What’s a good way to incite disengagement amongst employees? How about impersonal memos, pages-long surveys, generic newsletters or outdated employee handbooks?
Organizations place a lot of value on the way they communicate externally – with customers, the public, the media – but the same value should be placed on internal communications.
Think about communication through the lens of customer experience. Your employees are your customers, and your relationship with them is like a subscription model. You, as the employer, need to keep them engaged and connected so they continue to re-subscribe.
The brands – and organizations – that set themselves apart allow their culture to inform their communications. Here are four things leaders should to do to better engage employees through culture-based communication.
This might seem like a no-brainer. However, many organizations often don’t revisit their mission statements, organizational goals or values. It’s equally critical to be very clear on what your values mean, and precisely define them.
Being clear on values works both ways. Engagement needs to align with organizational culture. That can’t happen unless employees are clear on what your values are, and how they can connect to them on both personal and professional levels.
From a communication standpoint, values inform why, how and what you communicate to your organization.
Use different communications channels for different purposes – and understand how those channels apply to your culture and brand values. As FastCompany notes, “Email is great, but it’s no longer an optimal tool. It was designed to replace memos and one-way, one-time communication, not rapid, deep, ongoing productive conversations.”
In that vein, if you’re a company that advocates for work-life balance, don’t email your employees to death. Embrace messaging apps for rapid and on-going communication, real-time collaboration platforms for team projects and updates, and promote transparency and participation by using live video chat for all-hands meetings.
Reinforce your cultural values through the decisions you make around how you communicate with your employees.
Your employer brand isn’t the same as your corporate brand, but the two are closely related. Beyond simply stating company values and goals, communicate how they come to life within your company, and how employees’ work contributes to the organization.
How do you show up in the marketplace, in terms of perception, and what people are saying about your company? What’s it like to work at your company? What are the unique attributes of your organization? How does your employer brand extend across the employee experience? Understanding the answers to these questions will provide guidance on how employee communications come to life.
We’ve said many times that engagement is not a point-in-time endeavor, but an on-going process. So, there should be avenues for on-going communication and feedback loops. Employees are engaged when they feel they are being heard, not simply talked at.
From an employer perspective, the value of continuous feedback is that you can regularly draw upon employee knowledge, insights and talents. At Ceridian, we use open-ended questions in our pulse engagement surveys, which allow for more honest and conversational responses. During our all-hands meetings, the floor is open for employees to ask our leadership team any questions they have about the organization, aligned with one of our core values of transparency.
It’s important for leaders to understand that there’s a cost – to both employee engagement and the business bottom line – to creating a culture in which employees aren’t comfortable communicating, or in which communication isn’t effective.
David Maxfield writes in Harvard Business Review about the costs and consequences of poor communication, including employees engaging in negative behaviors, like ruminating or doing unnecessary work. More notable was the cost to the bottom line – the average person estimated the cost of silence at $7,500. A key takeaway from Maxfield’s study? If you’re a leader, you’re a driving force for culture, and for how your people communicate.