Learn about Results You Can Expect from Connect
These case studies show the impact of Connect’swork. Click on one of the yellow case study titles to go to that case study or just scroll down to read them all.
Using culture to get compliance
When the finance department of a fairly young company announced its decision to outsource its accounts payable and purchasing transactions, it didn’t expect so much employee dismay.
Many employees expressed worries about the future of their jobs plus the state of the company. Employees felt the company was becoming more bureaucratic and impersonal. And employees started to complain that they were being asked to adopt processes that were way too involved and complicated. (Employees didn’t realize that their current way of working was time consuming, expensive, especially compared to industry standards), and clumsy for suppliers, many of whom are also customers.)
Connect crafted formal and informal messages for the work team, employees, and suppliers to improve understanding. Connect explained the rationale for the changes, including how the new uniform global processes would help the company get scale so it could continue to grow, which was near and dear to most employees. And Connect showed how the day-to-day changes employees had to make—logging a ticket only when they had an AP or purchasing problem—was akin to what they did when they needed IT support. It was part of the accepted company culture.
These actions and others turned the tide so that employees dropped their resistance and accepted the changes without any backlash—although some groups complied faster than others in logging tickets. The implementation went smoothly so leaders could turn their attention to other critical issues to help position the company for more growth.
Sharing stories to show the power of process
After successfully improving its manufacturing operations with Six Sigma and Lean, a Fortune 500 decided it should also embrace process with its staff functions. The desired goals were more predictable outcomes and improved efficiencies.
Connect developed a change plan and tactics for building understanding, engagement, and ownership for the company’s executives, megaprocess leaders, and process owners to embrace process and influence others to join them.
Some of the tactics we used included finding and featuring “Process Pioneers” to tell their process success stories; creating communication and change management tools for process owners to use; revising the process Intranet site to include tools, FAQs, and other tip sheets; creating customized training programs; assisting with the development and launch of Community of Practice for process owners; and advising leaders.
We also helped three executives tell their stories at external conferences.
The variety of strategies and tactics used in combination gave the process owners and their sponsors more knowledge, confidence, and support to talk about process with managers and employees. Plus the external attention created more internal interest in process. Process owners started to lead the way to support a process mindset and actions, which led to improved efficiencies and improved margins in business performance.
Helping IT partners improve customer service
Situation The CIO of a Fortune 500 was getting complaints from colleagues about IT’s service levels, particularly the communication from the IT business partners—or lack thereof. Leaders of the staff functions—Finance, Sales, Marketing, HR, Legal, Research & Development, and Product Supply—said they weren’t receiving timely information from IT about the status of their special projects. And the information they were getting was confusing. Being in the dark with their IT projects hurt their ability to run their overall operations.
Connect created a process and tool for the IT business partners to communicate at least monthly with their assigned business partners. We constructed a one-page dashboard that showed project updates, highlighted any problem areas, explained corrective actions underway, and requested attention for business partners to address emerging issues on the horizon. This one-pager helped the IT business partners lead a “data and dialogue” discussion with their customers.
The functional leaders gave their IT business partners and IT higher ratings for customer service, including listening and responding to their concerns.
Influencing outliers to be good corporate citizens
Situation The global travel department of a high-tech company was under pressure to improve compliance with its travel and expense policy. The fast-growing company risked travel costs spiraling out of control as well as reputational hazards. Yet, outside of the travel and internal audit departments, ambivalence reigned in the organization. And why not? The data showed that the vast majority of employees were adhering to the policy and filing accurate claims.
Connect suggested that we target the leaders with the largest groups of employees who were ignoring the travel and expense policy as the key stakeholders for the communication. We set up conversations with the leaders of the rogue employees to explain the importance of being good corporate citizens, especially around company expenses. Since the leaders as well as their employees are proud to be affiliated with the company, this message resonated well. We also provided the leaders with messages and tools that they could use as is or tailor with their employees, recognizing that employees would listen more to their leaders than to the global travel department.
We also trained the customer service team to reach out to employees who might be misunderstanding or not following the policy to help them do the right thing, again stressing the importance of being good corporate citizens. We wanted to avoid playing “gotcha” so employees wouldn’t think we were setting them up to fail and foot the bill for extra expenses.
