Guest Blogger: Dr. Rosie Ward, Salveo Partners, LLC
Focusing on having a thriving workplace culture is getting quite a bit of attention these days in the workplace wellbeing world as more and more companies are now realizing that culture is a critical component to the overall health of the organization and its people.
Wherever you are on your journey to build a thriving workplace culture, well-planned, consistent, effective employee communication is an essential part of the process.
When done right, employee communication has the power to:
- Engage and excite employees;
- Help employees appreciate and understand the benefits you offer them;
- Reinforce your company brand;
- Communicate your company goals and values;
- Demonstrate your commitment to and support for employee wellbeing (even if you don’t have specific wellness programs);
- Provide a way to update employees about company news and events;
- Foster trust and openness, key components of a healthy, thriving workplace culture.
Whether you want to revive existing employee communication (an outdated newsletter, corporate email blasts, company blog), create an employee newsletter, or implement a communication plan, these considerations can help ensure you are supporting a healthy workplace environment and improving employee morale.
Empathy for Employees
Begin by finding out what your employees really want. Through surveys, focus groups or informal conversations, ask employees what kind of information they would find useful and what format(s) they prefer to receive corporate communication.
A word of caution: If you have previously asked for input (via surveys, employee interviews, training events), but never communicated the results or made changes, acknowledge that mistake and apologize. Promise this time it will be different — and deliver on that promise. Research shows if you ask for input from employees but don’t do anything with it, you are actually making things worse for your organization. (This research from a 2013 BlessingWhite global engagement found deploying engagement surveys without visible follow-up actions actually decreases employee engagement.) People support what they help create, so involving employees in the beginning stages will increase communication effectiveness and foster employee engagement.
Once you’ve asked what kind of information employees want, consider how they want to receive the message. Instead of promoting a top-down, leadership perspective, think about how the information applies to most people within the organization. Many leaders believe they are effectively communicating because they send frequent email updates about important aspects of business and the workplace.
However, if this communication is trying to convince employees to do something from an executive point-of-view (such as participate in the wellness program to help save corporate dollars), employees will feel alienated and disengaged.
Likewise, communication that attempts to scare people into behaving a certain way will backfire, and can create serious morale problems at the office. If your corporate communication is narrow, generic, or doesn’t sound like something that somebody at your office would actually say, it’s probably doing more harm than good.
6 Tips for Employee-Friendly Communication
1. Ask why? When evaluating what to communicate in a newsletter, email, or blog, ask yourself, “Why would an employee want to read this?” If it explains a positive outcome or benefit, it will grab your employees’ attentions and keep them coming back for more. Whatever the underlying message, frame it in a friendly, easy-to-understand way that highlights the personal benefits to employees.
2. Be brief. Even if your organization prides itself on frequent communication, it’s possible that you are over-communicating to the point that employees are ignoring the message. Offer short articles, tips, and information in an easy-to-read format. A good rule-of-thumb is to write as if you are addressing a 6th grader — this is not to insult your employees’ intelligence, but rather to force you to make your point clear and quickly understandable. For those who want more in-depth information, direct them to where they can find more online. This will not only reinforce that you care about employees’ needs, but also that you respect their valuable time.
3. Consider reason and emotion. Different people are motivated in different ways. Some people will engage with communication that appeals to logic and reason; others are influenced by emotion. Offer information that appeals to both head and heart.
4. Solicit employee input and highlight contributions. Ask employees to provide their opinions about what you communicate. When you make workplace changes based on that input, call attention to it. For example, you might want to include an article in an employee newsletter about how leadership decided to begin quarterly retreats where employees and managers can discuss their roles in improving company culture, thanks to suggestions from the marketing department. Or, you can highlight the new policy that requires 20 minutes between meetings because survey results indicated that 80% of employees were frustrated due to lack of time for effective breaks between meetings.
5. Foster workplace relationships. Communication that encourages social support, highlights employee success, and calls attention to positive character attributes and actions can help build healthier relationships at work. Positive workplace relationships foster employee engagement, which ultimately improves workplace productivity.
6. Consider multiple-media distribution. Research suggests the best answer to “print or electronic?” is “Yes to both.” A multiple-media communication strategy supports a fundamental truth: People retain information in different ways. Choosing one format over the other may inadvertently send the message that you prefer employees who learn a certain way, and your efforts to improve workplace culture through communication may backfire. In addition, if you aren’t communicating in the right channels, you are telling employees that you don’t understand their needs.
For example, to maximize readership of a printed employee newsletter, you may want to also offer a downloadable PDF version online and promote various topics on a more regular basis via email, social media, or texts.
By developing empathy for your employees and involving them in the process, you can create corporate communication that will increase employee engagement and support a thriving workplace culture.
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