leadership arrows

by Sydney Lauro | March 13, 2020

When you work in a restaurant chain, everything is fast-paced. When I worked in internal communications for a restaurant chain, we were in the details, working with ops, HR, IT, and every department across the organization to get urgent and important messages out to our employees. New menu items. Recipe updates. Reminders on policies and procedures. The list goes on. We were always operationally focused in our communication to help our restaurant teams operate as efficiently as possible.

When you’re focused on the operational, day-to-day messages, it’s easy for the executive communications plans to get lost or forgotten. But you have to prioritize leadership communication. Here are the five best practices we learned about how to create a kickass executive communications plan:

1. Talk your employees and tell leaders what employees want. When you’re in an operationally focused role, you are uniquely positioned to know about all the goings-on in your restaurants. But you’re also in the unique position to have a direct line to all employees from the frontline of your restaurant to leadership in the field. Use this insider status to talk to employees using surveys, focus groups, and even sitting in on pre-shift meetings, to understand what they want to hear from leadership. Ask different segments of your employee population what they need and want to know about the company. This will help you talk to leadership about the importance of tailoring their message to specific audiences, increasing their relevancy.

2. Create employee personas. This common marketing and PR practice should be part of every internal comms team toolbox. A persona is a representation of a group of employees with similar traits, behaviors, needs, etc. So, you’d want to create a persona for your GMs, crew members, field leaders, and so on. By creating personas, you begin to understand who your employees are, what they value, how they contribute to the success of the organization, how they currently receive communication, and what content they have access to.

3. Evaluate your comms channels. Once you know what your employees want to hear from leadership, you need to evaluate what channels employees currently have access to and whether or not leadership can communicate effectively through those channels. One of the most effective communication channels for leaders is video. It creates transparency, and it allows a leader to express themselves more clearly and to convey the right tone, yet many employees don’t have access to traditional channels such as an intranet to view these types of messages. A channel evaluation will help you determine if you need to open up access to existing tools that are deemed effective or if you need to identify new ones.

4. Be intentional. After you’ve gathered all the necessary information from your teams about what they need and want to hear from leadership, you’re ready to develop your strategy. A good, intentional leadership communications strategy involves leaders across the organization, not just the CEO. Your strategy should include guidelines for what types of messages come from each of your leaders and ensures you reserve leadership communication for high level strategic or inspirational messages, not tasks.

5. Measure your impact. You’ve spent a lot of time learning what your employees want and need from their leaders, so don’t forget to measure the success of your efforts and strategy. Are you meeting the goals you set regarding engagement rates? Do your survey results change to reflect improvements? Measurement is critical to ensure you’ve made enough changes and to continue to improve the leadership comms at your organization to meet the needs of your employees.

Authentic communication from leadership is such an important way to drive meaningful change and improvements in your restaurants. A message from your COO could be the rallying cry that gets teams to care about your mission, take your new hospitality program seriously, and bolster food safety scores. CEOs recognizing managers and restaurants can have a ripple effect on the culture and retention.

It’s up to you to ensure those messages reach your frontline teams.

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