As for everyone else, we were transparent but we didn’t delve into details with the project. It was just TMI—too much information.
The global travel department increased compliance without any backlash or disruption. Plus, the implementation process was faster and smoother for them because they targeted their efforts on the groups who needed to change, rather than spending time and energy blanketing everyone with information.
Introducing new code of conduct to save company
A company’s reputation was in shambles after the company’s founder and sons were accused of borrowing and using billions of dollars for personal items. The company also was in dire financial shape and had filed for bankruptcy. The new leadership team decided one of its first actions should be to adopt a new code of business conduct and ethics to help stabilize the company for investors, customers and employees.
We connected the new code closely to the company’s new vision, mission, and values. We also linked it to other company initiatives that were critical to saving the company. And to show employees that the leaders were serious, we encouraged the leaders to role model the company’s values of integrity, ethical conduct, accountability, and urgency. This helped reinforce the message that this was a new way of life at the company, not a one-time program, event or campaign.
We designed communication materials that served multiple purposes, which saved time, money and other resources. The company—and its creditors—appreciated these efforts as the bankruptcy squeezed all budgets.
Rather than just read and hear about the new code, employees had to act. We required everyone to sign an acknowledgement form to show that they had received the materials, read them and agreed to follow them.
More than 95% of leaders at all levels signed the form within three weeks of its release. Six months after the ethics rollout, an amazing 93.5% of employees participated in the second annual employee survey. Key scores related to managing the company’s reputation and ethics increased over the previous year, even as publicity surrounding the corporate scandal was still high. Externally, the company received very favorable press from a number of sources about its new code of conduct and ethics, and its actions to rebuild its reputation. Also, IABC recognized this ethics communication with a Gold Quill award.
Supporting managers in differentiating rewards
A high-tech company was introducing a new performance-based stock option plan that supported the plans of the new CEO, who had replaced the company founder. The new plan had more complicated features, including requiring managers to differentiate among employees in determining rewards. Managers were already feeling very overwhelmed with all of the business changes, and were questioning whether they could follow through..
To get them up to speed on the new plan, we created short (two-page) fact sheets and work sheets with scenarios that we introduced in 30-minute training briefs. Managers quickly learned how to allocate stock awards.
Almost 100% of the managers met their deadlines successfully with minimal errors and few complaints. They and employees gave the program high approval ratings in the next survey.
Keeping IT employees engaged for a company sale
An insurance company had put itself on the sales block and wanted to make sure its IT workforce was especially attractive to potential buyers. The company had several legacy IT systems that provided critical services, which increased the insurance company’s value—but only if employees who were knowledgeable about the systems were around to operate them.
We designed and implemented key retention, change management, and communication strategies geared toward the IT employees. Many of the communication messages appealed to employees’ career WIIFM (“what’s in it for me”), which we supported with career development tools. For example, we positioned this experience as a way to build their resume as well as their skills. They could apply the latter either at the new company if they stayed on after the acquisition or at a different employer.
All the critical employees in the key geographies stayed with the company and were productive through the company sale.
Integrating two firms to optimize value
A professional services firm bought another firm that provided different yet complementary services. Although the acquired firm had been in a financially weak position, the firm’s consultants were very opinionated on how they wanted to work with their new owners.
Connect provided integration support, including change communications help. We first conducted a diagnosis, interviewing key critical internal stakeholders, analyzing other data, and developing recommendations. We also set up a special integration structure to lead and manage the integration, which freed up the rest of the organization to focus on delivering client service.
Using the results of our diagnostic, we facilitated discussions for the special integration committee to define the desired end state for the new organization and then worked with them to achieve those goals. We also created a message platform and supporting communication strategy for which employees of both the acquired and acquiring firm regularly complimented the company president about his timely, candid, and thorough communication.
The firm sustained its productivity levels throughout the integration process. The president had never received unsolicited positive feedback from employees before, so the compliments were icing on the cake for him.
Moving from tactical to strategic to help leaders
The communication team members of the western division of a global company recognized a divergence between what they were doing and what their executives were requesting from them. The team realized they needed to provide opportunities for:
- Executives and employees to engage in direct dialogue to build greater trust.
- Employees to learn more about the business challenges facing the company.
