Internal Communications

Understanding corporate values

Drinks company Diageo has brought its values to life for its global workforce

When Lucy Kellaway, the renowned columnist at the Financial Times, asked a group of managers from 24 well-known companies to raise their hands when they recognised their organisation’s corporate values from a list she proceeded to read, just five were able to do so. For three, this was simply because they had been part of the committee drafting them.

Corporate values represent a thorny problem for companies. They are created to encapsulate the behaviours and actions that employees are expected to embrace, yet the concept is often hard to explain to those very same people.

With more than 33,000 people across 21 geographically based markets, Diageo has a presence in more than 180 countries across the world. Communicating corporate values, and what they mean to each employee, across a global marketplace is an ongoing challenge.

So in 2014, the world’s largest spirits company, with brands stretching from Captain Morgan rum to Johnny Walker whisky and Tanqueray gin, decided to recreate The Big Picture, an initiative first rolled out across the organisation seven years before. The scheme not only serves to remind employees of Diageo’s values but also rewards their engagement by asking them to bring these to life in a photo competition.

Ruth Kirkup, corporate relations manager, internal digital channels & strategy at Diageo, said that it had been hoped that The Big Picture campaign would be repeated soon after the first one in 2007, but the timing only seemed appropriate in 2014 ‘given our renewed focus on our corporate brand, and in the run up to our annual Values Survey’.

She adds: ‘We did a temperature check and thought now feels like the right time. We thought Let’s inject a little bit of emotion and enthusiasm behind our values again. This was less about employee engagement itself and more about re-engaging employees behind our values. It’s about reminding them of our values and bringing them to life on a personal and professional level.’

Diageo’s values comprise five parts, described in length on its corporate website. Put succinctly they include being Passionate about its customers and consumers, allowing each other the Freedom to succeed, being Proud of what they doValuing each other and striving to Be the best.

The campaign was designed to celebrate employee efforts in bringing to life Diageo’s values and purpose, while at the same time empowering them to engage creatively with the company’s brand. Employees were asked to submit photographs that best encapsulated the values.

Every participant was also in with the chance of winning a trip to any of the 21 markets in which Diageo operates, while runner up prizes worth £250 of photographic equipment were also on offer.

‘Photography is universal, it’s well-loved by everyone. It transcends all languages and cultures,’ explains Kirkup. ‘Our values don’t change no matter what country you’re in.’

It’s about reminding them of our values and bringing them to life on a personal and professional level

The Big Picture campaign also served to remind employees of what it truly meant to live Diageo’s values and how these translated into day-to-day activities, just ahead of the company’s annual Values Survey.

The Big Picture community site was built into Diageo’s intranet, Mosaic, which housed all the rules and guidelines. Diageo also used its Yammer feed to remind employees about the competition using the hashtag #thebigpicture, directing them back to the community site, and also to answer any questions they may have. This also led to a 74 per cent increase in mentions of corporate values on Yammer.

The six judges, who included Diageo’s global brand manager, posted a short blog explaining what they were looking for. Mindful that approximately 6,000 employees are not online or desk-based, Kirkup and her team created newsletters and posters about the competition. The regional communications teams translated the content into the appropriate language for their communities.

‘Every site has somebody who is online,’ says Kirkup. ‘We always have a manual way of getting our employees involved.’

The community site had a simple ‘Enter your photo here’ mechanism, which allowed employees to upload their snaps. The communications executive in each site also uploaded pictures for those without the means to do so. Just less than 600 photos were submitted.

Photography is universal, it’s well-loved by everyone. It transcends all languages and cultures

‘We had entries from every one of our markets, including our most recent acquisitions [in Turkey]. When you consider it in terms of reach, it really is spreading far and wide.’ The judges whittled the entries down to 30, representing five photos for each of the six values.

The shortlisted photos were then displayed in an online gallery, allowing anyone with a Diageo email address to vote using a simple ‘like’ button. They had one vote per category. More than 8,000 employees – approximately one in four – voted for their favourite photo, and the site had more than 30,000 page views. Kirkup says some enthusiastic employees even resorted to guerrilla tactics to get more votes, recruiting their colleagues to vote for them. ‘It’s great if it gets people excited,’ she adds.

The winning photograph was taken by a Singapore-based employee and focused on the ‘Proud of what we do’ value. It was taken in the Johnnie Walker House in Beijing, and featured an employee taking a tour around the house. The winner chose a trip to the Netherlands as his prize, where he and his partner visited the Ketel One distillery in time for the King’s Day celebrations, described as Amsterdam’s ‘biggest street-party of the year’. He was asked to blog about his time spent out there, what he learnt and what he experienced.

The winning photo has also been used as the front cover of Diageo’s current Code of Business Conduct, whilst all the photos submitted are now housed on Diageo’s intranet in its corporate image library, which can be accessed by any employee for use in presentations and other communications collateral.

This article first appeared in issue 102