“Internal Branding,” “Employee Engagement,” “Change Communications,” “Internal Marketing,” “Employee Marketing.” Over the last 10 or 15 years, the pace of business has increased and executives have had to navigate the marketplace ever more rapidly. Accordingly, those of us who create internal communications have tried to express what it is we do. Fortunately, when you’ve done something long enough and learned to do it well, you can more clearly express why it matters. When you’ve been at any craft long enough, you have greater insights you can teach others.
In brand communications, you reach a point where you don’t have to commit to phrases everyone else uses. It strikes me that what matters most in change communications is what matters to the company. The people depend on the company’s success and the company depends on the people to succeed. In times of change, employees and leaders must come together around the essence of the business strategy.
What allows you to achieve a business strategy? When I look back at two decades in this business, it’s clear to me you first have to define the mission to everyone involved. To define mission, you have to extract it from business strategy. The business strategy must be translated in a way that is real and actionable for all.
The movie, Saving Private Ryan, often comes to mind. Captain Miller, portrayed by Tom Hanks, is charged with executing a strategy from high command. The strategy is to ensure no family loses all of its sons like they did in World War I. The key information is that three of the four Ryan sons have just died. The mission becomes to save Private Ryan, who is deep behind enemy lines. What’s fascinating about the film is that until Captain Miller can make the mission worthy, real and actionable, there is almost zero buy-in to the plan. Two of the challenges made are: “Do you want to explain the sense of this to me?” and “well, from my way of thinking this entire mission is a misallocation of valuable military resources.”
Yes, these soldiers are facing possible death – but the analogy is still relevant. These men are pushing their leader for clarity on why this mission matters. Through Miller’s leadership and understanding of how to address his men’s concerns and fears, the soldiers eventually make a commitment to the mission.
That’s what informed business leaders need. They need their employees to understand and embrace the mission the company has set out to achieve – the mission that will deliver the outcomes the business strategy demands.
The inspirational communications programs that motivate employees to join the mission with energy, insight and advocacy, are focused on real business outcomes. They’re all about MissionAlignmentSM.
The word sets above, from “Internal Branding” to “Employee Marketing,” help us understand the ways and means of encouraging employees to join the mission, but none of them truly get to the core objective. The communications objective is always Mission Alignment. How you get it done is different in every culture. To begin the translation from strategy to mission, we must know the strategy and we must know the culture.