Quick Summary: There are zombies among us. Chances are, you deal with them every day. They’re disgruntled employees who lack the desire to listen. Reaching them takes focus and a little self-assessment.
A startling 69 percent of employees are either “not engaged” (they put in their time at work, but lack energy) or are “disengaged” (they act out their unhappiness and undermine others) at work, according to the U.S. Employee Engagement Survey published in Gallup Management Journal.
Tonya Bacon, director of Strategic Communications Group in Silver Spring, Md., says instituting an effective internal communications program—one that includes succinct health communication messages—is one of the most valuable ways to encourage employees to become more engaged.
“Many progressive companies now view internal communications as equal in importance to external communications such as advertising, marketing and public relations,” she says. “But it’s not easy to get employees to ‘buy in’ to your messages and goals.”
It’s inevitable that not all employees are going to take to heart your health, benefits, and wellness messages. But you’ll reach employee “sleepwalkers” more often if you first ask yourself these 5 questions:
Question #1. What are we really doing? Craft a short (one-page) mission statement about the role of workplace communication in your organization. This will help get others to view your role within the context of the company’s goals.
Question #2. How do we communicate now? Bacon says companies should begin by performing a companywide communications audit that analyzes how messages are devised and delivered across divisions, offices, and teams. (In other words, you can’t know what to fix until you discover a few things that might be broken.)
The audit should help you discover the following:
• How often employees receive information from the company
• In what formats that information is delivered
• If employees are receiving accurate information
Question #3. What are we not saying or offering? Consider holding a half-hour roundtable discussion, or simply exchanging emails, to learn more about what kind of information (and delivery methods) employees would find most useful.
Question #4. Are our messages simple? Many workplace communication experts (and health experts, for that matter) say it’s best to start simply, encouraging realistic small goals. Analyze your current health communication program and remove messages that make the goals seem too hard to reach. If time or money is of the essence, take a simplified approach to wellness communication and focus on one or two issues.
Question #5. Can we use different, creative forms of communication to increase employee engagement? Bacon says it helps to reinforce employee engagement from a communications perspective. Examples include employee-led meetings and mentor-protégé programs in which experienced, willing employees help newer ones analyze topics such as health care plan options.
• Devise a plan to reward engaged employees who do “buy in” to your concepts and participate in your programs.
• Form a committee with employees from all departments to help plan events and goals. Include employees you think might be skeptical and encourage them to add input.
• Read this Hope Health story on performing a communications audit.
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