Category: Employee Stakeholder

Practical Tips in a Strike

A Strike; planned or unplanned is just another type of crisis and deserves a great deal of preplanning and thought.

Here are a few tips that might help your planning efforts:

What should come to mind first of all – Is how do we service the needs of all our various stakeholders? Each stakeholders has a different expectation of an organisation, and a strike is going to impact on that. Once you have brainstormed that impact you can plan responses for it.

Suppliers may send stock. There will be no one in receiving.

Tip – Tool & Strategy to follow – Inform them of the situation

The Media will be interested in the situation.

Tip – Keep them informed. Do not let them assume.


Tip – Apologise. Be honest. “We have a problem. We apologise. We are doing our utmost to act in your best interest, please bear with us. As long as you keep people in the know, they will can and will be persuaded”.

Now from a BCP & Crisis Management perspective. How quickly can you formulate those messages? Get the releases, the ads, the posters and other communication tools out? Communicate directly with your various stakeholders to explain your position and strategy about the issue?

How can we use Social & Traditional Media to inform our stakeholders?

That is the beauty of a plan. You brainstormed, benchmarked and learnt from others. You have templates etc. in place. You are in control. You have the tools.

Now Act! Please remember it is not the plan that is always the most important. It is the thinking, the preplanning. The exposure. The awareness. It is about the thinking.

“ Thinking ahead!!!”

Something is Clearly Wrong with Employee Engagement in South Africa

An article in the Sunday Times Business “SA Strike Rate highest in the World” certainly caught my attention. This article set out the days lost in SA as being nearly double that of other countries and some instances at nearly 10 times the days lost in a country like Italy.

However what really got my attention was the these two contrasting statements:

  1. Mike Schüssler, Economist – “All over the world labour unions act mores strategically and think more tactically than SA unions do”
  2. Patrick Craven, Cosatu spokesman – ‘ Employers cannot try to blame workers for their own inability to conduct negotiations in a constructive ways which would avoid strikes’

Constructive ways? Not thinking strategically?

These contrasting statements points to a problem with employee engagement and internal communication and should be addressed rather urgently by companies.

Adcorp also pointed to this in its latest employment index report and I quote – ‘The inability to get workers to perform and the inability to pay them for their performance, are the single biggest drivers of low employment”.

The word engagement came to me whilst reading this article. To me Engagement means how to capture the Hearts, Minds, Hands and Heads of the people that work for you.

I wrote about this in my blog post – The Employee is NOT a Stakeholder –

I received quite a number of responses to my post ranging from supporting my stance to some querying my use of international models. One post queried the use of the concept of employee stakeholder profiling when dealing with unionised employees as it might be seen as “discrimination”.

The reason that I wrote the post was to evoke debate. I wanted to raise an understanding of the need to segment the employee stakeholder or at least considering ‘different strokes for different folks’.

Obviously there are many models or windows through which to look at the employee stakeholder group. This is why I use these models and various research studies in my workshops to show up differences and enhance dialogue and learning’s.

One author once said that there is nothing as practical as a good theory. One of the biggest dangers that I would caution against is that everything must be home grown.

Benchmarking against international research is crucial and taking the parts that can be used.

Nevertheless, the conventional wisdom about generational differences in the workplace is mostly wrong, according to a new book by Jennifer J. Deal, a research scientist with the Centre for Creative Leadership.

The shorthand used to describe the four generations that now make up the workforce goes something like this:

  • The Silent Generation (born before 1946) values hard work
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) value loyalty
  • Gen Xers (born between 1965 and 1980) value work-life balance
  • Generation Y (the generation just entering the workforce, also known as Millennials) values innovation and change.

Or, in terms of negative stereotypes, the Silent’s are fossilized, the Boomers are narcissistic, the Gen Xers are slackers, and the Gen Yers/Millennials are even more narcissistic than the Boomers.

Not so, says Deal. She argues that the generations now of working age value essentially the same things. Her findings, based on seven years of research in which she surveyed more than 3,000 corporate leaders, are presented in her new book, Retiring the Generation Gap: How Employees Young & Old Can Find Common Ground (Jossey-Bass).

“Our research shows that when you hold the stereotypes up to the light, they don’t cast much of a shadow,” says Deal. “Everyone wants to be able to trust their supervisors, no one really likes change, we all like feedback, and the number of hours you put in at work depends more on your level in the organization than on your age.”

Clearly, people of different ages see the world in different ways. But Deal says that’s not the primary reason for generational conflict. The conflict has less to do with age or generational differences than it does with clout—who has it and who wants it.

“The so-called generation gap is, in large part, the result of miscommunication and misunderstanding, fuelled by common insecurities and the desire for clout,” says Deal.

Miscommunication. Misunderstanding. Deals says it. Craven refers to it.

This clearly illustrates to me a need to take a relook at the process and rationale of employee engagement and internal communication, because something clearly is not working.

This is something that I am going to explore in more detail in my upcoming workshop on Strategic Employee Stakeholder Engagement on the 18th – 19th August in Johannesburg.

The Employee is NOT a Stakeholder

The Employee is not a Stakeholder!


Surely this is wrong. Is it?

The Employee is not a Stakeholder. The Segmented Employee Stakeholder is.

Employees are not homogenous. They are not beans in a tin can.

There is a vast difference between a new employee and someone who has been with the company for many years. The one is eager, has fresh ideas, wants to make a difference but does not know everything about the company nor the culture, whilst the older one is cynical, has seen many change programs start and/or falter.

Researchers and experts around the globe segment employee stakeholders into many types ranging from Traditionalists to Baby Boomers to Generation X and Millenials, indicating that there are differences between the way employees interact, participate, communicate, listen and learn.

In fact, some studies classify employees into four generations in the workplace:

  • Traditionalists born 1925-1942
  • Baby Boomers born 1943-1962
  • Generation X born 1963-1978
  • Generation Y/Millennials born 1979-1998 (under age 30 today)

Boomers, Generation X and Millenials differ in the way they solve problems, focus on tasks and make decisions.

