Are You Bringing Your Employees Along During Times of Change?

The Review Blog FEB 2017
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By: Cheryl Ader-Dunne

Welcome to the new normal, the world of constant change.

We’ve all experienced significant change in our personal and professional lives.

Think about how Amazon, Uber, and Spotify have changed how you shop, travel, and listen to music. Does anyone still use a paper map? Apps now tell us the best route, the cheapest mode of transportation, and the exact time we’ll arrive. And as the pace of change accelerates, the ability to quickly pivot, adopt new behaviors, and refocus becomes the requirement if you’re going to stay in the game.

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In our professional lives, we’ve experienced the acceleration of technology innovation as well as a change to our business structure. Our companies may have gone through mergers, company reorganizations, or global expansions. Companies understand the need to respond to market dynamics to stay competitive. And with each response, the workplace shifts, and the definition of value to customers evolves. At Leopard, 100 percent of our clients have recently undergone or are currently undergoing a significant business change. This leads to new roles for our clients and new go-to-market strategies to deliver on.

These workplace shifts require employees to restart and redefine their roles and responsibilities time and time again—often with little say in the matter. As these changes continue and the pace accelerates, more and more employees run the risk of being left behind. For companies to succeed, leaving employees behind is not an option.

Marketing Organizations and Change

Marketing organizations are going through their own evolution, with chief marketing officers (CMOs) becoming increasingly overloaded with new responsibilities and concerns. Their jobs require greater precision in accountability as well as management of more channels. According to the CMO perspective from IBM’s Global C-suite Study, CMOs think they are better prepared to manage key marketing challenges, but many still feel underprepared to manage the data explosion (64%), the rise of social media (48%), the increasing complexity of marketing roles and responsibilities (46%) and shifting consumer demographics (49%).1

Unfortunately, in their quest to deliver on these new responsibilities, marketing organizations often forget to include the most important part of an effective marketing communications strategy to customers: their own people.

When a company develops a new brand positioning or a new product, does it consider whether every employee understands what his or her role is in bringing it to market and what benefit it brings to the world?

The Critical Communications Channel

In this changing world, employees are still the communications channel that sits on the front line with customers. Each employee interaction with a customer has the potential to single-handedly destroy the effort of a lengthy and costly marketing campaign. Yes, a company’s own people are a powerful part of effective marketing efforts during company transformations. Yet the level of importance that should be placed on employees as a channel is not there.

Consider the following:

U.S. advertisers spent $183 billion in 2015, according to emarketer.2

Yet a survey conducted by Lippencott revealed that fewer than 22 percent of CMOs believe that employees understand their role in delivering the brand.3 With such a disconnect, the effect of the billions of dollars invested in advertising will likely be eroded through inconsistent messages and behaviors in the marketplace.

Perhaps the thinking is, “Our past marketing initiatives had the employee part covered.” Maybe there was a launch day where the entire company gathered for the big reveal of the new corporate identity, image campaign, or internal manifesto video used as a rallying cry to drive the new direction. Unfortunately, that’s not enough. There’s something fundamentally missing from the approach. There’s a very good chance it didn’t move employees to get on board with the change because they had no idea what their role was in delivering on the new direction. And it didn’t reinforce what was expected.

Bringing Employees Along

So how do you get employees on board? One of the most important steps in driving effective change is to to help employees understand why it matters to them. Think back to how you shifted from in-store to online purchases. Or when you took your first Uber. You had to see the value (the why) of the change and be comfortable doing things differently. Whoever thought that paying a stranger in his or her own car to drive you from point A to point B was going to be OK? But if it meant getting there faster, cheaper and safer, it was worth the change.

After the value has been identified, a change in behavior has to follow. This applies to the any type of change. A sustainable shift in employee behavior can be the most challenging part of ensuring that successful change happens.

Marketing’s Role in the Aligning the Human Channel

When thinking about corporate change and, in particular, marketing’s role to drive success, marketers must ensure that internal employees are equipped to demonstrate the value a company brings to the market and align their behaviors to do so. Only then can they successfully deliver on a brand’s promise or product’s value to customers.

To help align marketing initiatives and human channels during a significant change, consider the following principles:

  • Employees must understand why the change or initiative is happening. Have you provided them with the catalyst behind the change and what the benefit will be? Context is critical to the successful adoption of change.
  • Employees must know what your brand promise is and why they should be committed to it. Are they even aware of what your brand promise is and how it’s a competitive differentiator? Any shift in marketing strategy or brand promise must be clearly communicated internally, linked to your value, and reinforced over and over again. A single event will not drive sustained understanding of the new direction.
  • Employees—in particular, customer-facing ones—must be able to effectively articulate the value your company and products bring to customers. Can employees link the new direction to their own position in the company? Can they convey the value you promise to customers during everyday interactions? Can they translate it into their own words? Linking everyday interactions to high-level brand initiatives helps ensure that customers receive consistent communication.
  • Employees must also understand what behaviors actually align to and deliver on the brand promise or new direction. Can they translate the new direction into their own role and do they know how they should behave? Employees must be able to display supporting behaviors every day. Individual motivation to change behavior will be required, which can be the hardest part of long-term changes.
  • Finally, the desired brand behaviors must be reinforced at the highest levels. Do you have examples of company leaders and employees that have demonstrated the brand’s value? Without constant reinforcement from senior leaders, most employees will revert to the status quo of old behaviors.

If your organization is like most, the task at hand might seem daunting, especially if it’s more work beyond your already full marketing plate.

We at Leopard can help get your internal teams on board and ready to deliver on your next big initiative around a new corporate direction, brand promise, or product launch through our Transformation Practice. We have a proven, step-by-step approach to gaining buy-in and developing brand or product advocates from the inside.


1 IBM, Redefining Markets: Insights from the Global C-suite Study — The CMO perspective, January 2016,

2 eMarketer, “Digital Ad Spending to Surpass TV Next Year,” March 8, 2016,

3 The Economist Group, “Employees are consumers, too,” Dave Mayer, January 7, 2014,

About the Author

Cheryl Ader-Dunne, Executive Director of Strategy

Cheryl loves listening to the challenges clients tackle in market, and exploring with them how an increased focus on sales enablement can amplify their efforts. On the leading edge of our sales enablement and transformation practices, she helps shape them, with more than 20 years of insight formed while leading marketing strategies, partnering with sellers, and running accounts in technology, healthcare, financial services, and travel and tourism. Before joining Leopard in 2006, she worked with McKinney in Raleigh-Durham, Carmichael Lynch in Minneapolis and McConnaughy Stein Schmidt Brown (now Euro RSCG Chicago). She’s helped brands including Hewitt, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Minnesota Tourism, Life Fitness, IBM, SAP, Cisco, and GE Capital deliver effective communications strategies, ranging from brand advertising to sales enablement.

Cheryl is both world traveler and homebody, big thinker and a gal of simple pleasures. For her, happiness is a bicycle and lots of road. Dinner with her husband, Shay. Drizzling anything she can in Frantoio olive oil. And two adorable Icelandic sheepdogs plus a Border Collie snoozing at her feet.

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