The path to engagement can be a long one, especially when it comes to employees.
The challenges involved in getting employees to ‘buy into’ company-wide initiatives – like culture-change programs, the launch of a new brand (or rebrand), technology rollouts (e.g. SAP), thought-leadership strategies, or new policies and procedures – are many and varied. Overcoming ambivalence is no easy task.
If you’re the manager on the receiving end of all that eye rolling (‘That’s the fourth new widget they’ve introduced this year!’), cynicism (‘Just another cost-cutting measure’) and accusatory whispers (‘Who chose that logo?’), it can be hard to maintain the faith.
So how do you help employees engage with these necessary, but so often unloved, communications?
Here are a few tips we’ve learnt along the way:
- Don’t underestimate the power of plain speaking and clear, concise language: corporate gobbledygook simply doesn’t win people over – inside or outside an organisation
- Provide a strong strategic case: a clear and easily understood rationale for change will help your employees ‘get it’. Like any consumer, the employee needs reasons to believe
- Articulate the benefits for your employees: why should they care or want to be involved? As self-serving as it may sound, what’s in it for them?
- Ensure communications meet your employees’ need to know rather than just management’s desire to tell. Transparency is infectious
- Give your employees a voice: provide opportunities for two-way discussion by encouraging staff to ask questions and raise concerns, and by nominating a key point of contact for all queries
- Don’t be afraid to use humour to make an otherwise dull communication an engaging one. Employees are humans, not robots; appeal to them emotionally (as well as rationally)
- Make your communications more attractive: a message that looks and sounds good is much more likely to draw people in
- Don’t be afraid to stand out and look different: there’s no rule that internal communications have to be boring
- Role model the culture you want to foster: talk ‘we’ and ‘us’, not ‘they’ and ‘them’, at every opportunity
- Consider seeking external help to brand your program or develop a compelling theme or message: sometimes an outsider can empathise with your employees from a different perspective and help identify the best way to communicate with them.
Bryce Michelmore is an Account Manager at Wellmark.
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