Internal Employee Communications

sherrie-suski-officeDeveloping a comprehensive and intentional internal employee communications strategy and a plan to execute on that strategy is critical to the success of your business, no matter the size. The best internal communication strategies do more than simply manage and distribute information. They can foster an engaging environment and cultivate relationships that are built on trust. That trust, in turn, creates a strong company culture whereby your employees know you trust them to deliver and they trust you to have their best interest at heart.

An internal communications plan is a clear guide for consistently communicating with employees, so they feel informed about goals for your organization or a specific initiative. This ensures they take action and do their part in achieving those goals. It should clearly and specifically define what internal communications strategies are important to focus on, how, when, who’s implementing them, and how you’ll measure them to demonstrate value and impact.

An internal communications plan should facilitate important conversations and engagement with key leaders and partners about internal communication strategies that can best deliver on key business needs and opportunities throughout the company.  It should also focus keenly on behavioral change that you expect will result as an outcome of this communication.  Communication just for the sake of communication is nothing but noise in an already noisy world.  You must understand and help your audience to understand what the call to action is and be prepared to measure whether or not you have achieved your goals.

If you are not yet fully convinced that you need an internal employee communication plan, read on!

Your employees are your most dedicated brand advocates.

According to Gallup, less than 30% of employees believe in the brand they work for!

This is very concerning, considering employees are the ones charged with delivering on the promises a brand makes to its customers. So start to think of internal communications as a marketing/branding exercise.

And Forbes agrees, you need to approach your internal marketing the same way you would external marketing efforts—by knowing your audience, your goals, tailoring the message, and providing an exceptional experience. This will require involvement from a cross-functional team.

Internal communication builds employee engagement, culture, and trust.

Internal communication is a key driver for employee engagement. The vehicle for all employee engagement initiatives is communication, core values, and a commonly held purpose statement or why. When employees feel like they are communicated with, engagement and trust will flow, resulting in a strong corporate culture.

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail

If your ideas for internal communication revolve around upcoming events and random requests, then you don’t have a strategy. You likely are reinventing the wheel each time and are confusing your internal customers. Internal communications need to be woven into the larger company strategy, with a funded and well understood plan for execution.

Employee Well-Being Redefined

sherrie suski 2021 wellbeingWe typically define well- being in terms of emotional, physical, social and financial wellbeing and while employee wellbeing has always been the purview of HR professionals, it has been taken to a stratospheric new level moving into, what some are calling, the 13th month of 2020, January 2021.  

Never in most of our lives have our employees needed more care, empathy and information that they do today.  At every turn they are struggling with at least one, if not, multiple of the above areas that define wellbeing.  They no longer get the immediate feedback that was part of their everyday office life, where a simple smile, or gesture of reassurance was more than welcome on the days that were difficult.  They had opportunities to use the gym, stay physically active, to socialize with family and friends and to feel some sense of control around their financial future.  If any one of the above areas is in question, it can cause employees not to be able to bring their best selves to work, but when all four have been impacted and the same time, some fee they are driven to distraction by what feels like an out-of-control life.  

Employers need to step up and step in at every opportunity and this is NOT just the purview of the HR function.  This is every people leader’s role.  Your employees need to know that you care, and they need to know that you are there for them, as a beacon in the night, assuring them that life will return to normal and that you are there to support them with whatever resources are at your disposal should they and their families need them

Emotional Support

  • Make it simple for people to connect and do their jobs no matter their circumstances
  • Gauge employee sentiment via a pulse survey to understand where people are struggling
  • Bring to light information and opportunities that are specific to them so employees can thrive amidst uncertainty
  • Employee needs haven’t changed, just evolved.

Valuing every person, every day goes a long way in honoring employee needs and understanding motivations.

