To engage your staff, take steps to align your department chiefs first

Examine this scenario for keys to coordinating your efforts right from the start.

Examine this scenario for keys to coordinating your efforts right from the start

One day about 15 years ago, I was talking with a guy from a large agency about the need to build marketing strategies on a strong foundation of employee engagement. Then, as now, I believed the two have to go hand in hand if a company wants to match its marketing promises with what it actually delivers. “Oh yeah,” he replied. “We’re calling that brand alignment.”

Up to then, I had only heard the word alignment used routinely in reference to straightening the front end of a car. The way he said it, though, I suspected it would become a prominent buzzword on the business communication landscape. And so it has.

A different kind of ‘shop talk’

Alignment is a good word, but the trouble is that people have fairly diverse interpretations of it.

I’m going take a crack at building a unified meaning around it, but not trying to define it. Instead, I’m going to show what alignment looks like in a hypothetical conversation among three people who are the heads of different departments, working together in ways you rarely see in organizations. There’s Mary in marketing, Tom in human resources and Jane in internal communication. Let’s hear what they say.

“I think we’re all on the same page about our goal,” Mary said. “We want to get everyone on board with next year’s marketing plan. If we’re going to make the most of it, all employees need to see how they fit into the picture. So how are we going to do it?”

“Whatever we do, it’s important to go beyond doing presentations,” Jane said. “Just previewing our new ads and going over the media schedule isn’t enough. We need to get people involved in substantive conversation about their individual roles if we want them to get really tuned in and engaged in what we’re doing.”

“You’re right,” Mary replied. “We should start by getting employees together to make sure they understand the rationale for our promotional plans and what we’re trying to accomplish. Then we need to get their input on how to make it happen.”

“We also have to determine what they need in terms of learning and development so they’re equipped to do what’s going to be asked of them,” said Tom. “Without the right tools and knowledge, we can’t expect them to deliver on the promises we’re going to be making out there in the market.”

Start the conversation

That’s just a glimpse of how the discussion might sound, and it could go in lots of different directions. But you get the idea. Now here’s my question. When was the last time you heard a conversation like that—if ever? If it’s common in your organization, count yourself among the fortunate few. If not, I invite you to take the first step. Get your marketing, internal communication and HR people together for a planning session.

Then start by asking yourselves this basic question: When it comes to delivering on your marketing promises, how do you make sure your organization is walking the talk? You might be surprised at the results—inside and out.

Les Landes is president of Landes & Associates, which focuses on aligning marketing communications and employee engagement. He is also the author of the Inside Out Blog and E-Column, which features tips and trends for creating alignment in organizations.

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