Nothing Motivates Like Money – Sorry

Came across this article down the back of the internet – ws so incensed by the horsesh*t quotient, that I had to share with you, dearest blog trotters.

You see, I’m a believer in internal comms as a motivator. I believe in praise where it’s due, I believe in duvet days, I believe in doughnut Fridays, I believe that staff meetings should be entertaining and I believe that the booze should never run out at the Christmas party (and that what goes on tour stays on tour). (Yes, Microsoft, I’m talking to you.)

But I do not believe that any of this substitutes for cold, hard cash. Wonga in an envelope. The chink of change, the rustle of non-sequential, used tenners. And thus, I am afraid, any staff motivation philosophy that kicks off with ‘don’t show ’em the money (even if you have it)’ is misguided at best and cynical, petty, small-minded and mean at worst.

And no, wandering up to a random employee and inviting them to lunch with you is not motivating. It is stalking. It will result in uncomfortable silence, which is not how I enjoy my lunchtimes.

And the idea that asking – ‘was that the best way to approach the problem? Why not? Have you any ideas on what you could have done differently?’ – will somehow not be perceived as criticism or correction is just hippy-dippy nonsense.

Oooh – it makes me cross. I’d actually suggest that blindly implementing the nine things recommended here will have the opposite effect to that desired.

Especially number nine – ‘share the rewards’. But without giving anyone any money, obviously. What planet?

A Letter to Orange, Mobile Network Provider of This Parish

Here, dearest Blog Trotters mine, is a letter sent, via the medium of  ‘e’ mail, to the CEO, CMO and (oh but yes) the Chief Performance Officer of Everything Everywhere, the company formed through the alliance of Orange and T-Mobile. I’ll let you know whether I get a response.

(Still have no email on my B’Berry, by the way.) (I knew you’d be concerned.)

“Dear Olaf, Pippa and Ralf
Having been, finally, beaten by your impenetrable ‘customer service’ network (a completely new and totally unexpected definition of the term ‘customer service’ that I’d not encountered before), I am really, really hoping that you will be able to solve my Orange problem for me. (Congratulations on the company name, by the way – genuinely visionary and grandiose. If only it wasn’t the complete opposite of my experience to date.)
A long story short – as I’m sure you’ve all got better things to do (I know I have) – I’ve been a genuinely loyal customer of Orange for over 10 years and, to date, while it’s been (with hindsight) a bit pricey and I don’t like being sold insurance that I don’t need, I’ve been happy with it. Never even considered moving. Over the last four days, however, all of that has changed – rarely have I felt so powerless in the face of complete corporate ineptitude. Seriously, guys, whoever designed your call handling systems, the automated responses and the customer-facing website functionality should be tracked down and punished, in a cruel and unusual way. And so should the person who sold you the idea of outsourcing your call centres (I’m guessing that they are outsourced) – as the systems don’t work and even if they did, the call centre staff don’t have the knowledge to do anything with the account data the system is supposed to provide. I suspect it’s cost-cutting and lack of forward planning – but, whatever the cause, it’s frustrating and it will lose you business.
So – I’ve got an upgrade to a new Blackberry device. There was a slight delivery snafu, but it arrived. I’d been told to ring a number to activate the SIM. Did that on Sunday – the rather irritating call centre chap told me I should have done it online (incidentally, when I DID try to do it on line, the service didn’t work), but then said he’d be able to sort it out. Monday morning – not done, so I called again. Monday afternoon, nothing happening, called again, assured that a supervisor would be activating my SIM. Late Monday afternoon, call again, recorded message tells me that a problem precludes me being connected to an operator, and I should call back. Monday evening, nothing doing, call again, put on hold for 20 minutes, then cut off. (Meanwhile, and while I’m on a roll, why do I have to go through umpteen ‘if you want this, press that’ prompts, every time I ‘phone, when I still end up with the same lacklustre call centre staff, all of whom (without exception) have to contact someone else to address my query? And what, in the name of all that’s holy, is a ‘magic number’?)
Tuesday morning – hallelujah – SIM activated. Attempt to connect to my internet email accounts. Wah-wah and, indeed, oops. Either I’ve got a purely enterprise device, not allowing (as I’m sure you know) connection to internet mail accounts, or I’m being stupid. Let’s take the latter option – it’s been known. I visit your Orange website – again, do you know how difficult and painful it is to find things on that site? Couldn’t find anything helpful. Today I braved your call centres again, looking for a resolution to the problem – who knows (not me) maybe Orange can tweak the B’Berry enterprise software and provide me, remotely, with a consumer-facing device. Suffice it to say, your operative either couldn’t, or didn’t, address the issue. Nor did she call me back when she said she was going to.
So, here I am, with device, without email. Perhaps unfortunately, I tend to rely on email to keep me in touch with career and business opportunities, so I’m a little stifled right now. Two questions:
How has Orange come to this? It was brilliant – now it’s rubbish. Is this the Everything Everywhere influence?
Can you sort this out for me – or do I, and with regret, take my business elsewhere? I know I’m just one punter, but on the basis of my recent experience, I won’t be the last.
Perhaps a little less spend on marketing and a little more on nuts and bolts and getting the experience right.
All the best
The Wordmonger
PS And, lest I be accused of not making enough effort (sigh), yes, I have emailed Orange, via the same difficult website, twice, once asking advice and once complaining. No response to date. I know it says ‘a response within 48 hours’ – but, really, 48 hours? In today’s social media-driven world? Time for reflection, I think.
PPS I know I wrote, earlier, ‘long story short’ – but, well, hey……….”