For instance studies show that Boomers tend to solve problems in a hierarchical fashion whilst Millenials like to solve problems in a collaborative fashion.

But even pigeonholing some people into these categories can be dangerous. One size does not fit all.

Just because I am 52 years old, does it make me a Baby Boomer? 80% of the way in which I do things and solve problems are millennial in nature. Yet, when it comes to certain things like ethics and manners I am definitely old school.

Many years ago I remember how upset I became when I was given a letter stating that I was a certain grade in a Paterson Job Grading Scheme. In fact, I tore the letter up and stated that I was a person not a grade.

How you profile and classify employees will determine how you treat them and design training programs, communication and other campaigns.

How you profile and segment your employee stakeholder will affect your engagement strategies. One definition of engagement is that it is the  “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”

How can you raise this emotional connection if you have not segmented your employees?

Understanding the various profiles is vital. Profiling your employee stakeholder is vital if you want to design and develop targeted communication, engagement and learning campaigns to build a superior reputation.

P.S To assist companies with the task of building a superior reputation in the workplace, I will facilitate a 2 – day workshop on Strategic Employee Stakeholder Engagement from the 18th – 19th August in Johannesburg.

During this two day workshop‚ you will learn how to boost internal stakeholder engagement & communication‚ enhance professional stakeholder management processes and enhance the organisations’ quest to be an admired employer. I will cover:

  • Why Engagement is not just  a buzzword;
  • What is the secret of engagement and becoming an Employer of choice;
  • How to strategically profile & engage the employee stakeholder to build brand awareness and reputation;
  • How to design, implement & drive an effective engagement strategy, using tools such as stakeholder management, communication, Social Media, liberated HR and OD practices & engagement techniques;
  • Practical steps on how to impact relationships with the internal stakeholder in a favourable manner;
  • What it takes to become an admired & preferred employer;

Quote–Employee Stakeholder Engagement

“Imagine an organisation full of people who come to work enthusiastically, knowing that they will grow and flourish, and intent on fulfilling the visions and goals of the larger organization. There’s ease, grace, and effortless about the way they get things done. People take pleasure and pride in every aspect of the enterprise – for example in the way they can talk openly, reflect on other’s opinions, and have genuine influence on the structures around them. That’s a lot of energy walking in each day, accomplishing an ever-increasing amount of work and having fun along the way.”

Author – Peter Senge: The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook

What Social Media means for Corporate Culture

Social media is making the top-down approach to management obsolete, and that’s affecting the way companies conceive of themselves and treat their workers, writes Soren Gordhamer.

By giving every worker a voice, social media increases the importance of an inclusive and innovative corporate culture, and of leaders articulating a powerful vision of their company’s big-picture goals, Gordhamer writes.

“The old paradigm was individualistic and focused on thriving to be personally brilliant; the new one is much more social, and it involves creating cultures that enhance innovation in all those present,” he writes.

Read more –

Employee Engagement can Make a Difference

This story came to me via Seth Godin’s blog and is called Sad Tim, and forms an ideal introduction to my post.

‘At the post office the other day, a guy wearing a beautiful handmade scarf finishes his transaction and starts away from the counter.

A small nail holding the moulding apparently isn’t hammered in all the way. It catches the scarf, pulls the threads and ruins the scarf. The man turns to the counter, looks at the postal worker who took his money and says, "There’s a loose nail here, it just ruined my scarf."

Tim, the postal worker, beaten down, tired, given up, stands behind the counter and barely makes eye contact. "Oh."

End of interaction.

When you allow (yes, allow) all humanity to be stripped from your day, all day, then what?’

Organisations are slowly realising that they NEED to change to differentiate themselves from the competition and the process that they use with employees is now called Employee Engagement. To  some it is just a buzzword but to others it is a strategy that sets their firm apart from another i.e. To become an Admired Company and preferred employer.

Managing your organization’s reputation has become one of the most important strategic imperatives for any organization. An Organization’s reputation is derived from the way the organization is perceived by its various stakeholders.

2137729430_11b29f9164_bThese perceptions are impacted and influenced to a large extent by how the organization behaves and performs. The engagement of the Employee stakeholder in this vital process is essential, as a reputation is built from the inside outward. Living the brand promise, changing employees into reputation builders and not destroyers and brand ambassadors is a vital strategy in this quest.

It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it. That’s why you need to take the measure of employee engagement at least once a year through anonymous surveys in which people feel completely safe to speak their minds.” — Jack Welch, Former CEO, General Electric

The employee stakeholder needs to be treated with care. Creating a positive work environment is of mutual benefit to employers and employees and builds loyalty. Employee communication programs should be designed to create opportunities for strengthening the relationships between employees and management. The many changes that the work fabric has encountered over the past 10 years have eroded the traditional loyalty approach that many employees had.

With constant cost cutting, restructuring, downsizing, mergers, employee equity drives and outsourcing happening all the time, employees must start to wonder when it will happen next at his area of work. Under the old “social contract” between employee and employer, the employee expected a lifetime or long-term job in exchange for regular promotions, benefits and a pension.

In the “new work order”, employees will seek short-term social contracts in which employee and employer will outline mutual commitments for each other’s success. Such agreements will be individually forged. “Making generalizations” about what will work for all employees is not realistic anymore.

In many research surveys on company loyalty, workers in hourly and customer service categories scored the lowest. While low wages in those categories are a factor, customer service workers had the lowest loyalty scores even after accounting for the effects of income. That finding may be a major cause for concern, one study said, because customer service workers are most likely to be in a position to influence customers’ perceptions of a company.

One study looked at six factors controlled by companies that could affect loyalty namely the direction the company is heading, work satisfaction, recognition and rewards, opportunity for growth, work environment and work/life balance. Companies need to give consideration to all six factors to improve employee commitment but some studies show that recognition and rewards and opportunities for growth need the most attention.

