The first week after the holidays is always painful. So here’s something to lift your spirits. Our first bit of advice for 2018 is from the master essayist Emerson who has deeply influenced leaders, thinkers and communicators for more than 100 years. Tuck this away for when you need some inspiration.
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year.”
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 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 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 film 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 employee appreciate the gesture, they will know that you are paying attention.
Appreciation by team members—It 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.
Our office is located in downtown Roswell and typically by 2 p.m. on a Friday afternoon the streets are already beginning to fill with people getting an early start to their weekend. If you’re like me, once Friday afternoon arrives and the out-of-office auto-reply emails from clients start hitting your inbox, your mind begins to wander.
No matter what business you’re in, it’s likely that your employees begin thinking about weekend plans early on a beautiful summer Friday afternoon. Many companies now offer the inexpensive but morale boosting benefit of flexible summer work scheduling often known as “Summer Hours.”
A recent survey by CEB revealed that 42 percent of companies now officially sanction starting the weekend early, up 21 percent in 2015.
Offering a Summer Hours policy is an economical perk that builds engagement and can improve company culture. Typically summer hours schedules run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This is also the most common time of the year for employees to take a vacation. So how can your company introduce a summer hour work schedule? It’s important to recognize that one plan will not work for every company. Tailor your specific program to what will work best for your company and employees.
Here are a few idea and suggestions for implementing a summer hours program at your company:
Longer weekdays for time off on Friday. Employees work extra hours Monday through Thursday in exchange for a half day or the whole day off on Friday. Employees still work 40 hours total. This method allows each employee to decide the schedule that fits their needs. Employees can choose to opt in or out of the program depending on what works best for them.
Every other Friday off. Stagger days so that half of the office is off on one Friday and the other half is off the next Friday. This is a useful program for companies that see a dip in their workload during the summer, especially on Fridays.
Holiday half days. Many companies embrace a summer holiday half day policy. This gives their employees a half day off the day before Memorial Day weekend, July 4th, and Labor Day weekend. In many cases, there’s not much work going on during this period anyway and employees have more time to spend with friends and family.
Friday half days. Is there anything better than receiving an email informing you that you can take a half on Friday? Not every company will have the flexibility to introduce a full summer hours schedule. If you can’t implement one of these programs but would still like to reward your employee choose a Friday where business is slow and give your employees the afternoon off.
You pick up many new and fascinating concepts while at college. Most lectures eventually are forgotten, but some things stay with you forever. One memorable bit of advice a professor gave me was that good ideas should be shared, studied, and reused.
Summer is the perfect time to read about the strategies of successful leaders. So take some time in the next few weeks–while curled up in a sleeping bag or lounging poolside—to dive into a good book like one of these to guide your communications and leadership development.
True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership—Bill George and Peter Sims. True leadership requires you to be true to yourself. Bill George and Peter Sims take the stories of entrepreneurs and titans of industry to show how following your internal compass can lead you to succeed and inspire.
O Great One!: A Little Story About the Awesome Power of Recognition—David Novak. David Novak outlines the simple yet meaningful effect of acknowledging and appreciating the actions of one’s colleagues. This amusing, straightforward book is a must for anyone who aspires to lead.
The Storytellers Secret—Carmine Gallo. Gallo is one of my personal favorites because he writes about communications. This book showcases stories and techniques from some of today’s most successful brand leaders. A fantastic resource for anyone who wants to make an effective presentation or speech.
Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action—Simon Sinek. A tie-in with the popular TED talk of the same name, this inspiring book charts the common connections of effective leaders and influencers.
For those of you who dread reading, try a podcast. Here are two of our favorites. The TED Radio Hour is a collection around a central theme. Each TED Talk is a little jewel. No matter your interests, this podcast will spark creativity and fresh thinking.
How I Built This is a kind of “my true life story” interview with the creators of some of the world’s best loved brands. The backstories and challenges are sometimes more inspiring than the success their businesses achieved.
For many corporate employees, this is bonus season. In February, when year-end results are being finalized, the buzz builds. Will we make bonus, and by how much? In March, the anticipation is unmistakable.
Whether the news is good or bad, bonus season gives leaders a spotlight to connect individual performance and business results. While the architecture of bonus plans vary, most include a performance-related reward with a pay out when the company’s financial results and the individual’s performance meet set criteria. For example, when Apple missed sales and profit goals for 2016, Tim Cook saw a cut to his performance-based cash incentive. Don’t worry about Tim. Overall, he still did pretty well.
