Learn about Results You Can Expect from Connect
These case studies show the impact of Connect’s work. Click on one of the yellow case study titles to go to that case study or just scroll down to read them all.
Becoming one company
A 30-year-old consumer products company that had grown by acquisition operated as a portfolio of siloed firms. This was becoming costly as well as confusing to its customers. If it were to transform into a single company, this “One Company” could become more customer focused, deliver better results for shareholders and be a more compelling place to work for employees.
Connect supported the company leaders in the transformation by:
• Measuring the pulse of the extended leadership team and different employee groups. Using a combination of surveys and individual interviews at regular and special intervals, Connect provided timely data to help guide the leaders’ actions. For example, when 38% of survey respondents said that senior leaders were very clear about business priorities compared to 51% from a year earlier, leaders knew that they had to improve their articulation of their priorities and make sure their words and actions matched.
• Clarifying and explaining the transformation. Connect employed several tactics to inform, educate and influence key employee groups. These included a “strategy story” for use internally and externally and regular talking points for the leaders to keep them on the same page. We also introduced monthly Change Checkpoint Calls, manager town halls and employee meetings to encourage two-way communication. To keep employees up-to-date, we also introduced videos, Intranet postings, success stories and special updates. Over a 14-month period, employees said communication from corporate had improved 83%.
• Enrolling, involving and supporting the extended leadership team. The objective was to empower the extended leadership team so they could feel capable and confident to help lead the transformation. Tactics included leadership meetings, a Know/Do/Share tip sheet, Q&A calls and training. For example, after one leadership meeting at which team members received new tools to use, 72% rated themselves as an “8” or higher on a 10 point scale ( “1” being “low” and “10” being “high”) in terms of feeling empowered to lead and accelerate transformational change.
The frequent measurement resulted in several benefits. Because they were listening, leaders were able to make adjustments and act with a greater sense of urgency, which were important values for the transformation. The regular feedback also helped leaders see how employees’ expectations were increasing. As the organization met its milestones and employees became more informed and engaged, they wanted even more transparency from leaders as well as more priority setting and culture change.
Accelerating strategy development through smart-mob organizing
The Board of Directors of a 25-year-old professional association decided it was time to create its first strategic plan, especially since the organization was at a crossroads.
The organization’s leaders could articulate the benefits of a clear vision and strategy. However, they didn’t know how to turn their random ideas into an actionable plan.
Before they contacted Connect, the leaders had allocated five hours for a working meeting in advance of their national conference. They were worried that this wouldn’t have given them enough time to develop a sound plan.
Connect suggested using collaboration technology in advance of the face-to-face meeting, and involving interested volunteers in addition to the board members.
Even though the group was more high touch than high tech, they agreed to try the approach, especially since it was fast, cost-effective and inclusive.
Connect served as the facilitator and provided access to the Powernoodle technology.
Even though we were at the height of vacation season and only six weeks before the in-person meeting, we were able to optimize participation. Everyone shared their diverse viewpoints, candid comments and uncensored ideas anonymously. Even better, they did so when it was convenient for them. The anonymity and flexibility are two of the biggest advantages of this collaboration technology.
Before the meeting, Connect summarized the group’s comments and also provided color commentary and suggestions. This data served as the springboard for developing the plan.
In five hours, the group created its first three-year strategic plan around three pillars: Build Professional Standards, Build Infrastructure and Build Connections.
The next day the group shared the new plan and asked for feedback. By the conference’s adjournment, members had bought in and committed to the new direction.
One year later, the organization is successfully executing against its strategic plan, especially the two pillars of Build Professional Standards and Build Infrastructure—and has achieved tangible results.
The clear, strong focus has helped them allocate resources better, including cutting unnecessary expenses. They also re-energized the organization, including expanding the volunteer base and deepening commitment. For example, several of the individuals who volunteered to participate in the strategic planning are taking active roles and being considered for board roles.
Leading together to increase impact
Two long-term business partners were creating a new joint company to bring a highly technical product to market. They believed that they could better serve their customers if they joined forces to provide integrated manufacturing, assembly and delivery. The combination also would give them a competitive cost advantage over time.
The new joint company wouldn’t have any employees though. Instead, individuals would be loaned (or “seconded” as the technical term) to the new company. For pay and benefit purposes, the employees would continue to be on the payroll of their current company.
The executives and the lawyers preferred this arrangement for tax purposes as well as speed. However, it created confusion among the workforce. Even both groups of leaders—those loaning and receiving employees—were concerned about commitment.
Connect worked closely with the executives and lawyers of both companies to explain the situation in an open, transparent manner. We addressed the factual issues as well as the emotional undercurrents, meeting regularly with key stakeholders. We answered questions and provided tools to use to talk with their employees as well as individuals in the community and government leaders.
Through the internal discussions, we learned that a leader of one of the legacy companies who was loaning several direct reports to the new company had a very personal concern. Because his span of control was decreasing, he considered the change to be a demotion for him—or at least a lack of confidence by the executives.
Yet, the executives were investing the legacy company’s future on this leader and his team of technologists. We explained that the company was committed to providing this small, talented group with more resources so they could study specific issues to revitalize the company.
By addressing the emotional as well as rationale side of the company formation, we were able to ensure a smooth transition and start up.
In particular, once the concerned leader saw and understood the big picture, he started advocating for the change. He became excited about the opportunities for him and his team, and was able to retain all of his highly-skilled, high potential employees.
Synthesizing 1,470+ pages to create a 1-page story
After six months of working with a leading strategy consultant, the IT function of a global packaged goods company was ready to implement its new IT strategy. However, none of the IT leaders could clearly articulate the strategy. Each leader had a different interpretation.
Connect worked with the IT leaders to develop the “strategy story” to tell both inside IT and to the business. The story included five components: the headline, the supporting points, how the strategy connected to the company’s overall strategy, the focal areas for IT and key transition elements.
This one-page strategy story summarized 35 different PowerPoint presentations that addressed various aspects of the strategy. Each of the presentations averaged 42 pages.
Once the IT leaders had clarity—and agreement—on their new strategy, they were able to talk about it clearly, confidently, and enthusiastically among themselves. Even better, they could share it with their IT staff and their business partners outside of IT and discuss the best ways to implement.
Once everyone better understood where they needed to focus their time and energy, the implementation was easier to plan and execute.
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.
Influencing outliers to be good corporate citizens
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.
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:
- 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.”
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