It’s the most wonderful time of the year and I’m busy watching my favorite Christmas movies, including “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Jingle All the Way,” “Elf” and “Home Alone.”
Somewhere between seeing Kevin McAllister (“Home Alone”) fend off would-be burglars and Clark Grisworld (“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”) flip out when his 250 strands of twinkly lights don’t twinkle, I realized that each movie offers a valuable lesson about getting timing right when communicating with employees.
Here are four tips from these holiday favorites:
1. Focus on what employees need to know and when
In “Elf,” when Buddy finds his dad, Walter, Buddy is so excited that he immediately breaks the news that he’s A) an elf from the North Pole and B) Walter’s long-lost son. But Walter doesn’t have a positive reaction; he’s so taken by surprise that he thinks Buddy is a lunatic.
What’s the lesson here? It’s possible to communicate too quickly. When sharing information with employees, make sure you don’t pile on too much.
Instead, ask these questions:
- When should you give employees a heads up?
- What deadlines do they have to meet?
- When do employees really need to pay attention?
2. Plan ahead
In “Home Alone,” Kevin develops a complex plan to booby trap his house to stop bandits Marv and Harry from stealing everything. Imagine if Kevin hadn’t stuck nails in tar on the basement steps or set up paint cans to fall on Marv and Harry.
You need to be like Kevin and plan ahead to tackle timely communication.
How? Create a timeline with key dates, including when to send initial communication and when to provide reminders to employees. This will hold you accountable and keep you on track.
3. Include deadlines
No one wants to be like Howard Langston in “Jingle All the Way,” running through the malls on Christmas Eve frantically searching for the sold-out Turbo Man doll. This debacle could have been avoided if Howard simply set a deadline for purchasing the toy instead of waiting until the last minute.
Similarly, you can avoid confusion by setting deadlines.
Create digital signs or posters with a list of upcoming deadlines and place them in high-traffic areas—near the cafeteria or elevators. This way, employees will see the signs every day and be reminded they need to take action.
4. Be transparent
You don’t want your employees caught off guard like Clark Grisworld in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” Clark expects a bonus check but instead receives a one-year membership to the Jelly of the Month club. No wonder Clark is cranky!
The lesson: Manage employee expectations with all major decisions.
One way to do this? Send a series of short, targeted e-blasts for important communications—like compensation or bonus announcements—to keep employees in the loop. In addition, host Q&A sessions to give employees a chance to ask questions.
Now that you know the secrets to timely communication, you can ensure that your employees stay holly and jolly all year long.