Physical Support

  • Offer a wellness platform, like Vitality,  that all employees can engage with virtually
  • Create contents that employees can participate in on socially distanced teams or individually
  • The COVID 15 is no joke.  Being overweight can increase health risks, so help employees to shape up by offering education on healthy eating

Social Support– 

  • Nurturing new hires to accelerate their productivity
  • Providing employees access to relevant learning and development to foster their growth
  • Enabling meaningful manager feedback and coaching to boost performance
  • Increasing motivation by recognizing employees when and how they want to be spotlighted
  • Keeping a pulse on how employees are feeling

Financial Support

  • Offer financial planning courses on subjects of interest to wide ranges of employees
  • Talk openly about the benefits of Living Trusts, saving for retirement and the benefits of a 401(k)
  • Ensure employees, if you are able, that their job is secure.  The stress created form an uncertain financial future is keeping many people up at night.

HR leaders have an opportunity and an obligation to get this right.  Now is the time to reach out to your employees and ensure they know that you care about them not only as employees, but as human beings.

Did You Forget Your Brand?

sherrie-suski-brandCrafting and supporting a meaningful and aligned external and internal brand identity requires us to be proactive in nature. COVID-19 required us to be reactive in nature.  While we were busy reacting to the imminent threat in front of us and scurrying to move our workforces’ home, figure out testing, manage through a reduction in force in some cases, many forgot their brand.  

Brands do not only require management during the good times but require even a more significant effort during the difficult times.  This is the opportunity to have your vision and guiding principles be more than just words on a wall.  This is the perfect opportunity to show your employees that you value them and not just say the words.  In many cases, when our economy and our companies return to “normal”, there will be significant repair work to be done by those that did not understand that a pandemic is not a good excuse for exiting your internal  employer brand.  The good news is, however, you can get a head start!

Reduction in Force

Think long and hard about your need to do a RIF.  While cost savings are typically the primary motivator, who has created the spreadsheet and calculated what will be lost on the other side?  Good employees may not want to return and will have moved on. They will also have told a dozen of their closest friends not to work for you as you will be viewed as a Fairweather Friend.  Those employees who are still with you, may choose to seek out other opportunities when the economy picks up as they will have seen how committed to the employees you really were and believe that they will fare no better during the next tumultuous event.

Top Workplace awards

If you treated your workforce well, if you stood behind your employees and did not succumb to panic, now is the time to showcase that by crafting an entry for Best Places to Work, Energage or one of the many other employee engagement surveys. Your employees will know how fortunate they are and will want to tell the world what a great place your company is to work.

While Glassdoor may be the bane of their existence for many in HR, you can learn to leverage the site to your advantage.  Actively ask your employees to write a review.  It is always the hope that they have something positive to say, but even when they don’t think of it as a learning opportunity for how you can improve.  

Keep in mind that what you do today will remain a part of your employee culture for much longer than COVID  will be a pandemic and ensure you are making the right decisions for the long term.

When HR Reporter asked participants to rate how challenging 12 major workplace issues might be in 2021, more than six in 10 (66 per cent) said recruiting and hiring would be challenging.  Make sure that you are doing everything you can today to set a successful stage for tomorrow for your current and future employees!

When the Chips are Down

sherrie-suski-chipsWhen the chips are down is a saying that comes from the world of poker, something my Granddad loved to play and taught my brother and I at an age that my mother thought was way too young. He would be puffing away on his cigar , the smoke circling the room, and showing us how to make a “poker face,” one where your opponent cannot tell what you are thinking or assess your next contemplated move. We would play past our bedtime with my Mom giving up at some point and letting us just enjoy!  I still think of those poker games with fond memories in the rare event that cigar smoke wafts my way.  The saying means when a situation is urgent or desperate. In poker, chips represent money being bet. When all the bets have been made, and the chips put down, the hand is over, and the players turn up their cards to see who has won. This analogy is especially pertinent when it comes to defining moments for leaders.  Real leaders step up when the chips are down.  They stand behind their teams.  It is really just that simple.

People who have a title that would indicate they should be a leader or call, or think of themselves as, a leader, frequently do not step up.  They navigate through a number of unsuccessful gyrations which can best be categorized as blaming, shaming and threatening.

