Posts Tagged ‘corporate values’


Although it was a cold day in winter, I had a warm and fuzzy feeling.  The CEO of the company where I worked pulled me aside during his annual Christmas meet and greet employee meeting, looked me straight in the face and said, “Thank you so much for all the great work you do for us, Camille.  We really value and appreciate your contribution.”  And for a few seconds after he said this, I felt as if I could have given the company back the bonus cheque I received a week earlier.  Personal recognition from the CEO was priceless.

So several years later, with most of them spent leading cross-functional teams and direct reports, I finally nailed down the real reasons why I entertained the absurd thought of refunding a hard-earned bonus cheque.

  • Essential alignment of personal values and corporate values

After a particularly unpleasant experience with a previous employer, I vowed never to work anywhere where management did not walk the talk of their corporate values.  More importantly, there should be no conflict between my core values of truth, integrity and respect and those of my employer.

Respect was listed among the company’s values.

Pulling me aside to say how much my contribution was valued was in my view, a genuine act of respect coming from the CEO, not just for my work, but for my personal and professional commitment to the success of the company.   I didn’t feel that he was being politically correct or doing his duty to be polite.

In later years when I did have to manage a department, I learned a very hard lesson.  If the personal values of a highly competent employee are not aligned with corporate values, the best designed bonus compensation plan is ineffective.

  • Personal recognition of a job well done is more impactful than a formal recognition program

The company had a formal recognition program, governed by a process of nomination and specific selection criteria.  Exceptional actions and contributions to special projects were recognized in the formal program.  The consistent delivery of good work was not.

Very often, the employee doing the most critical work is several steps away from the front line.  In my case, I was the one preparing the quotation and response to the request for proposal, and the data required for the finalist presentation.  This was my job.  My work was reviewed and approved through a long chain of command.  I felt honoured that the CEO had taken the time to find out who were the behind the scenes contributors.  His personal statement of appreciation meant more to me than seeing my name among the crowded list on the Recognition Program roster in the quarterly employee bulletin.

  • Fitting in & contributing to something larger than oneself

People need to feel that they are contributing to something larger than themselves, and that their contribution really makes a difference.  The CEO clearly made me feel that the company needed and valued my contribution.

Employee recognition and the employer brand

And this last point leads me, as a marketer, to make the connection between employee recognition and the employer brand.  The employer brand defines for employees, why the organization is a great place to work and sets expectations for employees’ experience throughout their career there.

Employee buy-in to the employer brand creates engagement, encourages discretionary effort and results in committed and outstanding performance, which is the basis for employee recognition programmes.  To be meaningful, the employer brand has to be brought to life, and if not, it remains an empty set of words.   

Bringing the employer brand to life is all about equipping employees to do their jobs with enthusiasm and building commitment to the company’s values.  To do this, I have three suggestions:

  1. Human Resources and Marketing should work together in the on-going management of the employer brand. When there are changes to business strategies, the employer brand must also be adjusted and communicated to employees.
  2. Business leaders and managers should commit to an on-going programme of internal, bi-directional communication activities so that employees understand the importance of the role they play in the success of the company.
  3. A mix of formal recognition programs and opportunities for leaders to give employees personal recognition goes a long way to motivate employees.


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important




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When corporations cause harm to the society, their corporate licences can be revoked, fines and other sanctions can be imposed under the law or society can withdraw its patronage and profits, placing the corporation’s existence in jeopardy.

Many corporations invest significant resources in philanthropic acts which are collectively packaged and promoted as corporate social responsibility (CSR).  CSR reports offer the public some proof that corporations are acting responsibly and are contributing to the well-being of the society.

Some corporations have established corporate codes of ethics to set standards of business practice that go above the base-line requirements of the law.  In addition, corporations define moral values that shape the corporate culture, with the expectation that these values will be evidenced in the personal and professional conduct of employees.

We now live in an information age in which corporations are under constant public scrutiny.  The actions and implied intentions of corporate agents are very often judged, using moral and ethical principles as the standard, and not just the base-line requirements of the law or the content of CSR reports.

A case in point

Citizens of Lac Mégantic, Québec, were outraged at the delayed response of Ed Burkhardt, president of MMA, the company whose derailed train carrying crude oil devastated their small town.  During his first (and only?) visit to Lac Mégantic five days after the disaster, Mr. Burkhardt focused his communication in his brief contact with the population, on potential legal liabilities and insurance claims, blaming an employee and implying that the fire department may have played a role in the disaster.  The widespread outrage at Mr. Burkhardt’s reaction is understandable and justified.  His behaviour demonstrated his concerns were primarily focused on base-line legal responsibilities.  And yes, there is much that is ethically and morally wrong with a corporation’s president enjoying the comfort and safety of his office and home many miles away from a disaster area where hundreds of people remain homeless, jobless and in the case of nearly 50 people, lifeless, as a result of the corporation’s actions – regardless of who eventually is found to be legally liable for the disaster.

The BIG picture

Corporations must accept that they are not only legal entities with legal obligations.  Corporations have moral and ethical responsibilities to ensure that their actions, whether intentionally performed or accidentally caused, do not harm the society.  This, in my view, is the BIG picture.

Putting public safety above profits is the true test of whether or not a corporation is acting in a morally responsible fashion.  The swift response and remedial actions of Johnson and Johnson in the Tylenol capsule crisis  in spite of multi-million revenue losses, demonstrated that corporation’s recognition of its self-imposed obligation to avoid harming the public even though it did not directly cause the contamination of the capsules.

