Saturday, 28 July 2012

Components Of A Communications Strategy - The "How"





4) The "How"

This refers to the actions, both strategic and operational, that are to be undertaken towards achieving the 'desired good'. This component also includes the methodologies, processes and expertise required for successful implementation of the initiative/project.



This component is really the heart of the communications strategy, which if ineffective, halts the entire process. Due to the fact that it is the 'bolt' of a project, it is in this area that the  investments of time, effort and finances are most expended.



Ironically, the "How" could be the easiest part of an initiative to handle, if  its three 'pillars' are present: if the technology is superior, the expertise is certain and the professionals are available.



This does not mean however that the methodology chosen to implement the 'desired good' should be decided without first taking into consideration the complexities of the initiative. To clarify this issue, let us examine the "How" during corporate social responsibility initiatives. 




The "How" during corporate social responsibility initiatives


Corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives are almost always guaranteed by 'smart' companies seeking greater collaborations with their host communities. This is due to the desirability of a good corporate reputation, which is believed to lead to wider stakeholder acceptance of the corporate brand, thereby translating to increased profitability and/or sales. Moreover, healthy CSR-community relationships promote mutually-beneficial associations. They also increase the possibility of smooth operational activities, particularly in 'troubled' or impoverished areas such as those with disaffected youth, illegal activities and ad-hoc vigilance groups.



Deciding thus on the "How", (the methodologies/processes/analytics etc.), to employ in order to ensure favourable outcomes of CSR initiatives, is crucial to the companies implementing them. Multinationals - sometimes viewed by local critics as the opportunistic entities riding upon the persistent wheels of capitalism - are particularly vulnerable to the perceptions of the community. Nevertheless, local companies are not exempted from certain expectations from the public.



Let us consider at this point, that our fictitious indigenous oil company, Company I, operating in the challenging Niger-Delta region of Nigeria, (often considered to be 'hostile' due to worrisome incidents such as sabotage of pipelines, piracy, abductions etc.), decides to launch its CSR initiative which it hopes to implement every year. The 'desired good' is the automatic employment of twenty university graduates who studied courses related to science and technology, with the minimum of a Second Class Lower (2:2) degree qualification. These graduates, (male or female), should not be older than twenty four years at the time of the testing, must have concluded the obligatory national service and should be indigenes of the state in which the oil company operates. Perhaps Company I, via this initiative, wishes to commit to a long-term plan aimed at both demonstrating its goodwill to the host community, as well as its understanding of the main concern of the local populace - the gainful employment of its youth.



The employment is contingent on the attainment of specific academic qualifications. Nonetheless, the presentation of university score sheets should not be considered as the sole proof of knowledge. This is due to the unfortunate possibility of examination malpractices and corruption in certain educational institutions in the country, a development of which the local company is aware.



The "How" required to implement the 'desired good', would thus need to be strategic in order to identify the most-deserving candidates. A specific route should be followed:





1) Communication of the CSR initiative and ownership of process


In  its  press release, the oil  company announces its CSR initiative, (employment of twenty graduates etc.). More importantly, it states that it would reserve the right to use whatever methodologies it deems fit for candidate selection, from the large pool of graduates who meet the eligibility requirements.










2) Outsourcing of recruitment drive to external consultants


Company I outsources the recruitment drive to Dragnet Solutions Limited*, a renowned company in Nigeria, which specialises in deploying testing methodologies, whose expertise encompasses biometrics, test-development services, computer-based testing and an IT-training academy.




Dragnet Solutions Limited acts as external consultants and would incorporate into the recruitment process, computer-generated testing tools, (the technology), which would be ensure that the oil company’s pre-set questions, encrypted in binary form prior to the scheduled date, would only be deciphered at the time of the testing by the computer programme, in order to become immediately available to the candidates. Dragnet Solutions Limited guarantees controlled processes by selecting the ‘question order randomisation’ option, (the expertise), for the industry-specific questions chosen by Company I. It also oversees a controlled environment, (candidates are searched to ensure that no support materials are used etc.), to ensure standardisation of the procedures. Tests results would then be collated by the computer programme but interpreted by the external consultants, (the professionals); instead of officials of Company I and recommendations would be given. This development would eliminate potential cheating and lobbying, thereby ensuring the quality of the top twenty-five, who scored the highest scores, for the next stage.




3) Participation in selection process


The shortlisted candidates would then proceed to the final stage: a stringent interview whereby the panel, (consisting of Dragnet consultants and the oil company's top HR officials), would conduct interviews geared towards ascertaining the potential and overall marketability of the candidates. The final twenty candidates would be unanimously selected by the panel members.




4) Hire of candidates


At the oil company’s request, the list of the successful graduates  are published on Dragnet’s website. Company I then contacts the chosen twenty and hires them. These graduates are enrolled in the company’s induction and socialisation programme for new entrants.



                     


  

In this way, the "How" would have been effectively utilised to identify and select the most deserving candidates for employment, which in the long run, would reduce costs associated with rectifying inefficiency or poor performance. This is also crucial because the oil company would need to review its annual budget to accommodate the new hires and create appropriate roles for them. 




Without rigorous recruitment and selection exercises, the process of candidate selection would be left to discretionary powers which if flawed, might lead to gross incompetence in the long term. This development would arise because the graduates would have lacked the knowledge base which should have been the foundation for careers in the technical field. Employed without this requisite knowledge, the candidates might fail to perform satisfactorily over a certain period, despite regular training and the assumption that everyone is 'teachable'.  



As a result, Company I might decide to 'cut its losses' and discontinue the initiative to reduce costs. This ripple effect may lead to backlash from the citizenry, especially from the host community which may state its displeasure at the ‘unfair’ treatment of its indigenes regardless of the rationale given. A damaged corporate image would follow and if left unchecked, it would have dire effects on the continued operations of the oil company in that 'hostile' location.





Conclusion


In this case the "How" was used as a strategic tool to ensure the success of the CSR initiative, as well as a precautionary measure against its 'failure'. One fact remains clear - companies should plan this component more precisely to pre-empt shocks and project failures which would negatively impact the bottom-line.



Barring all hitches, the "How" should effortlessly lead to the next component - the "When/How Long".














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*Dragnet Solutions Limited is a solutions-oriented multiple-intelligence technology and talent management firm. Since its incorporation in 2007, it has provided premium services to organisations in the public and private sectors in Nigeria. It is the preferred partner for various testing and assessment requirements.



N.B- First image courtesy of stockxchange.com. Animations courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

2 comments:

  1. Another interesting piece… the need for businesses to network and collaborate with the stakeholders cannot be over-emphasized. These will promote successful CSR initiatives within the indigenous community they operate from.

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  2. Thank you for your comment.

    I believe that the "How" component, clearly communciated, would help improve such relationships especially during CSR intitiatives. People tend to accept what they believe in and what they understand.

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