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Category: Internal Communications

Communicating Gratitude

This month as we focus on Thanksgiving, consider the power of gratitude in your workplace. Before your thoughts turn to friends, family, and football, spend a few minutes thinking about how appreciation can make a difference to your business. 

Tom Peters correctly 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 the 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 ideas:

Appreciation by senior leadership—Create a year-end video of the senior management team thanking team members for their service this year.  Get out of the office and video it with front-line workers.  Switching the wardrobe from suits and ties to ugly Christmas sweaters and elf ears will create smiles for years to come.

Appreciation by managers—Write 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.  Not only will your employees appreciate the gesture, but they will also know that you are paying attention. 

Appreciation by team membersIt feels great to say thank you.  That’s why peer-to-peer recognition programs are motivating to employees.  They strengthen a culture of support, collaboration, and achievement.  Peer recognition programs should tie to your company values.  Tailor the program to your business, but make the recognition defined, public, and fun.

The power of gratitude is a multiplier.  When you recognize people for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does your workplace culture.

Seven Compelling Commencement Speech Quotes

It’s graduation season, the time of year when profound advice cascades from intellectuals and B-list celebrities.

If the speechwriter has done his/her job, you’ll find in these speeches messages worth sharing. When it’s time for your next employee meeting or leadership development talk, use these quotes from commencement speakers to inspire your writing.

“It’s easier to tear something down than to build something up. It’s easier to poke holes in an idea than it is to think of ways to fill them. And it’s easier to focus on the 100 reasons you shouldn’t do something rather than the one reason you should.” 

Wendy Kopp

“Raise people’s aspirations for what they can become and release their energies so they will try to get there.” 

David Gergen

 “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded … sensibly. Reservedly. Mildly.” 

George Sanders

“You can be like a thermometer, just reflecting the world around you. Or you can be a thermostat, one of the people that set the temperature.” 

Cory Booker

“A failure often does not have to be a failure at all. However, you have to be ready for it. Will you admit when things go wrong? Will you take steps to set them right? Because the difference between triumph and defeat, you’ll find, isn’t about willingness to take risks. It’s about mastery of rescue.”

Atul Gawande

“The most enduring skill you can bring to the workplace is the ability to learn how to learn.”  

Thomas Friedman

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.” 

Melinda Gates

Please Avoid Tone-Deaf Employee Messaging

It’s too delicious to pass up. A corporate executive sends a company-wide email that is so insensitive or shocking that you must chuckle.  Who approved this?

Social media regularly serves up examples of executive messaging gone wrong:

  • The Klarna CEO published the names and emails of individuals offered severance following staff reductions.
  • The Howard University Hospital CEO responded to nurses’ requests for raises with a list of budget-saving tips for the home including “Do laundry at night,” “Shop store brands, not name brands,” and “Do home meal prep.”
  • The PagerDuty CEO announced workforce cuts, executive promotions, and spending cuts in the same email.  Then she added a quote from Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • The most egregious of this club may be the CEO of Better.com.  You may remember him firing 900 employees via Zoom just before the holidays a few years ago.  He previously sent an email to employees “You are TOO DAMN SLOW. You are a bunch of DUMB DOLPHINS.” 

Certainly, none of these individuals set out to offend employees (well, maybe except the dumb dolphin guy). Despite good intentions, this happens fairly often. The efficiency and speed of online tools sometimes deceive us into thinking that quick communication is the best path.  That often leads to unintended consequences.

It is worth the extra time to get the message right.

When crafting employee messaging, especially if the topic is challenging, follow these steps.

1. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes.  Is this the right message? Is it clear and in jargon-free language? Most importantly, is it thoughtful and empathetic? If you were reading this, would you feel it was relevant and respectful?

2. Have someone else review it.  Even the best communicators benefit from input.  Having someone else evaluate the messaging, and provide feedback to improve it, reduces the chance of misunderstanding. This is where a professional communicator can help.

3. Offer support. When the message has the potential to cause uncertainty, provide some direction on when more information will be available. Don’t forget to say thank you.  When employees feel recognized and valued, they’re more likely to trust management.  Perhaps even forgive a tone-deaf email.

Revitalizing the Employee Recognition Strategy

The term quiet quitting has emerged recently as a post-pandemic trend for employees who are burned out and actively choosing to the bare minimum.  It’s just a fancy way of saying that employee engagement is taking a nose dive. 

Companies that routinely rank high in employee engagement are committed to fostering a great workplace where culture is seen as a business imperative in both good and challenging times.  It’s more important than ever that employees feel connected, appreciated, and recognized for their efforts.  That’s where a sound employee recognition strategy can make a difference in overall performance and workplace culture.