Companies need to evaluate themselves, and then decide what steps need to be taken. Too many companies are relying on resources and programs from the old social contract, the researchers said.

The bottom line is that employer – employee relations is at the ebb of change, and that it is now even more important to build these relationships. The role of the stakeholder reputation manager is to ensure that these relationships are important on both sides of the relationship.

Hewitt defines Employee Engagement as “The state of emotional and intellectual commitment of a person, group or organisation to the entity with whom they are employed.” Whilst another definition states that it is “employees who are mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer’s success.”

A result achieved by stimulating employees’ enthusiasm for their work and directing it toward organizational success. To do this, engagement calls for striking a new bargain with employees: Organizations invest in creating the conditions that make work more meaningful and rewarding for employees. And employees, in return, pour extra effort into their work and delivering superior performance.

This means that the Employee Stakeholder needs to be carefully profiled and engaged.

Footnote – The above is an extract of my Strategic Employee Stakeholder Engagement program that I recently launched and facilitated in Malaysia and will repeat in Johannesburg from the 2nd – 3rd March. See for more information.

Layoffs – The Reputable Way

j0433131 (2) With the news that Standard Bank will review costs which will result in layoffs, I thought it would be prudent to share some thoughts on doing layoffs in a reputable way.

So, you have been called in and told to cut costs by culling the workforce!

Just a simple exercise! FIFO method. First In, First Out. Basing your choice on what value the person has added to the organization.

This is the time for a Red Flag. Stop. Think. How can we part in a reputable way.  This is not just a HR or cost-cutting exercise. This is an exercise that can create long-term damage to your reputation. Rather think of it as an engagement exercise of sorts.

As a consultant I always tell companies to plan any retrenchment exercise with care as it is nothing other than another large scale change exercise, and as you know the only person that loves change is a baby with a wet nappy. My experiences below is based on having advised and implementing the downsizing of a whole company as well as my experiences as a consultant the past fourteen years.

Any retrenchment exercise has not only environmental and company impact but also psychological impact on both the people being laid off as well as survivors and stakeholders. They are all faced with uncertainty. Networks of relationships are interrupted.

I believe that companies should provide options: Examples:

** Avoiding Layoffs … there really are options ..Why not provide business start up training to those people – help them to become free agents to the organization? Allow them to tender their services back to the organization.

** How about running innovative cost-cutting campaigns in the business? Ask staff to come up with ideas and cost-saving suggestions. Make it a large scale awareness exercise and innovative thinking campaign.

** Companies should provide training to people on how to deal with being laid off. Many will take it personally, iro of the current economic climate.

** Managers should be trained with how to manage layoffs carefully and thoughtfully. A question that should be asked is: Are we looking at the human cost of these actions?  Layoffs are not about "headcount"; they are about people. Unfortunately layoffs spread a fear virus that can leave an entire organization weakened and open to attack.

The Fear Virus

Let’s assume that you are laying off 1000 people. Assume that each of the people laid off has close working relationships with just 5 people … that’s almost 5000 "surviving" employees who are now traumatized by watching their friends being laid off.  These people are now living in and acting from fear.  Plus their informal network for getting work done is shredded.  Productivity? Reputation Conscious? Not likely.

Now let’s assume that each of the 5000 traumatized employees spends several hours talking about layoffs and their fears to just 10 co-workers.  Now there are 50, 000 fear-based employees doing their best to do ‘’CYA’’ and avoid risk and management scrutiny. 

And these people as well as the original 1000 laid off people go home and have angry and fearful conversations with their family members, neighbours and friends. They spread messages that undertake a life of its own and become a virus of its own on all the social networks.

Let’s say that each person spreads fear and distrust of organizations to 10 people … now we’ve got a fear virus affecting millions.  At this point it tips and takes on a life of its own, creating environments where people don’t trust management and are not about to take chances, volunteer for new projects or propose new ideas. (Remember Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point)

Would that company have a good reputation?  Forget it! The seeds for destruction is sown!

The same company will have to spend more the next time round to recruit staff and encourage employment (One of the dangers of Reputation Risk)

Here are some other thoughts that may help guide lay-offs in a humane and reputable way:

I firmly believe that communication is the key to successfully implementing any large-scale organizational change.  Whether you are implementing new systems, redesigning business processes, or transforming organization structures through downsizing and M&A, effective communication is absolutely critical. 

A former colleague used to write, "Communication is more than the tangible vehicles and tools that convey information; it is the glue that binds internal and external stakeholders to your vision, mission, goals and activities. Effective communication engages the hearts and minds of all stakeholders."

With regards to a change process, the objective of these communications is to move your target audiences along the following continuum with the stated effects:

  • Awareness – individuals are conscious of the change
  • Understanding – individuals have a shared meaning of the change
  • Acceptance – individuals internalize the change and have a more favourable outlook
  • Alignment – individuals provide appropriate levels of support for the change
  • Commitment – individuals begin to claim responsibility and ownership for the change

This is only achieved by developing a communication strategy that utilizes multiple communication vehicles and delivery channels throughout the course of the change process.  Most importantly, these communications must build upon each other to share a bit more of the story as it unfolds.  It is not sufficient to make a global announcement the day before or the day the change occurs.

