How Employee Communication Impacts Culture [Webinar]

We need to talk — about communication. We all know communication is key. In fact, it’s never been more important. The new World of Work is continuously connected but often across generations, locations, media platforms, intra and inter-webs, and social and mobile. Communication has simply never been more of a critical skill. Good or bad, it drives organizational culture more than ever.

We’ve all been there, felt the galvanizing impact of a brilliant presentation; the drag on everyone wreaked by a maze of emails. The toll of head-shaker moments in a meeting, the fist-pump after a meaningful conversation. The effect is profound and direct. Unlike some other systems in the workplace, how we communicate — among leadership, employees, partners, candidates or other key audiences — has an instantaneous effect.

So I’m thrilled to be part of this webinar, How Employee Communication Impacts Culture, offered by my friends at CultureIQ. It’s free, on-demand, and packed with savvy insights and workable strategies on taking a hard look at your organization and finding powerful ways to make it better. You’re going to want to be in on this hot topic. Register today —and mark your calendars for October 13, 2016, at 10 AM PST/1 PM EST.

I’ll be talking to the CultureIQ team about how to:

  • Audit your organizational communication tactics, and glean what’s working and what’s not
  • Spark better communication techniques on all levels of the organization
  • Curate the best, most effective communication tools across the board

Communication Makes or Breaks Culture

Today we communicate faster and across more channels than yesterday, and tomorrow it’s going to be even faster and more complex than it is today. That means the effect of communication on culture is just as constant. And its vital importance in the workforce should never be overlooked. Among millennials, 47 percent report that open and free-flowing communication is a key factor in their staying in a job for more than five years, according to Deloitte’s 2016 Millennial Survey. Among those who leave within two years, 26 percent cite poor communication as a reason.

Shape your communication to inspire trust and engagement, to be consistent no matter which platform you use, to grow connection and build relationships — between leadership and employees, across teams and departments, into audiences and markets — and your culture will thrive, along with the people in it. I know you hear me on this. So tune in to this exciting webcast on How Employee Communication Impacts Culture, and let’s talk about how to do it right.

This post is sponsored by CultureIQ.

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The Rules of Engagement Are Changing: 4 Ways You Can Ride the Wave Successfully

Leaders already know that keeping their teams motivated, engaged and driven to succeed is a demanding task in itself. But in today’s world it’s even harder, because leaders have to keep their people engaged while responding to huge, disruptive changes in how we work and what we care about in the workplace. It’s a big challenge, but the first step to overcoming it is knowing what the changes are. In Hay Group’s new book, Leadership 2030, we’ve identified six “megatrends” that are transforming societies and the global business environment as we know it.

The six megatrends leaders must be prepared for

  • Globalization 2.0 — Economic power is shifting from mature Western economies to emerging markets, so we’re seeing more diverse market needs, more collaboration across countries, and global competition for talent
  • Environmental Crisis — The world is facing a disruptive combination of climate change and scarce raw materials that brings the perfect storm of challenges for businesses: increasing costs, fluctuating values and concerned stakeholders
  • Demographic change — Aging populations are changing the face of the global workforce and exacerbating the war for talent
  • Individualism — Growing freedom of choice is eroding loyalty and forcing organizations to respond to individual needs in an increasingly diverse workforce
  • Digitization — Work is going remote, and the boundaries between professional and personal lives are blurring, as people increasingly live life online
  • Technology convergence — A combination of nano, bio, information and cognitive (NBIC) sciences is set to spur a wave of powerful technological breakthroughs — speeding up the pace of change and creating new product markets

Right now, employee engagement is already a moving target. To take a line from The X-Files, “The future is out there.” To successfully keep people engaged and on track to deliver business results, leaders must respond to trends outside the organization, because they will affect what happens inside it. The six megatrends bring about a multitude of challenges – here we’ve identified four core responses to help you, as leaders, successfully navigate them.

Employee Engagement and the New Imperatives for Leadership

Imperative #1: Instil confidence in the direction your organization is taking

How engaged employees feel is influenced not only by their current work experiences, but also by their view of the future. For people to commit, especially over the long term, they need to have confidence that a company is well-led, heading in the right direction, and well-positioned to deliver products and services they know customers want.  Unfortunately, given the pressures that come with change, communicating regularly about the changes with employees can often slip, leaving them confused about the priorities for the organization. Demand for information often outstrips what you and your managers are able to supply: the consequence is a lack of clarity, which erodes confidence in leadership and strategic direction.

