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PGGM Martin van Rijn

Change based on strength

Co-creating a corporate vision

The discussion about companies is taking place with or without their consent. Just like consumers, employees, especially younger ones, are more independent and less likely to trust statements from executives if they don’t have a say in the matter. Express delivery firm TNT Express recently experienced that companies can gain time and goodwill by involving employees early in the formulation of their corporate vision. And the best way to begin the engagement is simply to listen.

With its establishment as a stand-alone company in May, TNT Express was led to state a clear ambition: What is its raison d’être? What goals does it pursue? What qualities are needed to reach them? TNT Express’ roots go back a long way and its executives were not short of convictions. Yet 2011 was just the right time to reflect on what binds the company together. Rather than forcing the Board’s views upon everyone, TNT Express asked employees to come up with answers. Of course, management drafted the first ideas, but only to start a project that saw thousands of employees discuss, refine, and rank their thoughts of the business. From Sydney to Turin, fourteen workshops gathered 250 staff from all levels. Sales, operations, finance, HR, and IT specialists shared how they saw the future of the company. Their findings were surveyed among 3,000 employees in the 62 countries where TNT Express operates. With 83,000 employees across the globe, this could have resulted in cacophony. The good news is that the majority of staff shares the same views. Above all they feel passionate about TNT. The resulting vision says it all: TNT Express aims to be “the most admired delivery company.” Why should TNT Express care about being admired? Because this is more a means than an end. Admired companies acquire and keep customers profitably. They recruit and retain the best employees. They promote mutually satisfying relationships with their suppliers. And in turn they deliver the financial performance that shareholders expect, without ignoring their responsibility beyond the bottom line. The company says it may not be there yet, but the direction is clear. Co-creating the corporate vision instead of imposing it from the top will reinforce cohesion. The outcome is a common choice, a reference for decision making and execution, and a key to a stronger TNT Express.

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