Now let me put the above into practical terms. A few "nuts and bolts” regarding lay-offs that I picked up, being part of a team that had to dismantle an organization:

  1. Give as much advance notice as possible.
  2. Have the lay-offs announced by the person with the highest authority possible, hopefully the decision maker or the top person in the organization to whom the person belongs or, minimally, the supervisor, i.e. someone the person respects or has some personal relationship with. (I believe that Standard Bank did this) For the sake of humanity, such notices should be made in person.  Retrenchment notices are stone-age stuff.  The notification session should be interactive sessions.  Those making the announcements MUST be briefed or trained on what to expect and how to handle various reactions, i.e. give them models like the grieving process (denial, resistance, exploration, commitment), have them prepare questions, etc.  If notification cannot be made in person, then telephone can be substituted if done properly and by the right person, e.g. someone the person has some relationship with.  If individual notification is not possible, it might be done in as small a group as possible, but this is certainly not a preferred alternative by any stretch of the imagination. Follow-up or augment the human notification with a concrete, written set of plans or guidelines that the laid off person can refer to as he or she tries to accommodate the lay-off, e.g. steps that will take place, contact people, how to access unemployment, etc.
  3. If at all possible have a workshop for workers which should be held immediately (within 24-48 hours of the notice) that explains things like unemployment, severance pay, job hunting, etc.  Experts should conduct the session but the leadership should be represented to help clarify how things will be implemented or viewed in the organization.
  4. A good counselling program should be available to the laid off workers, e.g. financial counselling, job searching, starting your own business programs, grief counselling, etc.  If at all possible, a list of job opportunities should be provided.
  5. As much as possible, respect the privacy of those laid off for as long as possible even though that will be eventually lost as transition occurs.  The word will get out but time gives the employee a chance to adjust or get thru some of the grief cycle before having to deal with well meaning co-workers.  Even expressions of sympathy may be hard to take for someone in denial or resistance.   If possible, give the laid off person some time off, but no more than one work day.  He/she will need a support group to help deal with some of the chaos they will experience and removing them from that becomes counterproductive if too long. 
  6. Provide a hotline.  Email offers a great venue because email can be routed to an appropriate expert.  If that is not available, provide a phone or drop box for people to provide concerns, anonymously if they prefer.
  7. The potential for workplace violence is real.  Think about it, very seriously; both from the perspective or prevention and remediation.
  8. Remember, not only the laid off workers will be affected.  Briefings or other forums where they can get information and share concerns are important for them, too.  The culture will be affected, not to mention the formal and informal organization.  Some thinking needs to be given to ensuring proper reconnection of the loose ends that will inevitably take place as people leave.  The people who are left need to feel a sense of regained homeostasis as soon as possible. 

I know many organizations do not deal with lay-offs so compassionately, i.e. notice is made and the employee is supervised while clearing his/her desk and immediately escorted off the premises.  This has changed due to legal restrictions, but the above suggestions will go a long way to show why the organisation regards itself as an Admired company, as it lives up to its brand promises.

The list above is is certainly not comprehensive but some stuff I learned thru first hand observation, I offer them because my heart goes out to the estimated 50 million people worldwide who will be affected this year.

Economically it will not always be possible to put all of the above into action, but remember you want to part ways with an ex-employee in a manner that the company’s integrity and reputation will not be jeopardised.

· For those who know of professionals who will be laid-off, please ask them to contact me. I may be able to assist them with setting up their own consulting practices. For the past twelve years I have run a program called Market your Consulting Practice that have been well received by those wanting to turn their professional knowledge into a personal advantage.

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How To Find Out If Employees Are Engaged? Use your Eyes and Ears

Two weeks ago I launched and facilitated my new program called Strategic Employee Stakeholder Engagement in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

During the event a number of interesting questions came up in group discussions. One of these was: ‘What are the visible signs of engagement in a business?’

One definition of Engagement is that it is defined as employees who are mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer‘s success.

If we unpack engagement using NLP, it means that we need to look for visual, auditory and kinaesthetic clues. I gave it some thought and based on my experience in performing communication audits and employee climate surveys came up with the following checklist:

j02160701. Walk around. Use your eyes and ears. Listen carefully how people address each other. Do they use titles, or first name terms? Look for clues of us versus them.

2. Look for clothing, office arrangements and /or perk differences – this gives a clue about status or job level differences.

3. Look where people get together to talk. Study the body language and facilitation patterns of people.

4. Take a close look at formal communication channels and media. Look at the tone of the conversations.

5. Look at visible motivation efforts such as posters and the like.

6. Have conversations with people. Ask them what they do. Look out for differences beyond words.

In her book, Transformation Thinking, Joyce Wycoff also listed the following clues:

While each organization has its own personality and culture, look for the following clues:

  • white boards and easel pads in meeting rooms, common areas, and offices lots of open-access bulletin boards,
  • walls covered with charts, graphs, flowcharts, and project maps, pictures of employees doing things together both at work and socially, product demonstrations or product pictures on display,
  • pictures of customers using products or special boards for customer comments, survey results or letters,
  • frequent clustering of people working on problems, issues and ideas ,
  • open doors throughout the organization,
  • high energy cafeterias used by all levels and often subsidized , high contribution to community and charitable organizations – adopt-a-school, etc.,
  • high level of involvement in sports and social activities,
  • first-come, first-serve parking ,
  • absence of executive perks – "mahogany row," executive dining rooms, etc.
  • employee-oriented newsletters – employee stories, celebration of personal events, reports on social activities, pictures, shared information – sales, profits. shipments or other financial goals posted for all to see
  • personalized workspaces, sometimes radically personalized
  • frequent celebrations at the organization, department and individual level – from birthday parties to award presentations,
  • frequent training opportunities open to all
  • frequent sighting of company T-shirts, hats and other insignia
  • company legends – stories of success or outlandish events or deals,
  • high level of acceptance of diversity and tolerance of eccentricity,

Last but definitely not least: lots of laughter and fun!

What about your organisation? Take the next 5-10 minutes to identify “clues”from your own organisation. Then compare notes with the members of your team. What could you do to implement some of the clues?

The clues listed above are not just cosmetics or window dressings that management can dictate or manipulate. They are the underlying clues (Schein called it artefacts) that the organization supports individual growth,transformation and is serious about engagement.

P.S Please note I did not even mention Social Media…..just to make a point that employee engagement is far more than social networking techniques.

An Untested Emergency Response Plan is a Source of Reputation Risk

When last has your company conducted a fire drill? Is it still in the planning phase or just not on the agenda?

