A great deal of time is spent making sure the communication between you and your consumer is on point. But what about the communication between you and your employees?
Gary Grates, a globally renowned, recognized, and respected expert in employee engagement, wrote in a 2004 PRSA Strategist article, ““Employees want to know what the company believes in and what it will fight for — its mission, vision and values; its foundational principles. They will commit or not commit, engage or disengage, on the basis of that foundation.”
Engaged employees are involved, enthusiastic and committed to their work. Their engagement can determine the outcome of a project.
However, engaged employees are not the norm according to Gallup’s 15 years of research. Employee engagement has consistently averaged less than 33 percent in the United States. Worldwide it’s even lower at just 13 percent.
So, what can you do as an employer to change that trend?
Behan Communications put together this list of 15 ways to improve internal engagement.
- Be clear and concise:
Overwriting and using technical jargon will lead to confusion and misunderstanding.
- Set the tone at the top:
CEOs and senior leaders need to set the tone. They need to be visible and accessible, and they need to understand that there’s a correlation between strategic employee communications and the achievement of organizational goals.
- Understand your employees:
You may need to communicate differently with different audiences. For custodians who don’t use computers at work, e-mail is ineffective. To determine your employees’ needs and perceptions, consider surveying them regularly: Are they getting the information they need?
- Use many channels:
Most people need to hear or see a message multiple times, in multiple ways, to understand it completely. Distribute your messages electronically, in writing, face-to-face and at forums and meetings. Your message should be consistent across all of these channels.
- Provide context:
Employees need to hear information at multiple levels. Provide context (what external factors are at play?); explain strategy (why did we decide to respond this way?); and make it personal (how will this affect me?)
- Be timely: make employees first!
When you prioritize your communications, always think of your internal people first. Your employees should hear it from you before they hear it from anyone else — they shouldn’t be surprised by a media report.
- Be forthcoming and be continuous:
Always communicate, and communicate both good and bad news. If you are honest and candid in sharing bad news, your good news is more credible.
- Match actions with words:
If you say you will address a situation in a certain way, do it. If you don’t, you’re undermining your credibility.
- Emphasize face-to-face communications:
Although today’s employees may be more tech-savvy than ever, nothing beats human interaction: Most employees want to hear news and information from their supervisors. Managers need to be trained in how to communicate, and they need to have the right tools at hand. If you are expecting your managers to help explain a complicated change to the organization’s pension plan, you’d better provide them with talking points and handouts.
- Create an organizational habit for communications:
You know you need to communicate about policies; health and safety; benefits; and how a job should be carried out. But remember that you also need to share information about your organization — what our your objectives? How are you performing? What are your plans and prospects? How can employees help?
Be systematic and strategic. Have an editorial calendar that spells out what you’ll say, when you’ll say it, where you’ll say it and how you’ll say it. Develop a checklist of what needs to be communicated.
- Measure effectiveness:
Set some objectives and be prepared to assess whether you have met them, whether they are employee engagement goals or perception goals. You might want to regularly assess engagement levels and ask employees whether the organization has communicated its strategy well. Do they understand how their daily work helps the organization meet its goals?
- Facilitate two-way conversation:
One-way communication is a thing of the past. Individuals are empowered to talk back, and feeling “listened to” enhances feelings of trust. There are many ways to facilitate two-way communication, including face-to-face meetings; “town hall” meetings; interactive video interviews; Twitter questions; employee surveys; Q-and-A features on the employee intranet; and anonymous suggestions via e-mail or suggestion boxes.
- Be objective:
Don’t “spin,” or try to dictate or assume how people should feel about the news you’re sharing.
- Say “thank you” as much as possible:
If an employee feels appreciated, she’s more likely to feel engaged.