Blaming 

When a leader throws his or her hands up in the air and blames someone else in the company for what’s happened, they’re pretty much saying: “Hey, it’s not my fault! It was completely out of my control!”

To the leader that blames, sentences beginning with “You…”, “If only…”, and “They…” are commonplace. And if there just happens to be an “I” in there…you can almost guarantee it’ll be quickly followed by “but”.

But the crazy thing is, these same people that continue to point the finger and make their employees feel insecure, are also usually the first to take the credit when everything pans out the way it should. Look at how you lead in a situation when things don’t go according to plan. Monitor your speech and how you say things. Avoid using pronouns and words that suggest blame

The short of it is: bad leaders blame, great leaders don’t!

Shaming 

Many leaders play the shame game at work.  The shame game goes like this. It doesn’t matter what behavior the employee exhibits—leaves work early, turns in work late, fails to turn in a report, or misses their quarterly numbers—your response is to shame the person and not focus on the behavior.

Managers, supervisors, and CEOs who use shame as a management tool like to single out people in meetings and shame them in front of their peers. These leaders focus the attention on the person— not the behavior—hoping that by shaming the person in public, the behavior will change.

However, this tactic usually backfires. Instead of placing the focus on the person, shaming places the focus on the leader’s behavior. In the end, the leader is angry, the employee is ashamed, and the rest of the employees have lost respect for the leader.

Threatening 

I’m not talking about threatening to kill them, but rather threatening them with their jobs or loss of income. It’s not professional, and it makes the leader appear weak instead of strong.

Throw Temper Tantrums

You’d think that by the time people achieve management status they’d be all grown up. But that’s not always the case.

While some people may appear to have reached adulthood, in reality, they’re just spoiled brats who throw fits when they don’t get their way.

That’s not cool in a professional environment, and it won’t garner respect or loyalty from staff.

Refuse to do things for themselves

The best managers lead by example, not by command.

In other words, they never ask their staff to do things they aren’t willing to do themselves.

Managers who behave like certain tasks are beneath them will never have a staff willing to go the distance for them.

None of the above means that you do not hold people accountable, but a true leader does it in a way that instills confidence in the team’s ability to resolve the issue at hand.  Letting them know they are behind them all the way.

What poor leaders do not realize is that they will indeed mobilize their team, but it is likely in camaraderie against them and not with them.  Any hope at garnering discretionary effort is gone and they have created an eat what you kill, every person for themselves environment.  Exactly the opposite of what many of these leaders profess to want and then cannot understand why they don’t have.  

You have a choice everyday in terms of how you respond.  Choose wisely, you cannot take it back. 

Principles of Influence

sherrie-suski-influenceThere is never a day when our life would not be easier if we honed our ability to influence others.  Influence should not be confused with manipulation, which has a negative connotation in most people’s’ minds.  The difference lies in the intention of the giver. Influence respects the target’s well-being and health. Manipulation is not often hindered by these concerns.  

According to Influence at Work, there are 6 principles of Influence 

Reciprocity, Scarcity, Authority, Consistency, Liking and Consensus

Reciprocity

Simply put, people are obliged to give back to others the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.  For example, does the giving of a mint have any influence over how much tip you’re going to leave them? Most people will say no. But that mint can make a surprising difference. In the study, giving diners a single mint at the end of their meal typically increased tips by around 3%.  It increases even more if the waiter pauses, turns back and gives a 2nd mint saying something along the lines of “just because you’re special”

The key to using the Principle of Reciprocity is to be the first to give and to ensure that what you give is personalized and unexpected.

Scarcity

Simply put, people want more of those things they can have less of. So when it comes to effectively persuading others using the Scarcity Principle, the science is clear. It’s not enough simply to tell people about the benefits they’ll gain if they choose your products and services. You’ll also need to point out what is unique about your proposition and what they stand to lose if they fail to consider your proposal. 

