If you’re getting sick of Myers-Briggs, Standout and all those other profile systems, may I recommend another fun way to slice and dice your co-workers into neat little categories? Grab your Winnie-the-Pooh books, a generous few glasses of Pinot Something and an organization chart. If Winnie-the-Pooh is new to you, bring the bottle into the room, power through the books and then start this exercise.
Just like Thomas the Tank Engine and Sesame Street, Winnie-the-Pooh is full of archetypes and situations intended to help children learn to deal with all the people they will one day call their coworkers. You just can’t start that stuff too young.
You’ve probably worked with a few Rabbits – those control freaks in a perpetual state of exasperation, bordering on panic, and punctuated by the occasional huffy comment about slacking. They do well in project management.
How about the Piglets? They are those terribly bright, practical people who are so invested in making everyone feel good, their perfectly sound ideas die in a shrivelled little voice bubble at the bottom of page 14.
Of course there’s the lovely, nurturing Kanga, whom you secretly dread having to mess with in a contentious meeting, and, the bombastic Owl who hasn’t been relevant for years, but is mostly harmless and a good listen. Then, of course, there are Eeyore and Tigger.
Eeyore is the donkey for whom the glass isn’t just half empty, it’s got nicks in the rim, potassium chloride in the bottom and it’ll never last in the dishwasher. Tigger’s glass, of course, isn’t just half full; it’s one-and-a-half full of everything tasty.
Somewhere between the exhausting Tigger, and the depressing Eeyore is the rest of your workforce. Which makes Tigger and Eeyore your key internal brand influencers. You heard that right. Just as your marketing department has (or is hoping to have) an influencer marketing plan, so, too, should HR and employee communications, have a strategy for the most influential people in the business.
Let’s define influence: In this context, influence is not a function of role power, in the “better-do-what-I-say-or-kiss-that-budget-increase-goodbye” sort of way; it’s more subtle and grassroots than all that. These influencers are everyday folks embedded throughout your organization.
The Tiggers, often new or recently medicated, are having a blast. They’re liking and sharing absolutely everything the social media team is posting. They’re front row at the town hall; they’re volunteering to plant trees, chairing the United Way campaign and helping to keep the kitchen clean. It’s like engagement, only a bit scary.
Eeyores, often tenured, but sometimes just the victims of a hideous on-boarding are not having a nice time. They’re refusing to follow the company on Twitter they’re texting snarky stuff to their co-workers, and they’re pointing out how very little the tree planting actually represents on the company’s corporate social responsibility balance sheet.
It’s tempting to think Tiggers will eventually burn out or have the Happy slowly squeezed out by PowerPoint, and that the Eeyores will finally come up on the downsizing list, but I don’t think it works that way, at least I hope not. Whether they are pinning motivational photos to the bulletin boards or rolling their eyes in a budget meeting, these are your engagement rock stars. They want stuff to be great – even Eeyore.
In the marketing world, complaining, hating customers are known as Porcupines and they’re actually considered to be a bit of an asset. They’re the ones who want the product or service to be better, and they’re not afraid to tell your brand all about it. If they didn’t care, they’d go use a different product.
For employer brands, the Tiggers are your bellwether for what’s working, and your Eeyores are the early warning system for what’s not working.
What they have in common, other than a mutual loathing, is the ears of their colleagues. Unlike the rest of the menagerie, these two are the ones speaking up in meetings, asking hard questions, talking to co-workers in the elevator, talking to friends in the pub and generally articulating your employer brand. This is why we need to know who they are and what they’re saying.
Marketers spend a lot of time engaging and working with influencers, both in their industry and within specific customer organizations. But most employers couldn’t name their key influencers by location, division, department or project team.
I think that information is actually easier to come by than what the marketing department is trying to dredge up. Depending on the size of your company, you probably do some kind of annual survey, which may or may not reveal pockets of happiness and dissent. You might even do some focus groups (Tiggers LOVE focus groups, by the way) or little pulse surveys (Eeyores prefer this passive-aggressive platform), but do you go out and ask your team leaders, HR business partners and executives who their Tiggers and Eeyores are?
At your next employee town hall, stand at the side of the room and watch the body language. Your Tiggers will be positively vibrating, and shooting their hands up every eight seconds. Your Eeyores will be texting madly or otherwise demonstrating their contempt for the content. But make no mistake, if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t be there; they’d be at their desk looking for a new job.
Next time we’ll look at what to do with those two groups, and how to use them to build your employer brand and test your employer value proposition.
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BizMarketer is written by Elizabeth Williams
I help companies have better conversations
Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org