Employee recognition programs should be a vital component of every company’s employee engagement strategy. It’s a smart retention approach that’s also good for the bottom line.

Studies show that businesses with formal recognition programs have approximately 30% less voluntary turnover than those without them. And they’re 12 times more likely to have strong business results.

But often recognition programs encounter two problems. 

A new recognition program may start with hoopla, but as time goes by, suffers from diminishing visibility. Without consistent internal marketing to employees and continuous leadership sponsorship, the recognition program loses participation and effectiveness.

Recognition should be clearly aligned with a company’s purpose and values so that there’s a common language for what success looks like.  When behaviors and achievement are linked, it sends a clear message of consistent, visible recognition across the business

It’s a virtuous cycle.  When people are recognized for their contributions, they perform better, trust grows and so does workplace culture.

How to Get Employees to Read your Company Newsletter

It’s always a dagger to the heart of a communicator when you realize that employees are not getting the message. While large and small businesses still use an employee newsletter, many other digital channels are available to share information. So the old standard practice of saving reminders and announcements for the company newsletter has dwindled in effectiveness.

A newsletter content reset may be in order. The secret to improved readership is compelling content. Employees will not spend time, or even open any communication if they don’t see the value to them.   Take a sharp look at the content provided and re-energize it with these tips.

Share success stories. We all need a little inspiration on the job. There’s nothing more powerful than hearing you did a great job. Share wins and celebrate stories about team members who live the company values.

Watch your tone. When the message is simple and conversational, it’s more likely to succeed. Think of your own experiences. What would make you want to read something? Aim for tone and language that is authentic and leave the jargon behind.

Start a conversation. Employees know the best ways to improve efficiencies and productivity. Ask them to share those ideas with the team. Create a method for employees to share ideas. When employees know their suggestions count, they are more connected to their workplace.

Include infographics. Break up the content with one fast fact conveyed through an infographic. This can make a complex point simple and memorable. Infographics will resonate with viewers who just want to scan the highlights. It will also increase the shareability of the content.

As always, the best way to drive employee engagement is to show people how their contributions make an impact on the business.

A Tale of Two Layoffs

Navigating workplace change is never easy. For many of us, our job is our identity. When you lose that, it’s crushing. That’s why events like mergers, restructuring, and layoffs drive turmoil even among employees who are not impacted.

The announcements of layoffs at Twitter and Stripe, in the same week, provide a sharp contrast on how to manage this issue. Both businesses cut headcounts to grow profitability, but they took very different approaches.

For weeks, speculation was brewing about layoffs at Twitter. It’s been reported that close to 50% of the employee population was impacted. When the day arrived, impacted employees were notified not by phone call or meeting, but by email to their personal accounts. Their corporate email was deactivated. They were told they’d receive severance details by the end of the week (which seems to be 60 days’ salary in lieu of notice). And don’t come into the office. You’ll get instructions about returning company equipment later. There was also a reminder that while you’re still an employee, you’re required to comply with the Code of Conduct and corporate policies.

The following week, some separated employees were asked to return to Twitter—they’d been laid off by mistake. Oops.

Compare this to the announcement at Stripe, a digital payments provider. The CEO, Patrick Collison, penned an email so clear, accountable, and empathetic that it raises the bar for downsizing communications.

He starts out with the bad news: the employee population is being reduced by 14%. No need to scan all the way down to the bottom; he leads with the headline. Then he provides “the why.”  Shifts in the global economic climate require the company to be leaner. He outlines a comprehensive exit package that includes severance, 2022 bonus, PTO payout, health care, and career support. He says the people leaving “will be fantastic additions at almost any other company.” 

And then he does something I’ve never seen before: he details two mistakes the leadership team made in underestimating an economic slowdown and growing costs too quickly. That’s accountability. The rest of the letter is about what comes next and why the business will be well-positioned for the future.

Which type of announcement would you prefer if you were being let go? Which company seems like a good place to continue your career?

When the dust settles and both these businesses move to the “new normal” people will talk about how it all happened. A detailed communication and change management plan increases the chances that employees will trust and be engaged following a significant business event.

Accountability, transparency, and a view of what comes next make the transition easier for everyone. But what employees will remember is compassion and empathy. 

Honoring Military Veterans at Work

One of the clearest memories of my childhood is connected to Veterans Day.  At the end of the church service, the priest asked all current and former military members to stand and be recognized for their service.  My father, who never spoke about his military service, would stand up, a little straighter than usual.  There were dozens of others who did the same.  As they left the church, they chatted and joked with each other about who had the easier tour of duty.

