Zoe Turner

Senior communications consultant

On Sunday, six English football clubs made a huge announcement. They were all joining, as founding members, a breakaway European Super League that would reshape the landscape of the beautiful game forever.

By Tuesday evening, they’d all pulled out. What changed in between?

Well, the reaction they received from all quarters – fans, politicians and wider football stakeholders – was so intensely negative that they felt compelled to U-turn. All the work and planning they’d done up to the point of the announcement (which, in their eyes, was well intended) was rendered, almost immediately, irrelevant. In the process they’d attracted an unprecedented wave of bad feeling, even from their most loyal supporters.

So what can HR and reward professionals learn from the ESL fiasco? The answer: more than you think.

1. Do your research

First, don’t just follow the crowd. Don’t assume you can adopt a successful strategy or implement change, without first considering the people it affects, actively engaging with them, and listening to their views.

Employee insight – in the shape or surveys, focus groups, stakeholder workshops and more – should be an integral part of any benefits and reward strategy. It shouldn’t be a one-off exercise but an ongoing two-way conversation – a virtuous cycle. You seek input from your employees and, in turn, evidence the ways in which your listening has gone on to shape the employee experience.

2. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes

Second, don’t insult the intelligence of your audience. If you’re serving dung for dinner, don’t try calling it a ‘new and exciting casserole’. Ideally, of course, you’d keep dung off the menu altogether, but engaging with people in the early stages of a change process and truly involving them in it, will help ensure that the outcome is something much more palatable, both in perception and in reality.

3. Control the message

Let’s face it, not all news is good news. There will always be times when you’ll have a more mixed or challenging message to deliver. But being open and honest about its context, origin and potential effects, will reap a much more positive response from the people listening – both in the moment, and the long term.

Ensuring your employees feel a part of the change process makes them feel like a valued and invested partner, rather than a subject whose ongoing loyalty is simply taken for granted. We all know which of those categories many football fans have fallen into over the last few days.

The clubs’ chairmen have made a highly public mistake. Only time will tell what cost lies in store for their longer-term reputations. But, already, the lessons are highly relevant for anyone with a vision for employee experience…

Interested in how to supercharge your employee insight? Speak to a member of the team.

Zoe Turner

Senior communications consultant