Holcim may not be a well known company on first pass, but after hearing the facts, you will wonder why you never heard of them. A couple of interesting things: They've grown in the last 4 years from having 44,000 to over 100,000 employees. Their strong growth, just like Symantec's, was fueled through acquisitions plus organic growth.
Holcim's rapid growth pushed the organization to get more systematic processes and metrics in place. As an Engineering company, Christian Birck, Head of Branding for the company, said "everything was a measurement" and that management was used to numbers. However, they had no metrics on people or customers.
The company had another challenge in that they had a mixed model. In some markets they were B2B; they sold to construction companies. In others they were B2C and sometimes B2B2C. Christian showed a great slide that said this industry was "not the sexiest, but real." As such, one of their challenges was in recruitment. As well, they knew they needed to keep the good talent they had, but focus on getting more.
So, according to Christian some of the key business challenges were:
- Organic growth and threat of commoditization
- Getting right talent and enough of them
- Building and protecting their reputation — this is particularly important in their business
Because Holcim does not enter different new markets lightly, they are extremely focused on the long term. They believe one of their key differentiators is their people — how their employees fit and exemplify the values of the company. The list of things they wanted to accomplish included:
- Making their people ambassadors for the company
- Focusing all employees on delivering on company promises
- Fostering a culture of customer orientation
- Facilitating knowledge-sharing
- Facilitating integration of new acquisitions
I thought Christian did an excellent job of explaining that "Brand does not equal logo, or advertising." He believes that the brand promise has to be communicated in products, communications, behavior, and channel experience. This means you really have to deliver to this.
In addition, through their complex business, it wasn't just their employees who had to live their brand promise, but their partners as well. This was a challenging aspect for them, to make sure channel partners also were also ambassadors of the brand.
One of the programs that the company put in place was something they called "Living our Values." This included: vision, mission, and values with some support systems. For their industry, Holcim felt that trust was low, so the ability to differentiate on values was critical. Christian wisely pointed out that anyone can put values in words, but it was how you get the organization to understand and live the values that was the challenge.
Holcim put in some change management processes to reinforce their message. One of their principles was: Enough of us for long enough. This message went back to the earlier point about retention and recruitment. Another key differentiator in terms of Holcim's messaging around this was "it is not just another program". For them, the word "program" meant it was fleeting, not permanent, and they wanted everyone to take this seriously. They focused on leadership as well, having them engage, communicate, and reinforce aligned behaviors.
One of the other enlightening statements from Christian was that you "Don't have to have a big brand for employees to believe in you." In my experience, this is very true. It is the extent to which you live the values as a company, and the extent to which these values also align with employees' own personal values.
From a measurement perspective, Holcim collected two types of NPS: (1) measuring recommendation of products and services, and (2) measuring whether employees recommend Holcim as an employer. What they found was that the recommend score for products and services was very high, but scores for recommending Holcim as an employer varied dramatically.
So, this measurement of employee promoters told Holcim the extent to which they were making progress. For their large complex business, they realized that some actions took a long period of time, and that too frequent reporting of the metric could be counter productive, in that management had to see progress.
They also found that it was difficult to sometimes prioritize empowerment drivers, as well as what things the company could actually influence.
Finally, one of the other things they realized in trying to develop trackable metrics was that there seemed to be a strong cultural bias in answering questions. There were dramatic country-level differences. This did not surprise me however, as we have seen this as well at Satmetrix. Christian wisely pointed out that they don't compare scores between countries, nor did they consider normalization as this would be hard to communicate and take away the very thing they like: the simplicity of the measurement.
What did I learn from Christian's presentation? Holcim's story is similar to Symantec's -- large complex organizations take time to change, but both have implemented many successful mechanisms and practices to try to help them get there. Holcim is also somewhat similar to Travel Counsellors in that they recognized that the individual employee was critical to representing their brand. The added twist with Holcim was trying to also reinforce their "promise" through their partner channel. Perhaps at next year's Net Promoter Conference we will see more about this last dimension; one that I'm sure many companies are trying to get right as well.
Click here to download the presentation.