Whether the news is good or bad, the way you tell the story will impact employee engagement. Let’s look at communication strategies for both scenarios.
When the incentive target is achieved
Explain how it works. The only people who truly understand the bonus system work in Compensation. Prior to bonus announcement, send out a review of the bonus program with visual examples. Provide an online bonus calculator.
Celebrate. Good news should never be buried in an email. Create a brief video from the senior leadership team thanking employees for their contributions last year. An authentic thank you is always appreciated.
Set expectations for the current year. High performance cultures innovate, collaborate and continuously improve. Now is the time to be talking about 2017 stretch goals and aligning performance and priorities so bonuses are achieved in 2018. Create talking points for managers to cascade.
When the incentive target is missed
Explain how it works. See above. Talk through the plan structure. If thresholds were not achieved, clarify how that impacted pay outs. Remind employees that the bonus is just one component of a comprehensive rewards package and it’s performance-based. It’s extra pay for exceptional results.
Pre-announcement preparations. Prepare for this like you would for a customer or shareholder meeting. Compose key messages, draft FAQs and ensure managers are informed and prepared. Set up a channel for employee questions.
Hold town hall meetings. Where did the company fall short? Talk about it. Listen, answer questions, and discuss priorities and opportunities for 2017.
Proactive communications help connect the dots for team members. Businesses win when everyone knows, understands and lives the company’s values. Show them their contributions make a difference.
Successful leaders know that effective communications are a competitive advantage. As you begin 2017, make a resolution to evaluate the health of your employee communications. Are business goals and actions aligned? Do employees understand priorities and do they have a way to participate and share ideas?
Everyone talks about the importance of communications, but it’s just lip service without an actionable plan. Here are four ways to commit to better communications in 2017.
1) Map out your communications calendar right now—Begin with a “Welcome to 2017” message. Schedule dates for the entire year now to ensure it remains a priority. Keep the content fresh with a mix of performance results, customer and employee stories, and encouragement. We all need more of that.
2) Articulate the vision— If a customer asks an employee what your business was about, what would they say? Everyone on your team should use the same headline. When people can connect their work to big goals, they are more engaged. Leaders who communicate the vision and values, then put those values into action, see performance climb.
3) Use stories to make an impact—Think back to the most recent story that struck a chord with you. Was it complicated or overstuffed with facts? Simple stories make an emotional connection with the audience and hold their attention. Use your own experiences to make a point. I recently heard the president of a large hospitality group say that he makes time for fitness daily because “We only get one set of parts and I want mine to last.” That’s memorable and tells me something interesting about him. Leaders who share a little of themselves in communications are viewed as credible and human.
4) Get visual—Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. If you rely on email as your primary form of communication, know that there is a better way. In 2016, there were 4.6 billion cell phone users in the world and most phones have video or photo capability. Your team members are viewing or creating visual media every day. Use photos and video as frequently as you use memos. Video is an excellent way to improve message retention, connect with remote workers, and engage senior leadership with teams. The best part is you don’t have to have a large budget or be an on-camera pro. If you’re sincere, it will be memorable.
That will get you started. Need some help in communications planning for 2017? Get in touch.
This time of year, a kind of holiday haze sets in. The breakroom counters are bursting with tins of holiday cookies and flavored popcorn. Employees are focusing on completing 2016 assignments (and scheduling holiday getaways).
December marks the fiscal year-end for many businesses. Help your employees successfully navigate through the many December deadlines with proactive communications that show you care about more than the bottom line. Here are five tried-and-true ways to do it.
1. Clarify year-end deadlines. Start your team meetings with a reminder or checklist of deadlines for invoice processing, Flexible Spending Accounts, finalize expense reports, and other year-end deliverables. This messaging should begin December 1 and continue through the month.
2. Communicate vacation benefits. Paid time off is treasured by employees. If your business has a “use it or lose it” vacation policy, remind team members so they can schedule time off before year-end. If your company allows vacation accrual, communicate the accrual limit. Ensure there are no surprises in January.
3. Come together through service. Studies show that volunteerism increases pride, commitment and employee engagement. Contact a local charity, food bank or civic association for ideas on how your team can get involved during the holidays.
4. Celebrate 2016 achievements. Create a top ten list of your team’s “Greatest Hits of 2016” or ask team members to talk about one thing that helped them be successful this year. Connect the dots to show how every role contributes to delivering performance and your company’s vision.
5. Say thank you. To make a connection that lasts, send a personal note of thanks. Low cost, big impact. Be sincere and make it personal by including a strength or a behavior the individual brings to the team.