Recognition is meaningful.

Veterans Day, November 11, provides an opportunity to strengthen support for employees who are current and former service members and their families.  A simple recognition or expression of thanks means so much to those who’ve served. Within the workplace, consider these actions to show that your company values the service, experience and commitment of military veterans and their families:

  • Invite employees who served in the military to a special gathering or luncheon.
  • Establish a military veteran Employee Resource Group.
  • Make a contribution to a community veteran scholarship program.
  • Highlight employees who served in the military in company media and websites.
  • Host a community day of service for employees to give back at local veteran facilities, national cemeteries, or VA hospitals.

Current service members and those transitioning from military life make excellent employees. Recruiting veterans can be a successful component of your diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy.

  • Connect with non-profit organizations like American Corporate Partners to provide career coaches and mentors to veterans, active duty, and military spouses.
  • Partner with hiring programs that benefit veterans, transitioning service members, and their families.

Expressing thanks and support makes all of us better leaders, partners, and colleagues.  Make a commitment to show appreciation, develop, and hire those who served our country. 

Three Ways to Improve Benefit Communications

The Great Resignation is leading companies to rethink their approach to employee benefits. While flexible work initiatives seemed cutting edge only a few years ago (remember summer hours and Fri-Yeahs?), today a hybrid work environment is a standard consideration for many job seekers. Well-being offerings (financial, mental health support, parental/family care leave) are edging up the list of must-haves for job seekers.

While HR leaders grapple with which offerings to add or remove from benefits packages, an immediate solution is at hand:  do a better job of communicating the value of the benefit programs you have now.  Then promote new offerings as an extension of your company values.

Consider these three steps:

1. Market your benefits like you do your brand. Go beyond employee orientation and open enrollment and talk up benefits year-round. Research indicates that only 49% of employees understand their benefits and close to 80% do not review their open enrollment materials. Let’s do better! Develop monthly educational updates and interactive tools for employees to get more detailed information. Dive a little deeper into how your benefits make a difference to employees.

2. Survey employees about their benefit preferences. To really understand why some benefits are popular and why others are underutilized, conduct a detailed benefits survey. Just adding a few questions to the annual employee engagement survey won’t provide the insights needed to make accurate decisions. Times change and some of the current offerings may not meet the needs of today’s workforce. This data can also guide decisions on what benefits are needed to remain competitive.

3. Keep it simple. Remember, everyone learns differently. Use a variety of communication channels and tactics. Brief, visual content delivers a big impact. Few are willing to spend the time required to read through a Summary Plan Document. Clear language and easy-to-understand scenarios entice employees to learn more. 

When employees believe they are valued in the workplace, productivity, retention, and engagement rise. Telling a compelling story about your company’s benefits can contribute positively to that result.

Marketing Your Workplace Benefits to Employees

Too often employees only think about their workplace benefits once a year–during Open Enrollment. Perhaps that’s because many Human Resources groups focus on the administration of benefits, not marketing the variety and value of the employee benefits package. Internal communicators can provide value by partnering on this issue and adding a little sizzle to benefits marketing efforts.

As the Great Resignation shows no signs of slowing down, companies that provide better support, education, and marketing of workplace benefits may obtain an advantage in employee retention. When benefits usage rises, businesses also realize the full value of this investment.

Here are three steps to consider in promoting your company’s employee benefits.

Understand benefits usage

While the list of benefits offered may be long, it’s unlikely that all benefits are equally as popular. Pinpoint the benefits that are underused by employees and set participation goals. Show you care by surveying employees to understand their interest in current offerings and identify potential new benefits that they value. Not surprisingly, benefits that support wellness and mental health/resilience

Prioritize benefits education

Market your benefit offerings to employees year-round. A deep dive each month on individual offerings can be effective, particularly if employees share their stories about why they use them. Create an annual calendar aligned with notable month-long observances (such as May-Mental Health Awareness Month; October-National Financial Planning Month).

Take a multi-channel approach

Covid-19 has forever changed the delivery and pace of internal communications. With remote work becoming the norm, it is imperative that benefits communications are available through digital channels. Lunch and learns can move to webinars. Intranet content must be compelling and regularly refreshed. Offer digital coffee breaks to engage employees to discuss workplace benefits. Raise the profile of your offerings and provide multiple opportunities for employees to learn more. When employees feel informed and supported in the workplace, engagement, retention, and performance increase.

The Power of Gratitude is a Multiplier

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.