Posts Tagged ‘employee communications’

Are You Communicating Effectively?

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

How your organization communicates is a good indicator of how well your business is performing. With statistics revealing that the majority of American workers are dissatisfied with their current positions, companies cannot afford to make communication errors.Talk

Businesses that communicate effectively reap many benefits. Employees perform quality work and complete assignments by deadline. If a problem occurs, workers address it immediately to diffuse the situation. Communicating effectively provides managers with more time because they do not have to repeat explanations or micromanage to help their employees finalize tasks. Additionally, turnover is reduced and companies’ bottom lines increase.

Organizations that lack effective communication put themselves at risk for many negative scenarios. Inadequately explaining a project can lead to missed deadlines, poor client service or lost business deals. Pitiable communication skills can cause employee frustration, which can lead to a decrease in productivity or an increase in employee turnover.

Because the number of unhappy workers is growing steadily, it is important for companies to evaluate their current communication practices. Below are a few strategies to help your organization communicate effectively:

  • Start with Management:
    • Managers have multiple responsibilities. In addition to their own assignments, they relay information and projects to their subordinates. Problems occur quickly when managers are not communicating their requests effectively.
    • Employees should not have to guess what their managers expect them to accomplish. Expectations should be communicated clearly and repeated if necessary. Creating an action plan with specific timelines, employee roles and final due dates will eliminate the probability that staff members misunderstand assignments.
  • Encourage Open Communication:
    • No one wins when there is only one line of communication at an organization. Employees do not perform at their full potential when their managers are only allowed to give feedback. Encourage all staff members to ask questions, discuss concerns or suggest ways to problem solve often.
    • Management and senior leadership should try to uncover any communication concerns employees might have. Company leadership also should ensure that employees do not feel as though revealing unfavorable information could jeopardize their positions. Anonymous employee opinion surveys can serve as an option to find answers to assessing your current communication style.
  • Listen and Respect:
    • In addition to allowing employees of all levels to express their opinions on company decisions or policies, it is also important to actively listen to their concerns or suggestions.
    • Do not talk over them or dismiss their viewpoints. All employees, including management and senior leaders, should respect the opinions of their colleagues. Before passing judgment on an idea or concern, take time to understand why they are addressing the issue.

Following these guidelines will help your organization create a positive work environment. With these strategies in place, workers will be happier and take greater pride in their work, which will increase productivity. Relationships on every level will also improve—managers to subordinates, coworkers to coworkers, and employees to clients.

For more information on utilizing effective communication techniques, please contact CAI’s Advice & Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Aaron Friedman

Are You Using Social Media for Employee Communications Yet?

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

The post below is a guest blog from Stephanie Clark who serves as the Marketing Coordinator and Social Media Manager for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody Employee Benefit Services.

Have you seen the social media traffic stats on the night of Sunday, May 1, 2011? While President Barack Obama announced to the world that a U.S. military team killed Osama Bin Laden, Twitter topped 5,000 tweets per second.  Care to guess how many of your employees updated their Facebook status that night? The news spread like wildfire on various social media channels, per CNN’s report, as details unfolded through reputable and highly-followed twitter users.

More and more businesses are jumping into social media to educate consumers and create brand awareness. At the same time, this way of communicating has also changed how organizations approach their own workforce, by offering another method of sending out information. A 2010 Watson Wyatt survey showed the most popular topics to engage employees through social media are collaboration and team building, adapting to change, and promoting health and wellness. On the other hand, for messages around business changes, employees widely prefer face-to-face communication. Social media provides another avenue to engage employees in a way they like to receive information.

Paper memos are a thing of the past. Long-winded emails may be going in that direction as well. Here’s a thought: Try pasting the next employee memo you compose into Microsoft Word and conduct a Flesch-Kincaid readability test. If your memo scores higher than a seventh or eighth grade level, some employees may not understand it. It’s hard for employees to genuinely care about what goes on in your company when information is presented at a level they don’t understand. Keep it simple if you want to reach everyone in your company with the message.

For years now, IBM has engaged with employees through social media, even before they used social media externally for marketing. Companies such as Virgin Media have gone the route of video blogging on a YouTube channel exclusively for employees. Viewers see and hear someone as if they are speaking only to them, and yet a wide audience is being reached.  Also, this offers workers the opportunity for commenting in a public forum.

Who doesn’t like to hold the remote? Like most individuals, your employees probably prefer to control their own communication experience. By asking questions, offering suggestions and learning other employees’ perspectives, they create news that is relevant to them on a level that makes sense. What is a better way to become a true stakeholder? Forums, blogs and social networks are a great way to encourage employees to connect and interact.

If you’re not using social media in your organization yet, internally or externally, it’s never too late to start. Many resources are out there to help you get started. A few helpful links are listed below.

