From shortlist to winner!
Sascha Becker is a man on a mission. A mission to increase employee happiness and ensure that communication and HR professionals are both ready and willing to contribute to this – but can do so as well.
In Sascha’s view, happy employees create happy stakeholders and so increase business value, a philosophy he demonstrates daily in his role at PROOF. And it works. In 2019, PROOF received 21 nominations and awards for its work with clients. Why? Because PROOF succeeds in creating concrete employee experiences. The agency’s approach is now a model, as explained by Sascha and PROOF colleague Wenda in their 2019 book ‘The Employee Journey’. It also formed the basis for PROOF’s ‘Employee Journey Festival’ in 2019, and underpins the agency’s numerous lectures, workshops and articles, all aimed at bringing the communications profession further.
Learn more about Sascha and his mission in seven questions.
Seven questions for Sascha Becker
- You have been named as Logeion Communications Person of the Year 2020. How does it feel?
I am, of course, proud. And I’m very happy to be given the opportunity to tell my story. I have a mission – happy employees – that I have been advocating for many years, because I am convinced that sustainable value creation begins with and through happy employees. Employees who are happy are more productive, which leads to happy stakeholders, in turn creating sustainable organisational value.
- Why does happiness concern you so much?
Because I think it’s essential for every person to feel happy in and about the work they do. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. There are so many organisations that don’t have the right people in the right place. At the same time, I see lots of opportunities because I also see the positive things that happen every day when organisations do have the right people in the right place and enable these people to do the right things at the right times.
And, by the way, I experience it every day in my own work, too, because I love what I do. If gives me satisfaction and it enables me to enjoy myself with colleagues It makes me ambitious and it contributes to my personal happiness.
- What opportunities do you see for communications professionals?
I see lots of opportunities for our profession. But only if we go deeper and team up more. And connect with the business. Listen to what’s going on. Observe. When communications departments, HR and the board work together – really work together – and truly listen to all stakeholders, can the communications department can really add value, as we have shown with our award-winning work for VGZ and NN in Hungary, for example.
Unfortunately, too many communications departments are not concerned enough with value creation. Instead, they are primarily concerned with output: producing the stuff that ‘glitters’. Yes, it does matter whether something is on brand and has the right tone of voice, but it’s more important to think cohesively rather than in terms of separate tools. Communication departments should be making continuous choices based on a solid strategy with one primary goal: how can I help my organisation achieve its ambitions? Which buttons do I need to push to achieve sustainable change and align the whole organisation so that we can create value with and for each other? To do this, you need to focus not only on changing observable behaviour – the things you can see – but also the things underneath the surface: intentions, values and beliefs. In my experience, a successful transformation requires an integrated approach involving an inner and outer dimension on both an individual and collective level. Communications departments can add value to change by facilitating a genuine dialogue between all layers of the organisation, by opening everything up for discussion, by bridging gaps between departments, by helping the organisation to reflect, inspire and activate its people, and by translating complex topics into something that all stakeholders understand. The only way to do this is to act on a strategic level and to understand what is going on in the outside world as well as inside, and to listen.
- How should communications departments react to times of change?
The first thing is for communications professionals to connect with every stakeholder and to genuinely listen to them. You need to know what’s going on. On the one hand, you need to know where senior leadership wants to go in the short and longer term. On the other, you need to know what is really in play. Feelings. Emotions. Worries. Ideas. Only then can you know which buttons to push, with HR for example, to do the right things and have an impact.
- What did you do in 2019 to earn the title of Communications Person of the Year?
The main thing, I would s say, is that my colleagues and I proved that working on an optimal employee journey pays off. As an agency, we were nominated for 21 awards in 2019, and our employee journey model – the model I developed and wrote about with Wenda Bolink – was the basis for those nominations. The book we wrote was published in Dutch in 2018, and the English version followed in early 2019. Evidence is essential. There’s a reason why I work at PROOF: we provide proof that working on engagement and alignment actually creates business value.
- How would you sum up what PROOF does – and what’s your role?
At PROOF, we do internal and employer branding. So we work on communications with employees and potential employees. I am responsible for our clients’ strategies, as well as PROOF’s, and I work with many of our clients on their employee journey. In 2019, I gave dozens of workshops, I initiated our Employee Journey Festival, and I was at the helm of strategy development for what would become 21 award-winning and nominated client cases.
- What can we expect from you as Communications Person of the Year in the next twelve months?
Our field, communications, deserves more recognition. And that starts at the top of organisations, with recognition for the role of communications departments and HR. This is step 1, and it’s happening. Step 2 is to actually start optimising the employee journey, beginning with top management and leaders, and so help organisations to move away from narcissistic leadership. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time. Employees are the most important asset of any organisation. They deserve leaders who are committed to their interests and to creating a safe and pleasant working environment.
My mission is to connect as many communications and HR professionals as possible and start a movement. A movement in which we work strategically and pragmatically on creating a great employee experience for everyone.