Aligning internal audiences in the life sciences.
Marketing points both inwards as well as outwards—that is, we must affect both internal as well as external audiences through our marketing efforts. Comparing the two, we have one advantage when we focus on internal audiences: they’re easier to reach.
If you’re asking “Why do we need to market to internal audiences?” then I suggest you perform the simple exercise I outlined at the start of this past issue. As a reminder, I suggested you ask employees if they could recite your mission statement or your organizational values. If you do this exercise, you’ll find that your employees are not as aligned as they could be.
Your employees need a pole star, something to align around. And your mission statement doesn’t align them, because that sort of high level objective is too far removed from their daily actions. As John Kay says in Obliquity. Why our goals are best achieved indirectly. (Penguin Books, 2010), “High level objectives are typically loose and unquantifiable.” He goes on, “To function, we have to break a high-level objective… into goals and actions.”
Archetypes give you the mechanism to link your high level objectives to your goals and actions. But few employees know what an archetype is, much less what how to use an archetype in their daily work. So they must be taught.
The training outlined here is designed to align your employees, and give you the foundation for a culture that employees can teach each other,
Training activities to align your employees in the life sciences
There are several phases in this training session, each building on the one that came before. Every phase has its own goal and as I outline these phases I’ll suggest an exercise or two you can use to help achieve these goals.
Phase 0: The structure of archetype training for your life science, biotech and drug development employees.
Phase 0 Goal—to share the structure for the training.
The first thing to do is to take care of the administrivia, such as:
- timing and schedule
- location of the bathrooms, etc.
I recommend that as employees come into the room, you direct them to sit with people they don’t know or don’t normally work with. This will result in a more cohesive experience for each employee and will maximize alignment between and among departments. This also primes them for a new experience.
As part of your introductory remarks, discuss why you’re having this training session. Explain that this training will help employees align their thoughts, beliefs and behaviors with those of their fellow employees, and with the corporate goals of your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization. Put another way: When everyone pulls in the same direction, the organization as a whole can move faster and farther. Explaining why the change is necessary will set the stage for the activities that will follow.
Phase 1: Introduce the concept of your archetype to your life science, biotech and drug development employees.
Phase 1: Goal—to introduce the concept of an archetype and introduce your particular archetype. The first phase of the training should introduce the idea of archetypes and help employees understand that an archetype is much more than just a title (such as the Detective, the Hero or the Concierge). An archetype is, most importantly, a set of attributes that guides behavior and communication (what you say and how you say it). Employees should leave this phase with the understanding that the archetype under discussion is a pattern that is commonly recognized by all of your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development employees and customers.
Phase 1: Suggested exercise. Have your employees divide into teams of 4-8. Have each group brainstorm a list of as many different examples of the particular archetype you’ve chosen as they can, writing them down on supplied paper or flip charts. So if you’ve chosen the Companion as the archetype for your organization, ask employees to come up with as many examples as they can of Companions. Once you “prime the pump” by giving them some examples, you’ll get lots of answers (many you would never have thought of in a million years). Typical answers might include: Robin, the companion to Batman; Dr. Watson, the companion to Sherlock Holmes; Yoko Ono, the companion to John Lennon. At the end of this phase, it’s helpful to have an all-hands discussion in which each small group shares with the whole team the answers they’ve developed. It’s not important to get every single answer from every small group out into the discussion, but it is helpful to have every attendee in the room be aware that there are lots of possible examples of this particular archetype. (And, not incidentally, to have every attendee see that their participation is recognized, and matters to the team.)
Phase 2: Link your chosen archetype to a carefully selected set of attributes for your life science, biotech and drug development employees.
Phase 2: Goal—to link the chosen archetype to a list of appropriate attributes. It is important to help employees clearly understand the archetype you’ve already chosen for your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization. You can do this in two steps. The first is to define your archetype in terms of the key attributes that typical examples of this archetype might exhibit.
Phase 2: Suggested exercise. Ask your small groups to brainstorm the personality, behavioral or attitudinal attributes of (continuing our example) the Companions that have been listed. Remember that any one archetype has multiple attributes, and so it is not uncommon to end up with a very lengthy list of attributes. Typical answers for the Companion might include: Loyalty, Determination, Steadfastness, Care, Concern, Insight, Patience, etc. Once the groups have developed lists of attributes, it is worth sharing them in a general discussion.
Phase 3: Introduce your specific, customized archetype to your life science, biotech and drug development employees.
Phase 3: Goal—to introduce your specific corporate archetype. Now it is time to introduce your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization’s unique manifestation of the archetype, and define the attributes that you have selected as your own.
