A Comprehensive Campaign Helps Gap Employees Embrace Cultural Change

By Nash, Jill | Communication World, November-December 2005 | Go to article overview

A Comprehensive Campaign Helps Gap Employees Embrace Cultural Change


Nash, Jill, Communication World


When Paul Pressler joined Gap Inc. as president and CEO in 2002, a major goal was to help the global clothing giant restore its business fundamentals and align each employee around a common framework--a shared way of thinking--that would better position Gap as a growth company that's also a great place to work.

With that in mind, Pressler and the executive leadership team realized that Gap had to undergo a significant cultural transformation. Employees needed to learn how to stop operating by division and to come together across functions, borders and brands, including Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Forth & Towne. The executive leadership team established a new way of thinking and acting that would become central to the corporate culture: a shared purpose under which to unify all employees, a set of values by which to inspire them to deliver on the purpose, and a set of behaviors to enable them to help the company achieve its goals.

Communication challenge

Introduced in 2004, this cultural transformation became known as Gap's Purpose, Values and Behaviors, or PVBs. The internal communication team had an unprecedented opportunity to develop and execute a comprehensive communication and rollout strategy that would at once educate, empower and re-recruit employees to get behind the company and the PVBs, making Gap the great growth company it aspired to be.

The plan needed to reach the entire employee population--more than 150,000 individuals worldwide. With such a large audience, the team segmented employees and devised a unique strategy that employed a gradual cascade effect, making the task of reaching all audience members more manageable and more effective, and essentially helping the PVBs become part of Gap's cultural DNA.

Solution and implementation

To begin, the communication team focused first on aligning Gap's 2,000 senior leadership employees. This step was critical--historically, these leaders often worked according to their specific brand's or job function's agenda, not with the entire company in mind. Integrating the leaders, garnering their support for and understanding of the PVBs, and then allowing them time to "soak in" the information was imperative so that they would feel empowered to effect the same cultural change within their own teams. Full-day immersion meetings called Leadership Summits were developed to accomplish this goal. The meetings were highly interactive and engaging, requiring active participation. Once the senior leadership had been fully immersed in the PVBs and given time to process the information and incorporate the guidelines into their work, they were able to effectively share the cultural shift with their teams.

In order to communicate the guidelines to Gap's remaining employees, customized and culturally relevant communications were required. Executive and senior leaders held 60-minute presentations during regular business update meetings to introduce the PVBs. These presentations were scripted to inspire teams, generate enthusiasm and set the stage for the full rollout.

The communication team designed interactive workshops about the PVBs for headquarters employees, which were led by leadership staff according to brand. …

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