- Executives to improve their informal and formal communication skills.
The team wanted to respond immediately, yet they had limited resources. What to do?
Connect worked with the team to transform itself in three key phases:
- Redefine the purpose of the communication function. The team conducted in-depth interviews of the executives and analyzed their business priorities and communication needs. Based on the input, they developed a new mission.
- Streamline the team’s communication processes and channels. While mapping the team’s processes, we discovered many extra, time-intensive steps that didn’t add value. We combined publications, repurposed content, and leveraged staff outside the communication function to get them to provide more content for the Intranet. These actions freed up time and resources for the team to support executives more.
- Develop a leader communication effectiveness program. Working closely with the executive team, the communication team created a leadership communication initiative. This includes an overall plan combined with individual plans for each of the executives. The executives must commit to core practices as well as follow through on optional actions of their choice.
The team transformed its role from primarily providing communication products to actively advising and coaching executives. Executives have become one of the most important communication channels to provide two-way dialogue with employees.
Executives report that their comfort level and communications skills are improving, especially around conducting two-way conversations with employees. Employees say they are more informed and more connected to the leaders and the business.
Reinventing communications to improve productivity
The HR Communications team of a high-tech company was the Rodney Dangerfield department. It got no respect from HR leaders, other leaders and managers. The HR leaders who had recently inherited the function from Corporate Communications—again—didn’t know what to do with it. They just knew they were dissatisfied with the tactical focus, the random and unclear messages, and the passiveness of the staff.
Connect worked with the new Director of Employee Engagement and HR Communications, who was hired from the outside to fix the problems. After conducting individual interviews with key HR stakeholders to understand their concerns and priorities and analyzing other survey data, Connect worked with the Director and HR leaders to redefine the mission of HR Communications and its role in working with HR leaders.
Based on the research data and identified needs, Connect designed a new structure, along with a different staffing model. (This included a new head of HR communications whom Connect found.) Connect also developed work processes, communication standards, channels, and calendars for HR Communications to adopt. Many of these processes supported collaboration between HR Communications and Internal Communications so that the two groups could work together to ensure that managers and employees were receiving timely, consistent messages about key topics.
After just six months, the revitalized department won the trust of leaders to play a major role in communicating to all the managers and employees of a newly acquired division. (In the past, the leaders would have hired an outside agency to do the work.)
Two years later, after making a number of additional changes on its own to improve its communication channels, the HR Communications team was demonstrating its value to the company through feedback results and actions that communications helped drive. Top executives, managers and employees all reported an increase in the level of service and quality of their HR programs. Furthermore, employee usage of web resources and participation in wellness events such as fitness challenges and health screenings exceeded company goals.
Three years later, the improved HR communications more than justified the company’s investment in the team and its work. Based on the company’s size, the estimated savings of an average of just five minutes per week per employee equated to a productivity increase that valued at more than $50 million annually. Also, PRSA awarded the company and Connect a Silver Anvil for “Reinventing HR Communications.”
Transforming communications to serve leaders
The Employee and Customer Communication department of a Fortune 500 firm was operating in an unusual way. The staff members were farmed out to individual departments and business units, which directed their work without any overarching corporate coordination. (Yet, corporate footed the payroll and all other bills.) The staff members were so busy that they didn’t spend any time on company-wide communication. When a new president joined the bankrupt company, he reduced the communication department’s budget and also requested that they turn their attention to supporting him and the company as he brought it out of bankruptcy.
Connect developed a business case for redesigning the employee and customer communication function, created a new organization structure, processes and procedures (including metrics, which had been totally absent), and implemented the changes. Our research had shown that the departments and business units were receiving erratic levels of communication services, including administrative support. Not too surprisingly, the department and business leaders had a poor perception of the communication team members and rarely asked them for their advice.
During the redesign, we recommended that the department buy external support and services for the short-term so they could provide high-impact services. This arrangement also could accelerate trust with senior executives. Connect was actively involved in hiring the agency, from setting the selection criteria, to reviewing proposals, and selecting the finalist.
The department now provides strategic communication services aligned with the business. Immediately after the redesign, the department achieved more measurable results with a lower operating budget. Within two years of the redesign, the communication department won three IABC Gold Quill awards in recognition of its innovative and effective actions.