It is said that each new year brings a fresh start. That’s noticeably true in the workplace, where the holiday break provides a mental refresh and reset. January is the perfect time to jump-start internal communication and help employees prepare for what’s ahead this year. Use these four resolutions to get off to a great start.
1. Welcome to 2023 message. The CEO, or the executive team, should always begin the year with a message to employees. It’s an opportunity to say thank you for everything that was accomplished the previous year, to recap successes, and to look ahead to the current year. Most importantly, the message helps to align around shared goals that make the biggest difference in the business. Before they can perform, innovate, and deliver, team members need to hear from senior leadership. Don’t delay in creating this communication: get it done in January, even if you don’t have all the strategic initiatives completely mapped out. Managers must ensure employees understand how team priorities align with business strategies.
2. Communicate the company mission and values. How often do employees need to be reminded of the company’s mission and values? Frequently. While your business priorities may change in the coming year, the mission and values should be the cornerstone. Every announcement should be framed by the values. Performance management, recognition, and rewards programs should directly align. Accelerate the connection to mission and values in all internal communications.
3. Commit to storytelling. It’s time to acknowledge that the essay format you learned in high school is obsolete. The shortest distance between two people is a story. It’s effective whether recognizing individuals that live your company values or using data to highlight the gaps in business performance. Storytelling makes complex ideas simple, human, and relatable. The best stories are specific and spark emotion. When you incorporate storytelling into internal communications, you’re more likely to engage, persuade, and move people to action.
4. Prioritize employee connection and development. The shift to remote work means that there are fewer opportunities for informal development and coaching. Ensure that employees, on-site and remote, know that their talents and abilities are valued. Hold leaders accountable for providing meaningful developmental feedback that identifies and prepares employees to take on your company’s biggest challenges.
Navigating workplace change is never easy. For many of us, our job is our identity. When you lose that, it’s crushing. That’s why events like mergers, restructuring, and layoffs drive turmoil even among employees who are not impacted.
The announcements of layoffs at Twitter and Stripe, in the same week, provide a sharp contrast on how to manage this issue. Both businesses cut headcounts to grow profitability, but they took very different approaches.
For weeks, speculation was brewing about layoffs at Twitter. It’s been reported that close to 50% of the employee population was impacted. When the day arrived, impacted employees were notified not by phone call or meeting, but by email to their personal accounts. Their corporate email was deactivated. They were told they’d receive severance details by the end of the week (which seems to be 60 days’ salary in lieu of notice). And don’t come into the office. You’ll get instructions about returning company equipment later. There was also a reminder that while you’re still an employee, you’re required to comply with the Code of Conduct and corporate policies.
The following week, some separated employees were asked to return to Twitter—they’d been laid off by mistake. Oops.
Compare this to the announcement at Stripe, a digital payments provider. The CEO, Patrick Collison, penned an email so clear, accountable, and empathetic that it raises the bar for downsizing communications.
He starts out with the bad news: the employee population is being reduced by 14%. No need to scan all the way down to the bottom; he leads with the headline. Then he provides “the why.” Shifts in the global economic climate require the company to be leaner. He outlines a comprehensive exit package that includes severance, 2022 bonus, PTO payout, health care, and career support. He says the people leaving “will be fantastic additions at almost any other company.”
And then he does something I’ve never seen before: he details two mistakes the leadership team made in underestimating an economic slowdown and growing costs too quickly. That’s accountability. The rest of the letter is about what comes next and why the business will be well-positioned for the future.
Which type of announcement would you prefer if you were being let go? Which company seems like a good place to continue your career?
When the dust settles and both these businesses move to the “new normal” people will talk about how it all happened. A detailed communication and change management plan increases the chances that employees will trust and be engaged following a significant business event.
Accountability, transparency, and a view of what comes next make the transition easier for everyone. But what employees will remember is compassion and empathy.
One of the clearest memories of my childhood is connected to Veterans Day. At the end of the church service, the priest asked all current and former military members to stand and be recognized for their service. My father, who never spoke about his military service, would stand up, a little straighter than usual. There were dozens of others who did the same. As they left the church, they chatted and joked with each other about who had the easier tour of duty.
Recognition is meaningful.
Veterans Day, November 11, provides an opportunity to strengthen support for employees who are current and former service members and their families. A simple recognition or expression of thanks means so much to those who’ve served. Within the workplace, consider these actions to show that your company values the service, experience and commitment of military veterans and their families:
Invite employees who served in the military to a special gathering or luncheon.
Establish a military veteran Employee Resource Group.
Make a contribution to a community veteran scholarship program.
Highlight employees who served in the military in company media and websites.
Host a community day of service for employees to give back at local veteran facilities, national cemeteries, or VA hospitals.
