Saturday, 30 March 2013

Send me an Angel

Today's post is inspired by 'International Communications Strategy. Developments in cross-cultural communications, PR and social media', by Silvia Cambié and Yang-May Ooi.

Among the varying and fascinating topics that the book presents, there are also suggestions given to internal communicators on how to help and provide strategic advice to leadership in order for them to engage more effectively with a global workforce.

In particular, there is a story, a case study, that captured my attention as soon as I read it and these marginalia will focus on it. The story is drawn from the 4th chapter 'The dawn of leadership communication'.

'Send me an angel' is the sub-chapter that starts by reporting that communications begins with understanding others and successful leaders realise that. “They realise the importance of finding the balance between the global dimension and the need to appeal to employees through their local points of reference.”

The book reports that Ramon Ollé, former chairman of Epson Europe is one of those leaders who believes that the culture of the country where a multinational is headquartered should not be promoted as the culture of the entire organisation. 

Corporate culture should integrate the history of the company with that of all the nationalities and demographics that contribute to the stability and growth of its business...In a complex multicultural organisation this is a challenging process since integrating all these differences require respect for all these cultural traits

To explain Epson's values to his employees Ramon Ollé came up with the idea of using angels, a figure common to several traditions worldwide: different angels would embody different Epson's values. In fact, angels would help Epson's values be more tangible, enable employee to better identify with those values, align employees' mindset with the Epson's goal and they all would contribute to create a sense of community.

After the project was agreed with the internal communications department, Ramon Ollé himself started writing a series of chapters, one for each angel. He used metaphors and examples from his own professional life and engaged with employees throughout asking them some relevant questions.

For example, the books reports that to explain the 'angel of team spirit' he started with asking employees:

  • What kind of team would we like to be?
  • How can we combine forces in this team?
  • How can I use my abilities to make a positive contribution to the team?
  • How can I motivate the other members of the team?
  • How do I behave with the other team members?
  • How can we guarantee maxim use of the team's resources and a well-functioning team?

Further angels were used to embody the corporate values, such as 'tolerance', 'trust', 'creativity', 'promotion of talents' and 'motivation'.

As the book reports what is intriguing about this story is that it went beyond the use of traditional corporate speak and that the leader himself was willing and ready to adopt a more down-to-earth language.

This proved to be beneficial since it created a strong link between the corporate values and the more personal values of its employees within this intercultural environment.

The foundation of this kind of approach relies on viewing the cultural differences between members of an organisation as an advantage and taking into consideration the needs and communications styles of the different audiences since “It's the characteristics of all these people that make the team's performance possible”.

As mentioned above I found this story very fascinating and I would like to finish these marginalia by reporting a couple of sentences extrapolated from this book's chapter:

“The Globalisation 3.0. era is one of sensational complexity and speed. Simplicity is a way to remain grounded and attentive to reality. We should not forget common sense, just because the environment around us is speeding up and heading for unprecedented transformation.”

Indeed, if you were interested in the topics of internal communications, employee engagement and internal social media with an international focus I would strongly recommend reading this book. Also, I would suggest exploring the site of Silvia Cambié who is expert author and speaker on these important topics.