Reinventing Online Shopping With ‘Social Commerce’

Thanks to The Globe and Mail (Toronto) for this article published yesterday, entitled ‘Retail Giant’s @Walmartlabs plans to reinvent shopping with ‘social commerce’.  You can read it by doing the light clicktastic on this word here.

Working in retail in 2000, as I did, one of the questions that ‘brick-and-mortar’ retailers were often asked was ‘do you feel threatened by the rise of e-commerce?’ To which the answer was ‘no – people will always want to experience real goods, in real time, in real surroundings, sold by real people.’ At the time they were right, the tech bubble imploded and things (briefly) went back to how they were.

But, d’you see, we got it wrong – both the question and the answer. We got the question wrong because we didn’t know what to ask – social media had not been invented – and we got the answer wrong because we could never have imagined how reliant people would become on the opinions, statuses, needs, wants and ill-informed dogmatism of others.

The question now is – as a ‘brick-and-mortar’, offline retailer, do you feel threatened by social media?’ And the answer really should be ‘yes’. When Walmart are bringing social media to the in-store shopping experience (want a review of the microwave you’re looking at? Post a message – a member of staff or another customer will respond to you. Want to know where the peanut butter is? Post a message – someone will respond) then you can be certain that this – or something like it – is the future.

And as for the boy turd Zuckerberg – yes, of course he’s in on it. To quote the article – ‘this is where Shopycat comes in. The Facebook application uses social media profiles and comments to generate gift ideas’. Back to Walmart’s breathless tech spokesperson, Venky Harinarayan. (No disprespect to Venky, he (or she, I suppose) has already made a sizeable fortune selling Walmart a thing called Junglee, a shopping comparison site. Well done, that capitalist.)

“It is becoming clear to us that one of the shopping behaviors that people have that is inherently social is gifting. We are building a product that we believe makes peoples’ gifting much more efficient, because all of your friends and family, within reason, are on Facebook. We are leveraging that information to help you buy better gifts and make it easier for you. We believe gifting and social networks are fundamentally made for each other, so getting that right over the next year will be important to us.”

D’you know, snorkellers mine, I’m going to leave it there. I’ll let you work out the number of different levels on which this is just so wrong.  I’ll start you off.

‘Efficient gifting.’

Social Media In The Workplace – The Debate Rageth On

It’s been a long time, gentle readers, since I came across something that deserves an award for its icky, sticky, company hippy nature, its inherent stupidity and intellectual laziness and its truly horrible smug and self-satisfied tone. But today is the day – it chills my very soul to introduce this, the Stop Blocking website and it disheartens me even further to link to this, a piece entitled ‘Demolishing Barclays Communications’ Blocking Argument Point-by-Point’.

