You've developed a killer program to bring a new product or service to market, but the strain on your internal systems may just paralyze the company. How should you proceed? You could:
- Call HR, then run.
- Roll it out and wait for your people to embrace it. (Hey, you're busy.)
- Cultivate internal champions to lead your employees through the process.
(We hope you picked c.)
Think of your internal champions from a medieval point of view. The king had knights that fought on his behalf. The knightly champions were ones the people could relate to and cheer for. Here's an example of a similar approach.
We recently worked with a client through a massive rebranding. Their rapidly growing company had more than 350 employees in many locations across the U.S. The goal was to not just to show the outside world this new look and feel, but to also ensure that each and every employee would live and breathe the brand in this new way. We needed to get them to drink the new company "Kool-Aid."
But when it came time to present all the changes to the rank and file, geography and lack of internal communications processes were major obstacles. The logistics of rolling things out to all employees across 13 states seemed daunting. How would they get everyone on board with a massive shift in internal and external culture? The key: recruit passionate internal champions who are the front line for each of the company's locations.
Choosing the champions
The client recognized that the office managers were stakeholders who were also important gatekeepers. They were crucial because they had the most direct access to every employee—and a lot of influence.
The office managers, who are rarely included in senior level initiatives, were brought on board and briefed on all aspects of the rebrand prior to the rest of the company. They were given freedom to be creative and determine how the new brand would be unveiled to employees in their own offices.
Arm them with weapons
Each office received new stationery and business cards along with branded coffee mugs and other swag for employees. We worked with the corporate office to develop messaging for the company leadership and their first-ever employee newsletter.
Ideas were shared among the office managers prior to the launch. With budget and minimal oversight, the managers got very inventive and planned very special events for their colleagues. Branded cupcakes and other goodies were coordinated by office managers to make each event a branded visual feast.
The brand relaunch was more than just an announcement from "above." It was a message from the owners, with creative flair from the office managers, delivered directly to each employee. The kick-off brought everyone along by:
- explaining the reason for the change,
- what it means for each employee,
- articulating long-term company goals
- and empowering each employee to take an active role in achieving the goals.
Feedback was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. Here's a sampling of the response:
"Extremely impressive! Thank you for sharing. Let me know if I can help in the marketing process. Nice job!!!"
"This is fabulous. I look forward to reading each piece and incorporating into our marketing for talent and our on boarding work..."
"Home run!!! You have done an outstanding job on this initiative. Thanks again!!!"
It's not over
It's vital to remain vigilant regarding your internal brand. It's not something you look at once and then you're done. It requires nurturing. It's part of a process of making your business successful and ensuring that your culture thrives.
For this client, plans are to follow up bi-annually reporting back via the newly established company newsletter on new developments, how the company is doing on its goals and more. They are also implementing a new intranet that will provide a corporate interface for better ongoing internal communications.
Your internal champions are those who "wear the company armor" and will fight under your flag. And your employees listen to them because they see them as peers. Recruit these champions, and you'll hear your employees shouting "Huzzah!"