Aligning people, brand when everything is changing

| January 11, 2019

It’s widely accepted that everything is changing and at an increasing rate.

The business environment is changing, with technological advancements and industry disruption, shorter innovation cycles, changing customer expectations and needs, and skilled talent shortages.

Organisations are transforming to position themselves for the future, at the same time as sustaining ‘business as usual’ and resolving immediate problems. Different parts of the business are at different stages of change, not in sync, and resources are stretched.

Aligning people and brands to unlock value

When it comes to strategy development, I follow a simple, straightforward principle: alignment is key to realizing the value of your organisation’s two most valuable assets – people and brands.

That is, get everyone – employees, customers, key stakeholders – contributing to, buying into and singing off the same hymn sheet by:

  • Aligning purpose and values of the organisation and those of its employees, customers and stakeholders
  • Aligning business, brand, employer brand strategies
  • Aligning functional/operational silos and strategies
  • Aligning the promise the organisation is making to its employees, customers and stakeholders through its communications, and delivery of experiences

The reality: it’s a sea of moving parts

However, in this current environment, the reality is that it’s anything but simple and straightforward. Last year, more than any year before, the experience was that of a sea of moving parts:

  • The need for an employer brand to retain employees and attract talent for the future, prior to business strategy being finalized and customer brand being articulated
  • The need for a brand strategy to guide new product development (NPD), whilst also needing NPD in progress to guide the brand proposition
  • The need for a brand strategy to be refreshed to guide communications and seek new revenue streams, whilst the revised corporate strategy is in progress with a new CEO
  • The need for a future-focused graduate recruitment campaign with both customer brand and employer brand just commencing redevelopment

So do you wait for everything to be in order or push ahead, and how do you gain alignment in a sea of moving parts?

The way forward

The reality is change doesn’t wait and the future is a sea of moving parts.

There are problems to be addressed now, as well as sustaining business as usual and setting the organisation up for the future. Getting started is the way forward.

Whether you’re following a strategic planning process or brand planning process, design thinking or innovation process [all of which cover similar stages: scope; discovery, synthesis/hypothesis, research, insights/issues/ opportunities, mapping; strategy development, business implications, research; planning and activation], the way to gain alignment is by involving people throughout the process and having the capability to manage the moving parts.

Involving people

  1. Dedicated resource – both internally and externally, one owner and support for the project
  2. Consultation – inform the business and be informed by the business at check-points along the way
  3. Research – with representation across cohorts/segments of employees, customers and key stakeholders

Managing moving parts

  1. Adaptability – be prepared to re-scope the project, redefine the problem, revise the process and plan; allow for this with your employees and agency/consultant partners
  2. Objectivity – appoint a resource who is not constrained by the organisation or what has been done before, who can look at the problem with fresh eyes; new recruit, university partner, consultant or agency
  3. Big Picture View – the project leader needs to know what parts make up the big picture and how they inter-relate, what they know/don’t know, what they’re looking for and how to find it
  4. Lateral vs Linear Thinking – whilst there are common stages in the process (as above), it is iterative and approaching the problem and process from different angles will ultimately help pull the parts together
  5. Encourage Collaboration and Buy-in – workshops and group sessions that contribute to the solution and facilitate its implementation

It is both necessary and possible to align people and brands whilst the organisation and its environment are in a state of flux.

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Rachel Bevans

Rachel Bevans is a strategic marketer and business director with over 23 years’ experience helping organisations become brand-driven, customer-centric and employee-engaged. Rachel founded The Healthy Brand Company in 2012 to unite her brand experience, passion for health and fitness and curiosity about what motivates people.

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