5 Simple Steps

The research shows, and the experts agree, that ‘poor communication’ is a major factor in low employee engagement scores. It’s a significant problem that exists across many organisations, even those enjoying rising sales and profits.

It’s a problem that impacts both the top and bottom lines because low engagement is a hand brake on constant improvement, productivity gains and customer satisfaction scores.

What’s the fix for ‘poor communication?’

Well, let’s start by first understanding what won’t fix the problem.

Town hall meetings, staff briefings, presentations, speeches, emails, blogs, intranets etc. etc. etc. with poorly crafted messages and mundane delivery, do not provide the fix. Merely ‘broadcasting’ more content, to more people, more often, about more things, effectively communicates very little.

The problem with merely ‘broadcasting’ arises because people don’t feel that you’re actually talking to them, that you understand them, and that there’s something in what you say, for them.

As a result, they don’t ‘listen’. (And they could even be looking right at you!) If they don’t listen, they don’t engage, and they don’t get excited, or motivated, let alone inspired.

You will have wasted their time and yours. Employee engagement scores stay in the dead zone only to rise up like The Walking Dead, in the next engagement survey.

Let me illustrate the problem with a little story.

The CEO of ACME Widgets, ever mindful that he/she has to ‘get out there, communicate and increase those engagement scores,’ embarks upon a country-wide presentations roadshow to tell employees that sales are up, market share is up, and profits are up, too. It’s a great story!

She/he delivers a ‘meaty’ presentation with carefully crafted PowerPoint slides and lots of information. (It took ages to prepare!)

She/he enthusiastically tells all in attendance that the business turn-around, which has caused considerable pain over the past three years, is now delivering the much-promised benefits. And, next
year is looking good, too. “Well done everyone, and I know I can count on you for more of the same in the year ahead!”

After a hectic two weeks on the road, the CEO is confident they’ve communicated the good news to everyone who attended, and they’ll feed it on down the line.

‘Gutted’ is a word that springs to mind to describe the reaction when the next employee engagement scores come in and… there’s a problem with communication. “What the…?!

Lots of people feedback they don’t know what the vision for the business is. (But, a quick look through the slide deck and, there it is on slide #8! There’s a large heading and 5 bullet points, too.) They aren’t excited by the turnaround, either. (But, they were told how exciting it was.) And, they don’t believe they know what’s happening in different parts of the business, and what the impact might be for them. (Not making sense at all to the CEO because slides 15-30 covered off all that, and more.)

“Houston…we have a problem!”

Let’s now look at some simple steps that would fix the problem.

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5 Simple Steps To Communications That Engage Employees

Step One: Identify whom you are talking to – literally

In any gathering, presentation or speech, right up front, the CEO should define whom they were talking to, literally. It’s a big mistake to presume individuals in the audience understand that your communication is directed to them. It’s more than likely they’re there only because they were told to turn up.

So, the fix starts with an inclusive opening, saying something like this:

This morning I have some great news to share with everyone in our XYZ State Office. It’s great news for those who have been with us for five years, five months or even just five days. You may be our most senior or our most junior employee. You could be in sales, marketing, finance, customer service, warehousing or IT. The news I have to share is good news for each of you!”

The point here is to spell it out so that everyone ‘hears,’ and understands, that they’re included!

Step Two: Empathise and develop rapport

The CEO continues: “Now, before I talk about the great job you’ve done in driving up sales, market share and profits, I want you to know that I understand these last two years haven’t been easy for you. There’s been bad news, too, along the way. You’ve seen friends and colleagues leave the business. You’ve had to work harder and do more with less. And, perhaps like me, at times you’ve wondered will the new plan lead to a better place than the old plan? Well, we no longer need to wonder as the answer is yes, yes and yes.   Let’s take a look at where we were, where we are now and how we got here….”

The point here is for the CEO to let people know that they both understand and share their pain points – and their pleasure points, too. This helps connect the CEO to the staff and develops rapport, which is critical for engagement to occur.

Step Three: Tell the story of the recent journey, and tell it dramatically

To tell a gripping story there’s nothing better than following the time-proven, three act formula followed by just about any movie, TV series or book you can name.

To make the story interesting, the current vision for the company, it’s turnaround and current success, needs to be told in the context of the challenging situation the company faced, and may still face.

So, Act One of the story introduces the antagonist…”Let’s recall the nature and scope of the problems that threatened us.”

Act Two then describes the heroes’ journey, outlining what people/departments did to find solutions to the problems that had to be solved. This is where acknowledgment, credit and thanks is given to those who deserve it…”Our recent success has only been possible because of … who did this….and achieved this…”

Act Three describes the outcomes and successes to date, the exciting vision for the business and the plan in place to get there.

In this act the CEO must project huge enthusiasm, optimism and confidence. People can’t be left wondering, …”Did they really mean that?”

It’s also important that any current or future threats are candidly acknowledged because ‘the truth builds trust’ and, furthermore, it serves as a motivator for continued effort and improvements.

Step Four: Have clear outcomes/responses

It’s critical to be clear on what people need to be thinking, feeling and doing once they have heard/read the communication. People like to know what they need to do to contribute to the growing success of the organisation. They are more engaged when they have clear goals and accountability.

Step Five: Let people know what’s in it for them

The CEO needs to answer the universal question: “What’s in it for me?”

Apart from salary and bonuses, people are motivated by a range of things including prospects for advancement and professional development, a better working environment, additional resources to help do the job, working for an organisation with a sense of purpose, achieving a better work-life balance, to name a few.

The point here is, the CEO needs to truthfully tell people how they stand to benefit from helping the organisation achieve its goals. Without this inclusion engagement will suffer.

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If you’re a business leader and want to communicate with employees in a way that effectively engages their ears, hearts and minds, then remember to:

  • Identify, literally, who you are talking to
  • Empathise with what they’ve been going through
  • Tell a ‘three dramatic acts’ story
  • Have clear outcomes/responses
  • Let people know ‘What’s in it for them.’

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If you want to become a more engaging, more persuasive and more inspiring communicator then CLICK to explore the following:

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Over to you!

Neil Ross
CEO Groupe Amplify

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