Authority

This is the idea that people follow the lead of credible, knowledgeable experts.  State the number of years of experience has in the field. Have they been published, mention it!  What the science is telling us is that it’s important to signal to others what makes you a credible, knowledgeable authority before you make your influence attempt

Consistency

People like to be consistent with the things they have previously said or done. So when seeking to influence using the consistency principle, the detective of influence looks for voluntary, active, and public commitments and ideally gets those commitments in writing.

For example, one recent study reduced missed appointments at health centers by 18% simply by asking the patients rather than the staff to write down appointment details on the future appointment card.

Liking

People prefer to say yes to those that they like. Persuasion science tells us that there are three important factors. We like people who are similar to us, we like people who pay us compliments, and we like people who cooperate with us towards mutual goals.

Consensus

Especially when they are uncertain, people will look to the actions and behaviors of others to determine their own.  Sharing what others have done and the results they have achieved is a powerful motivator. 

Try a few of these and watch what results you are getting before adding others.  Soon, you will find, that this process will become second nature!

Inclusion and Diversity

While we are all used to the acronym D&I, it would more aptly be called I&D.  That which comes first garners a disproportionate share of the attention and that is exactly what has happened in this case.  Employers and the media alike are focusing on diversity, and primarily racial diversity at that.  Diversity, however, has many meanings.  It could indeed be ethnic or racial or gender, but it could also be cognitive diversity; a difference in the way someone thinks or interprets the world.  The fact is, that no matter how diligent you are in sourcing from a diverse candidate pool, tracking your internal metrics and publishing  your statistics to your Board, shareholders, investors and other stakeholders, none of it really matter if you haven’t spent the time to create an inclusive workplace. Your diverse population will leave because they don’t feel comfortable; they don’t feel like they belong.

An inclusive workplace is more than one with a Diversity Council, a few Affinity groups and holidays that include Martin Luther King Day and Juneteenth.  A truly inclusive workplace is one where everyone feels a sense of belonging.  They can bring their best and whole self to work everyday because they know they are not only accepted, but celebrated, for their differences. 

DIVERSITY: is being invited to the party

INCLUSION: is being asked to dance

BELONGING: is dancing like no one’s watching

Research tells us that over 40% of employees feel left out or isolated at work. U.S. businesses spend nearly 8 billion dollars each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) trainings that miss the mark because they neglect our need to feel included.  If workers feel like they belong, companies reap substantial bottom-line benefits. High belonging was linked to a whopping 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days. For a 10,000-person company, this would result in annual savings of more than $52M.

Employees with higher workplace belonging also showed a 167% increase in their employer promoter score (their willingness to recommend their company to others). They also received double the raises, and 18 times more promotions. 

There are a number of different ways that employers can increase an employee’s sense of belonging.

Lead the Charge: Ask “How would you change the situation if you could?”

Pay it Forward: Ask  “If you were to talk to someone who has just been excluded in  this same situation, what would you say or do for them to help?”

Gain Perspective: Ask- “Do you know of others in the organization who have faced  similar situations and found ways to cope?”

Be an Ally: Remind yourself of the importance of inclusive behaviors at all times. We can never fully know another’s sense of belonging within our team. Including others and treating them with fairness is always a good idea.

Promote Allies: Verbally compliment fair and inclusive behavior as a way to demonstrate that this is behavior you value.

Working together we can increase the sense of belonging for all employees in all companies!

Diversity & Inclusion

sherrie-suski-diversityMuch is being written about diversity and inclusion these days.  Recent events have spurred companies toward developing full blown D&I programs.  However, most are simply focusing on the metrics of what a diverse population looks like.  What percentages of minorities do we have, how many are in management positions, how many females do we have in management positions? While that may indeed tick the box on diversity, it does very little to ensure inclusion.  Inclusion is a little harder to measure. 

Where diversity is about variety, inclusion is about having a solid foundation for supporting employees and their different needs. Inclusion requires a culture where employees feel welcome, respected, and empowered to grow. Even the most diverse companies can’t be successful without inclusion. 