Phase 3: Suggested exercise. The introduction of your archetype best happens in the form of an announcement, accompanied by a handout listing the specific attributes you’ve chosen. Since your employees will have listed dozens of attributes in the previous exercise, it is important to have them understand that any useful list must be narrowed down to a few items—in this case, just those attributes that have been chosen (after much thought and careful consideration) to represent your selected archetype. I suggest you explain why these particular attributes made the short list. In any case, this will be the list that you will focus on for the remainder of the training, and the list that you will expect your employees to remember, understand and apply (by analyzing, evaluating and creating).
Also, if you have selected a typical example of your specific archetype that you want everyone to remember (e.g., “there are many flavors of Caregiver; the one that best represents our organization is Mary Poppins, a creative caregiver”), then it is important to introduce it here. Failing that, it is appropriate to name the archetype with the name of your own organization: the XYZ Corporation Caregiver.
Phase 4: Link each employee’s job functions to your life science, biotech and drug development archetype.
Phase 4: Goal—to have each employee link your archetype’s attributes to their basic job functions and job description. It is important to show your employees that this archetype is authentic to your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization—that it relates to the organization’s current culture and values, rather than being layered on top like a Halloween costume. One way to do this is to have employees demonstrate that they already express this archetype in many ways, and that their job description aligns with the attributes of the selected archetype. This both makes the archetype immediately more real and familiar, and shows how each employee contributes to the bigger picture.
Phase 4: Suggested exercise. Linking the attributes of your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development archetype to each individual’s job responsibilities and function can happen in many ways. For example, you might ask them to take each of your archetype’s key attributes and list one or more of their own job actions that demonstrate this attribute. Or you might have them rewrite portions of their job description in terms of the attributes of the chosen archetype.
Whatever exercise you choose, it is important to spend sufficient time on this particular exercise. This is where each employee will “localize” the archetype to his or her own work activities. You are making the point that each and every employee represents the archetype in his or her own way. If your archetype is the Companion, it is important to emphasize that each employee is, in some way, the Companion. And it is crucially important to have each employee make this fundamental connection for themselves.
To accomplish this, it’s helpful to use examples. Consider the job description exercise mentioned above. You’d start by having them write down some key aspects of their job function, such as:
Processes accounts-payable invoices. Determines that each invoice comes from a vendor who shows up on the list of approved vendors with approved purchase orders. Does this according to established protocol, and works through any discrepancies. Logs and addresses each discrepancy. Does this weekly.
You’d then have them take the attributes of the Companion and rewrite the description. For example, if the attributes of the Companion that you’d chosen to represent your organization are Teamwork, Practicality, Trust and Guidance, then the job description given above could be rewritten as:
Works with the accounting team (Teamwork) to process accounts payable invoices in a timely fashion (Practicality). Determines validity of each invoice (Trust) and that it comes from a vendor who shows up on the list of approved team vendors (Teamwork). Ensure all parties follow established protocol (Guidance, Practicality), and works through any discrepancies by contacting the vendor (Teamwork). Logs and addresses each discrepancy as efficiently as possible (Practicality).
In rewriting their own job description, each employee should recognize that they do actually embody the particular archetype of your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization.
Phase 5: Link your archetype and its attributes to your life science, biotech and drug development organization’s mission and values.
Phase 5: Goal—to link your archetype to your corporate values and mission. Linking your archetype and attributes to your own values and mission statement is an essential step, as this will “connect the dots” for employees and marry your company’s high-level objectives to their intermediate goals and basic actions. You must show how your archetype relates to your mission and values. If you have chosen your archetype in a deliberate fashion, then this should not be difficult at all.
Phase 5: Suggested exercise. At this point, you should introduce what I call “the master aligning question.” This is the question that helps employees align their thoughts, beliefs and actions with those expected of all employees. This master aligning question is very simple: What would the (insert your archetype name) do?…in this case: What would the Companion do? This question is the key to driving alignment among employees, and guiding their work-related thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. It has many variations, including:
- How would the Companion exhibit at a trade show?
- How would the Companion write an email blast with a call to action?
- How would the Companion respond to a question from a prospect?
- How would the Companion reward another employee for acting like a true Companion?
- How would the Companion make a sales presentation?
This question is wonderfully powerful. I suggest you give all employees something (for example, a coffee mug or a wall calendar, etc.) with the master aligning question on it.
Have employees answer some of these questions individually or in groups, and then have a general discussion about some of the answers. For example, in a general discussion about the question, “How would the Companion exhibit at a trade show,” you might get answers that relate to the Companion’s attributes of Teamwork and Guidance. This could mean having employees work in teams to handle inquiries at the booth, with one person engaging the visitor in conversation to learn more, while the other handles any requests (finding the location of the employee the visitor is seeking, or finding the answer to their question).
Phase 6: Link your archetype to your life science, biotech and drug development organization’s story.
Phase 6: Goal—to link your archetype’s attributes and personality to the basic story for your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization. I have not yet outlined the importance of “narrative” and “story” in the communication of a message and the resulting alignment of your employees’ thoughts, beliefs and behaviors; this is a subject for a future whitepaper. But for now, remember that what you teach your employees to say (your narrative) is inextricably linked to how you teach your employees to say it (your personality or archetype).