Technology convergence won’t just create new product opportunities; it will also increase the challenge of staying ahead of the curve. And in an increasingly global business environment, new competitors can be expected to emerge regularly. So how can you respond?

As well as having a clear and compelling vision, you need to communicate regularly and personally about changes in your organization and what they will mean for individuals and teams. Making sure you and your peers at all levels know about changes and receive the same messages about them is essential to promote consistent understanding across the organization. Managers in particular play an important “sense-making” role in times of change, helping employees understand new developments in the organization and their implications for teams and job responsibilities. You must make sure that managers at all levels are aware of and engaged with planned changes, and that they understand the importance of reinforcing key messages with their teams. If middle managers and supervisors signal to employees through their words or actions that they lack faith in their leaders, employees’ trust will decline rapidly.

Imperative #2: Have integrity

Socrates said: “Regard your good name as the richest jewel you could possibly be possessed of.” That advice applies to companies just as much as individuals. Consider a quote from Miles White, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Abbott: “Today we’re in an all-out war for reputation, our companies are battling – to an unprecedented extent – for our most vital assets: our own identities.” That battle is playing out on many different fronts. Companies are facing increasing pressure from the media and from political and regulatory scrutiny. But increasingly too there is a power shift in play, brought by digitization, toward consumers and employees. A single voice can undermine a company’s reputation. Individuals can make a huge impact with the click of a mouse. And so companies need to be ever more careful in managing their reputation, because hard work to make a good name can be undone in seconds.

To foster employee engagement, you need to give your people the sense that they are contributing to a purpose larger than themselves. The desire to work for an organization that stands for something and makes a difference is not limited to Millennials, but extends across generational groups. So, in a transparent world, where reputation is increasingly at risk, organizations need to prove they operate with a high level of integrity. For leaders, this demands high levels of openness and sincerity, demonstrated through consistent values, words, and deeds.

With critical natural resources becoming scarcer and climate change more threatening, the environmental crisis will highlight the need for all organizations to demonstrate that their operations are sustainable. Pressure will come not only from outside (societies, governments, and customers) but also from within. Showing employees that you are responding effectively to sustainability issues will be necessary to build confidence in prospects for future success. “Greenwashing” will not cut it – and in fact will damage trust.

Imperative #3: Be transparent

Importantly, employee engagement is an exchange relationship. If you want your employees to do and deliver more, it’s essential that they feel valued, believe that their extra efforts are appreciated and that, over time, there will be a balance between total rewards and contributions.

In a digital world, the four walls of an organization will have increasingly large windows. And interested eyes will be looking both in and out, which puts additional pressure on companies from an engagement and retention perspective. Social media allows your employees, especially those with highly desirable skills and experience, to promote their knowledge and accomplishments – making key talent more difficult for organizations to hide. Likewise, online resources make it easier for your employees to compare what they currently get in terms of compensation, career development opportunities, and work environment with what is on offer elsewhere.

To respond, you need to develop and reinforce strong employer brands, showcasing the unique attractions of working for your organization. You also need to recognize that rewards extend well past compensation and benefits and you should build core organizational messages around total reward offerings. In this context, line managers can effectively reward team members outside of the confines of compensation and benefits. Total rewards statements, for example, can be powerful resources for selling the rewards you offer beyond merely salary.

Imperative #4: Be flexible

Leaders are increasingly challenged with overseeing 4G workforces, with four generations of employees working side by side, each with their own needs and motivators. And, with increasing acceptance of the idea that a career should be tailored to the individual, all employees, regardless of age, are likely to value fulfillment, meaning, self-development, and recognition in their jobs

As a result, a one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement is doomed to fail. Engagement will need to be more personal, tapping into each employee’s drivers, outlook, and expectations.

It’s important you balance traditional roles of directing and organizing team activities with more listening, coaching, mentoring, developing, and advocacy. You’ll also need to be flexible in responding to employee needs. Keeping the skill sets and expertise of Baby Boomers nearing retirement in the organization, for example, may require exploring part-time, work-from-home, or contract employment arrangements.

