Om Klavs Valskovs tid hos Maersk Line
Innovation og intern kommunikation i Maersk Line

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Hvordan kan en intern kommunikationsafdeling vokse fra fire medarbejdere til 25 på ganske få år? Få svaret af manden bag forandringerne, Klavs Valskov, der har været kommunikationschef for Maersk Line siden 2008, men som netop har opsagt sin stilling til fordel for at blive partner i Agenda Strategies. Artiklen er på engelsk, da den er udlånt af kommunikationsforummet, Melcrum
The coming of age for maersk Line’s IC function
Klavs Valskov believes that making an impact is easy for Internal Communication when you innovate and use your initiative, as his efforts at global shipping company Maersk Line have shown.
 
Three years ago Internal Communication was a small team of four at Maersk Line. Today, it’s a globally dispersed integrated communication department of 25 people, who are in intimate relationships with the board of directors. The person leading this team is Klavs Valskov, who’s succeeded in making the organization realize the true potential of Internal Communication. “Trust in your own abilities and you can take your function, and yourself, far,” he says.
 

But how did he arrive at this point? When considering joining the international shipping organization with its global workforce of 25,000 employees, Valskov was apprehensive. The company, and industry, had a reputation of being conservative – making it a difficult environment to host best-practice internal communication. He admits: “The main worry I had was ‘How am I ever going to implement bottom-up communication here?’” Despite this admission of concern, he achieved it through combining perseverance, determination and some creative thinking.

Indeed, at a previous role at Nordea Bank as a Communication Consultant, his main focus was Internal Communication and building communication plans for various different internal functions, but he wanted to leave his mark: “At Nordea, I wanted to show them what I could do straight away, so I helped to set up the Nordea Bank TV Studio that was linked through TV screens at different branches.” As well as building communication channels such as video and social media, he also built various communication plans – a skill he had honed through previous roles at companies including global consultancy firm Accenture, the Ministry of Industry and the Danish Management Group. In these early roles, he built his tactical skills around different channels, including newsletters, as well as his communication planning expertise.

Before joining Nordea, he took a year out to go traveling (where incidentally, he met his future wife), then began a short-term contract as Communication Consultant at L’Oreal Denmark, which he reveals was an eye-opening experience. “It was a totally different environment to what I was used to. Everything within the cosmetics industry is focused on PR and external communication with budgeting for these functions set at an incredibly high level – in stark contrast to what Internal Communication may receive from other organizations.”
Post-Nordea, Maersk Line was calling. Valskov joined in 2008 as Communication Partner in a function that wasn’t yet fully established in his eyes. In fact, the communication team consisted of only four people: an Intranet Manager, a Journalist, Valskov and his manager.
 
 
Streamlining processes for Maersk Line
However, an opportunity arose that was to change the company’s entire communication set up, as well as domestic attitudes towards the Internal Communication function, forever. On his third day in his new role, Valskov was allocated the task of announcing to 120 colleagues working on a global change program, called streamLINE, what communication could do for them. The streamLINE initiative was launched to simplify organizational layers and structures in Maersk Line, standardize processes, implement sales tools/ pipelines, rework the entire financial reporting (SAP) system and cut costs everywhere.
 
Valskov says that rolling out communication surrounding streamLINE across the company’s 25,000-plus employees helped improve the perception of IC as a driver of business performance in the eyes of leaders and other departments. “From that, we earned our stripes. We developed our own tools and worked with different departments to build them communication plans around streamLINE,” he adds.
 
At the same time, he also built a strong communication infrastructure (including an intranet, called enable) and ensured the stories they were telling via that channel were “compelling and crisp.” He made sure of this by creating content that was business relevant, yet not too corporate. Other support tools were created, including videos with low-cost production and animation.
 
 
Foto: Poul Christensen, Melcrum

Global challenges
During his work surrounding the streamLINE program, he was awarded a new role as Head of Internal Communication with an initial task of transforming his communication team into a global function, relocating jobs to sites such as Mumbai (part of streamLINE’s companywide agenda).
“It was a tough beginning, but I saw it as another opportunity to set an example to the rest of the organization facing these same changes,” he says. Valskov’s optimistic attitude proved to be right – his global communication team’s engagement levels have been measured as “high” and he has a seat at the quarterly General Management Meeting, the executive body of Maersk Line.
 
Following this period of job relocation, more and more sections of Maersk Line desired the assistance of the communication department and so it was grown further in Manila, where there are currently five employees.
 
The biggest win
Following the success of Internal Communication’s involvement with streamLINE, the CEO asked Valskov to communicate the positive results to 20 leaders of Maersk Line’s leadership team at a conference in Copenhagen. “For this, we began writing up the story of streamLINE, but in doing so it started to look more and more like a strategy document,” he explains. “So, they actually ended up using that document as the overall corporate strategy for the company.”
 
