March 20, 2019 • History Factory
Shannon Lapierre is Stanley Black & Decker’s chief communications officer, with responsibility for corporate communications, corporate marketing, philanthropy and government relations. She joined Stanley in 2016, following stints at The Hartford, CA Technologies, Staples, Digital Equipment Corporation and The Travelers. History Factory Managing Director Jason Dressel sat down with Lapierre to talk about the company’s newly minted purpose initiative—“For Those Who Make the WorldTM”—its rollout and its impact on the recent 175th anniversary celebration. Here are some key takeaways.
It was an incredibly interesting process. Normally, companies work on purpose or values initiatives after something has gone wrong in their organization. This situation was unique in that we started our work on purpose during a period where the company had been performing exceptionally well. The company had just promoted its COO, who had been with the company for 17 years, to the role of CEO. Typically with an internal promotion, when the company is a top performer, you would expect more status quo. But the board and the CEO wanted a broader perspective on the organization and company, and an increasing focus on the “what’s next” for the organization. We have a very advanced board and management team, and they realized that in order for businesses to be successful in the future, they will have to be adaptive to the societal changes in the world and have a broader purpose beyond profits. Customers, employees and society are demanding it. Companies need to have a sustainable business and operating model, which includes their place in society and how they deliver value back to the world.
Initially, we thought of purpose as more of a social responsibility initiative. But as we began diving into it, we started to recognize how it could serve a more strategic function to align and drive the organization: how you recruit and retain employees, the engagement of your organization, how you communicate and talk to your customers, and how you align your business strategies to deliver value beyond profits, along with profits. We’ve seen our business segments start to align their strategies to purpose, and we used it throughout our 175th anniversary to ground the program.
Purpose became the rallying cry for employees. We are a company that has grown through acquisitions, and you might have expected that there would not be a unified culture, but what we found when uncovering our purpose is that we did have a common, unified culture. What was missing was a way for employees to articulate that purpose and talk about the meaning of the important work they do for the world. Now we are seeing employees embrace that purpose and talk about their work in new, meaningful and important ways.
An interesting example is in our Engineered Fastening business. As they were updating their business strategy, they took the opportunity to engage with purpose. One of their focus areas is fasteners for automobiles, and they had previously been aligning around the trend in electric vehicles, which require more lightweight fasteners. Some cars can have more than 5,000 fasteners in them. The purpose initiative allowed them to rethink that strategy and reframe their approach, and was part of the realization that this was where the future is going, and we needed to be leading and driving this initiative in a stronger way. It was part of our purpose in that electric vehicles are helping create a more sustainable world, and we wanted to be part of creating the future of mobility. That’s a much more emotional rallying cry than “we’re going to sell fasteners to target electric vehicle carmakers.” It’s much more strategic, visionary and emotional, and helps drive the business in a different way.
Another great example is our security business. We make automatic doors as part of our security systems business. Their purpose is to make the world more accessible, which changes how you think about the functioning of an automatic door. It’s not about opening and closing and making sure it’s locked and secure. It’s “What I do makes sure that this door helps people who might have accessibility challenges.”
We launched purpose at our annual companywide leadership meeting with our top 400 leaders. Our CEO shared our purpose story on stage at the meeting, and we ran a number of engagement activities during the meeting to help our team understand what purpose was, how to personally connect to it and the potential positive impact it could have on our organization. Our leaders were inspired by it and took to it almost immediately. The response was overwhelming for our team that worked on the project. We were not sure exactly what to expect, but we now appreciate how important it was that the purpose be excavated from what existed in the organization, not something that was fabricated by leadership or the communications team.
We made a conscious decision to not dictate how purpose would be implemented, but give employees the tools and resources to do this on their own. We did not want it to be a corporate initiative. We have highly diversified companies with different businesses, business models and geographies, and for purpose to be successful, each business and geography would have to uncover what purpose means to them down to the individual level. So our task was to figure out the best way to enable the company to engage with purpose. We did a number of interviews with teams across the organization to really understand what would be helpful to them to help embody and roll out our purpose. We spent an inordinate amount of time working on an activation toolkit for our employees, and worked on what aspects should be included and how it should be designed. We created a highly modular activation toolkit for employees around the organization to host activation sessions. It was complete with slides, scripts, videos, activities and examples, and we translated it into 12 languages. We trained employees across the organization on how to deliver the activation sessions, and leaders and employees customized the program.
Across the company, more than 100 sessions were held around the globe, in places like factories in China, across Europe, in Latin America, and across the United States. They posted photos of their sessions, and then the different teams would come up with their own different activities. They really made the purpose their own.
The timing was very fortunate—being able to launch purpose and then have such a major milestone like the 175th anniversary. The anniversary served as a key opportunity to embed purpose into our culture. When we excavated our purpose, one of the first things we did was go back to the founding of the company and truly understand and appreciate our own history. It was about Frederick Stanley’s family, the work that he did, his commitment to community, innovation, and all those things about the founding of the company that are still core to what the company is today.
The work that History Factory did uncovering the stories helped us ground our 175th anniversary and tell the story of our company and our purpose through our history. Our founder, Frederick Stanley, brought what is believed to be the first steam engine to the state of Connecticut. He was the first mayor of the city of New Britain, still the location of our corporate headquarters, and he brought gas lighting to the city. He cared passionately about his community and that still holds true for us today.
This history also helped us tie to one of our philanthropic CSR-focused programs—helping the City of Hartford and Connecticut revitalize. Another example is our effort to enhance the diversity and inclusivity of our organization. When you look back to our history, you appreciate how important women have been to our organization, particularly in our factories during wartime. Women were critical, and we have those photos and stories as part of our culture—looking at the past helps us to understand our future. We’re also taking many of our employee stories and telling our story of history and purpose through the eyes of our employees and sharing these both internally and externally to embed purpose as core to our organization.