The lack of organisations to have adequate emergency response plans in place is worrying. Having served as Chairperson and observer on hundreds of OHASA Committees in companies, it seems to be the one point on the Agenda where all committees get stuck.

If I ask when last; fire drills and/or emergency evacuations took place, the answer is always one – of a few years ago to it is in the planning stages. In many cases senior management are always given the blame for not allowing such an exercise to take place, as it may interrupt operational requirements.

However this may just be the tip of the iceberg. Having an Emergency Response plan is a legal requirement and non-compliance with it is a reflection of a company’s enterprise wide-risk management system.

Some of the problems that I have encountered in organisations include:

  1. Emergency Response Plans that are not up to date;
  2. Emergency Response plans that have not been tested;
  3. Emergency Response responsibility delegated to a junior who does not have the authority to implement it;
  4. Emergency Response plans not linked to the communications plan. Very often plans of this nature are not integrated into the organisations overall crisis management plan, allowing for a disjointed approach.

The ultimate objective in any emergency is to ensure that the Reputation and integrity within the organisation is maintained, by ensuring that there is no loss of life or destruction of company assets. By not having an emergency response plan in place that have been duly tested is a recipe for disaster.

If a company’s emergency response plan has not been finalised, am I correct to assume that therefore its disaster recovery and business continuity and other contingency plans are also in doubt? Is your company ready to deal with the hand of fate?

Let me explain by using a scenario and questions:

There is an explosion and subsequent destruction of infrastructure, information and loss of life at your offices. Most major media outlets in Johannesburg rush to your organisation.

The building is evacuated. The authorities and 3rd parties are involved. The evacuation is chaotic and uncoordinated and filmed in time for the early evening news and is used by Carte Blanche as an example of lack of planning.

What will your stakeholders think? The issue thus is not just one of legal compliance. It is about the message that an organisation will communicate when:

  • They are unprepared to deal with an emergency and secondly,
  • The evacuation is a shambles or worst of all in a real emergency leads to loss of life.

An emergency response plan is far more than just a plan or procedure. It is a tool to protect the biggest asset of an organisation- its Reputation, its good name!

If a fire or explosion had to happen in your building and there had to be loss of life due to lack of being prepared, the company’s reputation will be severely tarnished, as the Media will have a field day showing that a company on the one hand writes that they are a caring corporate citizen (in accordance with the King 3 Code of Corporate Governance) but that perceptions and reality does not match.

In a Court of public opinion this will be seen as not caring and it certainly goes against best practice. These days words have to be followed up with compliance and positive actions and behaviour.

Without regular exercises to test emergency response & crisis management plans (In my opinion a Crisis Management plan is the over coupling plan that includes other plans such as Emergency Response, Media & Stakeholder Communication Response, Disaster Recovery & Business Continuity) , these strategies become dormant and ineffectual in the event of a real crisis.

A false sense of security can exist in a company simply because "we have a plan. The experience gained from training establishes the company’s reputation for being prepared and able to survive.

Several types of exercises are required for proper training. A three step approach is common: Notification and Activation; Tabletop Exercises; and actual Simulations.

Training is the final step in developing an emergency response program. It is also the most important step. Many companies overlook training because of their false sense of security based on having a written plan and the expense of employee time for training. An emergency response program, like any business process, must be evaluated completely to be effective.

Not being ready for an emergency when it actually happens is a foreboding thought. How well a company responds is dependent upon its preparation and a proper emergency response plan & procedure can go a long way in preparing a company to do battle in a negative situation.

If an organisation is worthy of its reputation and is interested in maintaining its credibility, then emergency response preparations are an absolute necessity.

When bad news occurs, there are critical audiences, including your own employees, who have expectations of your behaviour and ability to manage problems.

Every one of your stakeholders will focus on your organisation’s response. How it acted, what it said, all of these will either add or distract from the organisations reputation.

The question that companies should be asking themselves is How can I safeguard my Company’s reputation in an Emergency? Because how your organisation handles an emergency and the communication thereof can either sustain or damage your organisations reputation.

Catch them Early – An Employee’s First 30 Days

j0409404 Everyone spoke about Pres. Obama and Zuma’s first 100 days in office as being vital in setting a trend and laying the foundation for being a successful president.

So why are other employees treated differently?

Many managers forget that the first 30 days of a new employee’s tenure with the company is vital for that person’s career, performance and for the company’s reputation.

But in many companies, this process is left unattended. No wonder they call it orientation or induction. And, here I am thinking that induction is what you to do to a pregnant women, when they induce labour by putting small white pill under her tongue. Both terms just don’t cut it in my opinion.

This is where exposure to Armed Forces training helps. In the Armed Forces you undergo a period call basics. This process of culturization is also sometimes called psychological indoctrination. For instance, you get to carry a rifle for a couple of weeks, before they give you live ammunition. During this period you learn to handle your rifle under all types of conditions until you are accustomed to handling it.

This process is based on the Cycle of Learning which takes employees through a process moving from being unconsciously incompetent to eventually becoming unconsciously competent. This continuous cycle I discuss in a document called Reputation Risk and the Cycle of Learning (e-mail me if you would like a copy).

In 1991 Warren Buffett said these now famous words: “If you lose dollars for the firm by bad decisions, I will be understanding.  If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.”

Are these not the type of words a new employee needs to hear? But words are not enough. Should we not empower the new employee right from the beginning to factor reputation into his or hers actions and behaviours?

Should we not right from the beginning lay the foundation for success and performance?

A Proper Orientation program can go a long way to creating a platform for the employees future growth. If we consider that reputation manifests itself through communication and the experiences that a stakeholder has a with an organization, then this process is crucial to preventing reputation risk in any organisation.

By ensuring that we have dedicated and focused employees who understand the value of reputation as an asset can go a long way to preventing the manifestation of Reputation Risk.

