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Category: Communications Strategy

Four Ways to Write Actionable Content

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.

Back to the Office or WFH? Employee Preferences Vary

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.

How to Prep for Your Media Interview

You’ve been called by the press for an interview.  You’re a subject matter specialist and the thought of a mistake unnerves you.  How can you deliver a result that makes you proud?

There’s always an advantage to getting your message out through the press. Preparation is the key to any successful interview.  Use these secrets from public relations pros to help you achieve the results you seek.

  1. Stay focused on your message. Rough out some bullets before you return a call.  What is the main point you want to address? Prepare for anything that may be negative or controversial.
  2. Be concise.  Use plain language. Reporters will purposely pause to get you to say more, so don’t just talk to fill space. Don’t make “off the record” comments or saying “no comment.”
  3. Be memorable.  Use statistics, comparisons, examples and anecdotes to make your points.
  4. Correct misstatements.  The reporter will not know the information as well as you.  If they make a misstatement, correct it quickly.  Do not repeat an inaccuracy but clarify and accentuate the positive.
  5. Remember that you are in control.  Just because a question is asked, you’re not required to give an answer.  If it’s something you can’t or don’t want to discuss, change the conversation.  If you don’t know the answer, say so.  Ask the interviewer if you can get back to them later with accurate information.

How to keep your remote employees engaged

Over the past decade, technology has facilitated a major shift in how we do business.  Many workers have moved from office settings to remote working.  In 2020 this shift accelerated even more rapidly due to COVID-19 and the need to adopt social distancing for the health and safety of employees and their families.  Companies are adapting on the fly in the ways they communicate and conduct day-to-day operations.  While this shift has helped businesses stay productive, the sudden change has left some employees feeling less engaged. 

Managers are suddenly faced with the question, “How do we support our employees who are now forced to work remotely?”  Sudden changes like this can be overwhelming if you don’t have a plan in place.  In order to make sure you are doing all you can to support your remote employees here are a few internal communications best practices to keep them engaged:

Keep in Contact

This seems simple but it’s easy to miss the mark.  Make sure your employees feel supported and connected to their peers and managers.  Host virtual team meeting and check-ins multiple times a month. Keeping employees in the loop about the company’s big picture and their role in it helps them feel valued and included, promotes a healthy attitude toward otherwise stressful changes, and ensures everyone is aligned and headed in the right direction.

Celebrate your Employees

People want to feel that they are valued.  Introduce an employee recognition program to celebrate when your team members go above and beyond.  Everyone appreciates a pat on the back for a job well done.  Also small things like calling out work anniversaries and birthdays will make your employees feel appreciated and let them know that you’re thinking about them.

Ramp up Training

Give your employees the tools to be successful.  Employee training in any business is an investment, not an expense.  When employees are well trained, they perform with skill and confidence.  Make sure your employees feel prepared to work remotely and promote continued growth and development.  Implementing training programs for video conferencing, webinars, and any new programs will help employees feel assured.     

Need more ideas on keeping employees engaged? Get in touch: ben.clayton@insight-communication.com

As COVID-19 Continues, Employees Want More Communications

As we enter the fourth month of the global pandemic, employees seek more communication and connection with their managers according to a new survey from Gallup.

The survey, conducted in June, shows that employee preparedness and alignment is down 20% from the previous month.  Key findings include:

  • 41% say that my employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to the coronavirus.
  • 41% say I feel well prepared to do my job.
  • 41% say my immediate supervisor keeps me informed about what’s going on.
  • 42% say my organization cares about my overall well-being.

During this time of uncertainty, let your employees know what they can count on at work by purposefully dialing up on communications with these three actions.

Prepare managers to coach

The best managers know their role is to support others through change. People are different, and will have different reactions in the workplace to this challenging issue.  That’s why maintaining dialogue is so important. Train managers to connect and check in with employees and provide resources and tools to use when coaching team members.

Share and update your workplace safety preparedness plan

If team members are working on-site, they want to know that their safety is important to the company leadership.  Communicate your COVID-19 preparedness plan, ensuring it is specific to your workplace, includes control measures to reduce exposure, and maintains a safe and healthy work environment.  Provide an update in every communication from leadership.  For those working remotely with an upcoming return date, spell out the plan so that they know what to expect. This issue will be top of mind for your team members throughout this year, so one and done communications won’t be enough.

