Harnessing the power of alignment to create value and sustained performance

Putting values at the centre of everything an organization does is the starting point to create a strong and authentic brand

Alan Williams 

VALUES • BRAND • ORGANISATIONAL CULTURE • BUSINESS PROCESSES

Harnessing the power of alignment to create value and sustained performance

In my first article for Work&Placei I posed the question of whether workplace directors can deliver a customer experience like a ‘service brand’. A clear understanding of the organisation’s purpose and values is the fundamental starting point and provides the foundation for everything that follows.

That was in 2013. During the intervening five years, the v-word has caught the imagination, and values are even more front of the mind all over the world for a wide range of people, from political leaders to high profile celebrities and a variety in between, all seeking to win support for their various causes.

You might have noticed how values took centre stage for one of the world’s biggest advertising events, the Super Bowl.ii The inaugural World Values Day took place in 2016, and people in more than one hundred countries took part last October.

Putting values at the centre of everything an organization does is the starting point to create a strong and authentic brand. This strategy is particularly relevant for service organisations where people are a core element of their offer. But it needs to be done in practice rather than as some sort of lip-service PR campaign – witness the reaction to the McDonald’s marketing initiative for International Women’s Dayiii.

The core concept is a simple one: the holistic development and implementation of three areas of strategy (brand identity, employee engagement and customer experience).

Defining a service brand

SERVICEBRAND® is a term invented by the author to refer to an organisation for which customer service is a fundamental and evident part of their offer. Examples of traditional service brands are hotels, airlines, law firms and financial advisors where it is very clear that a service is being provided and people are an important factor. A factory producing hammers is not a service brand. However, in recent years, businesses that in the past might have been considered product-based have become service brands.

There is evidence of this in the automotive, technology, and mobile phone sectors where differentiation based on product alone is a challenge, so service becomes the focus. The approach is also relevant in the public sector, e.g. hospitals or borough Councils, in the third sector and for membership organisations and internal business functions such as Human Resources, Finance, Workplace, and FM.

Much has been written in the workplace and FM sector over the years about integrator models, vested models, ecosystems, and the potential relationship between workplace, FM, real estate, IT and HR.

It is clear that workplace and FM has its own individual characteristics and complexities, and yet the service brand approach has been applied successfully in single-site, regional, and global portfolios over the last fifteen years, delivering remarkable business impact and receiving industry recognition. The overarching concept is a combination of just two principles:

  1. Design the service delivery from the customer backwards instead of from “expert” silos forwards; and
  2. Consider all functions, organisations and people who are involved in the service delivery as One Team.

The core concept is a simple one: the holistic development and implementation of three areas of strategy (brand identity, employee engagement and customer experience) in an integrated way so that consistency and credibility is achieved at all touch points of an organisation (inside and out) and, critically, is then sustained over a period of time.

The service brand can be developed by the coordination and alignment of the three areas, and additional value is created that could take the form of increased profit, increased customer satisfaction and advocacy, improved employee engagement and retention, improved brand recognition and reputation. In short, values-driven service for sustained performance.

The approach is based on the following fundamentals:

  • the primary objective is to deliver an excellent customer experience;
  • creation of a singular sense of purpose and identity supported by a common set of organisational values;
  • day-to-day employee behaviour that is explicitly connected to the values and observable as such;
  • an employee and customer experience that is aligned with the brand identity at all touchpoints (irrespective of geography, channel, or time) with ‘brand signatures’ to create a point of difference;
  • appropriate systems and processes to underpin and facilitate the above, and functions recognising this support role; and
  • effective measurement and insight mechanisms (quantitative and qualitative) across the four areas of Brand Identity, Employee Engagement, Customer Experience and Systems and Processes to inform continuous improvement.

To operationalise this approach, there is a service brand operating model that has five elements:

Brand Identity – the character/personality of the organisation; a combination of purpose/vision, values, brand attributes, visual identity and tone of voice.

Employee Engagement – the degree of enthusiasm by employees for delivering service to customers and an understanding of how the whole organisation needs to support the employees who engage directly with customers.

Customer Experience – the sum of all experiences customers have with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. These experiences can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation, and advocacy.

Systems and Processes – the arrangement of management and employees (their roles and functions and business administration requirements), business facilities and equipment, inventory management and policies and procedures along with how this supports the customer experience.

Measurement and Insight – a blend of quantitative and qualitative data to assess the performance of the above areas to facilitate continual improvement.

It is important that the above are considered at the three levels of strategy, management and delivery to provide the best chance of success. Taking the area of employee engagement, it might be an organisation’s strategy to “develop our people”.

At a management level, this strategy could be supported by a twice-a-year personal development plan discussion that is recorded and tracked. Then, at a day-to-day delivery level, there might be an online library of resources (research, reading, video, training courses, and so on) that employees are able to access. If any of the three levels are not in place, then there is a risk that performance in this area will be suboptimal.

