I was a reluctant entrepreneur. I didn’t have business school training, or someone else’s money, or a killer app to get me started. In fact, in 2000 when I launched Insight Communications, apps didn’t exist. After many years in corporate communication leadership roles, I knew I wanted more. I left my job without a detailed plan. It was an eye opener. Gone was the status that came with my previous role, my dedicated assistant, and a cool Midtown office. My new office was my dining room table. And it turned out just great.
Now Insight Communications is 17 years old! That’s a remarkable milestone when 8 out 10 small businesses fail. Over the years, we transitioned from marketing communications to internal communications. In 2014, we branched out to hatch Nest Egg Communications, a boutique agency focused on ESOP and retirement communications.
None of it would be possible without the customers who have sustained us, challenged us, and inspired us along the way. I am so thankful to them, particularly to Clay Robbins at Oglethorpe Power who was our first customer.
To celebrate our birthday, we have a gift for you: Our viewpoint on communications that separates great workplaces from good ones. Enjoy!
Less is more. The secret to effective communications is keeping it simple. Resist the urge to add more superficial detail. Your audiences will pay attention.
Commitment at the top is the key to success. We’ve worked with both types of leadership teams -those that are aligned and those who just say they are. Your employees recognize when your leaders don’t walk the talk. Get in step.
Personal stories leave a handprint on the heart. The shortest distance between two people is a story. When you share a personal story, people pay attention and remember the point of your message.
Be credible. We’ve seen more than a few companies ballyhoo their fantastic culture externally, while internally, the high performers are beating it out the door. Respect your employees enough to tell the truth. Be brave enough to be transparent, even when the news isn’t good. The most successful businesses tell it straight and involve employees in solutions.
Make your employees the stars. Let’s face it; we’ve all seen enough of the CEO. How often do you hear from frontline employees? Make employees the stars of your internal communications, recruiting and social media. It will bring your brand to life for customers, partners, and new talent.
A recent poll stated that approximately 41% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. In that same poll the number one New Year’s resolution for 2017 was to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle. These numbers show that your team members are conscious about their health. So how do you turn resolutions into habits?
This is the perfect time of year to introduce or reinvent your company Wellness Program. Employee wellness is often seen as a personal issue, but there tangible benefits for businesses to promote health and wellness. U.S. healthcare costs are predicted to rise 6.5% in 2017 and cost sharing between businesses and employees continues to accelerate.
Wellness Programs can contribute to lower healthcare costs, reduce absenteeism and decrease workers compensations claims. Research shows that employees who take part in Wellness Programs are more engaged and more productive. Here are a few ideas your business can use to create excitement and promote healthy lifestyles.
Host a Wellness Expo
An event dedicated to understanding employee benefits and healthy living creates excitement and comradery. Make sure to promote the event with fun, consistent messaging that explains event activities and overall goals of the expo. Here are some activities to include in your plan:
· Cooking Demos
· Wellness Challenges
· Interactive Fitness Sessions
· Biometric Screenings & Flu Shots
· Health food snack giveaways
· “Wear your work out wear to the office” day
Create a Wellness Rewards Program
Creating a wellness rewards program is another great way to promote healthy living. The idea is simple: incentivize your employees for healthy lifestyle choices. Set up wellness benchmarks, ask employees to track participation and when a certain threshold is met, they receive a wellness incentive. Offer monetary rewards or reduction in insurance premiums for completing preventative care screenings, biometric exams or completing tobacco cessation programs. Create a program to promote and track fitness or wellness activities and offer rewards at different levels. For example complete four activities, get a T-shirt, at eight activities a gym bag, and be entered into a grand prize raffle at twelve activities. Here are some ideas to get you started:
· Participate in an organized walking, running, or cycling event
· Get a flu shot or give blood
· Have your teeth cleaned
· Coach a youth sports team
· Participate on a sports team: softball, basketball, kickball
· Go to an aerobics class or work out at a gym
· Go for a hike or walk
· Eat balanced, healthy meals for 1 week and keep a food diary
Partner with Health Experts
Identify non-profit health organizations in your community to share health information. Organizations like the American Red Cross, the American Cancer Society and Diabetes Foundation have downloadable toolkits, information sheets and other resources available at no cost. Invite a speaker to a lunch and learn at your business or participate in a fundraising event.
Successful leaders know that effective communications are a competitive advantage. As you begin 2017, make a resolution to evaluate the health of your employee communications. Are business goals and actions aligned? Do employees understand priorities and do they have a way to participate and share ideas?
Everyone talks about the importance of communications, but it’s just lip service without an actionable plan. Here are four ways to commit to better communications in 2017.
1) Map out your communications calendar right now—Begin with a “Welcome to 2017” message. Schedule dates for the entire year now to ensure it remains a priority. Keep the content fresh with a mix of performance results, customer and employee stories, and encouragement. We all need more of that.
2) Articulate the vision— If a customer asks an employee what your business was about, what would they say? Everyone on your team should use the same headline. When people can connect their work to big goals, they are more engaged. Leaders who communicate the vision and values, then put those values into action, see performance climb.