In a huge turnaround for the Internal Communication function, the company, and indeed the shipping industry as a whole, Valskov’s team was given the task of delivering this strategy externally. He was allocated many resources and had to decide upon the best way to convey it to the world. “The interesting thing about the shipping industry is that it’s relatively commoditized, so customers historically aren’t used to amazing service. Containers don’t arrive on time, documentation isn’t up to scratch and online solutions are non- existing. It’s an ancient industry when it comes to service, but customers have accepted that’s the way it is.” Valskov took these issues and saw them as the perfect challenge for the new strategy to respond to, creating a document called Changing the way we think about shipping. “The point was not to praise, but to challenge the industry as a whole about the fundamental issues they could see,” he says.
 
Supported by a website (www.changingthewaywethinkaboutshipping.com) and a manifesto document that was distributed at industry events, they now had a challenge to respond to and they did so by releasing information about how to overcome these challenges. “This was hugely exciting internally as well as externally,” Valskov enthuses.
 

The power of integration and his management style
Following the success of this exercise, Valskov was given responsibility of Marketing as well as External Communication in the middle of 2011 and the title of Director of Communication.
 
The integration of the Internal and External Communication functions, as well as Marketing, was a milestone for his career, and a natural evolution in his eyes. “One of the very important lessons from this is that all external campaigns need to take point of departure internally. Everything should be grown from Internal Communication. That builds trustworthy, credible external campaigns. It builds value propositions towards customers – as when you are ready to go external, the whole workforce are behind it. If you start the other way around, your company’s credibility is at risk.”
 
Valskov has high hopes for his communication function and thrives on being well connected.
“We should be world-class as we are the biggest company in the industry. I try to have bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with people I deal directly with in my department including team leaders in Mumbai and Manila. I encourage them to have shared objectives with other teammates – inspiring them to work together,” he says. Valskov’s department is structured into two separate units: one is for communication specialists and the other is for channel specialists. Those in the communication unit identify what communication support is required across the business, then develop a plan and head to the channel specialists to ensure its effective delivery.

Focusing on technology and measurement
It’s always tricky when thinking of ways to demonstrate measurement effectively to leaders and the broader business. To combat this, Valskov produces a quarterly communication report in the format of a dashboard, which goes to a selected audience of top management and the global communication network. The dashboard contains metrics from the intranet, quarterly pulse survey, external media, social media and external website, which he then interprets to identify focus areas and improvement points for the next quarter. 
 
“Measurement has been a vital part of my journey. When you’re pushed on cost you need to show you’re making a difference. In 2010, I engaged in industry networks about how to measure the success of our communication efforts. Employee engagement equals high performance, which impacts the bottom line. So how can you add to that equation that communication efforts impact employee engagement? It’s difficult.”
 
This led Valskov to think about how to deliver powerful measurement data effectively. He believes that consistency is the key. “At the beginning of streamLINE in 2008, we started asking questions with our quarterly pulse surveys and now have continued the practice. The key is measuring similar things each time, that way you are speaking with historical data, which is very useful.” He adjusts pulse questions along the way and tests it upon demand.
 
Engaging with his audience digitally is also a priority for Valskov. Maersk Line boasts an internal TV channel, a YouTube-inspired site where employees can upload videos and rate or comment, as well as the intranet enable – which is in line for a revamp: “We’re migrating to SharePoint 2010 this year with all of its features, such as MySite. It will also include internal social media using NewsGator.”
 
 
Internal Communication philosophy
“Earning your stripes”, a phrase touched upon earlier in the interview, is key for Valskov. “It’s rare that people just buy into a communication strategy from the very beginning – you need to give them a reason to believe you and trust you.” For this, he believes that Internal Communication needs a strategic point of view. “You need to get on top of the business agenda and understand where the business is going. Be ahead of the game somehow and be proactive.”
 
It’s this attitude that he equates with success.
“In all life’s aspects, if you take initiative it usually results in a positive outcome. You will also be able to steer your surroundings towards where you want to go. In Internal and External Communication, if your team is proactive, people will want to work with you and, over time, you will get more and more resources. But it requires courage.”
 
We end the interview on a high note and talk about Valskov’s recent recognition at the SCM Awards 2011 where he was presented with the Rising Star award. “I was very proud of this achievement. Building a communication function from virtually nothing to an award-winning department makes you believe you can have a great effect on any organization if you put your mind to it.”
 
Excited about what’s to come Valskov believes that the future state of Internal Communication looks bright. “All industries, including the old- fashioned shipping industry, have come to terms with the fact that communication is of huge value for them,” he says.
 
Artiklen er lånt af Melcrum - Strategic Communication Research Forum og er fra magasinet scm: insight, communication and strategy for communication leaders, volume 16, issue 4. Du kan læse hele magasinet her
 
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