Now, for this post to make sense to you, you’re going to have to do the clickety-dickety and read the article. You may wish to have a bucket and a towel handy while you do so and also to warn anyone in the immediate vicinity that your anguished howling is nothing to be alarmed about. Unless it goes on for longer than – say – thirty minutes, in which case it may be the onset of PTSD.

In brief, this is a continuation of the battle between two diametrically opposed viewpoints – that employees in the workplace should have no access to social networks during work hours whatsoever (which I do not believe to be a workable solution to the insidious eville of social) and that employees should be free to do what they want, when they want, simply girdled with a loose set of suggestions and guidelines. Which, as a solution to the problem of social media in a corporate context (and it is a problem, mark my words) is also a nasty pile of cattle droppings. In a nutshell, it’s the Corporate Nazi vs Company Hippy debate, which I have posted about before.

Thing is, the Company Hippy arguments for social media, used here, are the same ones that have been trotted out since social media began. And they didn’t make sense then, and they don’t make sense now. On top of that, here they are dusted with the icing of  ‘research’ and ‘example’ – and we all know how easy it is to find support for an argument. Any argument. (Don’t make me give you specifics.)

Here’s just a few idiocies:

  • Apparently, all workers, regardless of status or paygrade, put in extra hours and therefore compensate for any time that they may waste using social networks. Of course they do. In the same way that they all love the company that they work for, its senior management and its brands
  • Productivity suffers if employees can’t connect to social networks at work (thanks, University of Melbourne!). Apparently use of social media ‘resets an employee’s concentration’. How DID we manage to concentrate before?
  • Because the US Department of Defense has opened its networks to social media, does not mean that LargeCorp Industries LLC (in the business of profit, not homeland security) should – it’s not a question of risk from cyber-attack, it’s a question of perceived need and value. (In any case, I would ask whether the ‘private in the field in Afghanistan’ is free to change his status willy-nilly (‘Safe behind a wall’ to ‘In a ditch with blast concussion’) or to share any sort of geographic or temporal information)
  • Company ‘confidentiality can be violated anywhere, even an elevator’. True – but your average elevator holds 12 people and Facebook holds a potentially eavesdropping audience of 450 million. Go figure
  • ‘Many employees carry smartphones – or they can (access social media) from home after work’ – again, true. But what they do on their own time is their own business – unless it contravenes company policy on how they may represent themselves as employees, or the laws of the land – in which case they get fired. In the workplace – well, the clue is in the name – ‘work’place. Not ‘fun’place or ‘do-your-own-thing’place
  • ‘If normal use of bandwidth (this refers to employee use of social media) is slowing (your) network to a crawl, get more bandwidth.’ Just go to your finance guys and ask them to approve an increase in your budget, to purchase bandwidth to allow your employees to update their Facebook statii. That’s bound to work. Job done

All of this is hopelessly Utopian – the ideals of an imaginary world where everyone is nice, contented, loyal and trustworthy. Well, here’s the wake-up call. They’re not, and you need to bear that in mind when thinking about social media use in the workplace.

The solution, however (and it’s the one point on which I vaguely coincide with Stop Blocking) is not to shut down employee access to the internet. You see, it’s the internet that is (or can be) a useful corporate tool, it’s the internet which – as much as I still think this is a sucky argument – ‘resets concentration’ – not social media. Social media is wasteful and vainglorious. The internet is (partly) full of useful information, commentary and viewpoint.  Social media is full of weak-minded individuals who honestly believe that what they do and think is of interest to others (see Twitter).

How can you do it? Some companies have a couple of open-access machines in their public areas, for employees to use when they’re on breaks and time spent on these machines is (obviously) monitored by other employees – much like smokers on smoking breaks, internet users will be kept honest by their peers. Other companies make internet access a privilege, granted to those who’ve achieved – promotion, sales targets, whatever – although this is obviously a little elitist. Others allow internet access, but block social media sites – possibly the best of the options.

What is essential, however, is a good, solid, draconian Use of Social Media Policy and an internal communication plan to make sure that no-one can claim ignorance of it. Needless to say, this Policy should outline clearly how an employee may represent the company or brand online and in social media – what is acceptable and what is not – and, most importantly, make it clear that it applies 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Enforce it rigorously, because there’s nothing like a public hanging to make people understand that you are – and it is – serious.

