ADP “Meeting of the Minds”: Framing Our Viewpoint
In early April I had the opportunity to attend my first ADP “Meeting of the Minds” event in Las Vegas. It was a great opportunity to hear from ADP’s executives, customers, partners, and thought leaders on the evolution of ADP’s products as well as its new brand positioning.
Because I’ve attended ADP’s annual analyst meeting for the past eight or nine years, I’ve seen firsthand how the culture and point of view of the organization has changed. ADP has evolved from holding somewhat stuffy, dry meetings in cramped hotel meeting spaces, with attendees lugging home giant binders full of paper, to a tech-savvy, interactive and digital event held at their Manhattan Innovation Center, complete with coconut water and seriously the best yogurt I’ve ever had. They’ve been pushing themselves (and have been pushed and pulled by their investors and clients) to become more than “just” a payroll provider.
While I’ve had an inside view on ADP’s transformation, events like “Meeting of the Minds” bring this reality even closer to their customers. This future is reflected in ADP’s new brand messaging. With a new tagline, “Always Designing for People,” ADP has launched a major campaign focused on what we are #WorkingFor. Stories of what individuals and companies were #WorkingFor were a large part of the agenda at this event, including the message from the opening keynote speaker, former CNN news anchor and founder of Starfish Media, journalist Soledad O'Brien. In addition to sharing some of her personal journey which has shaped how she views her work, O’Brien also discussed how her work in itself has evolved. She is committed to telling the stories that aren’t being told, and to bringing light and truth to wherever it is needed.
One concept that she mentioned really stuck with me and resonates even more on a daily basis. O’Brien talked about “Value Framing” and “Deficit Framing.” This concept suggests that how we talk about people can actually drastically alter our perception of them. Although two ways of framing the same individual can both be true, each tells a completely different story. For example, talking about a young woman named Angela:
How we talk about people can actually alter our perception of them.
“Angela is a straight-A student, who works at a grocery store after school so she can save up money for a car to take to college. She’s worked hard to balance work and school and her family, and is proud to be an example for her younger siblings.”
“Angela is a rare bright spot in an otherwise dimming neighborhood. At a young age she hid out in the library to avoid being a part of the gangs on her block, and used that time to study hard and get good grades. She also holds down a part-time job, hoping to afford a way out of her hometown and off to a college education.”
We do this all the time, don’t we? At work, outside work, and in the news: “Johnny was impetuous and bright, always quick with a joke in any situation.” Or, “Johnny was a disruption, always distracting other children with his clowning.” By talking this way, we’re creating a value or deficit framework around the facts we’re sharing. It’s a natural and often automatic habit, of course, and we all succumb to it as a way of communicating more than just what our words mean. Yet we need to monitor and acknowledge this habit, because when it comes to promoting and developing our teams, or truly embracing diversity and inclusion, if we continually frame particular individuals or groups as “other,” or in a deficit framework, we’ll never truly be able to break out of prevailing stereotypical views and practices.
So, think about what you’re working for, and notice how we frame individuals when we talk about them. Because if a picture paints a thousand words, as the adage goes, surely the frame brings the picture into focus--either positively or negatively.