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.
Tom Peters was so right when he noted “People don’t forget kindness.” It’s the same with gratitude. The power of a sincere thank you cannot be overestimated. In a recent study on employee engagement, the top factor of job satisfaction was respectful treatment of employees at all levels. Second on the list was trust between employees and management. If you practice the first item, you achieve the second one.
It takes conscious effort to build a culture where every employee feels appreciated. We all like to be noticed for the good things we do. People who feel appreciated believe their work makes a difference. They are more willing to go the extra mile because they know someone notices.
Making gratitude visible is a step you can build into your internal communications. Here are three ways to build appreciation into your workplace culture:
Involve senior leadership– Create a year-end video of the senior management team thanking team members during this extraordinary year.
Be specific– Don’t underestimate the power of a thank you note. It’s low tech, but more effective than a gift card. Be specific about how the individual contributes to the team. Your employees will know that you are paying attention.
Introduce a peer-to-peer recognition program– It feels great to say thank you. That’s why peer-to-peer recognition programs are motivating to employees. They strengthen a culture of collaboration. Tailor the program to your business, align with your company values, and make the recognition defined, public, and fun.
When you recognize people for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does your workplace culture.
Gallup’s latest study on employee engagement revealed the awful truth that only about 3 in 10 American workers are truly engaged in their work and workplace. Following the havoc of the pandemic, leaders are struggling to inspire team members to take initiative, commit to their company’s success, and be more productive.
The long-running survey on engagement has shown that employees are engaged when their deeper needs to feel valued, grow and develop, maximize their strengths and make a meaningful contribution are fulfilled.
The results of Gallop’s studies point to three specific things employees need to feel good about their jobs and be fully engaged. Here are some suggestions communications teams can use to make these three elements work for your company:
Employees want a leader and a company who care about them and their development– When you truly believe employees are the company’s most valuable asset, it shines through in the frequency and manner with which you communicate with them. Let them know specificallyhow the company is working hard to ensure their success. Share information about important changes and initiatives as freely as possible to show employee how their contributions matter to overall business success.
They’re looking for a role that matches their strengths– Every job presents interpersonal and character growth opportunities. Help employees see what mountains they can successfully climb right now and show how they can gain skills and experience on their career journey.
They want to know that their contributions matter– Chances are, your employees believe—or once believed—in your company’s mission and values—what you contribute to the world at large. Keep this purpose at the core of your communications. Be sure you regularly articulate the relationship of the work employees do every day to your mission.
What’s the connection between all of these elements? Proactive, inspiring, and consistent internal communications. It’s the most productive way to get everyone focused on priorities and engaged in their work.
While your office may reopen soon, the pandemic is not over for many employees. Return-to- office communications should help employees feel safe, seen and supported. Their needs have shifted during the long work from home period. That’s why effective communications can go a long way to build trust and let them know their health and well-being is important to you.
Whether you’re moving to a hybrid work arrangement or expect employees back at their workstations in-house, the way you communicate will impact employee engagement. We’re counseling our clients to focus on the Big Three for re-entry communications: safety, well-being, leadership.
Make your commitment to safety visible
Employees can’t perform if they don’t feel safe. Be clear about steps undertaken to maintain a safe in-office experience, including the deep cleaning of the facility, protective equipment availability, or health checks. Are masks required? What changes are coming to the break rooms? Set up an online Coronavirus Info Hub where employees can get information, news or policy changes. Being specific about this is more important than ever before.
Many companies are broadening their wellness programs to focus on mental health maintenance and self-care. Employee Assistance Programs (EAP), often an under-utilized resource, are being more urgently promoted within benefits communications. Consider providing access to guided meditation apps like Headspace or Calm. Mental health apps, like Sanvelo and Moodfit, provide support for stress, anxiety and other issues.
Train and support front-line leaders
Train your managers and front-line supervisors with a comprehensive workplace re-entry plan. Ensure they understand any key changes in policy as well as safety protocols. Equip them to support team members with empathy. Supply guidance on regular check ins as well as fun activities like safe team bonding experiences, virtual happy hours and curated playlists. And don’t forget to praise good work and say thank you to managers. This group has been through a lot too.
One of the key takeaways of the past 16-months is that work from home is no longer a perk, but rather the future for many businesses. The hybrid workplace, where employees are co-located and have the ability to work remotely, is a hot topic, particularly with employees. A recent survey from SHRM revealed that 52% of respondents would like to continue to work remotely forever while 35% would accept a pay cut to work from home.
The shift to hybrid working means that companies have the opportunity to reset the workplace culture in many ways. But the tenets of pre-pandemic employee engagement have not changed. Communication continues to be the key to ensuring alignment and building company culture. Here are four recommendations we’re making to clients.
