In a world teeming with ideas and aspirations, the bedrock of any successful venture lies in a clear purpose, encapsulated in the trinity of vision, mission, and values. But what makes a strong vision and mission, and how do you define them? Square Circle offers strategic advice to help you get started on your winning strategy.
Leave ‘missions’ to the military and James Bond
A word of advice: replace the term ‘mission’ with ‘core purpose’. Ask your receptionist what her job’s core purpose is and she’ll be able to answer it. Inquire about her mission and she’ll most likely stare at you in bewilderment. The same holds for your employees. A core purpose gives meaning to their work. It is the reason why your activity was created and your organisation exists. Without roots, we don’t know where we’ve come from and even less, where we can go.
A core purpose does not have to be unique. Feeding people is the core purpose of many food companies. Yours can be to feed people healthily and sustainably. What makes you unique, however, is how you translate this core purpose into a powerful vision: what kind of company do you want to become? Without a core purpose, there can be no vision.
Prepare for the future with a strong vision
A strong vision can transform a boring strategy into a scoring strategy. It describes how your company responds to technical, technological or societal evolutions – think of challenges such as climate change or the rise of AI – and what opportunities they offer your company.
The first step is to determine the pillars of your vision: what areas determine the evolution of your activities? For a building company, this might be developments in civil engineering, the ability to build more complex structures or to ensure safety.
Next, strong and ambitious goals need to be defined for each of the pillars, the kind that gives you goosebumps, that excites and motivates you. These goals can be both qualitative and quantitative. To give you an example, the following is a goal formulated by an American manufacturer of concrete:
“In 10 years, we will be producing engineering and civil engineering structures that will be 2 times more resistant, 2 times more durable and half as expensive – both in terms of construction and maintenance – than those of today. We will also build them twice as fast.”
Rely on your team
Pillars can be defined by your management. For specific goals, we recommend drawing upon the knowledge and creativity of your team. Divide your employees into small working groups and have them discuss and analyse these pillars and define goals for a period of 3 years, 10 years, or more depending on your type of market. You’d be surprised what they can come up with.
Developing a vision is fascinating work. It forces you to imagine your company in the future, to respond to ongoing developments in the world and to come up with bold ideas. However, there’s one key ingredient missing to implement your vision: your corporate values.
Measuring employee engagement annually via a survey is a regular practice in many companies. A good thing, if you take this process seriously. This blog shares the do’s-and-don’ts when conducting a employee engagement survey in your company. Valuable reading for management, hr and anyone who leads people.
Engagement survey? A good idea!
Engaged and loyal employees are the best ambassadors for any organisation. Not surprisingly, the engagement survey is well established at numerous medium sized to large companies. There are quite a few providers on the market that make sending out an engagement questionnaire to all your employees quite easy and that provide you with insightful reports on the results.
But what is the best way to go about this? How do you get the most out of this survey?
Moving beyond HR
A staff survey creates expectations. You offer employees the opportunity to have their voices heard, express their satisfaction and commitment and share any concerns or suggestions. It is therefore logical that they expect something to be done with their input. Think about this in advance. A common pitfall is to appoint only human resources to work with the survey results. But fostering engagement is not just the work of HR. Achieving engagement is an everyday task and has more power through direct managers, with the help of HR.
Communication and customisation as accelerators
Timely and clear communication about the engagement survey with proper framing is necessary to generate impact. One e-mail, often sent centrally, calling for people to complete the survey will get less response than if the questionnaire is additionally framed and motivated by the direct manager, at a team meeting for example or through an additional messaging. It’s important to explain the context, why you are launching this survey and what you will do with the results.
“Can I share my opinion anonymously?” “What happens to my answers after the end of the previous survey?” “How will we be informed about the results?” These are just some of the questions you should answer in your accompanying communication when sending out the survey.
The results are available, now what?
The management team puts its heads together and chooses a number of targeted actions . Driven to move from result to action, they sometimes forget to give proper feedback to employees: What were the main results of the engagement survey? What did we as management learn from it? What are the results we already want to work on or the actions we have already identified?
If you want to get the most out of your employee engagement survey, go one step further and actively involve the employees themselves in working with the survey results: As a manager, enter into a dialogue about your own team’s results, ask for additional interpretation, let team members make their own suggestions or set up small working groups around certain themes.
Say what you do, and do what you say
As well as a few ‘quick fixes’ that can be implemented quickly and are easily visible to everyone, there are also issues that take more time and may be less visible. Employees are often left wondering where the survey has led, and if this is not clear to them, the desire to have their voice heard next time will diminish. Square Circle therefore stresses the importance of communication and follow-up communication. “Say what you do, and do what you say”. Link back to actions that have been taken or are in progress, and take the liberty to say where you do not plan to invest for example. Continue to involve employees wherever possible and systematically strengthen their commitment to your company.