In our super-connected, increasingly transparent world, organisations no longer own their brands. Instead brands are co-owned by organisations and their stakeholders.

Why values are the key

Values are the things that are important to us, the foundation of our lives. They are deeply-held principles that guide our choices and behaviours and influence our emotions. Values are the core of who we are. They are our motivators, our drivers, the passion in our hearts and the reason why we do the things we do.

In a world that is constantly and rapidly changing, values serve as a compass to navigate uncertainty. Research has shown that purpose and values-led organisations consistently outperform their counterparts. In this organizational context, values are moving from a PR exercise to become the guiding compass, not only for progressive, enlightened organizations but also for more well-established, mainstream corporates.

Simon Sinek’s excellent and popular Golden Circle conceptiv is a good place to start. Simon explains that it is not what people do that inspires them; instead it is the why (purpose) and the how (values) that achieve emotional engagement. This perspective is supported by findings of two of the most respected names in the corporate world.

The IBM CEO Study,v May 2012, surveyed 1,700 chief executive officers across 64 countries. The key recommendations outlined three imperatives essential for outperformance. The first of these was empowering employees through values.

“For CEOs, organisational openness offers tremendous upside potential – empowered employees, free-flowing ideas, more creativity and innovation, happier customers, better results. But openness also comes with more risk. As rigid controls loosen, organisations need a strong sense of purpose and shared beliefs to guide decision making. Teams will need processes and tools that inspire collaboration on a massive scale. Perhaps most important, organisations must help employees develop traits to excel in this type of environment.”

PriceWaterhouseCoopers (doing business as PwC) conducted a similar study, CEO Survey 2016,vi amongst 1,400 CEOs in approximately 80 countries. This survey highlighted that 75% of CEOs are changing their values and code of conduct to respond to stakeholder expectations in an environment of unprecedented change. It reported how values can provide a guidepost creating internal cohesion to support achievement of organisational aims and assist strategy execution.

“96% of CEOs agree that it is important for leaders to take time to explain how values influence business decisions.”

A radical rethink of governance

The Financial Reporting Council is perhaps the most influential source of governance advice around the world, as the originator in 1992 of the widely copied Corporate Code. Now, the FRC has torn up its previous code, with a radically rewritten version published in July 2018 that stresses long-term success and proposes a new requirement for businesses to test their values across the business, from top to bottom.vii The text is as follows:

The board should assess and monitor culture. Where it is not satisfied that policy, practices or behaviour throughout the business are aligned with the company’s purpose, values and strategy, it should seek assurance that management has taken corrective action. The annual report should explain the board’s activities and any action taken.

Values are now mainstream, it is no longer about a framed plaque on the wall. Values are the organisation’s guiding compass; they are most effective when they inform everything else an organisation does. Values are for living, not for laminating.

How is this happening?

The customer experience is still frequently referred to as a brave new world in business and, laudable though the concept is, The Experience Economy was coined by Pine & Gilmour in 1998,viii That is now twenty years ago.

Nowadays, an experience no longer seems to be enough on its own. Customers (and other stakeholders) want to know the substance underneath the surface of an organisation. What is its reason for being and what are its values? Decisions to buy a brand or to be associated with it are being driven by more than simplistic financial decision-making criteria. Just consider the growth of the Fairtrade “brand” with sales of €7.88 billion in 2016ix (started in 1994) and how brands like North Face, Apple, and Gandy’s are connecting with their customers at a deeper emotional level.

Companies on “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list outperformed the Russell 1000 by 26 percent. Balancing the needs of stakeholders — consumers, stockholders, community members — allows companies to create value beyond products or services. (Corporate Responsibility Magazinex)

And notwithstanding all that is being said and written about AI and the digital world, people are still a critical factor because customers’ perception of a brand is strongly influenced by the behaviour of the people representing the brand.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. (Maya Angelou)xi

In summary, in our super-connected, increasingly transparent world, organisations no longer own their brands. Instead brands are co-owned by organisations and their stakeholders (customers, employees, outsourced service partner employees, local communities, and so on).

Some years ago, it was possible for organisations to fabricate a marketing and PR ‘front’, but now the truth gets out – fast. We refer to this paradigm as “The Values Economy”. In the world of workplace and facilities management, you might be interested to see Carillion’s organisational values given its bankruptcy and liquidation early in 2018 and the subsequent investigations.

The Carillion website used to state that a company can be financially successful and highly efficient, but it needs a heart, too. It continued to explain that Values were at the heart of everything the company did, driving commitment to delivering safe, sustainable and effective solutions for customers and creating positive legacies wherever the company worked. The four values that Carillion emphasised were:

  • We care
  • We achieve together
  • We improve
  • We deliver

And the company used to say that Carillion people are “living our Values” – the four Values defining the way employees behave, both with each other and with customers and partners, and how employees think, helping to shape the culture, character and beliefs of the Carillion business.

This perspective was summarised as the values meaning that for Carillion, work was always more than a job.

