Motivational songs invite staff derision

September 12, 2003

Forget performance-related pay and flexitime, large corporations are increasingly turning to pop and rock music to motivate their employees, writes Tony Tysome.

Martin Corbett, a researcher at Warwick Business School, has discovered that cover versions of new and "golden oldie" hits are being turned into company songs for employees to sing at corporate events and in special "sing-along" sessions.

But the strategy sometimes backfires when rebellious employees write their own versions of the songs to poke fun at their employers.

Upbeat company songs stress youthful exuberance, teamwork and the ability and willingness to respond to customers. Hewlett-Packard's contribution to pop, for instance, is a reworking of Pink's worldwide hit Get the Party Started, while AT&T has borrowed heavily from Sister Sledge's disco chart-topper We Are Family to help raise employee morale.

But, although songs can help branding and team-building, they are open to abuse if not carefully managed. KPMG discovered this too late when the company's pop anthem, with the catchy title Vision of Global Strategy, was remixed as a hard rock version by employees and distributed on the internet.

In a paper on his findings, Dr Corbett concludes: "It is only when the reproduction of a company song, its location, timing and performance is firmly managed that executives can ensure their intentions aren't distorted.

"Motivational songs are still, at times, derided as nonsense and employees can be cynical about ageing companies trying to gain the respect of youths by linking to platinum albums," he says in the report.

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