Square Circle’s senior hr and communication experts are available to strengthen your hr, communication and leadership skills within this framework, making your next edition a success.
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Listening sessions that reduce distance and increase engagement
Square Circle deepens your employee engagement survey with listening sessions. Confidential group discussions with several employees holding different positions in preparation for or after the survey. They allow you to delve deeper into hot topics, discover drivers and throw up initial solutions. Our experience shows that listening sessions give more meaning to survey results. This leads to higher awareness among management, HR and leaders on the one hand, and to more commitment by staff on the other. A win-win!
Anyone who has ever organised a party knows Sabam as the Belgian association of authors, composers and publishers that collects copyrights for the music you play. But Sabam is so much more than an administrative collector. On the eve of its 100th anniversary – in January 2022 – new CEO Steven De Keyser presented its future: to be a solid, transparent and reliable partner for authors and users. Helping turn that vision into reality is a daily task for Head of HR Sofie Vlaeminck and her team. They enlisted the help of Square Circle to help support this transition. We asked Sofie to share her experiences with us.
Square Circle: We help companies strengthen their teams and individuals, how have we at Sabam contributed to that?
Sofie: “Sabam is in a big transformation, we have a new CEO who has implemented a different organisational structure with some big shifts for the employees, with a number of employees also moving from an expert role to a leadership role. So we have relied primarily on your support to coach those people in their leadership growth. For them, you also organised a New Leader Assimilation workshop to strengthen the connection between the leader and the team. In addition, you also coached the sales team to introduce a more commercially focused way of working and mapped out a customer journey of our customers.”
Why did you look for our help?
“The transformation is of such magnitude that we quickly felt in our small HR department that we could use some support for this. For example, we also moved to a new, smaller building where only about 100 people can work at a time. So we introduced a new, hybrid way of working In addition, we also went through a year of social negotiations on salary costs. In short, we understood very quickly that we needed support to manage that change.
“The transformation is of such magnitude that we quickly felt in our small HR department that we could use some support for this.”
How have the trajectories gone? What is the feedback from the coachees?
“Very positive. You know, a number of our managers are people who, mainly from their expertise, got the chance to take on a managerial role at some point. But they are not used to people management, Partly thanks to your coaching, we now notice change. For example, a people manager who struggled to hold difficult conversations and until recently always called on our help for this, now does so on her own. There are also managers who are somewhat insecure by nature, but after the coaching they dare to bring up certain things, whereas before this always went through us. The common thread in all trajectories is that our leaders become more autonomous, that we are much less solicited to provide support in certain matters.”
“The common thread in all trajectories is that our leaders become more autonomous, that we are much less solicited to go and support in certain matters.”
What does Square Circle’s help mean for you as an HR team?
“Until recently, HR was the typical payroll HR service. But human resources and working with people did not receive enough attention. We are now trying to make that turnaround. That means mainly focusing on people development, and making sure you create a working environment that is pleasant and in which they have every opportunity to develop themselves. And we cannot do that all by ourselves. When we feel an employee needs more support than we can offer ourselves, we call in external support. Actually, coaching is a job in itself, so why not call in expertise – which may be external – but with people who really have the experience to help someone further in concrete terms? A coach who really works with people day in day out, and who also does this in other organisations, is going to be able to offer support much more from his own experience.”
“It’s actually a specific skill, coaching, so why not call on expertise – which may be external – but with people who really have that experience to help someone concretely move forward?”
How did the collaboration with Square Circle go? Was there anything noteworthy you’d like to share?
“We always started with an intake interview. And we immediately felt – that time was taken to ask questions from different angles so that we got to the heart of the problem. What we also like is that you can offer different profiles as coaches. Depending on the problem, we can then choose a coach who is the best match. We then put you in contact with the coachee, and if that clicks, you’re off. We don’t have to stay so close to it because we know it’s going well and if there would be something, you signal it. And most importantly, we also see results in people.”
“We shouldn’t stay so close to it because we know it is going well and if there would be something, you signal it.”
Would you recommend these cooperation to HR colleagues?
“Yes definitely. The added value is that you have a very broad spectrum of areas in which you can provide guidance. And that you are reliable: the agreements that are made are really kept. You are also open and transparent, so if at any point something is not going well, or if we come up with certain questions, you take the time to solve it.”
Are you, like Sofie Vlaeminck, looking for professional support in a transition within your company or team? We give you access to more than 25 years of
practical experience in HR and Communications. Want to meet to see what we can do for you? We do this while maintaining the strictest confidentiality. Book a no-obligation mini-consultation right away or contact us via our website.