Before you craft your next message, take a look at these and enjoy.
“When you are telling stories, have a point. It makes it much more interesting for the listener.” Planes, Trains and Automobiles, 1987
“Don’t use seven words when four will do.” Oceans Eleven, 2001
“Learning to listen, that takes a lot of discipline.” Forever Strong, 2008
“Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking.” Wizard of Oz, 1939
“Avoid using the word very because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he’s exhausted. He’s not very sad, he’s morose. Language was invented for one reason, to woo women. And in that endeavor, laziness will never do.” Dead Poet’s Society, 1997
“The Internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.” The Social Network, 2010
“Whoever tells the best story, wins.” Amistad, 1997
“You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is to write, not to think.” Finding Forester, 2000
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” To Kill a Mockingbird, 1962
Everybody has to sell a little. You’re selling them this idea of you, you know, you’re sort of saying trust me, I’m, um, credible.” Broadcast News, 1987
One day last week I parked in front of a white, mid-sized car. Not brand new, not a luxury brand, just a car you might not notice. Except I did. Because it had long, black eyelashes on the headlights.
As it turns out, you can buy car eyelashes for less than $30. It’s an inexpensive way to share a little flair. If you’re looking, you’ll notice the countless ways drivers personalize their rides, from snazzy rims to monogramed window stickers.
The takeaway here is not the growth in auto accessory sales, but the ever-increasing desire for self-expression. Your business can harness that powerful trend by creating communications channels that encourage collaboration and involvement.
To be relevant, internal communications has to invite and ignite employees to share their opinions and personality. Once internal communications was top-down: we’ll tell you what you need to know. As internal communications evolved, communication improved with employee surveys, town halls and feedback sessions. Think about this: How often does anyone actually ask a question at a town hall session?
Involvement communications is a fancy term for connecting with individuals, not groups. It’s about creating ways for your colleagues to participate. Here are three excellent ways to start:
· Social media—Invite employees to share what they love about your company as brand ambassadors. Create a hashtag and use it on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Share the guidelines on how to use it and promote it internally. Then watch how they share what they love about your business. You’ll be amazed how quickly it’s adopted. Want some good examples? Go to #AdobeLife, #LifeatIHG or #ToBeAPartner.
· Online forums–Create an online forum on your company’s intranet and solicit ideas for building engagement and productivity or saving money. Enterprise networks like Yammer, tibbr, or Chatter create a channel to collaborate, share insights and new ideas.
· Involvement events—Create events that let them share their passions. Chili cook-offs, photo contests, or service days are simple, inexpensive ways to bring teams together to build community. Ask for selfies and share the day through communication channels.
Want more ideas on how to bring your internal communications to life? Let’s connect: email@example.com
I recently attended an event recognizing the University of Georgia’s 40 Under 40 Class of 2015. The guest speaker was Tonya Harris Cornileus, Vice President for Learning and Organizational Development at ESPN. She made a strong impression. Her speech centered on a book that influenced her life and her leadership, Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.
I’ve listened to countless luncheon speakers over the years tell stories, share insights on their personal journeys, and provide checklists for higher performance. Using a novel as the centerpiece of the speech was an unexpected, but effective choice. It reminded me how long it’s been since I read anything to strengthen and refocus my leadership skills.
With beach season on the horizon, consider bringing along one book that will inspire you to grow or further your communication style. Here are five of my favorites (because none of them are long or complex):
· Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard—Chip and Dan Heath. Change is challenging, and it’s non-stop. Chip and Dan Heath talk about how difficult change is in our companies, our careers, and our lives, and how to overcome our resistance and make change happen.
· A Short Guide to a Happy Life—Anna Quindlen. A very quick read (think 20 minutes) about appreciating the small things that sometimes go unnoticed in our over-scheduled, bustling lives.
· Delivering Happiness—Tony Hsieh. The Zappos story, told from the beginning, is a compelling business read because of the brand’s amazing success. But the real takeaway is that if you get the company culture right, success follows.
· The Storytellers Secret–Carmine Gallo. Gallo is one of my personal favorites because he writes about communications. This book showcases stories and techniques from some of today’s most successful brand leaders. A fantastic resource for anyone who makes presentations or speeches.
· The Five Dysfunctions of a Team—Patrick Lencioni. This book is in a fable format. It’s easy to pick out your team’s dysfunctions and use practical steps to achieving team health. Teamwork is the ultimate competitive advantage.