Many employees still feel that they don’t belong, and dozens of companies have made recent headlines for diversity and inclusion-related crises. In these workplaces, many female employees don’t feel respected (or sometimes even safe), minorities can be painfully underrepresented, people with disabilities often don’t have the resources they need to succeed, and so on.

No company wants to have a culture where not every employee feels like they are valued and can thrive, but it’s hard to address problems when you don’t know they exist. Without a way to measure inclusion, executives and HR teams have to rely on their own subjective perceptions of the culture at their organization—with varied levels of accuracy.

But inclusion isn’t totally unquantifiable. If you want to know whether your employees’ experience aligns with your company’s ideals—at scale—you can just ask.

In July of 2018, SurveyMonkey partnered with Paradigm,  a consulting firm that specializes in diversity and inclusion. Together, they created a survey template designed to investigate the many different layers of inclusion in the workplace. They used the template to survey 843 working Americans, and the results were telling:

  • 44% of employees didn’t feel that they could express a contrary opinion at work without fearing negative consequences. 
  • 32% did not feel that their opinion was valued
  • 60% of employees say their compensation is fair relative to others at their company. But only 48% of Black workers agree with this statement.
  • In every single case, the percentages were lower for people from the underrepresented communities that we checked for (women, Black, and Latinx.)

The importance of inclusion is easy to understand, but the layers of company culture that make up “inclusion” aren’t. Unlike diversity, inclusion is heavily rooted in employees’ individual experiences—which aren’t easy to monitor or quantify. And perception of culture can differ dramatically from person to person.  That is why it is so important to carefully craft a survey and ask each of your employees how they feel to be able to truly understand whether you have an inclusive culture.

Human Capital Management (HCM) Platforms

sherrie-suski-hcmHuman Capital Management System (HCM) is a one-stop solution to manage HR needs, to streamline processes, to provide visibility into the global workforce, and to provide a user experience that’s accessible from anywhere. So we can keep your people engaged while helping them adapt and grow. It covers the whole employee lifecycle: onboarding, recruiting, learning, compensation, payroll, benefits, time off, analytics, planning, etc.

How can an HCM benefit your organization?

There are a number of variables and considerations when selecting a new Human Capital Management (HCM) Platform.

  • What is the size of the company?
  • What are the platforms other functions are using?
  • Does your company plan to grow?
  • Are you global or domestic?
  • Do you have field teams that require mobile capability?
  • Do you need customized reporting capability or is standard reporting sufficient?
  • Are you looking to integrate payroll?
  • Which modules will you need?
    • Learning Management System
    • Applicant Tracking System
    • Performance Management
    • Compensation
    • Does it offer machine learning capability?
    • Do you require a cloud based solution?

The majority of providers today have cloud based solutions.  A cloud based solution refers to on-demand services, computer networks, storage, applications or resources accessed via the internet and through another provider’s shared cloud computing infrastructure. One of the key benefits of cloud-based software is the flexibility it offers. Cloud doesn’t tie you or your business into a single location. You will be able to do business from all over the world. This kind of flexibility can also help with employee satisfaction and productivity.

Selecting the right HCM for your business now and in the future provides a one stop shop for you and your employees to be able to access all information in one place.  Designed correctly, HCM’s save a tremendous amount of time and manual manipulation.  Value propositions include:

  • A single platform to manage and develop a diverse workforce with transaction history and operational metrics in a single system providing real-time global visibility.
  • Organizational flexibility and agility to adapt to change (M&A activity and shifting business models).
  • Operational efficiencies, freeing up more time for employee services and strategic HR initiatives.
  • Consumer grade, modern mobile experience for managers and employees.

Choose wisely as HCM subscription and implementation fees are not inexpensive and the time devoted to bringing one up is significant.    

