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Tuesday, 06 May 2014 10:16

Let’s simplify jargon and gobbledygook

Let’s simplify jargon and gobbledygook

It’s everywhere — in business, in government in organisations.


What’s scary is that 26% of executives admit to using expressions they don’t understand in meetings. And another research report showed that the thing people dislike most in their jobs is jargon.


The worst organisations for jargon:

  • Law
  • Financial services
  • IT
  • Science and medicine
  • Government

Organisations spend a lot of money on websites and emails with information that many people simply can’t understand.


It’s estimated that poor communications account for as much as 40% of the total costs of managing all business transactions.


The hidden costs of gobbledygook

Gobbledegook wastes time and money. Difficult documents and emails take longer to read and understand.

Published in PR & Communications
Thursday, 22 August 2013 15:13

Creating effective employee communication

Creating effective employee communication

Go into any business and ask them what are the burning issues that need to be improved, and you will probably find the word ‘Communication’ within the first five priority points. Even as technology continually finds us cleverer ways to communicate, it still seems to be this element that most trips us up. Building best practice in this space is less about implementing a new ‘system’ or set of ‘rules’, and more about creating a culture of effective communicating, using whatever media works within your business. And the word ‘Culture’ automatically means that it needs to be led and modelled by the senior team in a business.


So the frustrating thing for managers is that this incredibly important element of daily effectiveness cannot suddenly be ‘fixed’ by some sort of management intervention. Just like losing weight, it requires a slow and steady change in behaviour: Managers, daily bringing their own communication A-game, until the more effective communication behaviour is cascaded throughout the whole business. The tough part is that bad management communication behaviour is also taken up throughout the business as ‘the way we do things around here’.


I asked a few of my business leader colleagues for their favourite ‘go-to’ tips when they are working at better communication within their businesses:

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Monday, 25 March 2013 10:19

The workplace in 2050: Managing change through effective leadership

The workplace in 2050: Managing change through effective leadership

The workplace environment is constantly evolving, and in order for businesses to remain competitive and thrive in this changing environment, effective leadership is vital.  This is according to Hennie Heymans, Managing Director of DHL South Africa, who addressed the attendees of the 2013 DHL Tomorrow’s Leaders Convention, a gathering of South Africa’s leadership alumni, which took place on Friday.

Published in Leadership
Friday, 01 February 2013 10:35

The Team vs the “I”

The Team vs the “I”

Business is increasingly fast-paced and the modern workplace is constantly in a state of flux. The debate is on as to whether the team has replaced the “I” in working environments. Are most task projects now completed as a team or as a lone ranger?

Published in Wellness & Ergonomics
Monday, 26 November 2012 09:48

Six top tips to ensure you get the most out of your outsourced service contract

Six top tips to ensure you get the most out of your outsourced service contract

Outsourcing has become an increasingly popular option for businesses as the current economic climate continues to put pressure on spend, driving cost cutting initiatives within companies, particularly in the Information Technology (IT) sector. However, outsourcing can deliver value beyond cost savings, further improving service levels and driving greater efficiencies.  It also minimises downtime and improves profitability as a result. Getting full value out of your outsource contract can, however, prove challenging. An outsource contract needs to be carefully controlled to ensure it continues to deliver the expected service levels and benefits.


In order to get the most out of your IT outsource contract, there are six core ‘tips’ or best practices that clients should ensure outsource service providers subscribe to. By following these six top tips, organisations will obtain the best possible balance of service and cost.

Top tip #1: Define SLAs and OLAs

A service level agreement (SLA) is the foundation of any outsource contract and provides the standard for expected service levels. This must be agreed on between both the outsourcer and client and once established, will outline the requirements such as time-to-respond and mean-time-to-repair. A thorough investigation is required to determine the type of service levels that are required for the client’s business. It is also important to link the SLA to an Operations Level Agreements (OLA), which is an extension of the SLA, by determining and outlining how the SLA is executed. These two agreements provide the benchmark for measurement and management of the outsource contract.

Top tip #2: Communication – a two way street

Communication is an important component of a successful outsource contract and should be a ‘two way street’ whereby feedback is given from both the outsource provider and the client. The communication should also involve all parties including the client, consultants on all levels (from Junior to Principal) as well as the management team. Discussions around health checks and regular updates between the client and outsource provider will assist to identify issues or problems proactively and resolve them quickly. Equally important, communication allows the client to manage the SLA and OLA, ensuring standards and service levels are maintained and delivered according to expectations. 


If communication is not clear and well structured from all sides, issues and problems may ‘slip through the cracks’ and impact the business. This in turn will impact service delivery which may fall below expected levels, resulting in poor outcomes.

Top tip #3: Appropriate skills levels

It is vital for the outsource consultant to have the appropriate skills when engaging with a client. If consultants are not equipped with the required skills to match the needs of the client, they will not deliver the required services efficiently or effectively. This is especially important in the IT sector where outsourced services may be mission critical to the business.


