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News Digests

Stay abreast of what’s happening internationally with developments in corporate public affairs. Here is news that you may find useful and interesting:

Even if it enrages your boss, social net speech is protected ND

Steven Greenhouse, New York Times, 21 January 2012

As Facebook and Twitter become as central to workplace conversation as the company cafeteria, federal regulators are ordering employers to scale back policies that limit what workers can say online. Employers often seek to discourage comments that paint them in a negative light, and violations can be a firing offense. But in a series of recent rulings and advisories, labor regulators have declared many such blanket restrictions illegal. The decisions come amid a broader debate over what constitutes appropriate discussion on Facebook and other social networks. Lewis L. Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute, said social media rights were looming larger in the workplace. “No one should be fired for anything they post that’s legal, off-duty and not job-related,” Mr. Maltby said. For more information see

Redesigning knowledge workND

Martin Dewhurst, Bryan Hancock and Diana Ellsworth, Harvard Business Review, 16 January 2013

In today’s knowledge economy, competitive advantage is increasingly coming from the particular, hard-to-duplicate know-how of a company’s most skilled people: talented (and highly paid) engineers, salespeople, scientists, and other professionals. The problem is that across the private, public, and social sectors there aren’t enough knowledge workers to go around. In response, some firms are taking steps to expand the talent pool—for example, by investing in apprenticeships and other training programs. But a number of companies are going further: They are redefining the jobs of their experts, transferring some of their tasks to lower-skill people inside or outside their organisations, and outsourcing work that requires scarce skills but is not strategically important. The process involves several basic steps: identifying the gap between the talent your firm has and what it will need; creating narrower, more-focused job descriptions in areas where talent is scarce; choosing from various options for filling the skills gap; and rewiring processes for talent and knowledge management. For more information see

Biggest kids on the block becoming bigger fans of social mediaND

Robert Berkman, MIT Sloan Management Review, 7 January 2012

The very largest corporations in America are showing “the first signs of really embracing a range of social media tools”, according to a new study undertaken at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. The research examined how companies from the 2012 Fortune 500 list were using blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. A total of 139 companies, or 28% of the Fortune 500, had blogs. Those in the telecommunications industry had the most (40%); followed by commercial banks, specialty retail and utilities (25-30%). A total of 365 companies, or 73%, were found to have a corporate Twitter account. The food/consumer products industry had the most, with 93% of its firms on Twitter. A total of 330 companies, or 66%, had a Facebook account. That represents an 8% increase over the previous year. Industries with the greatest presence on Facebook were specialty retail (89%); consumer products (86%); and telecom (80%). For more information see

How to create brand engagement on FacebookND

Arvind Malhotra, Claudia Kubowicz Malhotra and Alan See, MIT Sloan Management Review, December 18 2012

A recent study of 98 global brands identifies factors that increase — or decrease — the chances of consumers “liking” commenting on or sharing a company’s Facebook posts. The research identifies eight ways brand managers can increase the number of likes a post receives, as well as five common mistakes that prevent messages from being liked. One technique that drove comments to wall posts was posing questions. When brands asked, people answered. There was a sense of talking back to the brand. The report concludes that Facebook is becoming a critical element of any organisation’s marketing strategy, and that there are clear techniques that exist to leverage wall posts more effectively to generate greater propagation and richer conversation — and to convert more consumers into brand advocates. For more information see

Breaking down corporate philanthropyND

Katarina Persic, Pro Bono Australia, 12 December 2012

Corporate philanthropy must satisfy three key stakeholder groups: the local community, employees and shareholders. Toyota Australia has designed a model of philanthropy that is based on this design. As such, it manages three distinct investment funds for each stakeholder group. It's Social Investment Fund, for which the key stakeholder it identifies as the Toyota Motor Corporation parent company, requires Toyota factories to contribute to Not For Profits in the areas of environment, traffic safety and education. Then there is the Disaster Relief Fund / Workplace giving fund, which encourages employees (key stakeholder) to make a private choice of what charity they want to support. Third, there is the Local Council and Community Fund, which states that each Toyota factory must contribute to their local community in the way that they believe is appropriate for their circumstance. For more information see

Profits and CSR closely linked - reportND

Pro Bono Australia, 12 December 2012

A global survey of corporate social responsibility executives within the Fortune 1000 organisations has revealed that profits and CSR are closely linked, and many businesses evaluate the relationship between these two variables when developing strategy. When evaluating motivations behind CSR policy, results signal that the primary motivation behind CSR initiatives lies in the company’s reputation (88%), followed by the company’s competitive positioning and social consciousness (71%). Significantly, profitability (38%) and pending or existing legislation (32%) were determined to be motivating factors. The study also sought to determine the level of importance of the views of specific audiences, both internal and external, when creating and measuring the results of CSR strategies, as well as specific issues that CSR initiatives often focus on. For more information see

