to convince their 'stakeholders' that paying their incompetent ex-Chairman £700k per annum is a viable business strategy! It's a dirty job but some internal communicator will have to do it!

 
 

Creativity is about having the guts to do something different. Creativity is Heston Blumenthal serving an edible garden that included soil, gravel and deep-fried locusts to his unsuspecting guests and then having the satisfaction of seeing the utter joy on their faces as the flavours hit their palettes. Creativity is creating something incredible for your audience that they had no idea they even wanted or needed. Heston is a true inspiration to all 'creatives', I love the man.