Square Circle, or the house of practical expertise in management, HR and communication, has been working closely with a business world in change for 20 years. From transformation projects, strong leadership and corporate culture, to crisis prevention and crisis management; they help realise the ambitions of tomorrow’s companies, each time using an integrated and practice-oriented approach.
Over the past 20 years, Square Circle has encountered the same needs at many companies: motivating employees to move ahead and convince them to tackle change in a constructive way.
“We often see that communication is only one aspect of the issue. People Management and HR are at least as important in the continuous changes a company faces,” Katrien Decroos points out. She herself has been advising organisations on managing their communication in business developments and transformation processes for more than 25 years, together with Ludo Goethals. Since the very beginning, both have formed the basis of Square Circle.
All too often, management has the idea that communication is simply words you utter top down. That a word creates a mental image is often forgotten. “We help management to speak a language with rational as well as emotional elements, because it is precisely the latter that gets people moving. Communication starts from people’s perception and should always be close to their own context,” says Ludo Goethals.
Square Circle consciously opts for a partnership and coaching approach and strives to provide real practical assistance and relieve the company where necessary.
At the same time, it takes time to get people and consequently whole companies moving. Often, management has been working on a specific change for a long time and employees cannot be expected to be as quick on the uptake. “Daring to show that taking time is really necessary is one of our challenges,” says Katrien Decroos.
A third partner joined in 2021. An Dewaele has been making a career in the HR sector for 30 years. “With An on board, we have an even broader base to help companies with an integrated expertise, where communication and HR come together,” indicates Ludo Goethals.
Companies knock on Square Circle’s door asking for guidance, not only in the event of major changes or when a crisis occurs, but also in positive trajectories.
An Dewaele: “The best way is to participate in a company’s project as a close partner. That way, we are not the consultants that bring the theory and then leave, instead by working hand in hand, the organisation learns and evolves and can then use the gained insights themselves going forward. In the future, we want to be able to remain a true sparring partner for the CEO or management of organisations more often. We already have this relationship with certain companies, but we are sure we can expand our role in this; we feel there is a need for it. More and more, we want to be the house where you can simply come in, where we listen to the issues, and then think and work flexibly with you on the basis of our expertise in HR and in communications. There is a noticeable evolution, a need and urge for a more integrated approach, and that is exactly what we can offer with Square Circle.”
Copyright text: HR Square
Over the last 1,5 year our world has been heavily impacted in many ways by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many things that we took for granted and that are just part of the usual way we do things were all of a sudden not so obvious anymore. For Companies, this disruptive event has put enormous challenges on the table. The Covid-19 pandemic has for many been the Black Swan Event*, that nobody expected to occur, causing a huge mind shift and change in how the world works.
When you are driving on a road with a big bus and a Black Swan suddenly and unexpectedly crosses the road, it is very likely that you will not be able to avoid it. When you are driving that same road with a motor cycle or a bike, you’ll probably start to swivel, trying to stay in the saddle. Whilst many CEO’s and Managers have put great effort in adjusting their business approach and revisit their short and mid-term strategy, taking immediate actions to stay in the saddle while facing the new challenges, the impact of the existing Company Culture has more than ever shown it’s significance.
How has your company culture helped or hindered you in these unprecedented times?
The way people act and interact when there are no rules that tell them what to do, that is what Culture is all about. Company culture can be defined as a set of shared values, beliefs, goals and practices that characterize an organization. Company culture refers to the attitudes and behaviours of a company and its employees. We see it in the way the people in the organization interact with each other, the values they hold, and the decisions they make.
If you’re asking yourself, what is my company culture like, take stock of what you’ve seen during this crisis: how have people reacted on the changes they were facing? Have they put their energy in collectively finding the best way to cope with it or did each department, team or even individual employee worked their own problems, for better or for worse? Have people been creative and open-minded or were they mostly grieving about what could not be done in the usual way anymore?
Did your leaders find ways to keep their teams motivated and engaged when business results were deteriorating and/or even more workload and high pressure was overwhelming the team?
Was there a climate of trust and commitment or did all the mandatory telework make leaders feel they were not in control anymore?
I have seen fantastic examples of company values coming to life even stronger than before:
- Determined to help their customer, sales engineers were setting up demo equipment in their own garage and running virtual demo meetings with the customers from their home
- Production operators together with Health & Safety instructors using all their creativity to find safe ways to keep production going and care for the health of the employees
- IT teams taking ownership and walking the extra mile in equipping the organization and it’s people to work from home every day
- Leaders empowering their team members and together finding the best way to solve problems, cooperate and stay connected as a team
- Organizations reinventing their training approach and installing a new learning culture that is accessible to all employees
And sure, I have also seen other examples, where company values such as accountability or trust remained idle words or instilled practices overtook from the desired cultural values.
