When the $12 billion ITT Corporation spun off its defense and water businesses in October 2011, the “new ITT” became a more focused $2 billion global industrial company. After the split, the company faced a unique challenge: building the brand of what was essentially a “100-year-old startup.” While most corporations take a solely external approach, we did the opposite. We shifted resources to create an employee engagement effort that would drive our reputation from the inside out.
This approach, driven by the Global Communication team, recognized the urgent “post-divorce” need to engage and align ITT’s leaders and employees around the company’s new strategic direction while not losing sight of three key communication priorities:
1. Supporting business growth;
2. Promoting and protecting company reputation; and
3. Driving the company’s values and culture.
As CEO and President Denise Ramos took the helm, she saw an opportunity to re-engage employees and leverage their already strong affinity for ITT’s century-old brand. She embarked on a global listening tour to understand the strengths of the past and opportunities for the future. Armed with this input and our own insights as key partners with the leadership team, our small department of three communicators collaborated with the ITT Strategy team and Ramos and her leadership team, as well the strategy execution consulting firm Gagen MacDonald, to align senior leaders around the new company strategy and equip them to articulate it simply and compellingly to employees—and the world.
Global Communications worked with our new CEO and her team to ensure they understood the cultural and communication shifts required beyond communicating the split transaction. The challenge was to take the authentic and powerful elements of the company’s DNA and leverage them to re-launch a more focused, customer-centric company. This shift of building reputation “from the inside out” had to start at the top.
As communicators, we recognized that employees couldn’t be burdened with a 75-page strategy. Our story had to be easy to understand if it was going to be shared by our employee ambassadors. To connect with ITT’s highly technical internal audience, we created a graphic designed after the periodic table that lays out the component parts of the company’s story: the DNA or reinforcing values that remained at ITT; the operating model, which put the company’s people in the middle and listed aspirations; and the impact of everyone in the company fulfilling his or her role. Thus, The ITT Way was born.
To officially launch The ITT Way, ITT convened 150 global leadership delegates at a four-day experience called Impact!2012 in early 2012. The goal was to engage leaders in understanding ITT’s global growth strategy and their critical role in driving it.
By deliberately creating a shared experience for leaders through Impact!2012, our team was able to effectively align and engage them, and measure results, moving the needle by double-digit percentages on metrics such as “understanding the strategy” and “understanding my role.”
Leaders were surveyed at the beginning of the meeting and afterward, and nearly 100% said they more clearly understood the new direction of the business and their role in it.
While the socialization of The ITT Way is endless, our team has already taken away some key learnings:
• Look from the Inside Out: Following a spin-off, most corporations invest in external corporate reputation initiatives to build their brand. Recognizing that reputation is driven from the inside out, ITT shifted its balance of brand investment to drive reputation through employee engagement efforts.
• Tap the “Real Social Media:” In lieu of a splashy internal campaign, leaders were trained to become change agents for the organization, turning them into the “real social media” of the company, tasked with creating a personal, grassroots effort to communicate The ITT Way with their teams.
• Mission is Never Accomplished: The launch of The ITT Way was just the start. The work of translating the company’s brand for all stakeholders will continue.
Today, the ITT Way has been translated into 19 languages, developed into collateral for all ITT facilities and is now the core driver for all strategic and operating plan execution. The ITT Way has been permanently knit into the company’s fabric. PRN
Jennifer Schiavone is the chief communications officer at ITT. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.