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By Dick Maggiore and Mark Vandegrift

Institutionalizing Your Position: A Key Employee Relations Strategy

Institutionalizing Your Position: A Key Employee Relations Strategy

Recently, I was at lunch with a friend who had just changed jobs. He happened to take a leadership position with one of our clients. As he was touring his new employer’s building, he entered the board room and saw a big phrase on one of the walls.

“Wow, that’s really cool!” he exclaimed.

That phrase happened to be the creative dramatization of the position we developed for our client. He asked the CEO what it meant to her.

She explained, but then pondered, “I’m not sure all of our employees understand why it’s there or what it means.”

That comment made me realize a key employee relations strategy that’s often missed is institutionalizing a position within any client organization with which we partner.

There’s so much work that goes into finding a position, but all that work is done with the C-Suite, sales team, and marketing group. Rarely do we have frontline employees in those sessions, where they’d have a chance to hear the reasoning and explanation of how a position was developed and why it was chosen.

While we wouldn’t and couldn’t go into every last detail, it would seem a solid employee relations strategy would be to emulate the process of our Appreciative Discovery® with an entire organization.

Some have done that. In the past, we’ve had several clients follow our advice and develop an internal marketing campaign before ever deploying it to the marketplace. In every case, that internal effort made the external campaign more effective.

Why? Because all frontline employees comprehended how the position translated into their job responsibilities. Rather than a trite marketing slogan, the new position was embedded within the personality of the organization, and it changed the way teams performed their jobs.

Advertise to Your Employees

While the notion of advertising to your employees might seem like an odd employee relations strategy, you’re selling to your team almost every day. You may not realize it. But, if you have an HR department, one of its primary jobs is to recruit and retain talent. HR professionals do this by communicating (aka marketing) to existing and future employees.

But how often does HR take its cue from marketing? Instead of a focused message, it’s more likely that HR develops ad-hoc messaging deployed with random acts of communication. This is natural because each job likely has its own inherent benefits. However, working FOR a company typically has a common theme. How often do you hear, “I like working here because of its family atmosphere.”? Or how about, “I like working here because of the mission.”?

Translate that to how you might institutionalize your position as part of your employee relations strategy. By providing a clear focus to your employees, it’s likely they’ll respond, “I like working here because the company has a clear vision for what it does and where it’s headed."

That’s the power of positioning.

Assuming this power, be intentional about how your position is communicated to your employees. Don’t assume they’ll get it just because you quote a slogan. Work hard to define how your difference in the marketplace relates to their jobs.

For example, if “safest in the industry” is your position, then from the COO and engineer to the bookkeeper and frontline worker, your effort should be defining “safe” within their daily duties: how they work to how they think!

Win the Hearts of Your Employees

When you win the hearts and minds of your employees, winning the hearts and minds of your customers becomes easier. If you’re seeking a solid employee relations strategy, consider implementing a few of these ideas:

  • Hold a company-wide celebration and name it according to your position. Using the same “safest in the industry” position above, that might mean naming your event, “Celebrating Safety.”
  • If you’re a large sales or dealer organization, introduce the position at an event where you bring in a special speaker or two. We’ve presented at multiple events like this as the “outside expert” to explain the position and how it translates into everyday language and work. Then we’re followed by someone with a big-name speaker in the client’s specific industry.
  • Develop an in-house e-newsletter named for your position and publish stories that celebrate examples of how the position is executed in the marketplace or in house.
  • Develop a monthly or quarterly award that brings attention to those employees who best exemplify your position in their job execution.
  • Order swag and give it to employees to help build pride in the company and as a reminder of your position. They become walking advertisements for your brand!
  • Hold special department-focused days where the teams dive deeper into what it means to hold and execute the position of the company. Make it fun by doing it off site or apportioning part of the day for the team to get away and do a team-building activity.
  • When you onboard new employees, don’t forget to hit them with all the messaging you’ve developed above. This could be an onboarding video and then giving them one new item each day for two weeks, all connected to the positioning message. These are but a few ideas. Anything you might do internally today to communicate with your employees could be refocused to have a slant that highlights and reinforces your position.

If you struggle with this employee relations strategy or believe your HR team might need a little insight on how to market your position to employees, give Innis Maggiore a call or contact us online. After all, positioning is our position® (and we’re one of very few employee relations consultants in the region).