So to assist your reputation management efforts, I have prepared a document for you called ‘ The First 30 Days – An ORIENTATION PROGRAMME with a Difference’’ which you can get by contacting me

Let me know if this is useful to you.

A Suggestion Scheme as a Listening Tool

Listening is a key concept in stakeholder management. By listening to your stakeholders you can gather valuable information, plug gaps and design appropriate strategies to maximise relationships and reputation.

A Valuable but underutilised tool in many companies is the suggestion scheme. The suggestion scheme can be very useful to pick up hints and ideas to improve processes but could also be seen as a risk management tool. Employees may sometimes use this scheme to communicate issues and risks that exist.

I always check the use of this scheme when doing a communications audit and have been astounded by how few organisations have a flourishing scheme. Almost always the statement is that it is not working. This reflects a lack of strategic planning and championing of the process.

Perhaps this will help you to plan for or revive your suggestion scheme.


110_036 Before a Suggestion Scheme/Box can be implemented you must consider whether a climate for innovation exist in the organisation.For instance, can any individual answer yes to these two types of questions:

  • "In my business unit new ideas are welcomed and management is willing to support you in the subsequent implementation".
  • "People in my Business unit are open-minded and accept the possibility that there may be better ways of achieving the same objectives"

It is my belief that you will be asking people to be creative and innovative and yet most people don’t believe that they are creative or, are stifled when they are.You will have to provide interventions such as training to enable staff to think beyond the boundaries.

Your aim should be: " How can we stimulate the creative thinking of our people". There is enormous creative potential locked inside the heads of staff, "How can we tap it?"

It starts way before a suggestion box or a suggestion scheme.

Every Organisation suffers from innovation inhibitors – attitudes and policies that limit the search for new ideas. For example, a group of senior managers at a large educational research institution reported recently that managers tend to resist good ideas suggested by subordinates. That is a clear organisational inhibitor to innovation.

In order for the suggestion scheme to work you will have to create awareness of these inhibitors and provide interventions to overcome them. You could for example run a course, on Creativity and Innovation for Senior Management, covering topics such as types of creativity and the creative process, types of thinking, characteristics of the creative organisation, methods to stimulate creativity and innovation and breaking the barriers to corporate creativity.

This will start to create a climate in which suggestions can flourish.

Here is some specific notes on suggestion boxes/schemes that you can use. The suggestion scheme can be approached from two angles i.e.:

  • A new idea scheme
  • A cost saving scheme


An analysis of suggestion schemes in world-wide shows that the formula or success in implementing the schemes are as follows:

1. All details of the system must be well planned from the definition of a suggestion to evaluation and award criteria.

2. Responsibility for programmed co-ordination must be assigned to a responsible management member (someone who will "Champion" the cause).

3. Programme details and procedures must be clearly communicated to all employees.

4. Top management must visibly and enthusiastically support the programme and communicate it’s continual commitment to it.

5. Acknowledgements must be prompt.

6. The program must receive ongoing publicity.

I strongly believe that suggestion schemes can work, if properly administered. The question that will arise from the individual is normally: "What is in it for me?"

Adequate financial incentives should be provided but that is not enough.What people really want is public acknowledgement, personal expression of appreciation coupled with financial incentives.


To ensure that a suggestions scheme will succeed, you will have to "sell it" to management and staff, preferably from the top down.

The following steps could prove advantageous in doing so:

1. At the launch of the scheme – the purpose, details and advantages should be spelled out to them orally and then followed up with a written document.

2. An attractive notice or poster, briefly summarising the essential features of the scheme and designed to draw attention to it, should be placed on notice boards in the branches.

3. A suggestion Committee should be selected on the basis of their technical and managerial knowledge to appraise and rate the suggestions fairly and accurately. (Some members noted for their creativity should be included).

4. The suggestions should be evaluated on a regular basis, i.e. bi-monthly.

It is essential that suggestions should be dealt with promptly, so that staff may be assured of the sincere desire of management to receive and evaluate suggestions.

5. Regardless of its value, every suggestion should be acknowledged promptly and as soon as possible the employee who made the suggestion should be advised of the outcome thereof, by personal interview or letter.

This will prevent staff from losing interest in the scheme.

6. Any usable suggestion should result in some definite recognition to the employee concerned, ranging from: Honourable mention, or letter of appreciation to a maximum cash award.

7. In order to ensure impartiality on the part of the members of the committee it is desirable that the person who comes with the idea’s identity be unknown to them to prevent bias.

8. Every suggestion that is adopted should be noted on the staff member’s service record for consideration when the question of promotion arises.

9. The Suggestion Scheme could also be viewed as a complaints channel provided the Department head’s authority is not undermined.


Due thought needs to be given to the award criteria. These can range from tangible to intangible awards.

Financial awards could consist of various grades of suggestions per company ranging from Overall award for the year to Quarterly awards. It can,however,be assisted by other methods:

A Floating Trophy.A large floating trophy should be purchased and be given annually to the company or branch which came up with the best reward, at either the Annual Conference or the AGM. The individual and regions name should be engraved on nameplates and mounted on the trophy. Another factor is that this trophy can be held and displayed at the winning office for the period between judging, thus generating regional pride.


You will have to actively drive and sell the programme. This could be effected by:

  • The running of promotional campaigns, i.e. using well designed posters, circulars in pay packets etc.
  • Placing photos of staff awarded and an article should be published in the in- house magazine and corporate newsletter.
  • Another alternative can be involvement by the HR Division. The design and running of a "Creativity and Innovation" training workshops can assist in the process. The benefit of this course will be that Managers, including staff, will know how to evaluate ideas, generate ideas and how to share ideas.
  • A climate for suggestions can be created.

What are you doing to capture the thoughts and ideas (the intellectual capital) of your employees? Time and time again research has shown that employees have ideas that can benefit the organisation.

Unfortunately ideas and thoughts are like light bulbs. If not captured, they disappear at the flick of a switch.