Conduct a health check for online collaboration tools
When the pandemic hit, businesses moved quickly to stand up collaboration tools that would keep employees connected and working productively. As hybrid workplaces evolve towards permanency, now is the time to assess how these tools are working and if remote workers have the right support and infrastructure for the long haul. If you don’t know how well they are working, survey employees now.
Create consistent person-to-person connections
Whether through group or individual online sessions, every remote employee should have a regular touchpoint with his/her manager. This ensures understanding of expectations and opportunities for feedback. Engagement lags when employees think their manager does not know, or care, what they do. Consistent interaction helps to build pride and performance.
Reimagine employee onboarding
The first 90 days in a new role is a pivotal time that can set up an employee for success or failure. Learning a new role while working remotely can feel isolating. Put practices in place to ensure the new employee understands the role, who to go to for support, and where to learn about the mission and culture of your workplace. Show your team personality with online Welcome party or a Hi There kit with company swag. Most importantly, give the new hire something to do and help prepare them to contribute.
Make recognition visible
The days of bringing everyone together for cake to celebrate a win or a milestone may be gone, but don’t skimp on saying thank you. Research indicates that when employees feel recognized and valued, they tend to be more satisfied, are more productive, and are more likely to engage with the rest of the team. Reevaluate your company recognition program with a lens on remote workers so that everyone knows their contributions are celebrated.
During graduation season, you can count on speakers, the profound and the superficial (I’m looking at you reality show celebs), to make a connection. Their goal is to inspire others to reflect or take action or celebrate.
As leaders and communicators, we’re also looking for a spark to lift and embolden us in our work. Here are some of our favorite quotes. Take a break from Zoom call fatigue and use them to jumpstart your storytelling and communications.
“Waiting for perfect is never as smart as making progress.”
“I believe in the power of storytelling because stories open our hearts to a new place, which opens our minds, which often leads to action.”
“Be unafraid to be completely you, and accept all those other individuals you meet as they are.”
“Before dreaming about the future or making plans, you need to articulate what you already have going for you—as entrepreneurs do.”
“Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head.”
“Failure is not something to be ashamed of; it’s something to be powered by. Failure is the highest octane fuel your life can run on. You got to learn to make failure your fuel.”
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
“As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”
While the best practices for business writing have changed over time, the need for clear, communications is as important as ever. If you dread the thought of writing anything from a blog to a business letter, use these four tips as guide to more effective writing.
1. Use the simplest language possible
Leave out unnecessary words.
When common, ordinary words will do the job, don’t use fancy ones. That includes high dollar words, foreign words, and jargon.
When possible, keep sentences and paragraphs short.
2. Write vigorously
Use active instead of passive voice when possible.
Choose powerful verbs over weak ones like forms of “to be.”
3. Be positive, not negative
It’s more effective to say what something is instead of what it is not. For example, use “The procedure will be relatively comfortable,” instead of “The procedure will be pain-free.” Your audience will unconsciously focus on the word “pain” and the rest will lose power.
4. Put the audience at the center of your plan
Know your audience, your purpose, and the value of your message before you create the key points.
Revise and simplify
Fortunately, most of us aren’t required to write even one page of a masterpiece, but the writing we do is no less important. Effective writing can impact employee morale and the bottom line. But you’ve got to get your readers all the way through the message first in order to educate, inform or inspire.
At the start of the pandemic, businesses without flex work arrangements were pushed into the deep end. Those companies that already leveraged online collaboration tools were better prepared. Now, as we close in on one-quarter of the adult population vaccinated, businesses are preparing for the new normal. For many of us that means returning to an office environment for the first time in many months.
WFH isn’t for everyone
A new Fortune/SurveyMonkey study of office workers shows that remote work will no longer be viewed as perk. But not everyone wants to work from home. Among the findings is that twice as many respondents prefer to be in the office than to work from home once the pandemic is over.
36% of respondents say they prefer to be always in the office
18% of respondents prefer to always work remotely
42% of respondents prefer a hybrid model with some in office/some remote work
These findings suggest that the future of flexible work arrangements will be a priority communication. Employees need to feel safe and appreciated. Leaders will need to make the case that culture and connection is continually evolving. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s well worth the time to examine and update corporate policies and the employee handbook now.
Involve employees and communicate
As you push reset on flexible work arrangements, be sure to involve employees. Surveys and online focus groups are effective tools to gather input as you finalize the business strategy.
And remember—if you ask for feedback from employees you must always thank them for the feedback and let them how their input helped to shape decisions.