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Category: Engagement

Looking Ahead: Communicating in a Hybrid Workplace

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.

Sixty Seconds of Leadership Inspiration

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.”

Seth Godin

“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.”

Melinda Gates

“Be unafraid to be completely you, and accept all those other individuals you meet as they are.”

Alicia Keys

“Before dreaming about the future or making plans, you need to articulate what you already have going for you—as entrepreneurs do.”

Reid Hoffman

 “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.”

Malcolm Gladwell

“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.”

 –Abby Wambach

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

Warren Buffett

As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”

Toni Morrison

Celebrating Black History Month at Work

February is Black History Month, a time to reflect, celebrate and learn about the heritage and significant contributions of Black Americans. Although many businesses are operating in work from home settings, there are many ways to engage employees in programming and spark meaningful conversations about racial justice that extend well past February.

Educate and spark dialog. Host a conversation series with guest speakers on topics such as Black culture, trailblazers and social justice. Encourage all employees to live your corporate values by educating themselves on racial injustice. Invite Black leaders within your company to share their career stories and talk about leadership development.

Connect and engage. Establish Employee Resource Groups, employee-led organizations focused on fostering an inclusive workplace and aligning with business objectives. ERGs are a powerful tool in employee retention, engagement, and development of future leaders.

Involve employees in brand and internal storytelling.  Do your communication channels, recruiting and marketing materials look as diverse as your employee population?  Employees are the most credible brand ambassadors, both internally and externally.  Create new ways to showcase your employees and their stories.

Start a Leadership Book Club. Use the Lean In model as a template for a Company Book Club. Select at book, and create a company-wide reading event culminating with a moderated discussion with a company leader. Looking for inspiration?  Here are some amazing books:

  • How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” by Isabel Wilkerson
  • “Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement” by John Lewis and Michael D’Orso

The NAACP offers guidelines on what brands can do for Black History Month .  This includes focused recruiting efforts of diverse leaders, supporting diversity and inclusion programs within your business and engaging with local social justice organizations.

Happy Birthday to us!

In May, our little company reached a noteworthy milestone: 20 years in business. Since 65% of new businesses fail in the first ten years, we were feeling kind of proud.

We had plans for a year of celebration including an anniversary page on our website and a memorable get together with the clients, partners and friends who had helped build our business along the way. And then Covid altered our plans. Considerably.

Just like any business story, ours was shaped by successes and failures, marked by amazing good luck and work-to-exhaustion cycles.  We met the most remarkable people and learned so much from clients and partners.  It’s been an honor to earn their trust as we’ve partnered to create engaging communications and build performance.

So instead of a socially-distanced slice of cake and a glass of wine, we’re sharing three principles we’ve adopted in our first 20 years.  They apply to building to building a business or navigating your career. Thank you to everyone who’s taught us these lessons along the way.

1. Get prepared to be lucky.

Business success is sometimes equal parts of hard work and good luck.  But luck is not sustainable.  You have to be prepared. That means identifying gaps, finding partners who can do what you can’t do, and having the emotional intelligence to lead others. Do the work of being prepared.

2. Follow the strategy and be accountable.

A goal without a plan is a wish. As a new business, our goal was to stay in business. We became more sophisticated over time. Part of that is not being in love with your own ideas, focusing relentlessly on delivering the strategy, and making adjustments. When you write down an aspirational business plan, don’t put it in the drawer.  Review it, update it, and hold yourself accountable for results.

3. Find a fan.  Be a fan.

No matter what you role, everyone needs a fan.  Everyone needs someone to believe in them, to cheer them on, to drop a positive word of encouragement when things seem bleak.  Find that person for you and be that person for someone else.

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.

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

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

How to Rally Internal Audiences Around Your Culture: A World Cup Story

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.

How does your company build engagement? Please share your stories and idea with me: ben.clayton@insight-communication.com

Summer Reading List for Communicators (or Wannabes)

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.

What are you reading this summer? Send me your picks: Maureen.Clayton@insight-communication.com.