Engaging the Employee Stakeholder

December last year I facilitated a one day program at a conference called Strategic Employee Engagement. The lessons learned from interacting with the audience made me respond yesterday on the ODNet list to a rant on so called soft skills. My response to someone’s e-mail, evoked a number of requests for my PowerPoint presentation (Contact me and I will gladly send you a copy).

This was my e-mail response:

Companies today have to manage a complex web of relationships with a variety of stakeholders in order to establish a lasting and favourable impression in the minds of those stakeholders. That reputation in turn influences buying behaviors, investment behaviors, and the attraction and retention of staff.

A Crucial word that is used in those circles are engagement.

In December last year I was asked to facilitate a day conference replacing another speaker on the topic Strategic Employee Engagement. So, I had to get up to speed with latest knowhow quickly, obviously I had some.

Some thoughts I shared with the audience:

What is Employee Engagement?

“The state of emotional and intellectual commitment of a person, group or organisation to the entity with whom they are employed.” Source: Hewitt

Engagement defined as “employees who are mentally and emotionally invested in their work and in contributing to their employer’s success.”

The Benefits of Employee Involvement & Engagement – Employee involvement makes sense because . . .

· They are closest to where the action is

· They tend to know the areas of greatest pain for themselves and for the stakeholder

· They have a vested interest in making the job go easier

· They want to feel good about the work that they do . . . that it makes a difference….

I concluded by stating that the Employee stakeholder can create enough reputation risk to cripple an organisation today. Managing that interface has become a strategic imperative.

*** I also went on to say during my presentation, that I have a lot more to share, but could not due to time constraints.

These thoughts cover the spectrum of communication, culture and traditional HR responsibilities but have a huge impact on engagement of the employee stakeholder.

So here goes:

Never in history have organisations had such a need to communicate effectively and consistently. We have laws on what to say to job candidates and how to deal with them and laws on what we must say to employees who are exposed to potential risks on the job. The problem is that all of these processes are mandatory and tries to institutionalize something which is based on trust, respect and caring.

We have many different tools at our disposal, but they all need a foundation from which to start.

The crucial prerequisite for Effective Employee Relations, Effective Engagement and communication is the creation of a positive organisational climate based on feelings of trust, confidence and openness.

This premise creates the foundation for effective engagement. To create the right conditions a successful communication policy should be developed and implemented in organisations that are built on management’s desire to:

j04094041. Inform employees of organisational goals, objectives and plans.

2. Inform employees of organisational activities, problems and accomplishments.( Open Book Management Philosophy)

3. Encourage employees to provide input, information and feedback to management based on the experiences, creativity and insights.(PROPER suggestion schemes)

4. Level with employees about negative, sensitive or controversial issues.

5. Encourage frequent and honest job-related two-way communication among managers and their subordinates.

6. Communicate important events and decisions as quickly as possible to all employees.

7. Establish a climate where innovation and creativity are encouraged.

8. Have every manager and supervisor discuss with subordinates their progress and position in the firm.( Performance Management systems)

These principles stated above must be the underlying focus for any programme and should be embodied in a written document which becomes part of the organisation’s Policies and Procedures manual.

This takes time as communication is ongoing, not static – and people should take the time, to improve it. The problem is that the process of communication is so intertwined with all the other organisational problems that it therefore becomes difficult for managers to find out the real price they pay for lack of communication with their employees, because the price is part of what is not communicated.

The costs in lowered morale, lost sales, poor customer service, and lost market share often are attributed to increased global competition, rising input costs, and systems problems, rather than simple communication itself.

One reason for this failure to see communication problems as the cause of organisational problems is that we all understand ourselves perfectly. Therefore we assume that we have made ourselves clear, when all we have really done is make ourselves clear to ourselves.

And here is the fallacy – Effective Communication just does not happen on its own accord. It must be planned and scheduled. It must have task support. Someone in every organisation must manage it and support it and champion it. Strategies and systems must be co-ordinated and brought into alignment with an organisation’s goals and culture. And Communication is the glue that makes it possible.

Every organisation wants to enhance its performance. More and more, communication is being touted as the key. What organisations need are formal communication systems that play the following roles:

  • Articulating and communicating the organisation’s goals, values, culture, and image;
  • Defining and clearly explaining the roles and activities necessary to reach the organisation’s goals
  • Interviewing and selecting the right people;
  • Providing them with the necessary information and skills to do their jobs well;
  • Giving feedback and coaching on individual and group performance;
  • Creating a culture that nurtures open, honest, fair, and multi way flows of communication and collaboration;
  • Collecting and analysing key performance indicators, strategic plans, and policies;
  • Managing information flow rates to optimise an individual’s ability to use it ( e.g Training in financial literacy for instance);
  • Establishing standards and policies so that internal and external communication is audited and aligned with organisational values and goals.

What is needed is a far more holistic approach to solving organisational problems and the problems of implementing improved employee practices or so called engagement of the employee stakeholder.

Investigating the role improved and enhanced communication practices can play is paramount to an organisation’s success. What are needed are managers and leaders that are prepared to tackle this age old problem. And that is the crux of the matter.

Ask yourself truthfully and honestly: "What breaks down more often than the photocopier or delivery vehicle?" Communication, of course. What must stop is rhetoric! Action speaks louder than words. Tackle communication problems in your organisation.

Work or Prison?

For my holiday reading I am currently busy with John Grisham’s The Associate.

In this book there is quite a detailed description of life in a huge law firm and the description of small cubicles as offices made me remember the analogy of work to a prison.

Work or Prison?

IN PRISON…you spend the majority of your time in an 8X10 cell.

AT WORK … you spend the majority of your time in a 6X8 cubicle.

IN PRISON…you get three meals a day.

AT WORK…you only get a break for one meal and you pay for it.

IN PRISON…you get time off for good behaviour.

AT WORK…you get more work for good behaviour.

IN PRISON…the guard locks and unlocks all the doors for you.

AT WORK…you must carry around a security card and open all the doors for yourself.