Current service members and those transitioning from military life make excellent employees. Recruiting veterans can be a successful component of your diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.
Connect with non-profit organizations like American Corporate Partners to provide career coaches and mentors to veterans, active duty, and military spouses.
Partner withhiring programs that benefit veterans, transitioning service members, and their families.
Expressing thanks and support makes all of us better leaders, partners, and colleagues. Make a commitment to show appreciation, develop, and hire those who served our country.
The Great Resignation is leading companies to rethink their approach to employee benefits. While flexible work initiatives seemed cutting edge only a few years ago (remember summer hours and Fri-Yeahs?), today a hybrid work environment is a standard consideration for many job seekers. Well-being offerings (financial, mental health support, parental/family care leave) are edging up the list of must-haves for job seekers.
While HR leaders grapple with which offerings to add or remove from benefits packages, an immediate solution is at hand: do a better job of communicating the value of the benefit programs you have now. Then promote new offerings as an extension of your company values.
Consider these three steps:
1. Market your benefits like you do your brand. Go beyond employee orientation and open enrollment and talk up benefits year-round. Research indicates that only 49% of employees understand their benefits and close to 80% do not review their open enrollment materials. Let’s do better! Develop monthly educational updates and interactive tools for employees to get more detailed information. Dive a little deeper into how your benefits make a difference to employees.
2. Survey employees about their benefit preferences. To really understand why some benefits are popular and why others are underutilized, conduct a detailed benefits survey. Just adding a few questions to the annual employee engagement survey won’t provide the insights needed to make accurate decisions. Times change and some of the current offerings may not meet the needs of today’s workforce. This data can also guide decisions on what benefits are needed to remain competitive.
3. Keep it simple. Remember, everyone learns differently. Use a variety of communication channels and tactics. Brief, visual content delivers a big impact. Few are willing to spend the time required to read through a Summary Plan Document. Clear language and easy-to-understand scenarios entice employees to learn more.
When employees believe they are valued in the workplace, productivity, retention, and engagement rise. Telling a compelling story about your company’s benefits can contribute positively to that result.
With hybrid work environments becoming the rule, not the exception, it’s time for a reminder about what’s appropriate to put in writing. The informality of email and digital channels permits communications to be fast, funny, and even sarcastic. Most of us would never take this approach in a formal letter or document.
Content shared via email, texts, or through team collaboration channels like Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Chat, can become problematic in litigation, particularly if it involves an employment situation. There are countless stories of people who thought their business emails were private. They’re not. They may be discoverable if relevant in a lawsuit.
Here are five tips to ensure a quick and “harmless” message doesn’t become a future problem.
1. Choose the correct channel. Would a call or an in-person meeting be better? Emails can be forwarded to individuals they were never intended for and anyone with a smartphone can take a screenshot.
2. Watch your tone. Email is eternal. Business communications should be appropriate, safe for work, and inoffensive. Don’t write anything that you’d be uncomfortable with others reading. Including your grandmother.
3. Is it clear? Read it over. Could anything be misconstrued or taken out of context? If you enter litigation, your intent will be analyzed closely by the other side.
4. Don’t begin or continue an argument. If someone shares incorrect information, it’s OK to clarify and provide the facts, but don’t debate or argue through email.
5. Avoid irony, sarcasm, and exaggeration. A message dashed off in a hurry often falls into this category. So does humor. But these are exactly the communications that can be problematic if a lawsuit occurs.
The office setting may have changed, but the risk has not. It’s even more important now to raise awareness about appropriate workplace communications so everyone understands what’s at stake.
When you’re in need of a quick dose of encouragement, look no further than college commencement addresses. Graduation speakers have the unenviable task of distilling profound advice into actionable soundbites. While some speeches are more memorable than others, these will uplift and inspire.
“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. No one is here today because they did it on their own.”
“The most enduring skill you can bring to the workplace is the ability to learn how to learn.”
“Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something, but especially not yourself.”
“Finding something you are passionate about gives you a sense of purpose and is a big part of happiness. To find it though, you need to be honest with yourself, observant, and make the most of the situation. Find the smartest people you can and surround yourself with them.”
“When you feel lost in this tangled web of problems, know that in truth, the way out of it is simple. Instinctual, really. It’s love. Love should be your North Star. Let it guide you.”
“Nobody likes to fail but failure is an essential part of life and of learning. If your uniform isn’t dirty, you haven’t been in the game.”
Too often employees only think about their workplace benefits once a year–during Open Enrollment. Perhaps that’s because many Human Resources groups focus on the administration of benefits, not marketing the variety and value of the employee benefits package. Internal communicators can provide value by partnering on this issue and adding a little sizzle to benefits marketing efforts.
