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February 23, 2019

How not to engage employees

Leadership teams in Africa would be the first to admit that employee engagement is still a relatively new area of competence. Great strides are being made, but from a very low base. Change is being driven by customer expectations. Modern African customers expect waiters to know the menu; bank tellers to dispense more than just cash; and insurance claims to be settled without delay or paperwork. This transition in service is hard to achieve; much harder than any initial set up. When South African domestic TV entertainment business MNET ventured north into ‘Africa’ with their DSTV brand, people were grateful. But take a look at their social media feeds now. 

To make this level of change, a leader really does have to engage her staff as human beings and make a plan to win ‘hearts and minds’. This requires a two-way conversation where employees can also contribute their ideas. Scary? Yes, it is. But less scary than failing to offer the brand experience your customers want. But none of this is easy, and sometimes it’s helpful to see that the rest of the world is really no better at employee engagement than we are. So I now share the latest example of a dreadful employee engagement exercise from a global business. On May 4, 2016, Siemens Healthcare unveiled its new name ‘Siemens Healthineers’.
 “It is,” claims a Healthineer spokesperson, “unique and bold and gives a new identity to the organisation and to the people – the people accompanying, serving and inspiring healthcare providers worldwide – the people behind outstanding products and solutions.” 

The Siemen’s Healthiness (I’m already beginning to see them as cartoon minions) have a big supporter in Bernd Montag, CEO of Siemens Healthcare. Bernd (or should that be Gru?) says: “Our new name is a bold signal for our ambition and expresses our identity as a people company – 45,000 employees worldwide who are passionate about empowering healthcare providers to optimally serve their patients.”
Confident stuff, indeed. But one wonders how inspired the actual Healthineers feel? 45,000 people is a huge audience. So one would assume Siemens has identified a certain type of Siemens employee to become their target audience. But I’m not sure they did. 

Take a look at It’s a film shot at an internal launch event that clearly cost a fortune. A huge musical production on a stage in a factory parking lot. In front of many hundreds of minions and, guess what? The only people enjoying themselves are the ones on stage. Probably because the only audience Siemens has considered is their own senior management team. File this one if you are interested in creating better employee engagement. It’s an object lesson in how not to do it.

Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside.
He helps organisations to deliver their brands through their people.

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