Focus on what’s important

Because moral and ethical responsibilities are self-imposed, corporations should find specific, clearly defined ways and means of ensuring that they are fulfilling these responsibilities.  A few suggestions:

  • Annual training for employees on the code of ethics – Each employee should review and sign the code of ethics, attesting to their understanding and compliance.  Part of the training should include likely scenarios in which employees will need to apply the corporation’s ethical and moral standards.
  • A moral audit committee – Establish a committee that addresses situations that present ethical and moral dilemmas for employees and for the corporation.  In addition the committee should periodically review the ethical and legal implications of the corporation’s business practices.  For example: pricing and special promotions, supplier relationships and the award of contracts, competitive positioning in advertising and potential conflicts of interest in talent acquisition.
  • Whistleblower’s hotline – The provision of a secure way for employees to disclose business practices and employee behaviour that are contrary to the company’s code of ethics and corporate values.
  • Protocol for crisis management – The protocol should include guidelines for transparent communication and codes of conduct for the corporation’s representatives that focus on empathetic, remedial actions and intentions of the corporation.


See the BIG picture.  Focus on what’s important.


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In an earlier post, I highlighted the need for departments to work together to make organizational change effective.  No one would object to this.  But the notion that there could be synergies when Marketing and HR work together seems counter intuitive.

Marketing involves identifying and meeting wants and needs of people.  To do this, marketers need to be up on the latest trends, creative, adaptive and strategic.  They’re seen as always having fun, standing in the spotlight and having the ear of senior executives.  On the other hand, HR involves the development of strategies, policies and programmes to manage people and promote a healthy corporate culture.  HR practitioners aren’t often seated at the senior executives’ table.  The perception is that HR is always on the receiving end of instructions from upper management to hire, fire, manage performance and deliver those training programmes which are the first on the chopping block when budgets are cut.  If you really believe this, you would say that HR and Marketing are polar opposites!

Before the objections start to pour in, let me point out that although their mandates are different, Marketing and HR Departments do share similar and very important roles – that is, getting people to do what is best for the company – whether they are clients, prospects, the general public or employees.  More specifically, Marketing and HR departments

  • are involved in incentivizing people,
  • reinforce consistent messages,
  • measure engagement,
  • provide proof of a value proposition, and
  • undertake activities that impact the delivery of the corporation’s strategy.

So, why is it important for both Marketing and HR to work together?  The answer is simple.  Employees are the key to business success.

Marketing develops and manages the business brand to create awareness of products and services, build on-going customer loyalty and contribute to business success. It’s the employees who represent the company and its products and services to customers and as such, they influence customer loyalty and business success. To ensure that employees understand what the business brand stands for and enthusiastically promote it, Marketing and HR must work together to ensure that employees are equipped to deliver the business brand promise to customers.

Some specific areas of Marketing and HR collaboration can be:

  • Recruitment and on-boarding activities – should reinforce consistent messages and provide proof of the corporation’s value proposition to employees and clients


Meaningful connections between the values of the corporation and the values of target recruits ought to be consistently communicated in recruitment advertising and bring these values to life in on-boarding and on-going organizational development activities.  Marketing should to be in a position to provide insights and research on the values of demographic groups the organization hopes to attract as potential employees and the reasons why they are likely to be a good fit.   As well, Marketing should be able to provide HR with guidance to select the right media, position employee and recruitment messages, adopt the appropriate style of communication and select the call to action channels that are appropriate for the target audiences.

  • Performance management, training, recognition and reward programmes – incentivize employees and impact the delivery of the corporate strategy

It is important for Marketing and HR to ensure agreement on the resources, skills and behaviours that support the delivery of the business brand and corporate strategy.  Real inputs that Marketing can provide HR include customer research and feedback on specific areas of interaction such as service, communication, in-store experience, loyalty programmes etc.  HR and Marketing can jointly identify what matters most to clients and determine the required skills and content of training programmes to support employees in the fulfilment of client needs in ways that reflect the business brand promise and achieve the corporate strategy objectives.

  • Cross-referencing employee metrics and marketing metrics – measuring engagement of employees and customers/target customers

Both HR and Marketing use surveys to measure engagement albeit of different groups – employees, in the case of HR and customers /target customers in the case of Marketing.  It has been proven that employee engagement directly impacts customer satisfaction and financial performance.  High levels of employee engagement correspond to increases in customer engagement levels – even when there is no direct customer contact.  More specifically, the quality of product development and the creation of the corporate reputation are the outcomes of employee engagement and ultimately influence customer satisfaction.  By cross-referencing results of customer and employee engagement surveys, HR and Marketing can identify areas in the company and/or customer segments for improvement and potential solutions to address the challenges.

Make it happen!

Aligning the efforts of Marketing and HR in the areas cited above begins corporate senior leadership recognizing that business success is wholly dependent on their employees’ capacity to deliver on the company’s brand promise.

When identifying areas of cooperation, it is essential for Marketing and HR to look beyond departmental objectives and focus on aligning their roles and efforts in relation to corporate business strategies and objectives.

Once the areas of cooperation and alignment of roles have been identified, both departments need to create forums for collaboration and communication comprised of persons with the expertise required to do the work.


This blog was written for Your Workplace and published on 11 March, 2013.


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