A recent conversation with a smart, successful corporate leader has me still shaking my head. He was reflecting on the lack of urgency and so-so performance of some of their teams. “They just don’t get it,” he said. “I don’t know how we can get through to them.” It doesn’t take the investigative powers of Sherlock Holmes to identify a disconnect between the business strategy and employee performance. The failure here is not on the part of the employees, it’s the communications strategy. Sustained communications remind everyone of what you’re trying to achieve together. Here are three frequent internal communication fails and how to fix them:
No consistent communications Without communications, employees create their own narrative. No matter what channel works best for your business, choose a communications timetable and stick to it. Ad hoc doesn’t work. The message doesn’t need to be long, or over-produced. Sometimes an update, or a checklist or outlook for the next 30 days is enough. When weeks and months go by without a message from the leader, don’t expect employees to think things are OK.
No clarity on the big picture According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone was focused on the same goals? A survey by Weber Shandwick found that only four in 10 employees can describe what their employer does and only 37% know the company’s goals. Ugh! Leaders must be relentless in connecting people to purpose by clearly communicating the company purpose, mission and goals. Just when you’re sick of talking about it, you’re reaching someone for the first time.
Relying on email as your go-to channel We’ve been talking about the death of email as an effective internal communications tool forever, but the dominance of millennials in the workplace should finally do it in. Every generation has a communication preference and the future is digital. If you’re relying on email to communicate with employees, you’ve got a problem. Add other channels to your communications mix and consider cloud-based products like Slack, GSuite or Microsoft teams.
When iTunes debuted 18 years ago, it was a radical concept. Don’t buy the whole album; pay 99 cents for
the one song you like. Get a thousand songs in your pocket!
Apple made the announcement this month that it would move to
three individual dedicated apps for music, podcasts and TV. Users can maintain
their iTunes libraries and choose to subscribe to Apple Music. Pundits agreed
it was the right move, even though it’s the end of an era.
Think about your business communications: what channels or practices do you need to put
the brakes on?
Sometimes we stick with a communications process or channel
because it’s comfortable. It’s worked in
the past. It’s a no brainer to produce
it. But it takes a bit of courage to
realize that what worked before isn’t working now or is not sustainable in the
future. Change can be unsettling, but
it’s also troubling to find out your newsletter or intranet or CEO blog is
ineffective because it has no audience.
What is your least favorite thing to do? For some people
it’s cleaning their house, for others it’s going to the grocery store and for
some it’s working out. It’s not that
they don’t like the end result. A fresh
clean house, a fridge full of groceries or the feeling after finishing a workout
are all very satisfying and produce tangible results. They will tell you that they don’t enjoy the
This concept can also apply to business. How does your business engage employees to
share ideas to make the business better?
Involvement opportunities drive engagement, particularly with
millennials. Everyone wants to work
smarter, not harder.
One way to involve employees is by implementing a processes
improvement program. Start with a survey, suggestion request or contest. Employee feedback can help you quickly target
where you can improve and unlock potential.
Ask employees to provide suggestions on how and where the business can grow,
innovate, save money, or do things a different way. Some categories to consider are:
Reducing waste and time
Enhancing customer experiences
Increasing employee engagement
Promoting collaboration across the business
Once you’ve collected employee ideas and discovered an area
where you can improve, be sure to clearly communicate the new process and
connect it to the process improvement program.
Thank those who participated for their input, describe what is changing
and explain the benefits.
Your employees are an invaluable asset. Give them an opportunity to help improve your processes and the long-term results will benefits your business. Share your your stories with me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
As you tackle those New Year’s Resolutions, here’s another to add to the list: Update your LinkedIn profile. With more than 500 million members, LinkedIn is much more than an online billboard for your resume. It can be an effective way to evolve your personal brand, influence others, and market yourself and your company to a massive global audience.
