An Introduction to Employee EmpowermentThe following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Monica Padillo, this chapter is titled "Cultivating A Work Environment Through Internal Communications.” In it, Corinna Carlos, the Corporate Communications Manager of MDI Novare, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in giving value to internal communications in the workplace.
Understand your employees to empower them
Many companies often overlook the importance of internal communications. Brand awareness doesn’t only happen through external communications, but through initiatives and marketing strategies done to inform employees about the brand that they’re working for. This matter is something that Maria Corinna Carlos (who also goes by the nickname “Cor”) focuses on as the current Corporate Communications and Culture Manager of MDI Novare.
Carlos’ recent experience with internal communications was when she worked at Accenture as its Communications Specialist for four years prior to joining MDI Novare. There, she handled internal campaigns aimed to engage and empower employees―both for their corporate and personal lives.
One of her most treasured efforts was organizing special International Women’s Day (IWD) events in all local Accenture offices for four consecutive years. She remembered being so fond of arranging such a program because she was able to tap influential and remarkable women in the Philippines―such as Vice President Leni Robredo, former PAG-IBIG (the home development mutual fund of the Philippine government) CEO Atty. Darlene Berberabe, and Rappler CEO and renowned journalist Maria Ressa―to speak at their event.
“To be able to get them to our event was such a big accomplishment or achievement for me because they recognize that our company is definitely moving the needle forward when it comes to women empowerment and they do believe that it’s the perfect platform for them to talk about their message or what they stand for,” Carlos said.
However, she admitted that while starting the IWD events was rewarding, it was also quite challenging at the start. Carlos recalled that organizing an event for up to 300 employees and tapping external speakers were not easy feats. The preparation process took as long as three months.
“The most challenging one was my first one, because I didn’t know the scale of things. I felt so lost and confused. So I had a lot of rookie mistakes and because of those mistakes, it made me realize I cannot make the same mistakes again. To make up for it, I’m going to make sure it becomes bigger and better each time it happens. So I guess my most challenging is also my most rewarding.”
She took these lessons learned from Accenture, along with her 12 years of experience in the marketing and communications industry, with her in MDI Novare. Even in her current role, she realizes many lessons almost every day.
For example, part of her internal communications work at MDI Novare is talking to people, building connections, and getting insights from them about their experiences in the company. Carlos shared that she’s very much a people person, so interacting with as many people as she can within the company is a breeze for her. Sometimes acquaintances turned into friendships, which helped her get deeper insights about the work that MDI Novare’s employees do and the kind of culture that they thrive in.
“I establish personal connections with people because that is where I kind of have a feel of the type of environment that they enjoy, the type of events that they like, the type of verbiage that they understand,” she said.
Additionally, much like external communications, she uses various integrated marketing communication (IMC) tools to further get a pulse of what the employees think about the organization and what improvements they would like to see. She made observations, formed a core team that consists of representatives for each MDI Novare department, used their digital channels such as Workplace by Facebook to create content for everyone, and more.
These efforts proved to be effective for Carlos in learning what works best for MDI Novare employees and afterwards creating her marketing strategies based on them.
For instance, she once changed her internal communications tactics when she discovered that a group of MDI Novare employees were intimidated by her posts written in English. One of her colleagues assured her that her content was appropriate, but it seemed daunting to some workers who were afraid of getting judged or laughed at for speaking a mix of Tagalog and English.
“For me, it’s important when managers replicate or understand what people find relevant. It’s really having a pulse of the people, what they want, what they’re into. It’s not about us telling them what to do. It’s about what gravitates them towards something, understanding that, and using those insights to communicate your message,” she said.
When the COVID-19 pandemic affected the Philippines, Carlos came up with more unique solutions to retain the engaging culture within MDI Novare. One of the ways she was able to do so was to launch a podcast that is broadcasted on their Workplace platform.
Knowing that most of their employees were living alone in their apartments and condominiums due to mobility restrictions in Metro Manila, she and two other colleagues decided to start a podcast to entertain them. The trio would interview different MDI Novare employees and talk about various topics related to their workforce. They had a couple of MDI Novare workers discuss their coping mechanisms during the pandemic, such as how shopping or baking has helped them feel more relaxed in the midst of uncertain times.
They would also highlight inspirational stories in their podcast. One notable case is an MDI Novare employee whose family initially ran a jersey printing business. They later expanded their products to personal protective equipment (PPE) and face masks in relevance to the pandemic.
The podcast became an avenue for MDI Novare employees to talk about themselves and truly belong in a caring community. The radio show also became a form of entertainment for employees who wanted to end their tiring and stressful work days with something light and fun.
“In our company, we’re about 350 people. But of course, you can’t exactly talk and get to know everyone. You’ll only be able to know at least 30 people. But with the podcast, we are able to introduce our employees to others who don’t know them yet. It creates that sense of community among the people,” Carlos said.
She added that IMC is important in internal communications because it’s now more than just communications and events―it helps shape culture as well. By using as many IMC tools as she can, she is able to make employees feel empowered, aware, and engaged with the company and, in turn, making them better ambassadors for the brand as well.
“They can talk to people about what they do. They can talk about what their company is, what the brand is about and the environment that they’re part of,” Carlos shared. “So for me, focusing on IMC is a big piece of the puzzle. If you want to communicate about your company or your brand in the most authentic way, you should do it through your people.”
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