Creating Perfect Communications for Today’s Corporate World
It appears I am alone in thinking that the internet was NOT invented for cats – an awful lot of other people believe that’s exactly what it was invented it for. Cats, however, are like the old smoking room of the organization – smokers used to be the most well-connected people in the organization and now it’s the cat lovers. You need to celebrate cats (or dogs, or whatever other form it takes in your organization). Understand that ‘cats’ provide an opportunity for people to connect. Embrace it and provide a home for your cats.
In this age of family-like workplaces, the type of company you are and the values you have is an increasingly important selling point. Company communications have less of a work/home divide now, and a huge part of your ‘employer brand’ (those values you convey) will be shaped by how you communicate with employees. Here are some tips on how to create inclusive employee conversations in a digitally connected workplace.
Tip 1: One brand for inside and out
Your values need to scream out through everything you say and do. Your internal and external brand need to express one set of values. Corporate events will be shared on social media and employees are now brand advocates by what they say on their own personal networks. Every opportunity should be seized on to promote not just your product but what your company is about. Your ethos is as important as your product. Have your comms teams work to one brand, one human tone of voice, and one friendly look and feel.
Tip 2. Be authentic
Corporate voices are now conversational rather than formal. We’re all about authenticity and informality now. We’re genuine. Even the old school companies have taken off their ties. Your corporate tone of voice needs to do the same AND it needs to allow friendly two-way conversation.
Tip 3: Learn from teachers (literally)
I love how teachers are using Twitter to share resources – teachers use Twitter to create a collective network of teaching advice. Teacher ‘influencers’ share amazing teaching resources across the profession. It’s fantastic what can be achieved when you can connect with so many like-minded people.
The teaching profession also provides an interesting lesson in how behavior can be shaped by who is online. Cyberbullying can be a real problem in schools but many have seen it decrease significantly when the teacher joins twitter. Noticing how your informal network’s influence behaviour is a massive part of the company culture as you want to ensure your communication channels are inclusive. Watch and find ways to make new digital channels inclusive of all employee groups.
Tip 4: Know the power of a like
Social tools provide lots of ways to influence corporate behavior by quick nudges. In the same way that teachers influence student behaviour, a ‘like’ from a CEO or senior manager on a company’s social channel can unleash a massive amount of employee energy all from one click. Use that power.
Tip 5. Support managers to develop new skills
Manager role modelling is important – If they move a meeting to a tool like Skype then the whole team has to get up to speed with that technology. Equally, if they publicly criticize everything then they also give that same permission to their team. Managers still set the behavioural bar.
Managing in an online world is a skill to be learned. It’s a great tool but also a scary one. Do not underestimate the worry it can promote. In a world of likes, followers and ratings it’s hard to stay objective. Having some type of support to skill managers up, is a smart and compassionate move. See my blog post for more tips on how to prepare managers.
Tip 6: Have team contracts
Digital communications are 24/7 and you need to ensure your people switch off. The boundaries between work and home are blurring and that comes with both positives and negatives. Employees get to choose their work pattern, a 9-5 really isn’t that suited to everyone anymore. It might suit one team member to be online in the evenings because they leave at 3 to pick their kids up. It’s important to communicate that is a trade-off though, as when one team member is online in the evenings it can make everyone feel they need to be online. Work is now a series of overlapping work patterns and teams need to mesh that together to set boundaries around core working hours and connectivity. Find your team balance. A great way to do this is to run a session where the team co-create a team contract on how they will work together.
Tip 7. Be inclusive
Employees are pretty savvy with use of social media but you can’t assume everyone knows how to use it all. You want conversations to include everyone and for that to happen, you may need to teach employees the basics. How Digital Savvy a workforce is will vary from company to company, government departments and long-standing companies will have more variation in digital skills than new tech start-ups. Talent is scarce so you don’t want to limit yourself only to the people who can use social media like a pro. Here are some good things to remember.
- There is no correlation between the ability to use social media and wider ability in the workplace.
- The use of business social tools is a skill that can be learnt like any other.
- Always make it OK for someone to say they don’t know how to use something, without them feeling foolish.
Tip 8. Find catapults
Those that are good on social media though have the potential to become your champions and brand advocates. The real value is found in the employees that promote others around them and the great work your organization does. The ones who know to use it for the benefit of all are the ones to recognize and do more with.
Tip 9: Physical and face to face are still important
It’s a great strategy to combine digital with physical. Events, get-togethers and off-sites should be embraced and extended to include people outside the organization. Use LinkedIn, Facebook, meet-ups and Eventbrite to enrich your conversations. Find out where the people are that can improve your conversations. And make sure that you have an online platform to anchor the community and continue the conversation past the event itself.
Back to cats and unwritten rules of engagement. I once watched an over-enthusiastic Slack admin rename the organisation’s #Cat channel to the #Pets channel … without asking the owner of the group. From the second she renamed it the conversation ceased. What she didn’t know was that a private #Cat group formed with every admin well and truly left out in the cold. This is something you never want to happen. To mitigate the risk of such faux-pas, use your champions as your guides. Watch and learn from the conversation on your network as it’s all valuable behavioural data. Listen to your champions when they tell you about the importance of cats.
Don’t miss the next blog post and my free white paper,
How to Write a Change Narrative That Works
Sign up to my monthly newsletter and become part of the Change Community.