What com­pa­nies can learn from Princess Diana’s legacy

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Business & Appointments - - FRONT PAGE -

ITURN to meet her and pause, taken aback. She is star­tling in her el­e­gance. Her stat­uesque height. Her stylish clothes. Her warm and wel­com­ing smile. I’m re­minded of some­one I briefly met over 20 years ago. And the con­nec­tion makes so much sense.

In June 1997, as a brand-new em­ployee of a Wash­ing­ton DC news sta­tion, I was part of a crew sent to cover the visit of British royal Princess Diana to the Red Cross head­quar­ters to raise aware­ness about land mines. Be­hind the scenes, as we pulled cable to con­nect to the mult box for the press pool, Diana en­tered the room. Wear­ing a laven­der skirt suit, she kindly greeted each of us. She was ra­di­ant.

So, too, is Tessy Ojo, whom I met last week in Lon­don where I had the priv­i­lege of pro­vid­ing the key­note speech at a pro­fes­sional women’s awards event at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium. Tessy fit­tingly re­flects the woman be­hind the name of the or­gan­i­sa­tion where she is CEO: The Diana Award.

The British govern­ment es­tab­lished the or­gan­i­sa­tion two years af­ter Diana’s death to recog­nise young peo­ple who ex­em­plify her legacy of com­mu­nity ser­vice. The Diana Award has ex­panded to be­come an in­de­pen­dent char­ity com­mit­ted to men­tor­ing dis­ad­van­taged youth.

Be­fore the awards event, I hap­pily stood sur­rounded by Tessy and mem­bers of her team as I bar­raged them with in­ter­ested ques­tions.

“Do you have a wait­ing list for kids to be served?” “Yes.” “Do you have enough cor­po­rate men­tor part­ners?” “No.” “What per­cent­age of your job is frus­trat­ing com­pared to re­ward­ing?” “Oh,” they all said. “That’s a tough one.” While they’ve ded­i­cated many years to help­ing kids and there’s plenty of sat­is­fac­tion that comes with that, there are also mo­ments of frus­tra­tion. When a youth can’t stay the course. When cor­po­rate part­ners are dif­fi­cult to find. When there are not enough re­sources to serve those who so de­serve help. While they were not dis­cussing in­ter­nal or­gan­i­sa­tion is­sues as a source of frus­tra­tion, as they shared their hon­est ob­ser­va­tions of their work, it still re­minded me of how each of us strug­gle. No mat­ter where you work or in what role, a job can be a roller­coaster of ups and downs.

A re­cent Deloitte re­port found nearly 80pc of ex­ec­u­tives rated the em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence as “very im­por­tant” or “im­por­tant.” How­ever, just 22pc be­lieve their com­pa­nies are ex­cel­lent at pro­vid­ing a com­pet­i­tive em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence.

Now, and with an op­ti­mistic eye to the New Year, let’s ex­plore how to help make the em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence re­ward­ing, not frus­trat­ing. 1 Switch from cus­tomer-cen­tric, to em­ploy­ee­cen­tric I’ve worked with sev­eral or­gan­i­sa­tions as they roll out their lat­est “cus­tomer en­gage­ment cam­paign.” Em­ploy­ees lis­ten while HR or Com­mu­ni­ca­tions de­part­ments ex­plain the X-num­ber of Pil­lars of Why-this-cam­paignIs-bet­ter-than-last-year’s-cam­paign. And I’ve watched plenty of em­ploy­ees’ eyes glaze over.

Yet, my ex­pe­ri­ence, and the re­search that backs it up, shows that when em­ploy­ees are hap­pier, ev­ery­body is hap­pier.

That’s why it’s crit­i­cal to have an up­beat and pos­i­tive em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence.

The work­place is more than free food or ac­cess to a gym. It’s the com­bi­na­tion of ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion be­tween co-work­ers, cus­tomers and man­age­ment. It’s man­age­ment and the board. It’s the board and the share­hold­ers. 2 Pro­vide struc­tured pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment Does your com­pany of­fer a pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment track? Is it man­aged top-down by your HR team or can you pro­vide in­put on the types of pro­grammes you would like to see Is there a fixed amount of money you can al­lo­cate to­ward any cer­ti­fied course you choose? Or is there a menu of train­ing pro­grammes listed by man­age­ment that you choose from?

I’m not tak­ing sides on what works. It prob­a­bly is a mix­ture.

But seek­ing out reg­u­lar feed­back from the em­ploy­ees who will take part is com­mon sense.

Also, if you’re a man­ager, don’t wait un­til an an­nual re­view or quar­terly re­port to check on an em­ployee’s pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment. Cre­ate ways to keep touch­ing base. 3 De­velop pur­pose­ful and trans­par­ent com­mu­ni­ca­tions This un­der­pins every­thing else, doesn’t it? If your se­nior lead­er­ship team isn’t ac­tively aware how to ex­press them­selves, or co­or­di­nate stake­hold­ers, or an­a­lyse in­flu­encers within their teams or lead through in­spir­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions cam­paigns, you should get them some help.

Peo­ple need to feel val­ued and given am­ple op­por­tu­nity to share ideas and in­no­va­tions and ask ques­tions about poli­cies and plans. Make hav­ing “Pur­pose­ful Com­mu­ni­ca­tions” a struc­tured part of your em­ployee ex­pe­ri­ence and com­pany cul­ture. 4 Cre­ate val­ues all can live Speak­ing of cul­ture, a friend of mine is tak­ing an ex­clu­sive grad­u­ate lead­er­ship course at a pres­ti­gious uni­ver­sity. In her 40s, she is one of the youngest peo­ple in her class. Most of her class­mates are CEOS and not one listed “cul­ture” or “val­ues” as a driv­ing force for a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. Yet, this is one of the defin­ing no­tions the in­struc­tor was try­ing to get across.

Re­flect on this. What words de­fine your com­pany? Is it “pro­duc­tiv­ity” and “com­pe­ti­tion”? or “kind­ness” and “com­pas­sion.”

Take a tip from The Diana Award. Go for the lat­ter.

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