Impressive words… and yet the reality of the beliefs, behaviours, and decisions that drove Carillion’s actions seemed to represent a significant departure from these values in some parts of the organisation.

The pace of change will never be this slow again. Many traditional approaches are no longer relevant and there is a new business agenda emerging.

What does this all mean for Workplace & Facilities Management?

We are living in extraordinary times – Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous (often called VUCA for short). The pace of change will never be this slow again. Many traditional approaches are no longer relevant and there is a new business agenda emerging. This new reality is as relevant to the Workplace and FM sector as it is to business in general.

One of the most important stakeholders in shaping an organisation’s brand identity is the employee. There are factors such as pay, approach to personal development, company reputation and others that will affect employees’ perceptions of their organisation.

However, workplace and FM also play an important role: the location, quality, maintenance and cleanliness of the built environment; the workplace services (e.g., is there onsite provision of food and drinks?); and the behaviour of the facilities management services employees (who might be employed by other service partner organisations). These frontline facilities management people are often the face of the organisations they are representing, and their actions directly influence the employees’ (and visitors) perception of the organisation’s brand and values.

Referring to the Financial Reporting Council’s focus on board and director responsibility to ensure that behaviour throughout the business is aligned with the company’s values, what role is played by Workplace & FM?

Imagine a hypothetical example of a big utility company with a core value of “Our Environment”, alongside a public commitment to sustainability and protecting the planet. How is this value embodied in the organisation’s workplaces?

Does the organisation provide coffee machines with indestructible foil sachets? Does the company car policy allow gas guzzling 4x4s? Is it customary to print paper documents one side only in colour? Is there a night cleaning regime with a need for out of hours lighting? These are examples of how the organisation’s stated commitment to “Our Environment” can be demonstrated in practice, or not. And who owns, or at least is an influencer in, the associated policies and service standards? The answer is Workplace and FM.

What Can You Do?

The key question is, “How can a Workplace and Facilities Management function build a strong internal service brand identity to enable the core business and to reinforce the organisation’s brand and values?” And what are the risks if a facilities management function does not do that? The purpose of this article is not to theorise about this subject; much has already been written on the topic of workplace over the years.

How can a Workplace and Facilities Management function build a strong internal service brand identity to enable the core business and to reinforce the organisation’s brand and values?

Using the service brand approach described here provides a number of valuable benefits.  Workplace and facilities management, regional leads and service providers can clearly understand performance, recognise successes, flag areas for improvement and communicate these factors effectively. The approach focusses stakeholders’ collective attention on the delivery of a high-standard, brand-aligned employee and visitor experience. It is a very practical and simple approach that can avoid silo mentality and the associated challenges that mindset brings.

The Values Economy is here, and the value of an organisation’s brand DNA and values cannot be overstated. Behaviour strongly influences perception; and employees, including outsourced employees, are the organisation. Values-driven alignment between brand identity, employee engagement, and customer experience unlocks value. All of this is as applicable in FM as
in the commercial environment, and it creates an opportunity for FM to lead and enable the business.

But sustained success requires sustained effort. Leaders need to lead in practice. And practice makes more perfect.

References

I           https://www.workandplace.com/could-workplace-directors-deliver-a-customer-experience-like-a-service-brand.

ii           http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-5352133/In-Super-Bowl-ads-play-values-contentious-MLK-message.html.

iii           http://uk.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-flipped-logo-for-international-womens-day-faces-backlash-2018-3?r=US&IR=T.

iv           https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4ZoJKF_VuA.

v           http://www-935.ibm.com/services/multimedia/anz_ceo_study_2012.pdf.

vi           https://www.pwc.com/gx/en/ceo-agenda/pulse.html.

vii          https://www.frc.org.uk/getattachment/d246eacb-5774-4912-98e1-c03f1c8f692f/Corporate-Culture-and-the-Role-of-Boards-Report-of-Observations-tagged.pdf.

viii          https://hbr.org/1998/07/welcome-to-the-experience-economy.

ix           https://annualreport16-17.fairtrade.net/en/building-fairtrade-markets.

x           https://www.forbes.com/2009/03/05/best-corporate-citizens-leadership-citizenship-ranking.html – 58c9e1e7128a.

xi           http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-31-Practices-Release-organization/dp/1907794352.

xii               https://www.amazon.co.uk/My-31-Practices-authentic-happiness/dp/1910649872/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1521037623&sr=8-1&keywords=my+31+practices.

Alan Williams

            Alan Williams is the founder and director of SERVICEBRAND GLOBAL and co-author of two books about values: THE 31 PRACTICES – Releasing the Power of Your Organisational VALUES Every Day and MY 31 PRACTICES – Release the power of your values for authentic happinessxii. He is currently writing his next book, THE SERVICEBRAND COACH, which will be published in 2020.

w         http://www.servicebrandglobal.com

e          alan@servicebrandglobal.com

l           linkedin.com/in/alanservicebrandglobal

t           @OurSERVICEBRAND

 

 

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