The cluetrain for employees

Posted on March 11, 2016




Off the back of a Drum blog by Stephen Waddington celebrating 17 years since the Cluetrain Manifesto I was reminded of the Cluetrain for employees I wrote a few years back. I think it’s still pertinent, and I still think we communicators have lots to learn from what it says.

For those that don’t know it, the Cluetrain opens with 95 modern-day “theses” which are designed to shake companies out of an old way of thinking. A significant proportion are relevant to employees.

So, with an apology to the Cluetrain manifesto, I rewrote them with employees in mind. As a result, I have 36 “remembers” to nail to the door for employee communications people.

  1. Companies consist of human beings, not demographic sectors or segments.
  2. Conversations among human beings sound They are conducted in a human voice.
  3. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.
  4. People recognise each other as such from the sound of this voice.
  5. People in networked organisations have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from senior management.
  6. There are no secrets. Whether the news is good or bad, employees tell each other and those people on the outside.
  7. Already, companies that speak in the language of the spin doctor are no longer speaking to anyone.
  8. Companies need to realise their employees are often laughing. At them.
  9. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humour.
  10. Getting a sense of humour does not mean putting some jokes on the intranet or throwing a party. It requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.
  11. Companies attempting to “position” themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their customers and employees actually care about.
  12. Networked employees can change employers over lunch. Your own “downsizing initiatives” taught us to ask the question: “Loyalty? What’s that?”
  13. Companies make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own workforce.
  14. Companies typically install intranets top-down to distribute HR policies and other corporate information that workers are doing their best to ignore.
  15. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: a shared conversation.
  16. A healthy intranet organises workers in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.
  17. While this scares companies witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to “improve” or control these networked conversations.
  18. When corporate intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the free-speaking marketplace.
  19. Org charts worked in an older economy where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.
  20. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority. People go to the place where they can get the best help.
  21. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.
  22. Paranoia kills conversation. That’s its point. But a lack of open conversation kills companies.
  23. Markets do not want to talk to the PR or the constrained employee. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the corporate firewall.
  24. People want access to a company’s corporate information, to its plans and strategies, its best thinking, genuine knowledge.
  25. People are also the workers who make your companies go. So, we want to talk to customers directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script. We know the score.
  26. You’re a company that wants to join in? Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!
  27. We are immune to pure internal marketing. Just forget it.
  28. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.
  29. We’ve got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service.
  30. You’re too busy “doing business” to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we’ll come back later. Maybe.
  31. Companies can still make money. That is, as long as it’s not the only thing on its mind.
  32. Have you noticed that, in itself, money is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we get excited about?
  33. The product’s broke. Why? We want to hear from the guy who made it. The corporate strategy makes no sense. We want to have a chat with our CEO. What do you mean she’s busy?
  34. We want you to take 100s or 1000s of us that make up ‘our’ company as seriously as you take one reporter from The Financial Times.
  35. Some of the customers know some of us really well. They think we’re pretty cool online. They want to know if we have any more people we’re hiding, and whether you’re going to let us come out and play?
  36. We’d rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million pound web site. But you tell us speaking to the market is Marketing’s job.
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