As the Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down, companies that provide better support, education, and marketing of workplace benefits may obtain an advantage in employee retention. When benefits usage rises, businesses also realize the full value of this investment.
Here are three steps to consider in promoting your company’s employee benefits.
Understand benefits usage
While the list of benefits offered may be long, it’s unlikely that all benefits are equally as popular. Pinpoint the benefits that are underused by employees and set participation goals. Show you care by surveying employees to understand their interest in current offerings and identify potential new benefits that they value. Not surprisingly, benefits that support wellness and mental health/resilience
Prioritize benefits education
Market your benefit offerings to employees year-round. A deep dive each month on individual offerings can be effective, particularly if employees share their stories about why they use them. Create an annual calendar aligned with notable month-long observances (such as May-Mental Health Awareness Month; October-National Financial Planning Month).
Take a multi-channel approach
Covid-19 has forever changed the delivery and pace of internal communications. With remote work becoming the norm, it is imperative that benefits communications are available through digital channels. Lunch and learns can move to webinars. Intranet content must be compelling and regularly refreshed. Offer digital coffee breaks to engage employees to discuss workplace benefits. Raise the profile of your offerings and provide multiple opportunities for employees to learn more. When employees feel informed and supported in the workplace, engagement, retention, and performance increase.
Investors and stakeholders are showing increasing interest in responsible business practices, particularly in the areas of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that 52% of public companies surveyed publish voluntary corporate sustainability or ESG reports outside of their SEC filings. While this type of reporting is currently voluntary, the SEC is expected to propose mandatory reporting rules this year.
The ESG report shines a light on the strategies and activities a business undertakes to be accountable and responsible. While the annual report may have captured some of these elements in the past, the ESG report focuses on making a positive impact on society.
Implementing an ESG reporting process entails extra work and coordination across business functions. For corporate communicators, the challenge is to hit the right balance of content and to transform data into compelling, human stories.
What is an ESG Report?
An ESG Report (and accompanying website) captures the environmental, social and governance impacts that arise from company business activities. Before embarking on ESG reporting, the strategy, framework, selected metrics and tracking plan must be in place.
What should be included?
Right now there’s flexibility in the scope and content of ESG reporting, but investors and rating agencies typically want to see decision-useful information. It’s tempting to cram the report full of success stories. Remember, longer does not mean better. Content will vary by industry, but may include:
Environmental: Climate change; waste reduction; sustainable supply chain; Green initiatives
Social: Community engagement and philanthropy; diversity, equity and inclusion; corporate values: health and well-being
Governance: Corporate governance; ethical business practices; information security and data privacy; board diversity
Telling the story with impact
Evaluate the ESG issues that are most material to your company and be transparent about performance and opportunities for improvement. Then show how and why your business operates with integrity.
The Great Resignation has hiring managers on edge and recruiters working around the clock to fill ever-growing vacancies. With turnover reaching new highs, organizations are scrambling to implement systematic changes in compensation, remote working, and rewards to boost retention.
Recruitment marketing is now a hot topic. As options for job seekers increase, it’s more important than ever that recruitment channels and materials are relevant, concise, and refreshed. Think sleeker, more digital, and more engaging. If you’re not refreshing your content, you’re likely to lose out in the Great Talent Hunt. These three steps are a good place to start.
Audit your online presence
What does your recruitment marketing say about your business? When was the last time it was refreshed? Take a sharp look at your marketing materials the way a potential hire would, focusing on the areas listed below. Then develop a plan to address any gaps.
Does your messaging explore why your company is a great place to work?
Is the design vibrant and engaging? Does it feature your employees?
Does your careers site look like your workforce? Does it support multi-dimensional diversity–age, race, gender identity, disability?
What’s your social media mix? LinkedIn is still the world’s largest professional network, but Gen Z job seekers prefer Instagram, YouTube and TikTok. Expand your social mix and reach, but ensure you have the bandwidth to produce fresh content.
Lean in to an employment brand
Potential candidates want a simple answer to a simple question: What makes your company a great place to work? If you can’t answer that succinctly, it’s time for an employment brand. An employment brand builds clarity, quality and consistency in the way you describe what it like to work at your business. It helps you stand out from the crowd in the race to recruit the very best talent. To be successful, it should be clear, concise, relevant, relatable, and memorable. For current employees, an employment brand supports building a One Team culture, bringing your values to life, and recognizing and celebrating team members.
Connect with specialized talent
While an employment brand sets the look, feel and strategy for recruitment marketing, segmentation will help you attract key audiences. This will support distinct marketing strategies, allow you to create targeted content, and improve visibility for your business within each segment. Review your careers website and social channels to identify opportunities to connect with specific audiences like military veterans, interns/early careers, and experienced professionals.