I often hear managers and owners worry that their employees don’t seem to know how to behave according to the appropriate standards. When I ask if the appropriate standards are adequately articulated and communicated, I am often greeted with rather blank looks.
A good set of questions to explore this are:
- Do you have a clear purpose for your business?
- Is your purpose documented?
- If I asked your people what your purpose was, would they describe it in the same way as you?
- Do all of your people have clear deliverables?
- Are your people’s deliverables aligned with the organisation’s purpose?
- Do the teams in your business know each others deliverables?
- Are the key deliverables of each team aligned with those of the key teams they work with?
- Does each team have a clear brand/reputation within the business?
- Does each team have agreed behaviour standards?
The standards of behaviour we want our teams to adopt are very much part of the brand. The brand is the experience of the company that is received, the employees are, in many cases, the front line of delivering that experience, to both internal and external stakeholders.
The first step is to articulate the standards. These need to be reasonably memorable and written inclusively i.e.: We collaborate as a team… For a start up business these can be written by the founders as part of the branding process. (When working with start ups we always develop business strategy, including financials, first, brand second and then everything else, like design, product development, marketing, offices, recruitment, flows from those two things.)
For an established business it is usually better to ask the team to articulate the standards collaboratively. Get a small group to do an initial draft, with input from a wider group. Then send them out to as many people as is practical for further suggestions and questions. There are lots of web based tools for collaboration that make this kind of thing quite easy – Google Docs for example allows more or less simultaneous editing of documents. Google Forms makes setting up a web based questionnaire really easy too.
Once the standards have been articulated the next job is to communicate them. Sending them out by e-mail or putting a poster up behind reception does not count. Standards of behaviour for a team need to be inclusive, so the best way to communicate them is inclusively.
My preferred approach is to work with a middle management level team to develop a creative training and communication method for the standards that fits in with the business requirements and operations. Working together we come up with a variety of passive and active communications channels that go both to the more senior management and to everyone else. It is vitally important that senior leaders and managers live by the standards as well – this is the most important parts of the communication.
Training may involve an offsite workshop environment or may use an approach more integrated into the day to day work. Zappos encourage staff to create videos which they post on YouTube that communicate their 10 core values. Asking your staff to be responsible for communicating the standards is a great way of ensuring that they get them. Having your staff communicate them publicly is a brilliant way of communicating your brand.
Passive communication can include posters behind reception, posting them on the website, but it can also include trinkets and other creative ways of making the standards present for people. Go crazy – the more oddball the more memorable – and make sure they communication is itself in keeping with the standards.
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