Corporate Reputation – Toyota And The Need For Purpose

I am very fond of the internet. (Even though, obviously, I don’t know all of it.) It’s mostly the way that things just crop up, without one necessarily looking for them, which provide insight into, and opinion on, stuff that is instantly resonant and relevant. There’s always someone out there in webworld who sees the connection between events and best practice, in any field, or sector, or discipline, even when you haven’t. Everything I’ve just said here is, of course, stating the obvious – that’s what you’d expect from the feral communities engendered by the net – and it’s not that which astounds. No – it’s the serendipity with which the net throws things one’s way – almost as if there was some sort of a fate lending an ethereal hand.

Most likely, it’s to do with quantum. Algorithm’s gonna get you.

Anyway – here’s a piece that I think is splendid. It’s from a blog called Decision to Lead – Expanding the Practice of Leadership and it’s by a lady called Frances Frei, who is (according to the blurb) ‘Harvard Business School’s resident expert of service excellence’. Which, to my mind, gives her a bit of gravitas.

The piece is about the whole ongoing Toyota situation of which we are all aware, even if we’re not sure how many cars have been recalled and what, exactly, they’ve been recalled for. Mechanical bloopers, shall we say. Frances comes at it from the angle of what I will call ‘corporate religion’ and what she calls a purpose. You can read the post yourselves, dear blog snorkellers, but Frances posits that Toyota lost its focus on its corporate purpose of ‘improvement’ – improvement of its product and improvement in the way its product was constructed. From the pursuit of this purpose came business success – sales and profits. Toyoat lost its focus – or rather its focus shifted, from improvement as a corporate purpose, to sales and profits as goals in themselves. As these became the goals of the company, so corners were cut, so the pride and motivation of the workforce became less – and it was then but a matter of time before what happened, happened.

It’s a great lesson – shame that it takes a global product recall, and its affect on the consumer, to teach it. The lesson is that businesses and organisations that have true longevity, that are the ones that enjoy enduring success (in the form of sales and profits), that are the ones that engender respect and admiration in their stakeholders – these are businesses for whom sales and profits are not goals in themselves. They are function of the bigger corporate purpose – the mission, the vision, the intent, the corporate religion – whatever you’d wish to call it. With a clearly defined and articulated purpose comes pride and motivation and – yes – reward for the people that make the business or organisation run.

(PS. Lest I be accused of being an unreconstructed, irredeemable hippy, I know that there are industries and business sectors where the purpose is nothing more or less than profit, and the people who are involved in them are wholly subsumed in the pursuit of the purpose – banking, mostly. I will be hippy-ish, mind, and ask whether we’d be in such a global economic bind right now if, perhaps, the bankers had had another purpose, other than sheer greed.)

(PPS. The need for corporate purpose has been around forever. I say this to prevent anyone trying to tell me that it’s part of the New Age of business, where everyone has a voice and everyone’s voice is important, which has been brought about by that life-changing, world-shaping phenomenon, social media. Horse droppings.)

Social Media – Not Just For The Nasty Things In Life….Oh…Hold On…

This piece from the new York Times. Jonathan Schwartz, the ‘last chief executive’ of Sun Microsystems – sounds like he ought to be the subject of a movie starring Tom ‘Frighteningly Insane’ Cruise – announces his resignation via Twitter. (Here’s the feed in all its Twittery glory.)

(Actually, I’m fairly sure that he didn’t announce his resignation via Twitter – technically speaking – I’m fairly sure that he did it like everyone else would have, in a letter, delivered by hand to Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle and a man ‘not especially fond of Mr Schwartz’.)

For the hard of clicking, who want everything fed to them on a plate, he did it in the form of a haiku.

That being as it may, the NYT has some interesting stuff to say about Mr Schwartz. Apparently, he ‘has been fond of using the internet as a soapbox’ and was ‘the first CEO of a major company to put up his own blog’ and, indeed, ‘pushed the Securities and Exchange Commission to put blogs on equal footing with press releases and filings when it comes to disclosing critical business matters to investors’. Doesn’t say whether he succeeded.