Activate two-way communication channels

What process do you have in place to gather feedback from team members right now? Some companies have rescheduled or shelved employee surveys during this period.  Employees still need to feel valued, heard, and engaged. Consider online town halls, message boards and group chats, or polls and QR code surveys for immediate feedback.  Then, and this is important, act on the feedback.  Share what you heard and let it guide your communications.

Looking for communications support for your business?  Insight can help.  Get in touch with us.

Developing a Return-to-Work Communications Strategy

As businesses across the country begin to reopen following Covid-19, employees will need to feel safe and understand what to expect in new ways of working.  While some businesses have extended telecommuting through the summer, that’s not an option for everyone.  If you decide to reopen your business, here are some strategies to keep in mind.

Make Safety Visible

For employees to focus on their jobs, they must feel safe.  Federal and state agencies have issued guidance on safe practices, including social distancing, frequent hand washing, and cleaning and sanitizing of workspaces.  But these are mostly voluntary.   Show employees that you care by communicating safety procedures at your business.  Make it inescapable: posters, signage, emails, intranet pop-ups. Provide personal protective equipment at no cost to employees.  Review and update your telecommuting policies. Ensure your managers practice and encourage uptake of new well-being processes.

Communicate Constantly

The new normal is going to be confusing for a while.  That’s why it’s so important that the business leadership is aligned, communicates proactively, and walks the talk.  Train front-line managers on new working practices and talk about what you expect from them. The manager who doesn’t comply will be very easy to identify.  Ensure there are two-way communication channels so that employees can surface issues and obtain rapid responses. Use pulse surveys to identify issues that are creating concerns. Now is the time to be visible, encouraging, and also transparent about the business challenges and what how employees can help.

Support Mental Health

Six months ago most people could not imagine daily life during a global pandemic.  Unfortunately, now we all can. Your employees may have experienced the virus themselves, lost a loved one, know a friend or family member who is unemployed, or struggled with isolation or family issues.  Now is the time for empathy.  Show it in your leadership communications and encourage managers and supervisors to do the same.  Emphasize the availability of counseling benefits or Employee Assistance Programs.  Make it easy to ask for help.

There is not one prevailing roadmap through these challenging times, but employees want to hear from you.  Communicate and manage sensitively. Be human.

Internal Communications Best Practices for the Pandemic

By now, some of us have been working from home, sheltering in place for six weeks and it’s not clear when we’ll return to work as we experienced it before. Unprecedented is too small a word to use to describe the toll: 2.7 million coronavirus cases globally and 26 million Americans have filed jobless claims.

Now more than ever, communications from company leadership is key to building trust and maintaining focus. In many businesses, leaders are working around the clock to determine a path forward. Proactively communicating with employees must be part of that strategy. Here are some practical tips to keep your team members connected and focused.

1.      Start with Compassion

Many of your employees have been affected by the virus. Whether impacted personally by illness, caring for family or friends, supervising home schooling, or taking care of children, everyone is dealing with something. Be concerned about employees’ and health and safety. Direct them to Employee Assistance Programs and other company-sponsored benefits. Provide a sincere thank you to everyone keeping things moving for the business and your customers. Be human and sincere.

 2.      Be Clear about the Way Forward

Things are bad everywhere and everyone knows it. Communicate the steps being taken to preserve the health of your business. Identify the biggest challenges and what the leadership team is doing to address them. Be positive about what is working well. Ask everyone to encourage and support colleagues and customers, in ways big and small. Show pride and share stories of how your people support the community and each other.

3.      Empower Two-Way Communication

People consume information in different ways, so use all the channels available to your business. Resources like blogs, email, video, and the company intranet are effective, but also provide a way to collect and encourage feedback from team members. Make it easy to access. Ask for ideas on redeploying resources, increasing efficiency, and creatively solve problems. When employees feel heard, they perform well.

4.      Lean on Line Managers

This is the time for your line managers to shine. While online town halls and video conferencing from leaders are essential to provide clarity, the most credible source is the manager. Prepare managers with talking points so the message is clear and consistent.

Need help with internal communications?  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

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.