Phase 6: Suggested exercise. Now is the time to introduce your narrative, that is, your core message, so that all employees are aligned about what they are saying. The attributes which you’ve previously introduced will help your employees understand the tone of voice to use when communicating. It is helpful to have employees teach each other the core story, so divide each small group in three sets by having the employees at each table count off: “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3,” etc. Send the 2s and 3s out of the room. Teach the story to the 1s. Have the 2s come back into the room and tell the 1s to teach the story to the 2s. Then have the 3s come back into the room and have the 2s teach the story to the 3s, while the 1s offer some guidance. The result will be a common understanding of your story.
Phase 7: Deputize each life science, biotech and drug development employee to take care of your organization’s reputation.
Phase 7: Goal—to deputize each employee to take care of the organization’s reputation and “brand.” As noted above, we can no longer can we rely on brand police to keep all messages congruent, all colors consistent, all tones of voice harmonious from message to message and from employee to employee. There are too many touchpoints—Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Instagram accounts—over which our employees have direct control. So rather than relying on brand police, we have to deputize our life science, biotech, drug discovery or development employees themselves.
Phase 7: Suggested exercise. Bring up examples of organizations that were damaged or even ruined because some employees were not aligned with the organization’s mission, that is, they knew that something was wrong and did nothing. There are many, including quite recently Volkswagen’s diesel engine software scandal. If every VW employee had been deputized to act on behalf of the organization and the common good, the negative impact to VW would have been much less. Interestingly, the VW scandal will likely spread to the “brand” of all diesel engines, not just VW, meaning that a few employees hurt an entire business sector.
Your deputizing of all attendees must be presented as a formal charge to each and every employee in the room. They are now officially responsible for taking care of the organization’s reputation, which means that they have a responsibility to help guide their fellow employees as well. This is where the master aligning question, “What would the Companion do?” is so useful. It is short enough to be remembered and simple enough to guide actions and communications.
You must make it clear what employees’ limits of responsibility are. They should be encouraged to challenge each other when they see behavior that is not in alignment with the chosen archetype, but they do not have complete freedom to change whatever they like.
It is particularly important to deputize the middle managers in the room. These are the people who must ensure that the attributes of your archetype don’t get lost, and that this training isn’t a “one and done” activity. The middle managers must keep your archetype’s attributes front and center; those attributes must be part of the middle managers’ one-on-one conversations with employees and part of their reviews of employee performance. And, of course, this emphasis must begin with your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization’s top leadership.
Phase 8: Provide a summary for your life science, biotech and drug development employees.
Phase 8: Goal—to summarize. At the conclusion of training, it is important to provide a cogent summary.
Phase 8: Suggested exercise. There are many ways to summarize the day’s activities. One effective way is to enlist your employees to help you summarize. Select an employee at random (or ask for a volunteer) and ask this question: “What is one take-away or key learning for you today?” After they answer, summarize their remarks in a few words and record it by writing it on a flip chart. Then point to another employee (or ask for another volunteer) and ask for a different take-away or key learning. Again summarize and record their answer.
This will give you a sense of what aspects of the training have taken hold among your employees.
As employees give you these take-aways, be alert to the need to follow up with additional questions. For example, if an employee says, “I learned what our archetype is,” you can ask, “And what is our archetype?” And when they answer, “Our archetype is the Companion,” you can ask, “And what are the attributes of the Companion?”
If you keep in mind the main points that you want your employees to focus on, then you should be able to ask enough questions (or provide enough prompts) to enable the creation of a master summary list, one that highlights all of your desired main points.
To support your summary, I suggest you hand out one or more items that employees can take with them. A set of guidelines printed on a calendar or the organization’s story and attributes printed on a coffee mug are great ways to keep the core components of the company’s archetype in front of employees at all times.
Results of training your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development employees.
If you plan your training carefully, you will see an increase in the alignment of your employees’ thoughts, beliefs and behaviors. To confirm this, I strongly suggest you measure the change your training has brought about, by using the same measurement tools you used in the pre-training assessment. This will enable you to determine how successful your training has been.
Your results will also enable you to pinpoint areas that need further action or reinforcement. Remember that any training should not be thought of as a “check-list item,” or a “one and done. If you treat this as something that you do once and then forget, your employees will do exactly this: they’ll participate once and then forget it.
To create a common culture, you have to continue to reinforce your expectations. One way to do this is to use small rewards, like Starbucks gift cards, that can be given out when employees exhibit (exceptional) behavior that is aligned with your expectations. There are many other ways to align your life science, biotech, drug discovery or development organization’s employees, but this is a subject for a future newsletter.
Learn more about the use of archetypes in life science, biotech and drug development marketing and sales.
To learn more about archetypes, here are some links to additional articles: