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Creating Your Crisis Communication Strategy

crisis communication strategyFrom General Workplace Crisis To Strikes: Creating a Communication Model that Works

Crisis is a part of growth, and could even be said to drive the world of commerce and business, as a crisis most often represents opportunity. Effective communication is essential to keep crisis manageable and prevent the escalation of crisis into conflict. Conflict, on the other hand, is bad for business, can be damaging to employees and can contribute to what human resources professionals refer to as a “toxic” working environment.

When teams work through a crisis and negotiate meaning and progress together in the workplace, they can accomplish goals, and promote the type of creative thinking and action that lead to innovation, prevent workplace injury, and create greater productivity.

Working with crisis models and communication protocols ahead of time, or on a regular basis, is business and workplace best practice.

First: What Does Successful Negotiation in the Workplace Mean To You?

Learning successful negotiation in the workplace means beginning to communicate in ways that are effective in achieving shared corporate goals. We negotiate within our companies every day — when we speak in meetings, when we write or respond to memos, when we “talk shop” on our breaks, and when we write or distribute written materials in the workplace.

Successful negotiation shows itself in action that demonstrates immediate corrective action that creates positive change. Establish what a properly managed crisis looks like for your company. This measure of success can take many forms – the number of team members involved, the length of time it takes to resolve the crisis… even the finanical impact of the crisis.

Next, Identify the Key Players in Your Workplace Crisis Resolution Plan

Successful crisis resolution protocols require sincere acknowledgment of the perspectives and unique voices of everyone affected by the workplace crisis. When sending out newsletters, briefs, tweets, e-mails, letters or press releases, consider as many perspectives as possible:

  • Company executives – various offices;
  • Employees – full-time, part-time, occasional, on-call;
  • Families of employees;
  • Members of the community;
  • Your business competition;
  • The Media;
    and finally
  • Union leaders – various offices, locals and locations.

Please note: Within a company with no union employees, similar crisis, negotiation and conflicts occur over work conditions, expectations and misunderstandings of communications. All of the strategies discussed here are effective for workplaces that are either unionized and union-free.

Remember: The Medium is The Message

“The medium is the message,” declared media guru Marshall McLuhan in 1977. His cryptic message is still a topic of animated discussion, but the truth is, every successful company and corporation must have a strong “mixed medium” communication system — a system of human intelligence and human resources, combined with a video, online and hard copy communications.

Demonstrating in a crisis that the company is prepared to use a variety of mediums to connect with key players can be a powerful way to de-escalate a crisis situation.

Create Your Plan: Stages of Crisis Escalation

There are a variety of “stage”-focused models of crisis development that illustrate levels of escalation and can help you guide effective response at each crisis stage. There are five stage models, seven stage models and a variety of other models recommended by academics and crisis prevention experts that are useful models for organizations to use to guide crisis intervention and communication protocols.

Knowing that there are various models to illustrate stages of crisis intervention can be an important factor in successful resolution of any type of workplace conflict. Learning new models allows you to craft a custom strategy that works for your workplace and your unique culture. Reviewing these differing approaches encourages innovative and creative approaches to crisis prevention.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Strike in Progress Strategies

When a strike is possible, a signal is sent by all parties involved that negotiations have “failed” and “communication is no longer effective.” Moving quickly past that very real situation is paramount to workplace success. All commercial enterprises, regardless of industry and size, thrive on effective ongoing communications.

Re-establishing communication as quickly as possible is essential. A strike in progress affects all key players, families and stakeholders, as well as the broader community.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Agent Provocateurs and Saboteurs

Agent provocateurs and saboteurs are not storybook characters — they are titles for people involved in a workplace for the purpose of damaging the company. Whether they are people in an employee, executive or union role, they have can a destructive impact on negotiations,  communication systems, and overall company success. A well-trained human resources team reduces the chances that these type of people are hired: They identify employees that are present for destructive purposes, and remove them strategically and immediately.

This kind of crisis can be avoided with attention to hiring practices. Communicating with the remaining members of a team when such an employee is removed is vital.

Crisis Communication Troubleshooting: Managing the Media

Managing the media should be an ongoing shared corporate goal and protocols for media communications should be in place before a workplace crisis degrades into conflict. This is true during union organizing, particularly when the union undertakes a “corporate campaign,” working to damage the company’s reputation or business. Crisis prevention should be a primary communications goal, and keeping in regular contact with local media is paramount. Regular press releases are essential. This regular contact facilitates communication during any type of workplace crisis, negotiation or conflict.

Finally, Long-Term Planning

Managing crisis in the workplace often involves many people, players in many roles and stakeholders. It also involves families, friends, and neighbors. Creative approaches to establishing your unique “stage”-focused model as well as ongoing development of innovative strategies are keys to long-term crisis prevention and successful intervention in the workplace.

How The Millennial Workforce Will Change HR Forever

For a long time employees joined a company, contributed to a retirement plan, and stayed for decades, slowly moving up the corporate ladder. That depiction no longer reflects the modern workplace or the modern workforce. Millennials have different needs and expectations, but if you are willing to adapt, you can ensure you continue to attract the talent your business needs.

Create Mechanisms for Frequent Feedback

Millennials crave feedback, far more often than managers are willing to provide. At most companies, managers conduct an annual review with direct reports to evaluate their performance. Some well-known companies now provide bimonthly feedback sessions to better engage younger employees that aren’t comfortable having that conversation once a year. Millennials are tech-savvy, and it is often necessary to use a variety of channels such as videos, websites, and interactive tools to better track progress and provide feedback. Firms must clearly communicate near-term goals along with the intermediary steps necessary to reach those goals, and it’s often beneficial to work with outside partners to help craft those messages.

Outline Paths for Advancement

Millennials want to know how they are performing, and they also want to know where that performance will take them. The timeline for career advancement has shrunk considerably; millennials expect a promotion every one to two years. This is of course not feasible for your entire workforce, but for top performers, granting an extra title or other recognition could stave off headhunters looking to capitalize on any dissatisfaction. According to some studies, 60 percent of millennials will leave a job within the first three years; with a workforce that fickle, a little extra spending now could save significant hiring costs later.

Offer Service Opportunities

It’s not enough to just offer a paycheck; employers also have to offer a sense of purpose. According to one study, two-thirds of millennials won’t take a job offer from a company that doesn’t have a strong corporate social responsibility program. Hiring managers need to make sure that they emphasize opportunities for engagement as part of the total compensation package when recruiting top talent. From a logistical perspective, companies need to build programs to provide service opportunities or partner with service organizations that can provide that infrastructure.

Millennials comprise a steadily growing portion of the workforce, and companies that want to compete for the best talent will need to adapt to that reality. While some of the demands of millennial employees may seem taxing or silly to managers, failing to adapt to those demands in time could mean a significant slowdown in hiring, and in turn, competitiveness.  The good news is that making these changes, and using comprehensive communications solutions to connect can boost morale not just among millennials and new hires, but throughout your entire workforce.

3 Ways to use Google to know what’s REALLY going on at your company

Google for Human ResourcesIn the past, monitoring the reputation of your company was more of a word-of-mouth process. In addition, you could look at your BBB rating, scan the newspapers, and, more recently, run a Google search for the company name. However, none of these actions can give you an accurate picture of how the public and other business owners perceive your company. You need to actively use technology to keep an eye on your business’s reputation. Here are three simple but highly effective strategies you can implement today.

Subscribe to an RSS Feed

Subscribing to an RSS (Rich Site Summary), rather than checking individual websites on your own can save you hours of investigation. First, you will need to choose an RSS Reader such as Newsgator, Amphetadesk and My Yahoo. Then, when you visit a favorite Web page, you can choose the RSS icon. In the future, the site’s content will be delivered to your reader automatically, saving you time and serving as a constant reminder to read pertinent articles about your company.

Set Up Google Alerts

Setting up Google alerts for your company is another simple and effective way to monitor your company’s online presence. Google will send you an email each time the keywords you choose show up in Google content. For instance, you can simply put a name in quotation marks (“Your Business”) and that exact phrase will trigger a Google alert. However, you need to do more than set a Google alert for the company name. You should also set Google alerts for the names of your company’s leaders, top customers, and any products you manufacture.

Unfortunately, websites are hacked daily. Google Alerts can help you guard against unpleasant public fallout if you set certain keywords. You can set up a string of words like “sex” followed by your website name. If improper content shows up on the site, you will be instantly alerted and can take steps to correct the situation.

RELATED: 5 MISTAKES TO AVOID WITH YOUR EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

Check Glassdoor.com

Glassdoor.com is a website that promotes transparency in the workplace. Employees, current and potential, can sign up for the website to look for jobs, find proper salary ranges, and check employer reviews. If you want to recruit the best employees, staying abreast of your company’s reviews is particularly important.

Employers need to know how their employees perceive them and to take corrective action if company morale is low. You are unlikely to get the full truth by interviewing your own staff, but employees will be blunt when they can voice their opinions anonymously. Remember to check Glassdoor once a week and keep an open mind about what you find there. Truthful feedback is the best way to cultivate positive employee relations.

Take Action Now

When you are union-free, staying abreast of your employees’ feelings is crucial. If you want to be UnionProof, your company must provide a healthy, happy workplace with high employee satisfaction. In addition, you must be fully aware of public perception of your company to stay competitive. Monitoring your company’s online reputation protects the business and employees by enabling you to adjust your practices and do damage control by advancing good press relations.

Your human resources department can save the company much grief by being alert to the online content out there, both positive and negative. These simple actions can give you the information you need to protect your company’s online presence and stay ahead of  both competitors and union organizers.

5 Mistakes to Avoid with Your Employee Handbook

employee handbook mistakesEmployee handbook mistakes can range from the seemingly silly to the outright illegal, and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) came down hard on many handbook practices in the last year. Positive employee relations best practices dictate careful consideration of the contents of your handbook and regular employee communication as that handbook is reviewed annually. Here are five common mistakes that human resources personnel and handbook developers make when they create the handbooks; be sure to contact a labor attorney to ask specific questions or to review your handbook.

1. Copying from Other Handbooks

When you copy from an Internet template or take another company’s handbook to use as your own with some search-and-replace work thrown in, you tread in dangerous territory. By all means, you should use other handbooks and handbook examples to guide your work. Just do not copy them, especially policies. Even if policies and handbook sections are written in precise language that applies to your business, they might not pass the legal sniff test in your state or city. Plus, your business and your approach to positive employee relations are unique. Make your handbook unique as well, and do not plagiarize.

2. Cluttering It with Jargon

The point of a handbook is to explain and clarify your company’s policies and procedures. A handbook must be readable and clearly communicate with employees, yet many are cluttered with jargon. In some cases, the jargon is there to protect the company against potential future legal action, but do not go down this route. Instead, protect your company by aiming for positive employee relations and crafting an accessible and legally compliant document.

3. Being Unequivocal

Your employee handbook needs to leave a lot of room for flexibility and to avoid verbs such as “will” and “shall.” Instead, use verbs such as “may,” especially when discussing policies and possible disciplinary actions. An employee handbook is not supposed to be a contract, but using rigid language positions it in terms of a contract, and can even be a negative instead of a positive.

employee_handbook_NLRB_billboard

4. Restricting Employee Behaviors

Many employers do not want their employees to participate in behaviors such as, say, posting complaints about their salaries on Facebook or holding meetings to improve their working conditions. Therefore, quite a few handbooks try to restrict confidentiality and what employees can do, but this is illegal. Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act allows employees the freedom to participate in many behaviors for mutual aid and protection.

Be sure to communicate with employees regularly and clearly regarding your company’s expectations. Employee communication need not be difficult or cumbersome process. Consider video or a website to enhance and explain the information in your company handbook and make the information accessible to every employee.

Revolutionizing Your Workplace in 2016

revolutionize your_billboardAs we move through 2016, employees’ expectations of their employers are growing and changing. To create workplace safety, inclusiveness and a driven team of people, it’s important to focus on strengthening your company culture in a few key ways. The following sections cover those methods and how you can use them.

Encouraging positive employee relations

As companies focus on strengthening communication and forging solid employee relationships, the need for unions will dissipate naturally. Instead of directing your energy toward creating an anti-union environment, a much more positive and effective approach is to create an environment that fosters positive employee relations. This includes a culture that protects its employees against harassment, injuries and layoffs without the need for union intervention. Employees should express confidence that they can approach management openly and receive assistance without having to struggle for their rights. One of the best ways to ensure that all of these factors are in place is leadership training.

Ensuring strong leadership

How do you determine whether leadership is strong within an organization? Not surprisingly, a study by the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology revealed that commitment and positive attitudes lead to better performance. Thus midlevel managers must be taught to openly display these leadership qualities and pass them down through the organization. By starting at the top, organizational leaders can set an example that reflects a company’s culture and values of openness, honesty and tolerance of all types of people. Incorporating technology such as interactive e-learning has become a popular and effective strategy to keep employees informed and allow them to interact directly with management.

Addressing concerns and issues

In today’s globalized world, events that have a widespread influence on your employees’ attitudes and behaviors can occur. Holding meetings that address employee concerns and key issues can generate better trust and understanding among co-workers. Similarly, management must directly address how employees can professionally handle serious problems such as harassment and injury. If uncertainty exists or formal systems have yet to be put in place for solving these issues, there is a strong need for better communication. To maintain consistency and keep your employees from fragmenting in different directions, leadership must work to maintain a clear voice that overpowers external uncertainty.

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