In times of crisis the true culture in the company comes to the surface and has a huge impact on how your organization reacts to the situation. It’s worth considering the value of some lessons learned.
Use this experience to do a retrospect with your teams. What can you learn from this? Which company values that you have been writing about on your website and that you have been promoting at every employee event have showed their true face in the past months at all levels in the organization? What behaviors and attitudes have helped you most to face the Black Swan on the road? What practices should you get rid of for the future to stay performant in your business?
Black Swan Events are so rare that they seldom happen. Maybe it is time to revisit this definition. Look ahead and imagine new problems on your road, disruptors like the already occurring shortage in supply, increasing employee absenteeism and turnover, severe weather events or other natural disasters. This is a good time to evolve your business practices and company culture to be adaptive in the face of growing threats. And ask yourself: how comfortable am I being uncomfortable?
* Although the author of “The Black Swan”, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, argues that epidemiologists have been warning of pandemics for many years and therefore the outbreak of Covid-19 is not a Black Swan, he recognizes that what is a Black Swan for some, might not be a Black Swan for others.
In a company, persuasion is a daily necessity. Changing operating methods, launching new ideas, successfully completing transformation projects, improving quality, ensuring safety at work, selling new products to customers, successful negotiation… This often requires investing a lot of energy for a result that does not always meet expectations. And there’s a reason for that: We do not use the ‘persuasion machine’ present in the form of the three brains that make up any human being.
The 3 brains that govern us
Did you know that the process of persuading a human being involves engaging the three brains that he possesses? Unfortunately, when we want to persuade, most of the time we deploy arguments that use just a small part of the first brain. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the impact of our communication is often unpredictable!
Our first brain is the one everyone knows. It contains 100 billion neurons. It is composed of two hemispheres. Simply put, the left side is essentially rational. It wants to understand everything, analyse everything and make a detailed assessment of the information provided to it, step by step. You should also realise that the left side does not want to take any risks. This is the origin of the resistance to change that one naturally observes in humans.
We all have a right brain hemisphere which is our spatial, creative, visual, relational side. It anticipates constantly. It is ready to take risks, without much calculation about them.
It works through mental images. Concepts, ideas, projects are all mental images, sometimes complex, that our brain has to decode.
A beneficial interaction
It was long thought that the two sides of the brain functioned with one being dominant over the other. At times either basically rational. Or then again, more emotional. But it has recently become clear that this is not the case at all. The two hemispheres are in constant interaction and continuously influence each other. When you communicate, you create a real ‘battle’ of the hemispheres in the hope that the outcome will be favourable to you.
Your communication will therefore be aimed at reassuring the left side of your target audience about the relevance of the arguments in order to control the analytical phase of reasoning. In doing so, your communication will also need to convey the ‘mental images’ that will lead to buy-in by the right side and then to action.
But never forget this: persuading an audience requires not only rational arguments, which is what 99% of managers do most of the time.
Rationality often fails to convince
Our second brain consists of our heart and our digestive system. It is composed of 540 million neurons. This second brain is the centre of our emotions. The most important decisions we make in our lives are initially processed by the two hemispheres of the first brain. But then, quite often it is based on ‘our gut feeling’ that we ultimately decide to go ahead or not, by ‘sensing’ that it’s the right decision.
In your communication you will therefore also have to integrate emotional arguments (the ‘what’s in it for me’) and action-orientated arguments to ‘move people’. By addressing the second brain and its emotional power of persuasion in this way, you double your persuasive impact.
A brain that remains little known
But there is also a third brain. This is made up of 300 billion glial cells that surround our first brain. These cells, whose name is related to the English word for ‘glue’, are specialised in various tasks: supporting neurons, supplying them with nutrients, accelerating neurotransmission, for example. We are only just now discovering the full potential of this veritable third brain.
One of the first applications we can draw from this is that the energy released by the glial cells decreases over time. A wise manager will therefore hold important meetings at the beginning of the week and at the beginning of the day rather than at the end of the week or at the end of the afternoon, because most brains will have difficulty concentrating, as the available energy has been partly exhausted.
If you want to have the energy and interaction to conduct a fruitful discussion, plan your meetings with the glial cells in mind!
Persuade by communicating
Persuasion through communication is within everyone’s reach. There’s no reason why you can’t make your persuasive power even stronger by from now on targeting the 3 brains of anyone you want to persuade. Want to find out how? Click here.