The 12 Blogs of Christmas 2014 – #5

12 Blogs 14

David CSay hello to David Cullen (@DavidCullen57). David is a junior HR professional working with the People & Talent team at Bazaarvoice in London. I first met him about 3 years ago when he was just starting his career. Now, at the ripe old age of 23, he has almost 4 years of HR-related experience across NZ, Australia and the UK, working with a variety of different businesses. Talk to him about Diversity, L&D, OD, and any other exciting projects he gets to work on.

The age of transparency
This is my first time stringing together something resembling a blog. I’ve been reading HR blogs for years now and I’m what #socialHR folk might refer to as a social ‘lurker’: mainly read, rarely participate. I’m determined to find a better term that makes me sound less creepy.

Having just moved to the UK this year, I now work with a company called Bazaarvoice who operate a Software as a Service (‘SaaS’, think a business model like Spotify, Xero or Salesforce) product, and we have some big client names to boot (think Argos, Wal-Mart & Samsung, as well as over 50% of the Internet Retailer 500). We are a company based around a simple truth: when people talk to each other, people buy stuff.

Since the beginning of commerce people have been chatting with each other about what they buy, who from, what they like and what they don’t. Pre-world wide web you might have visited this bloke’s stall at the local bazaar, but then go and tell your mates afterwards that his shoes were a bit crap and that they fell apart the day you bought them.

turkey_bazaar8 Today the world has changed. These conversations happen online, and consumers are sharing their feedback instantly and digitally via Facebook, reviews, blogs, and Instagram – to name a few. There is now an open forum and the conversation comes from all directions.

So, where does Bazaarvoice fit in? Put simply, we:
1. Capture consumer content (in the form of ratings, reviews, photos, videos, questions & answers)
2. Place that content where our client’s consumers are (social, mobile, retail, ads, offline, and Search Engine Marketing (SEM))
3. Giving them the confidence to choose our client’s brands

Today, 70% of consumers will research online before purchasing (check out Google’s ZMOT for more cool stats like this) and we know that no one ‘purchase path’ is the same as another. Consumers trust what other consumers say about products & services, more than rhetoric pushed out by marketing. By leaning in to this conversation and capturing this content, brands & retailers gain the trust of their consumers, and this drives a measurable increase in sales. When implemented effectively, our clients have seen a number of other results:
– Continuous improvement and evolution of existing products and services; agile responses to market feedback
– Decreased product returns
– Increased Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and SEM capability
– Increased success of new product launches
– Development of community around the brand; engagement of consumers and creation of brand advocates
– Combination of left brain (ratings & reviews) and right brain (photos and videos) user-generated content appeals to the rational and aspirational aspects of the product / service

I’m passionate about the work that we do in this space and that it matters. Unless you understand how the world has changed, then you’ve already missed the boat. And that means the same for us in HR, as well as any other business department.

Missing the boatGo ahead and imagine a world where employees and managers (I’ll call them our ‘consumers’) provided regular feedback to us on each of HR’s products. Not a tick-box engagement survey that some poor employee has been coerced into participating in, but a public, authentic, real-time, and meaningful product review.

One thing is certain: the conversation is going to happen. Sharon in Accounts just got back from her smoko with Greg from Sales and they were both having a whinge about that new change program of yours. Whether we lean in and capture it is another matter. Potential clients we meet are scared to implement such a solution in the fear that they will receive negative reviews. Don’t be that HR team.

Like Bazaarvoice’s own clients, HR might see the benefit of leaning in to their consumers’ conversations in the form of:
– Continuous improvement and evolution of existing HR products; agile responses to consumer feedback
– Decreased HR product returns (“that training course was a waste of my time, I’m not attending the next one!”)
– Increased success of new HR product launches
– Development of employer and HR brand; creating your brand community and advocates
– Connecting left and right brain content to appeal to the hearts and minds of your consumers
– Increased ROI on HR products

Of course you take all feedback with a grain of salt and balance it. Just because Marks & Spencer receives a poor score on one of their Mini Hot Pies (of which, by the way, 226 individuals have gone online to write a review about here) doesn’t mean they’ll rewrite their recipe.

You would have heard this quote going around at some point: “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is, it is what the consumers tell each other it is”. Does that mean HR is what their consumers tell each other it is? I would think increasingly so, yes. If you don’t think that’s true, then I would suggest you aren’t placing high enough of a value on the power of your consumer’s voice. I could write a whole other blog about the importance of narrative here, but @verawoodhead sums it up nicely in her chapter ‘Storytelling in Leadership’ in the recent ‘This Time, It’s Personnel: Human Resourced 2’ book of blogs by @dds180.

In light of the observations above, it’s not surprising that companies like Glassdoor now exist. Anyone can get the inside scoop about a business from anonymous reviews left by current and ex-employees, before they consider embarking on their next career move. If you haven’t already, go and check if your company has any reviews on there and see how you rank.

We’re living in the age of transparency. Turn those negative reviews into an opportunity to evolve, and to build your consumer champions and advocates. What are you doing to capture the conversation of your consumers?

10 thoughts on “The 12 Blogs of Christmas 2014 – #5

  1. Carol Howard says:

    A very relevant post David – thanks for sharing! Always interesting to compare the willingness of companies to listen to customers vs a frequent reluctance to give employees a voice.

  2. Corinne Torres says:

    Indeed, a very relevant post David! Today customers and employees are active decision makers. In the age of transparency, we value speed and spontaneity. Employees must have the ability to respond and act on real time feedback.

  3. David Cullen (@DavidCullen57) says:

    Appreciate your comments Carol. I think you can tell a lot about a business that doesn’t allow their employees to drive their brand, culture etc. I think lack of employee ‘voice’ manifests itself in many ways.

    There’s something you’re unconsciously taught as an HR professional which is that you have to be in control of everything. I think we will see ‘control’ as we’ve known it start to deteriorate!

    Corinne, a great comment about customers/employees being active decision makers. I like this word ‘spontaneity’ you’ve added in, how do you think this is relevant?

  4. Carol Howard says:

    The move from control to influence is a challenging one for many managers and professions across the board. There’s been a shift evolving over the past 10+ years and people are now noticing. Still a need for various degrees of “control” but situation/company etc specific (classic examples: disasters, emergencies, army, medical etc). But command-and-control as the default management style is (and certainly should be) on the wane .

    1. David Cullen (@DavidCullen57) says:

      I agree that the move from control to influence is a challenging one, it requires a different frame of mind/approach to HR which won’t happen overnight. Command-and-control is certainly on the out! The big question for me is, once a team accepts a certain loss of ability to control their employee’s voice (or user-generated content), what else they do to work with it and use it to their advantage: how they use that influence.

      While we are still playing around with this at Bazaarvoice, one example of that influence is that we use a Social Feed which pulls images off Twitter and Instagram, where people tag their content under the company hashtag #livebv. It’s then displayed on our intranet and across all of our offices. It’s a huge cultural win for us.

  5. Megan Borrie says:

    A great read, thanks David.
    I’m reading Frederick Laloux’s Reinventing Organisations, Carol and David, if you haven’t already read, I think you’d really love it. Amazing read on how organisations can be…

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