Interview Transcript

What’s also striking me is, the importance of communicating, in a clear way. You have this distributed labor force, this large body of frontline staff. What can you share with us about what great communication means, in that context?

What great communication ultimately means is, if you sit at the top of an organization, and you have 20,000 people and you say, listen, we want to develop in that direction, that this resonates all the way through the different levels and everyone understands. Ideally, a majority of the workforce stands behind the idea – your reflection of what the workforce believes, as well – and puts it in place, with a high degree of compliance. That’s what I would describe as a big achievement in leadership, which isn’t easy. You’ll see many, many businesses, with a large workforce and they will struggle to get things in place. Sometimes, it’s Chinese Whispers and you don’t have the systems, you don’t get the people to understand. The people feel as if they are not being taken care of, explained to enough and many times, let’s be honest, I have struggled to do so, because of myself, first of all, because of not having the right systems. Sometime, maybe, having some people in between, who felt it was not so important or it was communicated too complicatedly.

If I have a great idea of where to develop this big tanker of business to, I also need to keep in mind how the small 20,000 wheels, how fast can they roll? What I mean by that is, what can they digest? If I communicate, we’re changing our strategy from here to there, why are we doing it? How are we doing it? I cannot have a 50-page presentation for them. It needs to be in a more simplistic, but still a way that is appropriate for that workforce. I think learning about that and finding the right way for communication, for the right topic – because it is different for every subject and every topic – is not easy.

When I started, I probably would have said, internal business communication, it’s just a function we can leave out or we can cut those jobs. But, I think, it’s got quite some leverage, to ensure you’re hitting higher compliance, higher satisfaction and a workforce that enjoys the job more. The way I have seen that, this is sometimes, something that the discounters have left too much on the side, maybe. I think there have been quite some movements to try and engage the workforce more, because the success has been seen. I have to say, I enjoyed the days in the stores, the most, when you can speak to the lady or the man who sits at the checkout and you’re talking with them about certain things you’ve launched and, actually, they agree or they disagree, but they heard about it and they know what you’re talking about. I think that’s an achievement and that’s something that a big leader should show, as well.

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