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Love your employees – and not just on Valentine’s Day!

Rhonda RathjeRhonda Rathje·

Employees are at the heart of internal communications; and internal communicators play an integral role in winning their hearts and minds.

“To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” Douglas Conant, Founder & CEO, Conant Leadership and former CEO – Campbell’s Soup.

And, that starts with employees. Truly, employees are a company’s most important asset. We know this, but do we treat them as our prized strength? Do we nurture them? Do we show them the love?

Employees who feel the love perform better.

Studies show that more than a third of employees are disengaged and they care less. They have very little knowledge of their company’s goals and objectives, or even products and services. When employees are disengaged, they under-perform and so does the company.

Employees want to know how they can contribute to the company’s success. They want to know where the company is headed and how they can help. They want to know that the role they plan helps the company. And, finally, they want to feel valued, listened to and part of the team.

Here’s how to show the love to your employees:

 

  • Deliver transparent communications

Transparency helps improve communications and foster employee trust, which leads to engagement. In a transparent organization, information is shared honestly and openly with employees – and employees are free to ask questions.

Communicate your company’s plans and strategies. Outline the challenges while focusing on solutions.

Here’s how: When your company plans a major change (e.g., re-organization, new pay structure, etc.), be timely and clear in your communications, explain the why and allow for questions and feedback. Explain how the company is performing and what’s next. Proactively share negative news.

Also, involve employees in decision-making. Create an online forum for employees to comment and ask questions of leadership. Encourage face-to-face communications at all levels.

When a company is more transparent with their employees the company tends to be more successful. Keeping employees informed and up to date about what’s going on in the company will go a long way to having a transparent organization.

 

  • Listen to your employees

In today’s high-tech world, people still want that human interaction. Two-way communications will not exist without listening. Employees simply want to be heard.

Go out and talk to them, then shut up and listen.

Here’s how: Host town hall meetings where your leaders share updates about the business. Invite employees to comment and ask questions. Have your leaders conduct listening tours at various locations to spend time with employees – asking them about their jobs, challenges and issues. Conduct coffees with the boss or lunches with leaders.

As a communicator, conduct listening circles (focus groups) to ask, ‘what’s on your mind these days?’ Conduct online polls and monitor comments on social media to gain additional insights from employees.

Employees who feel listened to will feel more connected with your company, and in turn, will be more loyal, feel more engaged and motivated to do good work.

 

  • Celebrate – acknowledge the contributions and accomplishments of your employees

Employee recognition will help build a positive and productive climate increasing morale and unity. When employees feel appreciated, they’ll feel more connected to their jobs and the company.

Through recognition, you’ll strengthen camaraderie and show how much you value their efforts.

Here’s how: First, be intentional with recognition. At every employee meeting, take time to recognize employees and teams for their contributions to the business. Be specific and explain why and how the employee and/or team helped generate results.

Recognize employee service anniversaries – five, ten, twenty and more. Let long-term employees share their best company moments. Encourage your senior leaders to send thank you notes/letters to employees – thanking them for their contributions.

Also, celebrate the accomplishments and successes of your company – recognizing and acknowledging your employees. Hold an employee appreciation day with fun-filled events to foster a celebratory environment.

These simple – and easy – gestures will create a culture where employees and leaders exchange expressions of valuing each other every day all year round.

 

  • Tell the stories of your employees

Employee stories shape a company’s image, internally and externally. They can be an incredibly powerful tool for defining a company’s culture. Great storytelling connects people to their work and to the company. When you tell a story, you build trust and loyalty for your organization.

Create a storytelling culture by letting your employees share their personal stories about why they like working for your company or how they achieved business results.

Here’s how: Sponsor a story jam session to collect stories. Develop an editorial [story] calendar aligned with your business goals and deliver a steady cadence of stories throughout the year. Then amplify and leverage those stories in multiple channels. Build a two-way storytelling website (or app) – where employees can share their stories and read stories of fellow teammates. Enlist employee ambassadors to collect stories. Have your leaders share employee stories at their leadership meetings – and allow employees, themselves, to share their stories.

Stories motivate employees to perform better. When employees perform better, they are happier and they’re more engaged. Simply, stories give people a reason to care.

 

  • Help your frontline managers be better communicators – and thus leaders

Employee engagement is highest among employees who have some form of daily communications with their managers. Employees prefer to hear important business news directly from their managers. It’s important to help managers be viewed as the primary and most credible source of information for their teams.

Arm your managers with company news and information, especially on complex topics or major company initiatives or changes. Put them in a position of power by sharing knowledge with them.

Here’s how: Schedule internal communications to reach your managers first. Develop manager toolkits that include talking points, FAQs, communication tips, etc. Develop a manager communications channel (e.g., website, app) – where managers can talk with each other, share ideas and ask questions. Establish a manager hotline and be available for them to ask you – the communicator – about how best to communicate.

As communicators, we should help our managers juggle their communications responsibilities and still produce results. There’s nothing more powerful than managers to reach employees.

Jack Welch, former CEO – GE, sums it up: “…no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”

When you show your employees the love by engaging them in your business, your company will reap the rewards. Deliver transparent communications. Listen to your employees. Celebrate their successes. Tell their stories. And, help your managers be great communicators. In so doing, you’ll be showing them lots of love. Let them know they’re special.


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