Refreshing an organization’s brand can be a tricky proposition. Will employees, customers and partners galvanize around a new identity? Will the time and resources a company’s invested in rebranding pay dividends? These questions are especially important for well-known and respected names.
S&P Global, founded in the 1800s and associated for most of that time with the McGraw-Hill name, has been on a tremendous transformative journey the last several years, culminating with a new brand launched in April. Our experience rolling out a new company identity to 20,000 employees around the world offers three major lessons.
Walk the talk
Do what you say. Getting employees to rally around a new brand is easier when the management team has created the right conditions. For our company, becoming a leader in financial data, benchmarks and analytics was not a simple name change. Three examples best illustrate the need we had for a new brand commensurate with the company’s recent evolution.
1. The leadership team completely repositioned the business portfolio by divesting legacy education and publishing assets and investing in financial data and analytics businesses. Research shows our clients and market participants increasingly identified our business with the Standard & Poor’s brand rather than the legacy of McGraw-Hill.
2. We moved from a conglomerate structure to an operating company where collaboration among divisions is essential to our success. As a result, we modernized and opened up workspaces and consolidated our real estate footprint in New York to move our employees closer together.
3. To reflect the high priority we place on financial data and technology, we hired a chief information officer, appointed a chief data officer and acquired more new talent in these specialized areas.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint
Get a running start on the rebrand and keep the momentum going. Be transparent. Employees should be brought in early and engaged in thinking about what the new brand means to build proper support.
We announced our plans to rebrand in February, and with shareholders’ approval in April, we officially launched S&P Global. The period between February and April provided time to get employees excited about our brand purpose and for us to preview some of the new culture taking root.
See also: When to consider a company rebrand
Our mission is all about providing the “essential intelligence” that companies, governments and individuals need to make decisions with conviction, so we asked employees to share on a microsite their stories about what’s essential to them through photos, inspirational quotes and other things they find essential to enriching their lives. Thousands of employees shared and interacted with this feature. In fact, we experienced record employee engagement that included page views, posts and likes.
Engagement should be an ongoing exercise. As S&P unifies its culture, it will roll out three modules later this year focused on the power of the brand, championing our values and collaboration. Our brand is an outcome of our values and will now be part of ongoing engagement for employees.
Communication is critical
We decided early on what the main message should be and we were clear and consistent with its distribution. We created “global local” events in our offices around the world; for weeks after these events, S&P employees have been able to experience these sessions through our intranet and other channels. Our communication emanated from every part of our organization, from our most senior executives to divisions and functions across geographies.
But communication, of course, is not a one-way street. S&P will ask employees to participate in our annual survey for feedback on the new brand in September.
While organizations differ in many ways, there are universal principles that HR practitioners and their colleagues can follow to help create effective employee engagement programs tied to a new brand. We found the keys to unlocking success by staying true to our organization’s identity, building an authentic brand story that personifies our culture, communicating with employees early and clearly, and maintaining a dialogue with them over a long period of time.
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