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Three bus comm. Christmas wishes for 2009

YES, 2009 has been a rough year for most businesses. Although there were successes in some industries, the bottom lines of various companies dipped to new lows. It is only one day before Christmas but I still think I can get in my wishes for business communications practices in the Jamaican workplace.

Greater employee engagement: I wish Santa (or whatever he calls himself these days) could give the management and executive of many companies this gift by the tonne. Employee engagement is a performance driver, it is in some Jamaica companies an untapped resource, to which top and middle management pay only lip-service. For example, properly unleashed, the power of the employee as your company's ambassador has boundless possibilities. For most companies, the top-down schema still exists throughout their structures. The 'Gods of Management' hand down to us lesser mortals, the edicts and commands for our work-life. They do not engage us in any decision-making process. So, most of us live in absolute fear and terror of what each new day will bring to our inbox. Will we be asked to do somersaults and salute the doors of our immediate supervisor when we enter the workplace in the mornings? Will we, because 'management says so', be relegated to sitting at the back of the canteen on Wednesdays?

I remember my employment stint at a company with a very, shall we say, 'colourful' CEO who would come up with the most bizarre rules for line staff. These would be posted by his secretary with a flourish on the central notice board. Staff reaction: most people would read it and hiss their teeth but the more active employees would write on the memo their 'Dr Phil-like' assessment of the mental state of the boss. And it was not pretty.

John Smythe is a partner in 'Engage for Change', a consultancy that advises organisations in employee engagement from strategy to execution, and the author of The CEO, Chief Engagement Officer: Turning Hierarchy Upside Down to Drive Performance. In a 2008 article in CW he Says, "the primary driver resulting in engaged leaders and employees is the appetite and ability of leaders at every level to engage their subordinates in everyday decision making and bigger-ticket change. In other words, to share their power and reach down to those who deliver the service or make change happen on the front line". The truth is if we are going to find financial success and our way out of the mire: we are going to have to find effective ways of engaging our employees even more in 2010. Going forward will mean ramping up employee engagement, after all it is a shared partnership and the ship sinks or stays afloat because of our collective energies.

Greater usage of new media: Let's get with the progamme. New media is not going anywhere soon so I shall ask the Santa-man to load up a barrel of understanding about the use and effectiveness of new media in companies. I like my vintage stuff as much as the next person, but when it comes to media and communications I am wide open to all new experiences. New media is digital and embraces the internet. It is cheap and effective and its reach can be incalculable New media has for example taken the place of paper-based publications and TV In fact most companies have a website to which existing and potential customers who are online can connect with the company.

Few companies are taking the brave new step of creating social communities around their new media presence. Some are very tentative and untrusting of its effectiveness and whether or not it suits their client-base. I will grant that new media is not a panacea. You can't, for example build a website and expect that the shoppers with their pockets bulging with money will beat a path to your door. You have to do the research and make sure your client base own computers and can be connected.

Better customer service: This one is badly needed by Jamaican companies. And because of the copious quantities we need, it definitely "cannot hold' in to Santa's bag. Five truck loads not good enough either. Methinks that Santa will have to 'beg a borrows' of Air Force One from Mr Obama to carry how much we need this here in Jamaica. The funny thing about effective customer service is that it emanates from engaged employees. Employers will tell you how much money they have spent on customer service training to no avail. Customers are still turned off and employees still don't have a clue how to deliver it. Perhaps it is that by and large we do not have a culture of customer service within the corporate world so it gets lost in translation when we try to train employees to understand how it fits into the company's profitability. Luckily for us customers, as markets contract, more companies will come 'a courting'. Depending on the quality of customer service we are offered, we will dance with the best partner. The devil will take the hindermost.



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