No, this blog isn’t about potty training or dealing with tantrums (that’s another blog).
When I’m not helping clients tackle their employee communication challenges, I’m preparing my two-year old daughter, Abby, to tackle the challenges of her world. But when I stop to think about it, how I approach communication with my daughter isn’t that different from how I manage employee communication. In both cases, I need to follow these three principles:
1. Keep it simple.
The thing about toddlers is that they force you to make things very simple. When my daughter asks me why she can’t ride a roller coaster, she won’t understand it’s because of height or safety restrictions. I just tell her, “Roller coasters are for big kids, and you’ll have more fun riding them when you’re a big girl.”
Employees appreciate simplicity, too. When I’m interviewing someone for an intranet article, I often ask the question, “Can you explain this to me as if I were a five-year old?” It’s not that I’m trying to dumb down the content; it’s that I’m trying to explain a complex concept (such as molecular biology) in a way everyone can understand.
Another way my team at Davis & Company explains complicated topics is through visuals. Just like kids, adults process new concepts more effectively through illustrations or diagrams. For example, we created a colorful diagram to show IT employees how they fit into a new IT service model.
2. Make it fun!
My daughter’s middle name is Fun. (OK, it’s Muriel, but she doesn’t understand the concept of middle names yet.) Play is the center of her world. It’s how she learns new things and how to interact with the people around her.
Play is also a great way to help employees learn new concepts. Our team created a colorful board game to help supermarket employees understand what company values really meant by applying them to their daily work. Employees loved the game and saw the values as much more than a poster on the break room wall. And who says learning company values can’t be fun?
3. Create a routine.
Toddlers thrive on routine. When my daughter knows what to expect during her bedtime routine, she feels comfortable and safe (and more likely to stay in bed after I leave the room).
Employees also find comfort through consistent and timely communication, especially during times of change. When employees receive regular updates on what’s happening and how change impacts them, they feel more confident about where the company is headed. For example, to address employees’ questions about the integration of a new company, we encouraged our client to schedule weekly coffee chats with leaders. Employees looked forward to the intimate conversations with leaders (new and old) and finding out what was going to happen next.
Juggling two roles—mom and employee communication consultant—can be a challenge. But when I find a communication approach that works in both worlds, it makes my job easier!