In today’s fast-paced digital workplace, is the secret to being ‘agile and responsive’ being brave enough to say: “Sorry, we mucked up”?
If you asked a friend to name a company that would be a great place to work, the chances are they’d mention one of the usual suspects, like Amazon or Google. You wouldn’t necessarily expect them to put Tupperware in that same category. But, believe it or not, there’s a clear link between these three organisations that outlines how the comms industry is changing.
Our friend Rachel Miller, founder of All Things IC, explains: “What makes these companies different from others is that they are known for having great cultures, and some even embrace failure. They talk about it publicly – Google in particular has awards for failure.
“I love that, because it gives employees room to be human. These types of businesses are often described as being ‘agile and responsive’ alongside many others, but what that really means, I think, is that they recognise when they’ve mucked up, they share that information, they regroup, and then they move on.
“That has a measurable impact on culture, because it’s more real. That brings opportunities for people to be themselves at work, rather than what they think they’re meant to be.”
These changes are part of a major shift in the industry, as organisations begin to focus on the employee experience. Rachel says: “People are starting to understand that in order to have a fantastic workplace we need to make sure that we have the right culture, the right technology and the right environment for people to thrive.
“That creates an opportunity and a role for communication, to help organisations live and breathe their employee experience. It’s no good having a sparkling corporate culture without technology and physical space to match. It’s also not ideal to have a great physical space with outdated technology and a toxic culture.
“Similarly, having the shiniest tech without the physical and cultural elements in place doesn’t lead to success.
“In other words, you need to get the balance right. When you do, your employees will know and feel the difference, and it translates into tangible results.”
“The smartest businesses are organising themselves around ‘how can we make our workplaces fantastic?”
As you can read in our 2017 trends book (email firstname.lastname@example.org for your copy), this type of activity has really picked up in the last year or so, and we expect to see more people talking about ‘the employee experience’ as organisations work to make it more than just a buzzword.
Rachel says: “The smartest businesses are organising themselves around ‘how can we make our workplaces fantastic?’ and thinking about what the employee experience means from recruitment to retirement: what are our values and ethics, how do we communicate, and how do we make people feel part of what we’re doing?
“Newer organisations like Airbnb are creating Employee Experience departments; because they’re start-ups they don’t have the traditional, formal structures in place already.
“But I do think many established companies are starting to see that the old way of working isn’t going to last forever and are finding ways to approach their employees in the same way they approach customers – putting them at the heart.”
So what does this mean for employees within these organisations… and for the comms people communicating with them?
As Rachel says, the goal is having people who are living and breathing the culture every day, so that this filters into the way they live and work, and the way they talk about their employer.
“I think there’s more work to be done in this area,” she adds. “There isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach – organisations are so nuanced that you can’t say ‘here’s a blueprint to help you have an amazing culture’; it has to be tailored to every single organisation so that it’s real.
“People have started on that journey. They know the theory and understand it, but are just starting to put it into practice. That’s what needs to come next: how can we make that tangible? It’s an exciting time.”
At our Aspic 20th anniversary event earlier this year, Niall Ryan-Jones from Harrods shared his thoughts on why creating an unforgettable customer experience starts with thinking of your employees and customers in the same way.