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How to Write an Authentic New Year’s Message

As you flip the calendar over to 2020, there’s a substantial opportunity to persuade, motivate and focus employees. A new year is another opportunity to start fresh. For leaders, it’s a perfect time help team members align around business priorities. In terms of good, better, best, a town hall session is definitely best. But for many leaders, a New Year’s message is more likely.

The best leadership messages are focused, inspiring and brief. Here’s how to craft a memorable one.

• Say thank you. Start with thanking employees for their contributions in the previous year. Be specific about the positive and don’t be afraid to acknowledge any challenges.

• Map out the strategy. Identify 2020 priorities and how the business will drive growth, deepen customer relationships, and adopt ways of working that improve efficiencies and execution.

• Lean into your company values. The values are essential to ensuring that everyone, at every level, has a shared purpose. The culture you want to achieve is documented in them. Make that connection explicit.

• Encourage career development. Many employees, particularly millennials consider their jobs as a launchpad for career development and growth. Encourage employees to seek opportunities to learn, grow and take advantage of development opportunities.

Remember, communicate now. Waiting until later in Q1 sends a message that you’re not focused on 2020 priorities. We’re all looking for just a spark of inspiration to reset our thinking. You can achieve this when you craft a message that is authentic, actionable and aspirational.

Five Gifts That Exceptional Leaders Give All Year Long

We’re in full-blown holiday season now, aren’t we? As the clock ticks down to year-end, you may consider what your employees want this season (hint: not another coffee mug with the company logo). Take a look at these five ideas. They’re what your team members want all year long. And the best part is, it won’t cost you a penny.

Trust— When people trust each other in the workplace, there are wide-ranging results. Productivity and creativity soar, employees love their jobs and take better care of customers. You can build trust by involving team members, being consistent in what you say and do, listening more and sharing credit.

Guidance— Feedback is a gift, and the ability to give it is one of the most important leadership skills. You’re the coach and the quality inspector. When you show team members how they can improve, it underlines your trust in them and their potential.

Encouragement–Know each individual’s strengths and gaps so you can help them reach their full potential. Sometimes just knowing that someone believes you can succeed helps you achieve. A leader’s job is to help everyone get an “A.”

Empathy –We all experience difficult seasons in life. Know your team members so well that you can show concern for them when they experience personal challenges. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen and show that you care.

Attention–Perhaps the most important gift, and the most difficult to provide, is your attention. Being present and noticing the little things can change a good work environment into a great one.

When your team members receive these gifts, what’ you get in return is a culture where everyone lives the company values and delivers great performance.

Happy holidays from the team at Insight Strategic Communications!

Activate a Culture of Recognition

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift and not giving it.” William A. Ward

Every day, committed and talented employees work together to create great experiences for your customers and positive results for your business. How do you celebrate them and recognize their contributions?

As we close in on year-end, take stock of the way your business celebrates employee and team achievements. A recent study by WorldatWork revealed that formal recognition programs, including service anniversary, extraordinary performance and retirement, are the most frequently offered recognition programs.

Now think about this from the employee’s perspective: if you have to wait a year to be recognized—or until your retirement—how engaged would you feel?

Recognition drives results
Saying thank you costs nothing but can make a tangible impact on the bottom line. Research indicates that showing appreciation for team members’ efforts can lead to a 20-30% increase in engagement. Operational impacts can include lower turnover and absenteeism and higher productivity.

Beyond service anniversaries
To make gratitude a foundation of your culture, consider bringing multiple programs together to build a consistent recognition experience:
• Peer-to-peer recognition gives employees the power to do the thanking
• Awards for those who demonstrate company values inspire employees to live those behaviors
• Welcome programs for new hires
• Social media celebrations for promotions, team achievements or community events,

Being recognized for great work is motivating and builds pride in all of us. If you’re looking for new ways to activate a culture of recognition, get in touch: Maureen.Clayton@insight-communication.com

How to prepare your employees for Open Enrollment

As a communicator there are several key dates each year that you must be prepared for.  One of the most important is Open Enrollment.  In recent years healthcare costs have risen and plan designs have become more complex.  Open Enrollment communications have become more challenging and more sought after by employees.   To effectively communicate your company benefits you must create a clear and consistent communications plan.

With that in mind here are a few best practices to consider when planning out your Open Enrollment Communications:

Know your audience

The best way to find out where your communication gaps are is to go to the source.  Design a simple survey (through Google or survey providers like Survey Monkey).  Determine the level of awareness, what employees need more information about, and what you are doing well.  This information will give you a good foundation when you begin building your communications plan.

Get a head start

Going from no information for 11 months, then lots of information all at once when decisions must be made immediately can be overwhelming.  Rather than overloading your employees with a massive information drop, spread your Open Enrollment communications out over the year.  Create a 12-month communications plan that delivers small bits of information every month.  A consistent flow of communications about your benefits will increase understanding and engagement.

Clarity is key

Keep your messaging simple.  Your job is to break through all of the confusing technical details and answer employees’ most basic questions. What? When? Where? How? Provide clear information, dates, checklists, and decision support tools that are easy to follow.  Once your employees have an understanding of the process, they will find it much easier to come to a final decision.

Give them the cold hard facts

Your employees are intelligent.  Be open and honest with them.  Communicate any challenging news such as increased health plan premiums or rising deductibles.  Messaging that is meant to conceal this information will be seen as a negative and will impact employee morale.  On the same note, highlight the value of your benefits plan.  Promote wellness and have your employees share their stories of personal wellness with their colleagues.

Being prepared for Open Enrollment will make the entire process easier.  Get out in front of the issue and have a plan that simplifies the information with a clear and consistent message.

How does your company communicate Open Enrollment? Please share your ideas and suggestions with me: ben.clayton@insight-communication.com

Six Inspiring Leadership Quotes from College Football Coaches

Our business is located in the heart of college football country. While other regions are passionate about hockey or “Sunday football” as we refer to the NFL, it’s hard to describe the intensity the college gridiron inspires in the Southeast.

In honor of the season that raises our hopes and crushes our dreams, here are some of the best quotes about leadership from college football coaches. Use them to inspire your team.

May all your communications this month be first downs and touchdowns.

• “Ability is what you are capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.” Lou Holtz, Notre Dame

• “Success doesn’t come from pie in the sky thinking. It’s the result of consciously doing something each day that will add to your overall execution.” Nick Saban, University of Alabama

• “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential … these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” Eddie Robinson, Grambling State University

• “My goal is to love these guys and put them in a situation where they can grow up to be the best men they can be. I have influence over them, and I take that responsibility seriously.” Mark Richt, University of Georgia

• “Your goals are constantly revised according to circumstance, but your purpose, your real reason for being, that supersedes everything.” Jim Tressle, Ohio State University

• “Let the light that shines in you be brighter than the light that shines on you.” Dabo Swinney, Clemson University

Three Internal Communication Fails and How to Fix Them

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.

Looking for ways to improve clarity, alignment, and trust with your employees? Need some help with that? Get in touch: Maureen.Clayton@insight-communication.com

Lessons from Apple’s Decision to Kill iTunes

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.

Ready to evaluate your internal communications strategy? Get in touch with me: maureen.clayton@insight-communication.com.

Involving Employees in Process Improvement

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 process.

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
  • Decreasing costs
  • Improving efficiency
  • 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: ben.clayton@insight-communication.com

Time to Refresh Your LinkedIn Profile

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 postings:

Improve your first impression

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.

Strengthen your 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 computer.

Update your contact information

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 account

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.

Need your executive LinkedIn profile revamped and optimized?  Get in touch: Maureen.Clayton@insight-communication.com.