7 ways to improve employee communication.

Hi, there! Whether you’re a long-term reader or a first-time visitor, it’s nice to see you.

But even if you are a faithful fan of this Insights blog, you may not know that I in my spare time I also write an online column for inc.com. To introduce you to that content, I’ve excerpted some key posts to create a list of seven steps you can take next week to improve employee communication. Here goes:

  1. Reduce friction. In communication, friction occurs when an audience member is intrigued by a topic, but then encounters resistance on his/her quest to engage with content. Whatever the source, friction always leads to the same result: When communication requires too much of a commitment, audience members abandon ship.
  2. Share compelling content, not “news.” There's no such thing as "news" in a newsletter. By the time the publication is sent, either employees have heard the news already--or it's just not important. Unless you're publishing a daily, your publication should be providing perspective, context and meaning--not trying to "report" on "news."
  3. Advise leaders to listen more. It’s the advice I give most often when counseling leaders about how to communicate more effectively. I tell them: “Do less talking and much more listening. You may be the smartest person in the room, but you don't have all the answers. Ask, ‘'What are the obstacles to accomplishing our objectives? What are your ideas for doing things differently?’“
  4. Emphasize the experience (not information) when planning a big meeting. I'm sure you've been in a planning session where the conversation goes like this: "We need to make sure we have a session about the strategy." "Yes, and the CFO definitely needs to share last quarter's results." "Oh, and don't forget about a roundup of regional activity." "We should talk about our cool new advertising campaign." "What about . . .?" What you're creating is a hash (a collection of disparate information), not an engaging experience. Information should not drive the bus; it has to sit in the passenger seats.
  5. Answer these essential questions: "What does this mean to me?" and "What do I need to do differently?" when communicating change. When I ask employees about the way change is introduced, their biggest complaint is that communication is not explicit enough. "Too often, the focus is on the big picture: what's happening at an organization-wide level," said one employee I interviewed. "That's interesting, but what I really want to know is how I'm affected. And if you expect me to take action, you need to make that clear."
  6. To make email subject lines more appealing, promise a benefit. Often the most compelling benefit is to help the recipient learn or grow. Here’s an example from Marketing Profs: "Free guide: Put the world's data to work for you (no PhD required)."
  7. Lighten up with a poll. Surveys are serious, but employee polls are meant to be fun, reduce stress and, best of all, boost a sense of teamwork. They're an easy way to involve all employees; after all, everyone has an opinion. And employee pay attention because they wonder, "How does my viewpoint compare to that of my colleagues?"
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