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.
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
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.
According to the National Weather Service, 2017 was a “hyperactive and catastrophic hurricane season”. With over 3,000 deaths and $282+ billion dollars in damages it was the costliest ever in death toll and destruction. We all remember the three major ones – Harvey, Irma and Maria and the harm they caused.
Just this week it was announced that another major storm will make landfall. Hurricane Florence is expected to hit the coast of North Carolina this weekend and with its arrival many millions of people will be displaced and there is potential for major damage to countless homes and businesses.
It’s important that in times of crisis your business is prepared with a plan of action to communicate with employees and stakeholders. Whether it’s a hurricane, tornado, blizzard or other natural disaster always ensure the wellbeing of your employees as they are your company’s most important asset.
Develop an emergency response plan with information for business offices with evacuation routes, emergency contacts, and safety procedures for your employees
Close your offices well in advance
Set up a crisis hotline or contact page where employees can get updates and stay connected
Make sure data backup systems are operational and fortify your office area before the disaster hits
Form a relief group to help recovery efforts or set up a relief fund for those effected by the disaster
The term bridezilla is not flattering but can be accurate.
Recently Courtney Duffy, a grad student at Dartmouth, booked a JetBlue weekend flight to her friend Alex’s wedding. (She was one of the bridesmaids). When the bride found out Courtney couldn’t stay through Monday, she emailed her and asked her to step aside and to mail her the garment so a replacement bridesmaid could wear it.
Courtney posted the exchange on Twitter with a plea to JetBlue to refund her airfare. They did that and more. In four hours, they posted this on Twitter:
“Hey Courtney, we’ve been thinking. The jumpsuit may have been borrowed, but we’ll bring the (Jet)Blue. When you’re ready to patch things up, we’d like to help make your old friendship feel like a new. A future girls’ weekend is on us.”
The story just begs for a follow up. Will Courtney and Alex reconnect as BFFs? Can they find a replacement bridesmaid in time (and can she fit in Alex’s jumpsuit)?
The clear winner is JetBlue. Here’s why:
They monitored social media channels and responded quickly
They delivered on the customer’s request for a refund
They showed the brands’ personality. Encouraging the former pals to reunite for a girls’ weekend is an unexpected and positive twist to the story.
The go-fast, digital era we’re living in requires businesses to pay attention to social media channels and act quickly. It’s a PR game changer. JetBlue was able to respond within a few hours to Courtney’s challenge and sweeten the deal. That nimble response reveals their social media team is empowered to act. In many businesses, in the time it took for internal approvals, the opportunity would have vanished, and so would the PR benefit.
If you’re like me you can’t get enough of the World Cup. It’s an event that I look forward to every four years. I have vivid memories of watching the U.S. national team play in the World Cup. You don’t forget waking up at 2 a.m. to watch the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea or standing in a packed bar in Auburn, Alabama watching the 2010 USA vs Algeria game. These are moments that I will never forget.
But on October 10, 2017 the U.S. team lost 2-1 to Trinidad and Tobago and was officially eliminated from the 2018 World Cup. This was a major disappointment, but I refused to let it ruin my World Cup anticipation. All I needed was a new team to get behind.
This was an easy decision. The club team I support, Tottenham Hotspur, plays in England and their star player, Harry Kane, is the England captain. I was all in on England. I began to learn about their national team fan culture, songs, traditions, and slogans.
If you watched the U.S. team play in the last World Cup I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the chant/slogan “I believe that we will win.” It was easy to remember, it flowed well, and it was very catchy. By joining in on the “I believe that we will win” chant you identified yourself as a USA supporter. For England’s supporters “Football’s Coming Home” or simply “It’s coming home” has been the rallying cry. The slogan has brought all England supporters together and is easily identified as being unique to England.
How do you rally internal audiences and engage them around a common theme or message? Use these best practices:
Develop a slogan or message that is simple and memorable.
Be consistent. Use the same message over and over in all your communications. When you’re just beginning to think you can’t say it one more time, that’s when it will finally get through to someone.
Create an engaging visual image. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Your message will be more memorable when a visual is incorporated.
Looking forward to some time off this summer? While you’re relaxing at the beach or enjoying an early start to the weekend with Summer Fridays, make time to sharpen your skills. Each of these books listed below will help you become a more effective communicator and leader.
Inclusion: Diversity, the New Workplace and the Will to Change, Jennifer Brown
This book could not be more timely. Every successful business must ensure that all employees experience a welcoming work environment where they can perform at their best and are challenged to grow. Jennifer shares best practices and business cases that inclusion is an opportunity to make your business better. Share the book with peers at your business and start a conversation.
Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to your Biggest Challenges, Amy Cuddy
You may know Amy from her viral TED Talk where she contends that adopting a power pose, like Wonder Woman, can actually make feel more confident. Her book expands on this premise with practical tips for anyone who has to pitch themselves or their ideas. If you think of a witty retort after the moment passes, this book is for you.
Slide:ology: The Art and Science of Great Presentations, Nancy Duarte
Raise your hand if you’ve sat through presentations that include 50+ slides. For years I wrapped this book up as a holiday gift to clients, hoping they would read it and realize you don’t have to put paragraphs on slides. Nancy Duarte has carved out a unique niche as a presentation expert. If that doesn’t seem very exciting, consider that within corporations, presentations are the most used channel for delivering information. This book will help you strategize the story, content, and flow to impact and influence your audience.
Sell with a Story, Paul Smith
We can all agree that storytelling is a powerful communications tool. But it takes practice to create stories that instruct, inspire and ignite action. Smith provides fascinating examples on you can take even the most technical, data-driven content and fashion a memorable story.