Cheer Spotlight: Meet Jennifer Ford, Brand Marketer, Digital Strategist, and Change Agent.

 

We are excited to introduce a new interview series profiling communications and marketing professionals.  For more information and the latest news and trends in talent, employee communications, HR Advisory & Marketing, subscribe to our Cheer Blog!

 

Social media is buzz-worthy, ever-evolving, and sometimes controversial; however, one thing is certain, it’s no longer an option but a necessary strategic tool that helps many successful brands and businesses excel.  However, according to a study on CEO.com, over 60% of CEOs and other C-Suite executives are still not actively utilizing social media as a communication channel.

We will be discussing “Why Leaders Need To Get Social.”  Joining the conversation is Jennifer Lewis-Ford, Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Digital Communications at BNP Paribas.  She specializes in digital communication and marketing strategy with a focus on digital adoption and coaching for executives.  She is also an avid podcaster and author who believes that social media should be at the heart of every firm’s digital transformation.

Why should social be at the heart of digital transformation?  

Digital transformation is affecting every industry, financial services included.  From Chat-bots to AI, everyone is looking at technology to find new ways to work faster and perform smarter.  While digital transformation means something different for every business, the one thing that all businesses have in common is people.  I truly believe real digital transformation starts with building a culture that puts people first, then technology.  At heart, we are all social creatures; it is reported that 67% of Americans originally get their news from social media.  Equipped with the right social strategy, social media can aid and expedite digital transformation and turn employees into powerful advocates that inspire change.

Why do leaders need to get social?

Social Media creates new opportunities for companies now more than ever before – from business development and employee engagement, to talent recruitment: it needs to start from the top of the organization.  In a connected world where your biggest differentiator is talent, thought leadership becomes an essential strategy for organizations to stand out.  People, especially everyone’s favorite buzz word “millennials,” want to feel inspired by leadership and work for firms that are transparent with their values and culture.  I believe this is why content created by leaders in an organization is 8X times more likely to be shared than content created from a Company profile.

 

What are some of the concerns that executives have about social?

The concept of Social Media has vastly changed in the last few years, but perceptions haven’t.  So often when we are approaching thought leaders about activating a social strategy, we have to first change their perception.  For example, a lot of people naturally think “Facebook” when you say social media, and we know it has been in the news lately for the wrong reasons.  However, now getting social could be something as simple as starting an internal blog to connect and inform employees.  These blogs could take many forms: videos, podcasts, or long-form content, as long as there is a two-way dialogue for the executives and their audience.

Outside of that I am also a huge advocate of LinkedIn, as you can see from my photo.  I’m finding that LinkedIn is often underutilized in B2B firms – as most executives still view it as a recruitment or job search tool.  It’s actually a great platform for leaders to share authentic stories, expertise, and connect with clients and employees on a more human level.

 

What is some of the advice you would provide to an executive just getting started?

I think it all starts with a great strategy!  We know the importance of being active on social, but it’s equally important that you identify the right channel for your target audience.  Data is one of the best things about social media marketing!  We now have massive access to social data that can help provide deeper insights into the right vehicle and the kind of content that would be most impactful for your clients.

Outside of having a great social strategy, my next piece of advice: be real.  Speak to what you know, what you’ve learned, or what inspires you.  That is the kind of content that drives authentic connections.

 

Why do you consider yourself a change agent?

I spend a large amount of time trying to inspire change and shift traditional mindsets in favor of new technology and social media in general.  I like to challenge myself and others to not just think outside the box, but to break the box.  Innovation is inspired by learning and moments of change.

Five Things You Can Do Right Now To Improve Employee Experience

As seen in Forbes

In the human resources sphere, there has recently been a lot of talk about employee experience — but what do we mean by that? Similar to customer experience, employee experience is more than simply what it’s like to work at a company. It’s how they experience their work; how they feel about working at the company.

It takes more than Bagel Tuesdays and a foosball table. Companies that have a dedicated focus on employee experience have a strong culture, heightened employee engagement, employees who feel proactively supported, a diverse and inclusive environment and high levels of touch throughout the employee life cycle. Here are five things you can do right now to improve your employee experience.

1. Communicate

Not all companies put as much energy into communicating internally as they do externally. Your employees are also an audience and key stakeholder. They are one of your customers. Consider offering more than email as your platform; speak where the conversation is already happening. Sharing good and bad company news should be done with your employees first, and fast. Communicate your purpose and values in every way you can. Hold virtual meetings as well as live meetings.

Be sure the communication lines are open, and that you value your employees’ voices too. The executive team should walk around and talk to people, and get to know what drives them. Say thank you in person, and say it in an email. Hold morning meetings. Creating time to communicate with the team on the individual, team and state-of-the-union company-wide levels will let your employees know that you want them to be a part of the team and know as much as you do. Transparency is a key driver in engagement.

2. Celebrate

Celebrate work wins, birthdays, promotions, anniversaries or when someone buys a house or a adopts a baby. It is extremely important to make time to celebrate individual employees and team achievements. It doesn’t need to be more complex that having a birthday cake and allowing people to develop personal relationships as they celebrate the birthday. Recognizing and rewarding great wins are what helps develop connected culture, where employees have a sense of belonging to a company.

Create peer-to-peer awards for above-and-beyond recognition. Consider asking an employee who found a new way to solve a problem to share that with the rest of the company at a “lunch and learn,” or in a featured blog on the company intranet or website. Showcasing successes is a great way to continue to celebrate and reward employees, and has a reverberation of the emulation factor. Others will want to do the same.

3. Learn And Launch

Plenty of organizations commit to learning and development, but in practice, the work gets in the way. When people are confident, they are often more successful, and learning supports that confidence in work performance. By fostering a commitment to learning, coupled with career progression conversations, your employees will want to invest in the company as you are investing in them. Giving employees an hour a day to invest in themselves through learning or passion projects will make a big difference.

Career paths do not have to be horizontal; they can also be lateral. Have a conversation with each of your employees to find what drives them and what their definition of success looks like. Then, you can tailor development plans to help them get there, through learning opportunities and supporting their growth.

4. Remove The Barriers

We build up systems in order to support the work we do. Sometimes, we over-complicate what should be an easy task. Take a look at your systems, and see what can be simplified. Your employees want to know you are taking the burden off of them to do their job so that they feel supported.

Instead of a vacation request form, use a calendar invite the manager can approve or deny. Invest in e-learning tools so employees can learn while at their desk. Simplify the on-boarding process, and make it user friendly. Instead of cumbersome expense report forms, switch to an app that will take photos of the receipts and upload them into a report that auto-sends for approval. You would be surprised how many ways you can streamline the systems that touch your employees.

5. Hire For Diversity

You don’t get better results from doing the same thing all the time. People who learn and experience new environments make for better, well-rounded work. If you hire more of the same, you will get more of the same. Employing individuals with diverse backgrounds improves your perspective and problem-solving skills.

In a recent study, organizations with diversity and inclusion were found to have a decreased employee intent to leave, increased employee engagement, increased creativity, a greater sense of employee belonging and improved talent retention. Moreover, studies have shown that companies who have a diverse workforce outpace their competitors in earnings. The hires of the future are much richer in background, education, experience and perspective than ever before. Employees want to work for companies that value creative thinking, and a diverse workforce will get you there.

Your employees are also your customers. You want to give your customers a great experience so they will remain your customers, and the same applies with your employees. Create an experience that includes constant communication, learning, opportunities for growth, celebrations of work-related and non-work-related successes, reduced barriers, and a diverse, inclusive workplace, and you will have created a great employee experience.