Use this checklist to improve your LinkedIn profile and
Improve your first
Your photo should be clear, professional, friendly and
flattering. Wear something that’s applicable to your industry. LinkedIn profiles with photos receive 21x
more views that those without photos. In the profile section, tell a little
more about who you are and what you’re passionate about. Cut out the industry jargon and be human. For every 10 profiles, there’s one that’s
memorable and it’s usually because they included something unexpected.
LinkedIn profile and details
Your LinkedIn profile should be as updated and dynamic as
your career. Many people fill it out
once and leave it there where it quickly becomes a time capsule. The first step
is to completely fill out each section: education, experience, skills,
volunteerism, awards, recommendations and interests. You can add punch by uploading videos,
PowerPoints, pdfs, jpegs or other relevant content by clicking on the edit
button, scrolling to the media section, and uploaded files directly from your
Update your contact
Be sure to include your updated business website, your social media channels, your company career site, and your business email and business address if you want people to be able to get in touch. And really, isn’t that the point of social networking?
Connect and influence
LinkedIn is not just a place to find a job (or a new team member). It’s a business networking site. Strengthen your profile by asking trusted peers and clients for recommendations. Update your skills. Follow thought leaders and become an influencer yourself by posting content through LinkedIn publishing.
Link to your Twitter
Multiply your social media reach by sharing your LinkedIn updates on Twitter. LinkedIn provides an easy step-by-step process to do this. Just log in to your LinkedIn account and go to Privacy & Settings>Manage Twitter Settings> Add your Twitter account.
Exhibiting at a trade show is a great way to get some face to face time with potential customers. Recently our company attended a national conference and trade show in Las Vegas. It was our fourth consecutive year exhibiting at this trade show and many of the same companies we see every year were in attendance. Some of the exhibitors always do a fantastic job, while others are missing the potential to maximize their ROI.
Here are six best practices that that you can use when preparing for and attending your company’s next trade show:
Start preparing well in advance. Getting a jump on your trade show prep is vital. Send out a preconference email to the list of attendees, map out your show strategy with your exhibit team, create product/service sales sheets, take care of any printing needs for handouts and schedule equipment and promotional item shipping.
Make sure your messages are clear and consistent. The most common question I get at trade shows is “So what do you guys do?” Each member of your sales team should be able to give a 30 second response to this question. Determine how you want to promote your company, create an elevator speech, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
Keep the messaging on your display and signage short and readable. Trade show participants move through the exhibit floor pretty quickly. All of your signage should be easily readable from the front of your booth. One mistake that I often notice is when exhibitors cram too much information onto their signage or use fonts that are too small. Provide just enough information to make attendees stop and ask questions.
Always provide giveaways. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Providing a giveaway will draw more traffic to your booth and is a great conversation starter. Always include your company logo or name on the product. It will remind potential customers of your interaction when they visited your booth after the conference.
Stay active on social media. Most conferences will promote a hashtag to use throughout the event. Post photos, give updates, announce speaking sessions and promote your booth number using the conference hashtag. This is a great way to drive engagement. Don’t forget to post a thank you to everyone who stopped by your booth after the conference.
Schedule a post conference wrap up meeting. It’s important to get feedback from your team while the conference is fresh on their minds. What worked, what didn’t work? What questions did the attendees have? What were your strongest leads and what are the next steps for contacting these potential customers? All of this information will give you a head start when planning your next trade show.
If you’re like us, you’re always looking for ways to get your message across in a new, unique, and interesting way. One communication channel that you might not have considered is video. Video is fast becoming the preferred channel for internal audiences because it’s the way we all consume information. Some news outlets have moved exclusively to video content and most include a video with any written content they publish. Today’s workforce has become accustomed to learning and acquiring information through video content.
Many of your colleagues are visual learners and video content helps simplify complex information and drives engagement when you communicate your message. Think about it. Which is more appealing– an email memo from the CEO or a quick 3-5 minute video where he or she speaks directly to your employees?
