Five sure ways to (further) alienate your workforce

February 19, 2015 / Alice / No Comments

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No question: Internal communication is vital to today’s fast-moving business. It’s what lubricates the wheels of change. Or, to use another metaphor, when it comes time to turn the ship, it’s what ensures everyone’s on board.

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Despite the fact that engagement is on the tip of everyone’s tongues these days, business leaders frequently make the same mistakes again and again in attempting to communicate more with staff.  Not only do these common errors fail to engage, but they also risk alienating employees looking for meaningful connections to their companies.

Here are five mistakes to avoid when trying to communicate with your workforce:

1. Make it all about you.

Today’s employees, particularly millennials, want to feel like they are a part of something. They want to believe in what they do. They want their workplace to be part of the stories they tell about themselves.

Your internal comms has to be as much about them as it is about you–if not more. It has to be relevant, useful, and most importantly, reflect and reinforce the values they believe you share.

Think of your relationship with your employees like a marriage. It takes work every day. It requires empathy. It demands respect. It’s a two-way street. You have to grow together, rooted in shared understanding of why you’re there in the first place

2. Complicate their lives.

Believe it or not, the answer to communicating more is not always more communication. Many companies fall into the trap of exploiting more channels with more content in an effort to reach more people. Worse, they do it with content that is overly corporate and too high-level for the typical employee to digest in a meaningful way.

People will engage with communication they find interesting. And it’s most likely only interesting if it’s useful. And it’s only useful if it helps them do their jobs, makes their lives easier, or helps them to get ahead.

3. Assume everyone digests the same information in the same way.

The impulse in internal comms is to speak to the lowest common denominator–to communicate as clearly and simply as possible to reach the broadest base of people across cultures, job types, and education levels.

But that approach often fails to grab at the hearts and minds you so desperately seek. It might require more effort, but breaking down your audiences across demographic, geographic or better yet, psychographic lines increases your chances of stirring them to action and turning them into ambassadors. Approach internal comms like you would external, focusing specifically on who you’re talking to, how best to reach them, and what they want to hear from you.

4. Assume everyone cares (a lot) about financial performance.

Short of feeling confident their paychecks will keep rolling in, many employees aren’t especially bothered with overarching financial metrics (particularly when it’s not clear how they can influence them). They are more interested in knowing how the company is progressing toward its vision of making the world a better/smarter/safer/greener/healthier place. For every PowerPoint slide or similiar on financial performance, provide one that addresses corporate values. FInd a balance. The payoffs will be far greater.

5. Forget to measure.

The great thing about internal comms is your ability to measure how good you are at it. You have a captive audience, so use it to get better. Ask your employees if the information you’re providing is useful. Track channel usage. Monitor trends. Refine accordingly. If you watch your progress, it’s easy to continuously improve.

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