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: email@example.com
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.
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.
Generally when people describe me they say that I’m loud. As if that were somehow the word that completely defines and describes my entire personality. And sure, I am pretty loud, but I am also confident, collaborative, adaptive, and achievement-oriented. I’m many other great things too, but when people don’t know me, or how to talk to me, I come across as just loud when I have the potential to be so much more.
Now, you’re probably wondering what my personality has to do with your business. Well, I’m a Millennial.
As Millennials, we’re better known for our diverse population, relationship to technology, community-based social dynamics, and confident personalities. But, what you might not know about us is that our numbers are growing. The percentage of millennial employees in the workplace is increasing rapidly; by 2020 Millennials will be 46% of the U.S. workforce. What this means for you is that it’s time to figure out a way to better communicate with us so that we can work together to create business success.
Diane Speigel, CEO of The End Result, a corporate training and leadership development company, reports that these are three things Millennials want from their employers:
Coaching. We were raised in a society and an academic system that coached us through everything. Therefore, we seek the same kind of coaching and feedback in our careers. We enjoy being recognized for our successes and we are genuinely open to criticism; we want to do it right.
Collaboration. We work best in teams and believe in a flexible information flow. We’ll ask a lot of questions and take time to discuss before we begin a project because our groups work best when the purpose of our project is clear and understood by everyone.
Motivation. Meaningful work is what drives us; our biggest concerns regarding work is that it’s purposeful and provides us with a sense of accomplishment. We want the opportunity to learn and we need to understand why we’re performing a certain job; we need an explanation of how our contribution will affect the bigger picture.
We’re almost at the time when managers begin scheduling mid-year performance reviews with their employees. The purpose of these meetings is to have a face-to-face conversation about how the employee is progressing in delivering performance goals and what support they need from their manager. It’s a plan that makes sense unless the following happens: a) The manager is too busy to schedule the meeting, so it doesn’t happen. b) The conversation goes something like this: “How’s everything going? Keep up the good work. Next.” c) Neither the manager nor the employee has prepared for the conversation.
Performance management has a profound impact on employee engagement. The process helps employees understand what’s expected of them and drives personal accountability and pride.
At one point in my career, the corporation I worked for reorganized, eliminating most middle management roles. This meant I had more than 20 direct reports. It could take a week to complete individual performance management meetings. I admit I did a fair amount of grumbling about it. Yet what I learned was that my team members looked forward to those meetings. It was their time in the spotlight — a time to talk about themselves. Think about it: how often do you have time to talk about your accomplishments with your manager? When can you talk about your career aspirations or share a story of work well done? If it’s not happening on a regular basis already, mid-year review meetings create an opportunity. Here are three things you can do to improve mid-year performance reviews:
Build in lead time. For a meaningful conversation, both you and your employee need time to review the employee’s annual goals, completed work and any performance gaps. Be sure to allow time for both of you to do that.
Focus on strengths. It’s easy to focus on the imperfect. Effective managers talk about what each individual brings to the team. Accentuate the positive in each employee. Research from Gallup shows that when employees know and use their strengths, they are more engaged and deliver better performance.
Ask how you can lend support. Coach team members who are struggling. Be specific on areas that need improvement. Even high performers need to know that you support them, so don’t skip this step with them.
Here’s a final tip. Don’t let the performance management cycle be the only time you speak individually with your team members. Check in often, so that you know more about them than just their job description. When employees know and trust their managers, engagement and performance soar. How have you engaged with your employees in the past? Share your story with me! Contact Maureen at firstname.lastname@example.org