Finally, recognize that there are limits to the “mass customization” of engagement on the part of organizations and empower people to take responsibility for their own engagement, connecting them with the tools and resources available to help them manage their work experiences, development and careers in a personal, positive way.

Don’t Be Caught Out

To motivate and retain employees, you need to rethink your engagement strategies — because a changing world is changing the game. As part of our research looking at how the external environment is transforming engagement, we conducted a survey of 300 leaders responsible for employee engagement in Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 companies:

  • Over 80% agreed that their company needs to find new ways to engage its workforce in light of the changing environment
  • Yet just one-third feel their organizations are adapting to the megatrends
  • And only a quarter have personally started to drive change

You can avoid being caught out by:

  • Considering which megatrends will have the biggest impact on your organization and workforce
  • Identifying the changes needed in your approach to employee engagement
  • Building networks or taskforces that involve the right people and functions to make change happen
  • Regularly talking to your people across the employee lifecycle to understand how their motivators and behaviors are changing in light of the megatrends

How are you responding to the megatrends? Which do you think will have greatest impact on engagement in your organization? Tweet me your thoughts at @markroyalHG or connect with me via LinkedIn.

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For more information on how the megatrends are transforming businesses and engagement and to find out what you can do today to respond, download our new rules of engagement report or view further materials here.

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Bottom-Up Leadership And Digital Skills Training

A well-run business is like a car cruising down the highway. The road may not always be even, but the machine is designed to withstand minor shocks and keep moving smoothly. Sometimes, however, an unexpected change of environment catches the car’s “leadership” in the driver’s seat by surprise: the car hydroplanes, or hits black ice, or blows a tire. The situation is suddenly dire. In an instant, the superior vantage and planning of the executive behind the wheel is useless. The whole enterprise is at the whim of a changing, unpredictable circumstance down where the rubber meets the road.

In today’s business environment, a concerning percentage of the economy is heading toward a patch of black ice called the digital skills gap. This is the name by which we learning experts refer to the epidemic shortage of digital skills in both companies and the labor pool of job candidates. The digital skills gap already costs businesses money and productivity — $1.3 trillion annually in the U.S. — and is only growing in urgency. If skills training doesn’t become a priority among the nation’s executives, quite a few company drivers will soon be surprised at the lack of control they have over their vehicles.

The companies that avoid this fate will be the ones that embrace bottom-up leadership. This doctrine acknowledges that good insight is a type of leadership, no matter where it’s found on the organization chart. It is a manager being open to the wisdom of employees beneath her, and ground-level employees speaking up when something needs to change. Bottom-up leadership encourages communication between all nodes in the company hierarchy, which affords executives a clear and complete picture of the organization’s successes and needs. There’s a reason why modern cars devote entire computer systems to gathering data from the tires.

Front-line employees are the ones most likely to recognize a digital skills gap. They are the workers dealing with the digital tools that propel the business on a daily basis: customer relations management systems, point-of-sale software, project management, and so on. These aren’t the tools managers use to plan, recruit, and strategize, so top-down leadership may not notice when employees struggle along without proper training.

A lack of bottom-up leadership could be the reason that executives are failing to address the skills gap. According to a 2012 MIT study, executives pay lip service to the importance of digital optimization — 87% consider “digital transformation” a competitive opportunity — but in practice, only 46% invest in critically needed digital skills training. A stunning 4% offer training aligned with a digital strategy. This is an economy-wide dereliction of management.

It is up to the employees in the trenches, then, to make it known that productivity is being lost to incomplete skill sets. And it is the responsibility of executives to listen, and do something about it.

In good times, when a business is doing well and the competition is at bay, it doesn’t seem necessary to listen to the signals coming from the bottom of the totem pole. Companies can afford to label it “bottom-up leadership” and grant it an air of magnanimity. But when the tires start rattling, and the car starts careening, the trajectory of the whole operation depends on its most humble parts.


Jeff Fernandez is co-founder and CEO of Grovo, helping to educate the digital workforce with an end-to-end video training platform that delivers quality results in the shortest amount of time. 

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