Which all sounds great. Then you dig a little and find that between April 30 2008 and Feb 3 2010, he managed 36 tweets. Hardly prolific, although he has amassed over 10,000 followers. (Sycophants.) Oh – and his Twitter tag is OpenJonathan, which I’m not wholly convinced by. Luckily, a lot of his Tweets link to his blog.

And his blog’s a belter. This is the way it should be done. The NYT under-egged the cake in my opinion. It was started in June 2004 – here’s the first post, read it before Mr Ellison takes it down – it’s been updated regularly and, as far as I can see, mixes core product messaging (at least I think that’s what it is, I’m not really qualified in the techie arena) with splendid, apparently homespun philosophy. I particularly like the post about having lunch with Tony Blair – genius.

Anyway, this isn’t a hagiography. What it is is a suggestion that more c-suite execs should be trying to approach this tone of voice and this balance of content and should be talking to their audiences through the medium of digital (and I do mean the medium of digital, not the medium of social – I know they’re easily confused. For the record Twitter is social – and we can see here that it’s nowhere near as effective or compelling as the blog, which is digital).

As we know, in this post-economic apocalypse age, our audiences – especially employees, suppliers, business partners and customers – want messages of comfort and reassurance, and want to see companies walking the walk, not just talking the talk. What better way to achieve this than by showing a bit of personality – something that people can relate to.

Why do I suspect that Mr Ellison of Oracle probably disagrees.

Social Media and Social Responsibility – Not The Same, Not Related, Not Linked

I suppose it was only a matter of time. My regular blog snorkellers will be familiar with my feelings about the industry that has grown up around social media – comprising social media gurus and evangelist and experts, the most of them snake-oil salespeople, mountebanks and charlatans. In retrospect, it’s not dissimilar to what happened when CSR and sustainability became ‘buzz’ phrases – say 10 years ago.

And now – as evinced by this article from Mashable – the two worlds have collided, bringing a breed of consultant advocating corporate social responsibility through social media strategy. Just sit back and think about that for a moment – revel in the horror of it – the wasted resource, the enormous expense, the inevitable lack of any tangible results.

Anyway, the article in question is by one Ann Charles (founder and CEO of BRANDfog – have a look at the website, if you dare) and is dedicated to ‘5 steps to develop(ing) a CSR culture using social media’. Before it gets to the ‘5 steps’ however, there’s some wonderful introductory prose to wade through. It’s the sort of stuff that I would advocate pinning over the desk of anyone thinking of forging a career in communications. Try this on for size:

“Thanks to a social media culture that reveres transparency and demands accountability, companies today are seen through the critical lens of the Triple Bottom Line: People, planet and profit. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) states that businesses should act as stewards of society, the environment, and the economy. The social media spotlight brings accolades and new business for companies that give back, while brands behaving badly are pilloried in online communities like TwitterTwitter and FacebookFacebook, followed by the mainstream press.”

Lest anyone be under any illusion, I find this to be an ill-considered, badly-put-together hotch-potch of truisms and motherhood statements. (Sorry).

Anyway – to the point – here are the five steps:

  • Commit and lead
  • Listen and learn
  • Innovate
  • Communicate
  • Invest

And, d’you know, I cannot argue with a single one of them. If you are building a sound corporate culture – and if you haven’t got one, you should have, this much is true – then these are definitely the steps you should follow.

I am a firm believer in creating, growing, establishing and living a strong corporate culture – what has been called a ‘corporate religion’ – that everyone who works for, or does business with, the company should be able to see, respect, understand and believe in. It’s a simple fact of corporate reputation management – if people respect you and believe in you (and perhaps even like you) then they will be happier doing business with you. Amazingly enough, a great (and current) example of this is Starbucks – see my earlier post for chapter and verse.

If you get your corporate religion right, then your CSR will happen naturally, in an unforced, synergistic and wholly natural fashion. It will not look deliberate, and therefore suspicious.

But the five steps above are not specific to CSR. And they certainly are not specific to developing a CSR culture using social media. Even the author of the offending article has difficulty shoehorning social media into her narrative and examples. Once again, this is a case of desperately trying to find a use for social media and, in the process, simply demonstrating that social media aren’t really (in a business context) very useful.

And why would you pay a consultant to learn that?