Don Etling, VP, Internal Communications at AT&T was a speaker at the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference, which was held in Miami, FL in February 2011. This is a recap of the presentation and challenges/solutions presented within.
AT&T, an iconic brand and giant in the landline telephone industry found itself caught in a shrinking business. Each year home phone line shrinkage accounts for a $5 Billion dollar loss of AT&T’s business or to put it another way, each year AT&T has to come up with the revenue of a Fortune 500 company to combat this loss. Led by a visionary CEO, AT&T, a self proclaimed “company of suits”, has embraced innovation, engagement and alignment through their “Rethink Possible” campaign to continue their success.
When rolling out the “Rethink Possible” brand change, communications wanted to leverage the fact that the most credible message to employees lies with Leadership Behaviors. AT&T took on the mission to move middle managers from an operation only focus to a more strategic focus to advance the brand.
Key success principles were identified. They included:
To kick off the new brand image within AT&T and signal to employees that a change was indeed happening, the corporate structure was realigned to show more trust in employee decision making skills. Decisions that had typically been made by a VP were pushed several levels down. Reverse mentors to teach executives about technology were put in place so the Generation Y population had the chance to interact with, and teach, executives. Town hall meetings to address their importance to the brand shift were held with 3rd and 4th level management, something that had never been done before.
Front line employees were reached out to in a variety of ways as well. Store managers started to hold daily huddles to share company news. A weekly newsletter, the” Insider To Go”, was distributed to keep front line employees abreast of changes. Digital signage and training via the tSpace portal were all put in place to make sure the customer facing employees were aware of, and advocating for, AT&T’s new brand. They were challenged to internally “Rethink Possible” in their positions, and stores.
Other functions joined in the brand movement effort as well. Human Resources rolled out a new leadership program, Leading with Distinction, to teach those important behaviors for change. An engagement survey and new performance management system focused on achievement, and also behavior, was rolled out. Finance crafted a One Vision, One Voice document that highlighted the company’s financial health and how employees could move the bottom line. Information Technology set up a portal for idea sharing, The Innovation Pipeline, to encourage out of the box thinking.
All said, AT&T, while still structured and formal is making strides to become the agile, and fun, company that today’s consumers and their employees demand.
Kristen Joyner is a director at i4cp and represented HRM Today as the official blogger for the 5th Annual Internal Branding & Employee Engagement Conference.