First look: 2012 Sustainability Survey findingsND

Nina Kruschwitz, MIT Sloan Management Review, 11 December 2012

The results are in for the fourth annual sustainability and innovation survey, conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group. One key finding is that North American companies are still lagging considerably in the integration of sustainability. Compared to companies in other countries, they have the lowest rate of business model innovation, and the fewest business model innovators who said that sustainability activities added to their profit. Also, developing countries and emerging markets had the highest rate of innovation and profiting from sustainability. They were also increasing their commitment to sustainability at the highest rate. Furthermore, asked which sustainability trends were most critical over the coming three years, energy scarcity and price volatility topped the list for every country and region. For more information see

Fire revealed a gap in safety for global brandsND

Jim Yardley, The New York Times, 6 December 2012

112 workers were killed in a blaze last month in Bangladesh that has exposed a disconnect among global clothing brands, the monitoring system used to protect workers and the factories actually filling the orders. After the fire, Walmart, Sears and other retailers admitted that they did not know that Tazreen Fashions - the company who operated in the factory - was making their clothing. For more information see

How to help employees ‘get’ strategy ND

Charles Galunic, Harvard Business Review, December 2012

Embedding company strategy in employees is an important aspect of employee engagement. A study conducted for the purpose of determining what strategies best embed company strategy with employees examined 60 000 responses to an employee satisfaction survey. There were some intuitive findings - for example that senior employees are more likely to understand and agree with company strategy. However, the study also concluded that long-term employees don’t necessarily have a better understanding of company strategy. It was found that the most important factor in embedding business strategy amongst employees was the perception of and trust in top management, which suggests that business leaders need to make efforts to engage frequently with their employees. For more information see

Capturing business value with social technologiesND

Jacques Bughin, Michael Chui, and James Manyika, McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012

This study examined the use of social technologies in hundreds of organisations around the world to provide a basis for modeling potential improvements across the value chain. One of the key findings was that using social technologies to improve collaboration and communication within and across companies could raise the productivity of interaction workers by 20 to 25 percent. In the area of 'consumer packaged goods', it was found that interactive product campaigns that deploy social technologies can increase the productivity of advertising expenditures by as much as 30 to 60 per cent. It was also estimated that the professional services and advanced manufacturing could yield significant productivity and efficiency gains from greater use of social technologies. For more information see

How ‘social intelligence’ can guide decisionsND

Martin Harrysson, Estelle Metayer, and Hugo Sarrazin, McKinsey Quarterly, November 2012

This article explores four distinct ways social technologies can augment the intelligence-gathering approaches of companies. While the impact of social media on 'identifying priorities for exploration and decision-making' is relatively limited, the study suggests that the areas of the 'intelligence cycle' affected significantly are: gathering data, synthesizing and analysing data, and communicating data. It concludes that the information that companies need to meet competitive challenges is moving quickly from published and proprietary sources to the open, chaotic world of social platforms, and that navigating this new environment effectively will require new skills and a willingness to engage in social conversations rather than merely assemble information. For more information see

New ways to engage employees, suppliers and competitors in CSRND

Betsy Blaisdell (Timberland Llc), Interviewed By Nina Kruschwitz, MIT Sloan Management Review, November 2012

Betsy Blaisdell is senior manager of environmental stewardship for Timberland LLC. In a conversation with MIT SMR’s managing editor and special projects manager Nina Kruschwitz, Blaisdell talks about the company’s “Voices of Challenge” website area, the environment “nutrition label” it’s developed for its footwear, and its partnership with 60 plus apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers and NGOs to develop a an environmental index called the Higg Index. The interview touches on the development of, as well as measurement and reporting of sustainability and CSR metrics. In integrating a sustainability focus into the company, Blaisdell discusses the importance of considering the 'triple bottom line' - environmental, sustainable and financial. Within social and environmental responsibility, Blaisdell's approach is to focus on the 'four pillars' - corporate footprint, product footprint, community service and building sustainable environments. For more information see

Why boards need to changeND

Edward Lawler and Christopher Worley, MIT Sloan Management Review, Fall 2012

The authors argue that corporate boards are not able to provide the leadership required for companies to be successful in their sustainability and CSR endeavours. Boards need executives who understand the impact of organisations on its stakeholders, environment and society, rather than just recruiting those who are knowledgeable about financial performance. Boards also need more information in order to lead and evaluate sustainability performance. Shareholders also need more information. Performance goals should be set so that the board can hold management accountable. Boards might also consider changes to committee structures, such as has occurred at Unilever where there is a corporate responsibility and reputation committee that has oversight of the company’s efforts and reputation. For more information see