How to create a LinkedIn company page
http://learn.linkedin.com/company-pages/

How to create a Facebook page for your business
http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php

How to create a YouTube channel
http://www.ehow.com/how_4493894_create-youtube-channel.html

How to create a Twitter account
http://support.twitter.com/entries/100990-how-to-sign-up-on-twitter

How to optimize your Facebook privacy for business
http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/12067/How-to-Optimize-Your-Facebook-Privacy-for-Business.aspx

Six non-fluff answers to your social media questions
http://blog.hubspot.com/blog/tabid/6307/bid/10268/6-Non-Fluff-Answers-to-Your-Social-Media-Questions.aspx

Telecommuting – How Will It Impact Your Company From an HR Standpoint?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Early morning wake-up calls, clocking in, clocking out and office cubicles have been the norm for working Americans, but as technology continues to grow, so do the number of Americans who no longer make the morning commute. Recently even President Obama expressed his support for telecommuting programs.  Although the idea of working from home may sound like an employee’s dream, it’s vital to fully assess the pros and cons before incorporating such a program into your company policy.

Since a comfortable, flexible working environment is recognized by potential employees as one of the most important aspects of job choice, telecommuting applied appropriately can be used advantageously by Human Resources professionals. By providing the option to telecommute, companies offer employees a career that fits their lifestyles and can stand out among the competition.

How can your company achieve the best of both worlds and allow employees a flexible schedule with the option to work from home, while still producing the same results as if they were operating in-house? Consider the following, and make sure the benefits are equal for both your employees and your company.

Employee availability – Consider parents who start with an early morning and shut down their computers when their children return home from school. Guidelines allowing such flexibility need to be clear – the hours of availability should be concrete and unchanging  for reasons of dependability and accountability.

Virtual communication –Company meetings can still run cohesively without constant face-to-face communication through the comparable use of video conferencing, Skype and other advanced technology.

Distractions – While the office is used for the sole purpose of accomplishing company work,  those working in an environment used for sleeping, eating and relaxation must have a higher level of discipline. Character evaluation is imperative before considering telecommuting. Employees who are trustworthy, time-oriented, focused and who work without constant monitoring prove to be strong candidates.

Maintaining office relationships – Creative, original and innovative ideas are often developed through  collaboration, so the last thing any company wants is for its employees to operate as noncommunicative islands. With staff not interacting on a day-to-day basis, it’s critical to coordinate events, gatherings or lunches, to maintain a team mentality.

Maintaining company security – When employees have the opportunity to access company content from home, you must  provide additional IT protection to staff computers and servers to assure private information is monitored and inaccessible to outsiders.

With the proper protection, procedures and policies in place, many companies see a significant drop in overhead expenses and increased employee satisfaction from incorporating telecommuting. As with any change, it’s important to recognize that telecommuting can only be as successful as the individuals who execute the process. If your company chooses to establish a telecommuting program, plan efficiently, monitor productivity and avoid miscommunication issues.

For additional information, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo source: richardmasoner

Using Social Media for Employee Communications

Friday, May 28th, 2010

It’s an all too familiar refrain from HR professionals – employees missing response deadlines, asking why and when their benefits were changed, and getting upset about “new” policies.  But you know that you’ve sent out a number of communications and done everything short of putting the employees in a closet and forcing them to fill out the required form or read the information.

I can’t promise you it will result in 100 percent participation, but one new trick you may want to try is social media.

“Social media?”  you say.  “Isn’t that just for people sharing their photos and the endless details of their monotonous lives?”

Well, yes, and no, but that really is the point.  The key to communicating to an audience is to talk to them where they are, and it is highly likely that many of your employees are using social media.  So how can you take advantage of the huge growth in social media usage to improve the responsiveness of your employees to important HR requests?

The first suggestion is to ask employees if they use social media and if so, what websites they most often utilize.

If most of your employees are not social media users, or if the ratio is around 50/50 but you really want to try something new, your best bet is to set up an employee communications blog.  This will give you the ability to communicate the messages you’d like to send and to encourage the interaction of employees through commenting.

The process of setting up a blog can move quickly and easily, especially if you use one of the more common free platforms like WordPress or Blogger.  You’ll want to privatize your blog if you only want those within your company to have access.  Or you may want to show the world what a great company you have, which is the approach that Zappos.com takes.

Of course, the most popular social media platform right now is Facebook.  Knowing that Facebook has such a large number of active participants may push you in the direction of setting up a corporate page for your employees.  Setting up the page can be done quite quickly.

Keep two things in mind– your employees may not feel comfortable linking their private profiles to a corporate page, and you will have to adjust the privacy settings of your Facebook page if you only want employees to view it.

Another social media platform that may be more appropriate for your HR goals is LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is most often thought of as the more professional social network.  Through LinkedIn, you can set up a group that requires approval to join and invite employees.  You can set your group up to automatically send e-mails when you’ve posted information, either discussions or news.

Twitter is another alternative you may want to consider.  Setting up accounts on Twitter is easy, and you can protect your tweets.  For your employees to receive the information you send, they will have to follow you.  The challenge for communications using Twitter may be the 140-character limit per tweet.  You could consider using it as a way to get the word out about a new post to your blog or Facebook page.

You may want to start by dipping your toe in one of these alternatives as a way to support the methods you already use, or you may be ready to completely transition.  Either way it will be important that you fully research and understand the new platform you choose to use, whether it be a blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or one of the many other alternatives.

Are you considering using social media for employee communications?  What advantages and/or disadvantages do you see?  If you’ve already implemented a social media platform, please let us know your thoughts on how it is working.

Photo Source: benstein