IN PRISON…you can watch TV and play games.

AT WORK…you get fired for watching TV and playing games.

IN PRISON…you get your own toilet.

AT WORK…you have to share with some idiot who pees on the seat.

IN PRISON…they allow your family and friends to visit.

AT WORK…you can’t even speak to your family on the phone.

IN PRISON…the taxpayers pay all expenses with no work required.

AT WORK…you get to pay all the expenses to go to work and then they deduct taxes from your salary to pay for prisoners.

IN PRISON…you spend most of your life inside bars wanting to get out.

AT WORK…you spend most of your time wanting to get out and go inside bars.

IN PRISON…you must deal with sadistic wardens.

AT WORK…they are called managers.


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When last did you inspect your Company’s Bathrooms?

When last did you inspect your Company’s Bathrooms?

Oh, it is not my function!

Isn’t it? Do you think that something as important as that can really be outsourced to a cleaning company?

Reputation Risk is not something you can outsource, and the visual images that visitors see, can influence their impression of the company.

Very often next to the Reception area, the bathroom facilities is the first thing a visitor will go to. And, let me tell you, not all bathrooms are a place where you even want to take a child to. A Few weeks ago I made the mistake (or did the right thing) by going to the wrong bathroom facility. I went to the shop floor bathroom instead, and what I saw there was shocking.

No toilet seats, a blocked toilet, toilets in need of a desperate deep clean, broken window panes. Plan & simple, it was disgusting!

What do you think my opinion was of the management team? What do you think, I think about the company’s reputation?

In the Bible, there is a verse that basically says :’’If God cannot trust you in the small things, how on earth can he trust you in the big things’’

If reputation is about what you see, hear, feel and experience, then you’ve got it! I do not think much of them. How can I trust them in the big things, if I cannot even trust them not to violate a basic human right, i.e. The Right to Safety?

The other day I took two old-age pensioners to a Public Hospital in Roodepoort. They asked me to stop on the way at a Quick shop, because they had to buy their own toilet paper. I mean , here is two old-age pensioners, going to see the Doctor and the medical facility cannot even provide toilet paper. Is that what they think of their customers?

Worldwide companies are instituting hand washing campaigns as an initial protection measure against the spreading of swine flu (South Africa has just had its first confirmed case). How on earth is companies going to influence this, when they cannot even provide a clean and hygienic bathroom facility for employees and visitors.

Take a look at the worst example I had ever seen in my life. This is from a factory floor.


PriceWaterHouseCoopers found in one of their studies that Compliance failure is one of the leading causes of Reputation Risk. In South Africa, companies are not paying enough attention to complying with the Occupational Health & Safety Act , which contains a detailed section on Health & Hygiene.

So what can you do about this:

1. Be kind. Use your mobile phone, take pictures and send it to management and not the Media or The Department of Labour.

2. Call your Health & Safety representative and point out the conditions, so that they can report it to the Health & Safety Committee.

3. Take a good look next time when you go to the loo. Ask yourself, is this a place where a visitor can take his kid to?

To those in management, it is a time to realise that the responsibility for basic cleanliness and hygiene cannot be outsourced. Today staff and customers have camera equipped mobile phones, with which they can do damage.

After all, who wants their reputation ruined, because of a shabby loo.

Stakeholder Reputation Master Class postponed to 25 – 26 Feb

The Stakeholder Reputation Master Class scheduled for 10 – 11 February has been postponed to the 25th – 26th February.

Check out the Master Class details at –

An Institution’s reputation is derived from the way it is perceived by its various stakeholders. To build and protect reputational capital, it is vital that the interface between an institution and stakeholders be carefully and strategically managed. This program closes the link between stakeholders and the management of corporate reputation.

This course is designed around a practical Stakeholder Relations model providing participants with the methodology, the associated tools and the confidence and understanding of Stakeholder Management concepts and Reputation Management best practices; so that they can develop a Stakeholder Relations management and engagement program for the institution.

This course is designed for Managers interested in the management of corporate reputation and quality of relationships. It is of particular benefit to Corporate Affairs, Corporate Responsibility Officers, Corporate Communication and Public Relations practitioners.

There is an Early Bird special available until the 11th February and you can save R 1190 if you make use of that special.

Social Media needs to form an integral part of your Engagement Plan

Like many others, I have slowly getting to date with my reading workload. One of the blogs that appears on my want to read list is Shel Holtz’s A Shel of my Formal Self.

For those of you who do not know who he is, go to:

In September last year he blogged about research that was conducted by the Aberdeen Group that shows that those companies who outperform others, all tended to have better and more effective social media engagement strategies.

He started his blog post with: ”The value of enabling social media for employees, both inside and outside the firewall, keeps getting reinforced by study after study, yet organizations continue to block access to external sources while resisting internal implementation citing excuses ranging from bandwidth and storage limitations to fears of diminished worker productivity”

Does this sound familiar? All the excuses and reasons?

The gist of this article and it is well worth reading, is the impact that social media can have –  even if management thinks being on Facebook is goofing off, it may have real value.

The value of social media in recruiting, learning and development and organizational development has become very apparent, useful and undeniable. The mere fact that Aberdeen joins companies like McKinsey, Gartner, and Forrester in endorsing social media tools as drivers of business improvement can only help those trying to make the case for internal social media with those inclined to resist it.


Bus company closes ‘indefinitely’ – An example of what happens when relationships go out the door!

Bus company Remant Alton has shut down its operations indefinitely after a three-week strike by drivers led to thousands of commuters being stranded.

Bus company closes ‘indefinitely’ Wed, 08 Oct 2008 12:43:34 GMT

Here is a typical example of the impact of poor relationships. Although this is in the realm of Labour Relations, it also serves as an example of stakeholder relationships going awry.

Relationships are a fragile thing. Constant monitoring of perceptions, opinions, expectations and experiences in dealing with various stakeholders is vital.