The Value of Bringing Your Employees Together

It was the summer of 2000 and the temperature in the Israeli desert was over 90 degrees. Surprisingly, this didn’t bother me one bit since I was focused on learning and understanding how my organization, The Israeli Defense Force (IDF), operates. Hundreds of cadets and I were participating in a combined arms live fire exercise (CALFEX), in which we got to truly experience what other military units do, live their culture and also ride around in tanks and helicopters.

CALFEX was one of the most enlightening experiences of my military service and I believe it helped me become a better officer. The IDF and other armies, including the U.S. Army, go to such lengths to provide this experience to their cadets so that they can experience firsthand how they (and their unit) fit into the bigger picture and appreciate the combined power of their organization.

For many companies, especially large ones, bringing all of their employees together for a capabilities display is not an option. It’s pretty expensive and for many, coordinating all of the employees to be together in one place is nearly impossible. However, there are other ways for organizations to educate their employees about the different parts of the business and provide better role clarity. One company that does this particularly well is Philips (client) with its “We are Philips” program.

The “We are Philips” program was launched in the U.S. to help the company better interact and engage with its steadily growing workforce, while also educating its employees about the different pieces of the company. Research shows that most people find it easier to learn about other people and their roles rather than learn about a department or a sector. A human story, especially a story about someone familiar, will more likely be read than a story about a function’s new business objective. Since the program launch, more than 250 Philips employees have participated by telling their stories about working for the company and acknowledging team achievements and fellow colleague’s accomplishments. Philips shared these stories via a website, as well as on posters and table tents that were distributed across all Philips locations in the U.S.

Ketchum Pleon Change (KPC) helped Philips write the employee stories, and designed an online tool to encourage employees and managers to share their stories as well as their colleagues’ stories. KPC also collaborated with Ketchum’s Digital to help rebrand the “We are Philips” program and align it to Philips’ new business direction. We developed an internal video, redesigned the printed materials and developed employee stories that touched upon Philips’ new direction. Helping Philips provide their U.S. employees with a better understanding of how they fit into the bigger organization. This great collaboration was recently highlighted in a PRweek article. The type of content highlighted through the We are Philips program can be used internally and externally and provide multiple benefits for an organization:

  • Knowledge Sharing – Companies, including Philips, keep growing and changing and it’s hard for employees to keep track of the different pieces that actually comprise their own organization. Stories about employees from different parts of the business or from recently acquired businesses help colleagues understand more about those units and about the organization as a whole.
  • Recognition and Intrinsic Motivation – Recognizing employees through their success stories is a great way to provide motivation. Research shows that showing appreciation and pointing out specific positive aspects of employees’ work can be more motivating than providing monetary rewards. Philips was able to build upon its employees’ intrinsic motivation by highlighting the great work they did and turning them into celebrities throughout their U.S. locations.
  • Collaboration – Knowing your colleagues is key to collaboration within businesses. It breaks down barriers between employees, departments and even businesses. Highlighting employees across Philips’ different sectors and businesses encourages productive interaction and leads to heightened understanding and partnership.
  • Inspiration – Posting employee stories provides their colleagues with something to aspire to. It also helps bring to life the company’s values and highlight how those can be executed on a day-to-day basis. Philips highlighted inspiring stories of employees who were able to contribute to their community, helped build relationships with customers and collaborated to significantly reduce product time-to-market. All those align to the type of behaviors the company wants to see from its employees.

Those are four pretty impressive outcomes and once you start looking you realize that your company is full of inspiring people who could both inspire others within the organization and help recruit top talent from outside. Without actually bringing all of its employees to the same place Philips was able to create a program that brought them closer together. Personally, I was inspired to read and write those stories and now I feel like I have a much better understanding of Philips and its culture.

To read more about the Philips and KPC collaboration, feel free to read this recent PRweek article.

Noam Farago is an Associate Consultant in Ketchum Pleon Change’s New York office with 6+ years of experience as a communications professional. His expertise is in change management, employee engagement, internal communications and social business. Prior to joining Ketchum, Noam was a news reporter and prior to that he was an Artillery Officer in the Israeli Defense Force. Follow him on Twitter @farago_noam.