Research shows that people remember more of what they see and hear than what they read. Video grabs your attention and is more engaging than plain text. Seizing and retaining your audience’s attention is crucial. When you have their attention, they’ll retain the message.
Here are some options to consider when implementing videos into your Internal Communications strategy:
Online training videos or tutorials
Monthly or quarterly updates from your leaders
Announcement videos for new programs or initiatives
Recognition videos for company milestones or exemplary achievements
Employee interviews and testimonials
Videos of companywide events, such a community service day or group activity
Now you might be thinking, “I’m not a technical person” or “That would be too difficult to implement,” but it really isn’t. New technology has simplified video creation, editing and sharing to the point where anyone can do it.
Keep your videos short with a clear message. There are really no limits or restrictions to how you incorporate video content into your company’s communication plan. Think outside the box and see what ideas you can come up with.
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 email@example.com.
Want to learn something during your internship? Add one employee handbook, five blog posts, one print check, two client meetings, and the launch of a start-up. That should do the trick.
Throughout my seven week internship with Insight Strategic Communications I had the opportunity to work on projects that ultimately gave me a better understanding of brands, employee ownership, and proofing with the audience in mind.
The word “brand” was not new to my vocabulary; however, throughout the course of my internship, I gained a better understanding of the definition. I had never realized how many factors went into creating and maintaining a brand and how many different types of rules and standards must be considered when developing products—things such as font, color, positioning, and tone. As a communications consulting firm, we have to be aware of a client’s brand as we write, proof, and create content for them.
I spent a bulk of my time writing and proofing content and materials for our new company Nest Egg Communications—a communications agency that provides communications toolkits for employee owned companies. At the start of my internship I had no idea what an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) was, let alone what it meant in terms of business. I now know that ESOPs give employees a way to share in the wealth they create, no matter what job they hold.
I had the opportunity to refine and practice my writing and proofing skills while also learning to consider the audience and how the message might be perceived. Before I started reading something I would ask “who is the audience?” This was new for me, I had always edited content by determining if it was perceived well by me; but, what I gained from my experience is that the writing is ineffective if the intended audience can’t understand the message.
With this internship being my first real-world job, I was both nervous and excited; I was eager to learn but also afraid I didn’t know enough going in. However, through lots of questions and experiences I now know that not only can I meet expectations and do the work, but with some more practice I can thrive in the communications field and create great work.
Generally when people describe me they say that I’m loud. As if that were somehow the word that completely defines and describes my entire personality. And sure, I am pretty loud, but I am also confident, collaborative, adaptive, and achievement-oriented. I’m many other great things too, but when people don’t know me, or how to talk to me, I come across as just loud when I have the potential to be so much more.
Now, you’re probably wondering what my personality has to do with your business. Well, I’m a Millennial.
As Millennials, we’re better known for our diverse population, relationship to technology, community-based social dynamics, and confident personalities. But, what you might not know about us is that our numbers are growing. The percentage of millennial employees in the workplace is increasing rapidly; by 2020 Millennials will be 46% of the U.S. workforce. What this means for you is that it’s time to figure out a way to better communicate with us so that we can work together to create business success.
Diane Speigel, CEO of The End Result, a corporate training and leadership development company, reports that these are three things Millennials want from their employers:
Coaching. We were raised in a society and an academic system that coached us through everything. Therefore, we seek the same kind of coaching and feedback in our careers. We enjoy being recognized for our successes and we are genuinely open to criticism; we want to do it right.
Collaboration. We work best in teams and believe in a flexible information flow. We’ll ask a lot of questions and take time to discuss before we begin a project because our groups work best when the purpose of our project is clear and understood by everyone.
Motivation. Meaningful work is what drives us; our biggest concerns regarding work is that it’s purposeful and provides us with a sense of accomplishment. We want the opportunity to learn and we need to understand why we’re performing a certain job; we need an explanation of how our contribution will affect the bigger picture.