The Power of Your People

power of your people
In our line of work, we constantly hear about examples of design that fell well and truly flat. Trading stories about projects that went catastrophically wrong despite the best intentions is an unofficial industry pastime. It’s how we learn “what not to do”. However, this story, related by a Hello Mellow team member whose name has been withheld to protect the innocent, is one of our favourites:  

“You have GOT to be kidding me!”

My work colleague exclaimed with a mixture of horror and amazement as she peered over my shoulder at the new company logo that looked rather unmistakably like… how can I put this delicately… a side view of the male reproductive equipment.

Every June, the multinational corporation I worked for many moons and a couple of lifetimes ago would announce the coming year’s cheesy slogan. Think of it as Management’s attempt to communicate what they thought we should be doing to pad their retirement funds. Great moments in employee motivation such as “Pivot to the Point of Change” or “Challenge to Innovate” rapidly became the butt of jokes in 28 languages.

That year, our customary string of meaningless words was accompanied by a new company logo and branding that nobody knew about, and, clearly, no female was consulted on. It looked like something Homer Simpson would have designed after taking more than the recommended dose of Viagra. For the next 12 months, we all had to endure dozens of client conversations that went something like:

“Oh, is that your new logo? Umm… it looks kinda like…”

“Yes! We know, OK?!?!”

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Unsurprisingly, the absence of team engagement led to abysmal employee satisfaction and motivation. The company may have been a global player, but it was a perennial also-ran that undoubtedly could have done much better if its people were more invested in its success.

It’s train-wrecks like this that are the embodiment of everything we do NOT want to be as marketers and designers. Experiences such as these make it abundantly clear that top-down is almost always the wrong approach to design – especially when your internal team is the target audience. Why?

Your people need to believe in and love your company as much as you do.

The reason is simple – they are your organisations’ heart and soul, its strongest advocate. Understanding how valued your employees feel and the perceptions they have of your organisation is crucial. If they love where they are and what they do, this will invariably impact how they communicate with those outside the organisation.

The best way to grow your external brand is to work on your internal branding. Before your workforce can sell what you do to others, you need them to buy into your vision and values.

The Thing About Workplace Culture

It should come as no surprise that when staff feel supported, valued and respected by management, relationships between employees will also be strong. Companies with the best employee engagement experience higher internal harmony, improved communication between and within teams, and less cliquiness and isolation. 

Every employee wants to belong to an organisation whose vision, mission and values they connect with. Achieving this throughout the organisation creates a unified sense of common purpose and camaraderie, making it a great place to work. Happy workers are productive, loyal, motivated team members and brand ambassadors. This never fails to improve the bottom line. 

Don’t believe Us? Google It!

Despite its stratospheric growth, Google remains one of the highest-rated employers for job satisfaction. A whopping 97% of Google workers rate it as a great place to work, compared with a US national average of 59%. In the past decade, Google’s headcount has grown almost 450%. Over the same period, revenue has surged by 480%. Meanwhile, year after year, Google takes out a monumental list of employer awards, including best leadership, company perks, company culture, diversity and, most tellingly, Best Company Happiness.

Nobody inside or outside of Google is confused about its mission, culture, values and vision for the future. The correlation is no accident.

What’s the Difference?

Like Google, companies that empower their employees find that they have a happier, more productive workforce. A critical part of this puzzle is fostering a culture in which team members feel that they contribute to decision making and the organisation’s direction. Had our team member and their colleagues had some input into the company’s new branding, they most likely would have ended up with something far more aesthetically pleasing than the phallic monstrosity they were lumped with. Even more crucially, we would have felt a sense of pride and ownership rather than embarrassment and resentment.

Now More Than Ever

The insanity of the last couple of years has changed the way we work – possible forever. With exponentially more people working remotely more frequently, the need to foster cohesive teams and strong workplace culture has never been more urgent. A McKinsey report released this year predicts that 20-25% of workers will continue to work remotely between 3-5 days per week in a post-pandemic world – a four-five-fold increase compared to life before COVID-19. 

Another recent study conducted by the Australian HR Institute found that a mere 14.7% of workers consider themselves to be consistently thriving – down from almost 19% two years ago. Despite the numerous advantages to a flexible work structure, there is a very real risk of workers feeling lonely, isolated or excluded from the decision making process at the micro and macro levels.

Why Do We Care About This?

In recent years, we’ve worked with a few clients who have taken the initiative to measure their employees’ happiness and productivity. They recognise how closely workplace welfare depends upon understanding their motivators, drivers and micro-cultures in which they work.

Grasping the psychology behind this process is critical to harness the appropriate communication tools to cut through blockages in corporate messaging. The first step is understanding that employees want to belong to an organisation with a demonstrated vision and values they identify with.

Walking the Walk

Jemena is the perfect case study. The power company was experiencing a significant safety challenge, with 67% of its workforce reporting a workplace injury in the previous two years. Our task was to devise a campaign to increase employees’ understanding of HSE risks, improve the safety culture, and encourage the workforce to actively engage in policy discussions to make Jemena a safer place to work.

We developed a campaign called “How would you do it?” that incorporated eye-catching design that encouraged staff to contribute their ideas on improving internal processes. This program helped to bridge the gap between management and the workforce. Employees developed a sense of ownership built on feeling respected and included in the process. The result? Injury frequency rates plummeted, employee engagement soared, and the company won a prestigious icare aware award for smart health initiatives.

Our passion is to design people-centric systems and processes tailored to every client’s unique circumstances. We’re firm believers in the power of collaboration and the synergies that happen when stakeholders are included in and engaged with the creative process.

If you feel like these values could help address your company’s challenges, reach out, and let’s see if we can work together to get results and create a better workplace.

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