Host: The importance of engagement and culture has been mounting in recent weeks as communicators move from tacticians in fire-drill mode to trying to figure out how to rebuild strategies and come back from a crisis stronger. Jill Christensen is an expert on all things employee engagement and how to drive culture within an organization, so today on ICTV we asked her to share her best practices on engaging a dispersed workforce after a crisis.
Jill: Right now we’ve got 61% of American workers working remotely full time. When we talk to remote workers, they want connection, they want collaboration, and they want communication. Those are the three things that remote workers are saying they need. So, I’m currently advising people, right, on how to up their game in those three areas with remote workers. However, you can’t create an amazing work environment for your remote workers where they feel connected, collaborated with, communicated with, and engaged, and then bring them back to the office and let all of these things drop on the floor. You have got to commit to continuing to keep those things up and going even when your remote workers come back to your office space.
The HR organization in partnership with internal communications, in my opinion, should figure out the strategy and then act as the conductor in the orchestra. It’s really all about getting the strategy into the hands of your frontline managers. We know that the definition of culture is how we do things here. And there’s no group of people in your organization who set the stage more for how we do things here than your frontline managers.
On Screen: How can IC pros help managers improve engagement?
Managers have to start executing on daily or weekly team huddles. Leave it up to the manager to decide the how often it’s going to be conducted. What you want to say as an internal communicator is, this is what a daily huddle looks like. This is how long it should be. Don’t make it mandatory. Invite people to attend. And here are some potential topics that you can cover in the daily team huddle.
Another critical thing: focus groups. We know that historically, leaders and managers go off into an office or a conference room and make a decision about something important that impacts employees. That disengages people like you would not imagine. Employees tell us, “I want to have a voice at work, and I want my voice to be heard.” And if you do that, if you create that two-way communication culture, and as we know, technology is such an enabler in that space, right? Because it enables people to, regardless of where they are physically located, to just pick up any device and to communicate and to feel that connection, not just during a crisis, but all the time.
On screen: How should communication change during a crisis?
I think there has never been a time that it’s more important for leaders to be open, honest, transparent, genuine, real, raw. People want the truth. To me it’s always been important for an internal comms person to be bold and have courage, right? Because we’re the organization that can push the envelope. We’re the organization that is counseling and guiding the senior leaders. In all honesty, they’re not communications professionals. We are. So, I would say to you, this is an opportunity. Take it, grasp it. Tell your senior leaders what you’ve always been thinking and maybe have never had the courage to say. Because your senior leaders need to communicate in new and different ways because the world is new and different. You’ve got to change. And I say that in such a positive way because I believe that internal communications professionals are so on the ball because they have their finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the employee body. And senior leaders don’t. But that amazing guidance and counsel will never come through and it will never see the light of day unless you have the self confidence and courage, and I mean this, to go back and to be different.
You have to earn your seat at the table. You have to claim your seat at the table. Don’t wait for permission. You are going to earn your seat at the table by adding value. You’re not adding value by being a tactical implementer. You are adding value by looking across your organization and seeing where internal communications can really make a difference. And then you’re adding value by bringing solutions to your leaders and frontline managers.
Host: So let’s recap. First, it’s key that we focus on accomplishing the three things that employees need: Connection, Collaboration, and Communication. Doing this will help keep your dispersed workforce engaged during and after crisis. To do this, you need to partner with your managers and leaders across the organization. Train your managers to be better communicators and encourage your leaders to be authentic and communicate often. And most importantly, IC pros need to take this opportunity to be different. The world, our clients, and our employees have changed. We need to change our strategies to make an impact. If you liked this episode of ICTV, share and subscribe. To learn more from Jill Christensen go to jillchristensenintl.com.
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