3) Use stories to make an impact—Think back to the most recent story that struck a chord with you. Was it complicated or overstuffed with facts? Simple stories make an emotional connection with the audience and hold their attention. Use your own experiences to make a point. I recently heard the president of a large hospitality group say that he makes time for fitness daily because “We only get one set of parts and I want mine to last.” That’s memorable and tells me something interesting about him. Leaders who share a little of themselves in communications are viewed as credible and human.
4) Get visual—Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. If you rely on email as your primary form of communication, know that there is a better way. In 2016, there were 4.6 billion cell phone users in the world and most phones have video or photo capability. Your team members are viewing or creating visual media every day. Use photos and video as frequently as you use memos. Video is an excellent way to improve message retention, connect with remote workers, and engage senior leadership with teams. The best part is you don’t have to have a large budget or be an on-camera pro. If you’re sincere, it will be memorable.
That will get you started. Need some help in communications planning for 2017? Get in touch.
That’s the refrain of business leaders when employee performance doesn’t match expectations, or when a new initiative is greeted with a collective yawn. Employees must be too busy, disengaged or distracted to understand why this is important, right?
It’s a common predicament. Perhaps it’s not the audience, but the message.
There’s a far better way to engage internal audiences, and it doesn’t include handing out T-shirts and coffee mugs. Use storytelling to make an emotional connection.
We’ve been taught that “correct” business communications isvery detailed, data driven and cost/benefit oriented. It’s a proven formula. However, when the goal is to inspire action, introduce change, or persuade, storytelling is more effective. It helps ideas stick.
You know this is true. It’s how myths and legends are born. It’s why we share the same stories around the table at Thanksgiving or at reunions with old friends. It’s why the business origin stories for Coca Cola or Spanx are fascinating.
Engaging employees through storytelling binds them together in a shared experience. It’s a method anyone can use. Here are four tips to help you get started:
Start with the end in mind. What do you want your team to believe and do after they hear the story? Identify the objective and build the story around it.
Set the scene. A strong introduction is the key to a solid story. Engage the audience with a personal experience, a struggle or make an employee the hero.
Simplify. Twitter has taught us that we can make a point in 140 characters. A strong story, just like a good joke, adds just enough details to advance the story. Too much detail and you’ve lost them.
Be authentic. Use conversational language. Share something about you. The power to persuade is lost if the story sounds like it’s lifted from a user’s manual.
Do you ever wonder why certain people in human history have been so influential? Why Martin Luther King, Jr.? Why the Wright brothers? MLK wasn’t the only African American that suffered racial persecution. The Wright brothers weren’t the only ones interested in flight (in fact, they were at a disadvantage when it comes to funding and education). So why are certain people, or companies, able to be so much more successful than others, who are fundamentally no different? It’s because they think, act and communicate differently than everyone else.
Take a look at this chart. This is the Golden Circle, as inspired by business author Simon Sinek, and it explains how we act as businesses and leaders. Let’s define the terms: What: Every single company in the world knows what they do. Simple. How: Some of those companies know how they do it. Internal processes, etc. Why: What is your cause, your purpose, your belief? Why do you do what you do? Most companies act from the outside-in, because the What and the How are the easiest parts of the circle to define. For example:
What: We make personal computers.
How: They’re user friendly, affordable, and reliable.
Why: To drive revenue, thus making the company successful.
Following the circle in this manner is a roadmap for… failure. It’s simply not inspiring, whether it’s to your employees or your customers. “We make great computers that you can afford, therefore you should buy one” is their sales pitch. I mean sure, it might work to an extent, but it’s not a sustainable business model. Profit or revenue can never be the Why of your business. Profit isn’t why you work, it’s a result of your work. The Why isn’t the end result, it’s your company’s heartbeat. It’s your true industry leaders, like Apple (in personal entertainment/technology), that see the circle from the inside-out:
Why: In everything we do, we challenge the status quo and think differently.
How: We’ll create beautiful products that are simple and effective, no matter the cost.
What: We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?
Customers buy the why. Customers want to buy products from a company that believes what they believe. And that’s why we won’t just buy computers from Apple. We’ll also buy their ipads, ipods, speakers, monitors, etc. The company communicates to the world in a way that inspires their customers. You might be saying to yourself, “I’m not an entrepreneur or business owner, so this doesn’t really apply to me.” Wrong. We can all use this circle to help us communicate and act more genuinely with our colleagues. By doing so, we will produce a more motivated, engaged team of employees. But it starts with uniting everyone under the Why. Why are your colleagues getting out of bed and coming into work in the morning? Hopefully, it’s not just for the paycheck. Martin Luther King, Jr. used the Golden Circle to great effect and he wasn’t selling a product. MLK attracted 250,000 people to show up at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. It’s an astounding number, especially when you consider he didn’t have tools to spread the word like email and social media. But there’s a reason why so many people wanted to come hear him talk that day. It wasn’t to hear a plan on how to fix America’s racial divide. It was to hear him say “I believe.”
What’s at the core of your company? Are your core values entrenched in your team? We help with that! Let me know what we can do for you by reaching me at firstname.lastname@example.org.