An Attitude of Gratitude

sherrie-suski-gratitudeGratitude is an intriguing concept.  It has very little to do with how much you have or what your position is in life and much more to do with the personal quality of being thankful, of the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Actively practicing gratitude and pulling it toward you on a daily basis is important because it helps us to see a world that is bigger than ourselves.  When we have gratitude, we can help each other grow personally or in business. We can help those less fortunate because we see and appreciate how much we already have.

Some of the benefits of gratitude include:

It helps you to be in the present by noticing what you do have and stopping to acknowledge it 

Being grateful has the power to change your mood almost instantly from negative to positive

The simple act of gratitude has been scientifically shown to balance our heart rhythms and nervous system, leading to favorable changes in immunity and hormonal equilibrium, as well as increased production of the anti-aging compound DHEA.

Further benefits include a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression.

Those in the gratitude condition reported fewer health complaints and even spent more time exercising than control participants did.

Improved emotions when someone who has a chronic illness focuses on an “attitude of gratitude” instead of feeling negative.

5 Ways Gratitude Changes our Brains

Gratitude Improves Mental Health 

Gratitude Improves Physical Health

Gratitude Improves Resiliency

Gratitude Activates the Brain Stem Region that Releases Dopamine and Serotonin

Gratitude Improves Sleep

Tips to Foster Gratitude 

Keep a journal of or in some way note big and little joys of daily life.

Write down “three good things”—identify three things that have gone well for you and identify the cause.

Write thank-you notes to others.

Think about people who have inspired you and what about them was most significant.

Engage in “mental subtraction.” Imagine what your life would be like if some positive event had not occurred.

How do you practice gratitude during Difficult Times? 

Just being around those you love can help you feel more grateful. Also, being more appreciative of life and feeling less cynical pushes you in a more thankful frame of mind. At other times, when you are facing a tough time, seeing it as a gift is useful.  Even in hard times comes the opportunity to learn, to improve, and, most importantly,  to give back. 

Living our Purpose

sherrie-suski-wfhAs a purpose driven, value led company, Tricon understands how critical it is to embrace our humanity, and to be understanding and compassionate, especially during this pandemic. Our Purpose Statement and Guiding Principles take center stage at this time and we will do whatever we can to support the well-being of residents and employees. Our physical, social, emotional and financial benefit programs, that already existed, were well designed to help our employees through this crisis, and we further expanded our offerings to include additional services that are tailored to this specific situation. Everything we do is through the lens of care and support.

That’s the culture of Tricon. When you get culture right everything else falls into place and there is no better time to let that shine than right now.

Some of our employee benefits include:

  • Continued all employees on full pay whether or not we have full time work for them.
  • Continued employees who could not work at all due to childcare responsibilities on full -pay for
    6 weeks while they made alternate arrangements
  • Waived all member cost share (copays, deductibles and coinsurance) for the testing AND
    treatment of COVID-19
  • Made available a free 24-Hour Helpline, through Cigna Behavioral, that is available to all
    employees so they can talk about any stress or anxiety they are feeling during this time
  • Implemented immediate paid medical leave for any employee diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Offered paid caregiver leave for employees caring for a family member diagnosed with COVID-
    19
  • Assured employees with monthly or quarterly incentive plans that Tricon would account for
    COVID-19 impacts to operations and continue to pay them the average of what they had
    received for the last 3 months
  • Provided access to free mental health professionals, via phone or text, through the Employee
    Assistance Program
  • Offered free, live financial planning webinars
  • Provided 100% coverage for virtual doctor visits and online health care services for employees
    with chronic conditions or who are immune compromised
  • Presented well-being modules and challenges geared to staying physically and mentally healthy
    at home
  • Introduced contests to add some fun into the day- like Jellybean counting.
  • Conducted wellness checks- that included personal phone calls to each employee
  • Distributed Pulse survey that allow Tricon to tell if there is an area of employee concern that has
    not been adequately addressed or a specific geographical region that needs extra care

Tricon has really gone above and beyond to show incredible support to our employees and their families during this turbulent time.