Think twice before tweetingND

Ian Sanders, Financial Times, 31 October 2012

The average executive has a growing array of digital options to communicate with their organisation, clients and other audiences. Senior executives increasingly feel under pressure to become adept at rapid digital communication, from dealing with emails to responding to tweets. The problem for executives is not just the speediness demanded by electronic communication, but the number of platforms on which brands and businesses need to get their messages out fast. Online campaigns, Facebook brand pages and viral videos must be conceived, created and delivered in hours or days just to keep pace. That creates greater pressure for diligence in a rapid production process. In the rush to communicate digitally, executives need to remind themselves that a sloppily produced report, presentation or blog post can detract from the message. For more information see

The digital capabilities your company needsND

George Westerman, Didier Bonnet and Andrew McAfee, MIT Sloan Management, 29 October 2012

The authors interviewed 157 executives in 50 large companies and found that the most fundamental technology requirement for digital transformation is a core set of four digital capabilities. The first capability is having a 'united digital platform', which essentially means data integration across the different areas of the company. The second capability is 'solution delivery', which means the ability to modify their processes or build new methods onto the data and process platform. Third is 'analytic capabilities', referring to the ability to combine integrated data with powerful analysis tools. The fourth capability identified is 'business and IT integration', which stresses the importance of a strong relationship between business executives and IT executives. For more information see

Dodgy social media: buying followers, and why it may not always be a bad ideaND

Patrick Stafford, SmartCompany, 25 October 2012

Companies have been hiring the services of businesses and individuals to artificially inflate their follower numbers. Whether it’s on Twitter or Facebook, “likes” or “followers” are simply another commodity ready to be sold or traded. There’s a clear benefit to buying social media followers quicker than your normal timeline would allow: speeding up the process by putting the page in front of people who may be interested. But social media experts argue these followers are never going to be as engaged with your brand had they found your company organically. If someone visits your page and notices your high follower count, it won’t mean a thing if you don’t have many conversations happening on your page or feed. Fake ‘likes’ might add a sense of legitimacy or popularity, but probably will not stimulate engagement with the brand. For more information see

Integrity pays dividends: the case for minding your own businessND

Timothe Devinney, The Conversation, 25 October 2012

The author argues that in order to achieve the benefits of 'corporate' social responsibility (CSR), organisations need to redefine the concept in terms of “individual social responsibility” (ISR). The idea is that corporations can be socially responsible only in proportion to which the individuals who are party to the corporation − customers, employees, investors, managers, and so on − are themselves socially responsible. Organisations that are made up of individuals possessing integrity are more productive and efficient, and individuals possessing more integrity will be more likely to have economic and social opportunities open up to them. The key to more social responsibility may not lie in more standards and regulations meant to demarcate ‘good’ from ‘bad’ behaviour, but the ability to get more individuals to behave with integrity. For more information see

Managing successfully in the Asian centuryND

Rachel Nickless, Australian Financial Review, 17 October 2012

As Australia seeks further regional economic integration, it will become increasingly important for Australian companies and executives to become ‘Asia-literate’ – understanding certain cultural and behavioural difference between the Australian and Asian workplaces. Among the lessons that Australians will need to learn include adapting to an inter-cultural workplace, recognising that Australian banter isn’t always appropriate, and the value of informal meetings as opposed to boardroom meetings. Additionally, Australians will need to recognise the fact that employee benefits are highly valued in China, and that contracts are not necessarily the end point of negotiations. For more information see

Why measuring user engagement is harder than you thinkND

Mathew Ingram, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12 October 2012

Measuring online engagement is important because its allows companies to determine which channels they should be focusing on. However tracking engagement may be easier said than done – as there is increasing evidence that people are engaging through difficult to trace channels such as emails and instant messaging, or what is called ‘dark social engagement’. While there may be software that can shed light on some of these difficult to track engagement channels, the broader implications for attracting larger online engagement is that it’s not necessarily the channel that is used, but more the message that is being conveyed. For more information see

No good deed goes unpunishedND

Doug Pinkham, Public Affairs Council, 3 October 2012

Many business executives believe that commitment to developing a stronger reputation will protect a company during a crisis. However, a new study from Northwestern University concludes that the perception that reputation can act like 'insurance' against activist challenges may be wrong. Key findings include: that firms with the highest reputation rankings are more likely to be targeted for boycotts; firms that do lots of CSR-related media outreach are more likely to be targeted; and firms that regularly engage the media are also more likely to be targeted. Lessons from the research include: that investing in a good reputation is not a one-time expense; that activists trying to garner attention are most likely to target large, well-known firms; and that being a good corporate citizen doesn’t mean you get a free pass when you do something controversial. For more information see

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