Furthermore, the outsource provider must ensure that consultants are properly and continuously trained on the latest developments within their industry and the services they provide. The outsource service provider should ensure that training forms part of its consultants Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), with regular reviews and planning as well as repercussions if targets are not met.

Top tip #4: Culture fit

Another important area to consider is that of culture fit. Consultants need to align themselves with the culture of the organisation they will be working with to ensure they function optimally in their job. This requires knowledge and research from the outsource provider prior to engagement with the client. It is important to establish values, culture and ethos to ensure the outsourcer ‘fits’ in with this culture.


If the culture fit between the client and outsource provider is not aligned, it can lead to poor service delivery. Outsource providers should also be flexible and sensitive around the issue of culture fit and if there is a potential problem, to proactively remedy.

Top tip #5: Measurement of Service

All aspects of the contract including the SLA and OLA should be monitored on a regular basis to ensure the highest levels of overall satisfaction.  If the contract is a large one, meetings should be more frequent.  However, these meetings should be kept brief and to the point.  With regular monitoring, issues can be raised, documented and adequately addressed. It is also important to obtain positive and negative feedback from the client so that the outsource provider has an understanding of what is successful and which areas need to be addressed.  This allows the outsource provider to reward and remunerate consultants that are performing, keeping them motivated.


Regular service delivery surveys are also vital, allowing the outsource provider to assess the overall satisfaction of the client and address if lacking.

Top Tip #6: Maintain the management of the contract

One critical error organisations often make with outsourcing is completely relinquishing control in favour of the service provider. This often leads to poor delivery. Maintaining the management of the contract including the SLA and OLA with regular communication from the outsource provider is the final step or best practice to ensure outsourcing delivers full value.


Customers who maintain control and incorporate regular communication around this will typically receive higher levels of service and greater value than organisations that don’t.

To end

IT outsourcing is beneficial due to the skills levels required in this field and the shortage of certain specialists. However, when opting to outsource, it is important to look towards best practices that are aligned with industry standards, which will prevent misunderstandings and issues with service levels resulting in a more stable environment. This will also allow companies to make the most of their outsourced services including greater economies of scale, access to skills, cost effective services and improved productivity.

Published in Technology
Internal Marketing Campaigns: Can You Put A Number To It?

Can we create a measure for internal marketing campaigns? That’s the eternal question and it still remains pretty tricky. However, the evolution of the discipline and access to technology by employees has made measurement more possible, if not easier.

Where measurement becomes tricksy is in separating out the variables that impact on the campaign or programme, not unlike above-the-line or direct marketing, but maybe a little more difficult because of the sheer number of internal issues affecting employees attitudes, perceptions and behaviours.

If what you want is to identify and separate the factors that influence the outcome of a campaign and to determine whether the results you got were because of something you did or because of something someone else did – then there is only one way to do it. You would have to go through the laborious and costly process of controlled studies – which is impossible to do for every internal marketing campaign. So, you would need to decide about what is realistically measurable.

These would include:

a) Efficiency of channel: Did your message get to the right people at the right time?

For example: what were the results of using new media rather than traditional media. How far into the target market did the medium reach? This mix would depend on the individual organisation including factors such as access to technology, internal distribution and event attendance. You may be surprised to find that new media works in the most unlikely organisations. For example: many people have access to cell phones and sms’s can be sent cheaply in a range of languages, offering the critical advantage of over-coming language barriers. The trick is to try a range of mediums and track which combination works best in your company.

b) Effectiveness of communications. Was your message read, understood and remembered?  

This is where technology can really come into play. Of course, you could do a ‘tick-the-box’ option on a questionnaire at reception. But you could also use random webcam interviews, on-line competitions and messaging integrated into team-building activities to test recall and memorability. As always, the key to effectiveness is: creativity in the initial campaign, consistency in communication and importantly, taking the time to consider what would reach the most people in an impressionable way. It’s not about the message. It’s about a focus on the people receiving the message and that requires the most intangible but most magical of elements – creativity!

c) Impact on employee behaviour. Did people change how they behaved? Generally, internal marketing campaigns are executed for three reasons: to motivate employees, to change culture or to orient employees to new systems/products. Each of these objectives can also be measured differently. This may include, for example, a perceptions audit, if the aim was to motivate employees. Or focus groups and customer feedback to ascertain culture change.

d) Business impact. Did the changes people made as a result of the campaign affect productivity, profitability or the customer experience? Here’s where the people responsible for internal marketing campaigns should work closely with the other parts of the business to take a base-line measurement of the results that would be meaningful to the business. It would be advisable to decide on specific targets in advance. For example: a 7% improvement in customer experience. It would also be prudent to ensure that the other criteria for effective change can be met such as: providing employees with the necessary tools to do the job.

Depending on the duration, you should measure at various points in the campaign. You will be able to refine measurements to suit your organisation as campaigns are executed and you’ll also have the option of refining the campaign to iron out any bugs and take advantage of what is working well. However, good communication is underpinned by imaginative and creative campaigns – so don’t let an attempt to provide ‘proof’ undermine the heart of the campaign.

Published in Employer Branding
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