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The Social Side of Employee Communication

Employee engagement is a persistent problem for organizations around the world for many reasons. They include increasing use of remote workers, technology that makes interpersonal communication less personal, generational differences in work expectations and communication styles, the inability to clearly separate work and personal lives, poor leadership skills and employees feeling undervalued.

The Social Mindset Is a Bond

Engagement exists when empowered employees feel connected to their work and the organization, but each person in your organization experiences engagement in a different way. For this reason, developing high engagement levels begins with developing an organizational “social mindset” in which a sense of community is created. Unions have mastered this concept, making their members feel like they’re in an exclusive club with leaders who really listen, and will champion their causes and go to bat for them when issues arise. Unions regularly communicate with their members, using social media tools and personal meetings, to keep the connection strong and inspire feelings of empowerment. The union social mindset is a bond that unites everyone around a common cause.

Social factors are important to all employees but especially to millennials. They’re always connected via social media, but social media by itself isn’t guaranteed to engage people or promote optimal communication. Too many employers miss the link between a social mindset and engagement. Social media is an engagement tool, but if your organization doesn’t develop a social mindset, your employees won’t utilize the social tools to their greatest advantage. Your employees’ behaviors are indicative of a lack of social mindset. For example, low utilization of an enterprise-wide social media system or lack of response to a manager’s feedback on a project in progress or failure to participate on coworker teams, are a few indications that your employees don’t view themselves as important contributors to a cohesive team of workers.

An organization with a social mindset focuses on its people and is key to creating a culture of inclusion in which people thrive. Creating an organization with a social mindset requires giving people the right tools, but the tools must empower people to learn what they need and want to learn to achieve the highest performance level and to learn when they want to learn. It must be a collaborative learning journey in which people learn from each other, and have access to on-demand learning and access to internal and external communities that enable continuous learning. A social mindset means employees utilize all online and offline social systems to autonomously manage their jobs with a clear understanding of how their work contributes to organizational goals. They see themselves as proactive team members doing important work.

Self-Empowerment

Engagement actually emanates from the ability of employees to self-empower. Your organization is unique from all others. It’s why you’ve achieved competitive success. The uniqueness drives the need for the development of an internal communication system that specifically resonates with your employees. The communication system consists of tools that are available to the entire workforce; consistent, tailored messaging; regular management feedback; and leaders with effective communication skills. Engaging your workforce in a meaningful way also requires providing content that adds value to their work and is easily understood.

Millennials prefer information delivered quickly and with visual aids, and user-friendly communication platforms that include video, web, and eLearning communication tools. Of course, mobile platforms are a necessity in the eyes of your younger employees. This creates the seamless communication system that accommodates the ‘where and when’ learning and communication needs. Engaging employees requires you to encourage all people to participate in the business, including remote workers, and to provide opportunities for improving processes. Meetings can encourage people to ask questions rather than expecting people to passively learn the material. Technology-based training programs are interactive. Leader feedback encourages stretch thinking. This is how you develop a social learning organization.

Self-Motivated and Committed Employees

Various researchers have determined that employee engagement recognizes an employee’s psychological state, behaviors, and linkages between engagement and employee satisfaction. Satisfaction is not enough though. Engaged employees are committed to the organization’s mission, self-motivated and passionate about their work. Your organization’s communication system is an essential element in the engagement process, but only if it stimulates constructive conversations and positive behaviors.

Southwest Airlines is an example of a company that has created a social mindset. Employees are encouraged to collaborate, participate in decision-making and explore work activities outside their regular jobs. Employees across the organization were encouraged to share new ideas for uniforms, and one of the flight attendants chosen to participate on a final design committee called it an “unforgettable experience.” Southwest Airlines considers social media as a means for relationship building with and between employees and customers because it gives the company the ability to connect people across teams and cultures.

Airbnb creates an employee experience which considers physical, emotional, aspirational, intellectual and virtual (collaborative technologies) aspects. The collaborative technologies are used to communicate the company culture and hold an online live-streamed weekly meeting, and employees are encouraged to use WhatsApp to share learning, photos, and insights. This enables the company to create a social mindset by opening communication up to all employees around the world.

An Organizing Model for Employers

Previously a labor organizer, author Jane McAlevey shared her experiences and perspectives on union organizing in “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)” and proposed a union-building operational model in “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age.” She points out that mobilizing may bring large numbers of people into the battle for employee rights but these are people already committed. To build a strong union, its leaders must expand its base to include ordinary people who were never involved in organizing. They do this by helping ordinary people understand they hold the power and can achieve desired outcomes.

Her basic operating model has several major elements that include: deep organizing in which indifferent people are attracted; full-worker organizing in which all working people are made to understand they are members of a community and have untapped potential; building unity across classes of people; developing organic leaders who create a social force capable of exercising power; and tracking every worker’s participation in the workplace and the community to better engage them in the union learning and development processes.

Creating the Social Context

McAlevey’s model is an engagement model. As an employer, you must understand an engaging communication system in your organization makes it possible for all employees to participate, exercise their power to contribute to organizational success and create a social force. The social mindset encourages people to fully participate in the communication process by providing context.

It’s not a passive system. It proactively embraces the disengaged, drawing them into the community of the already engaged. The communication skills of your leaders are crucial to the development of a social mindset. You want your employees to join your organizational efforts to remain innovative, competitive and successful, instead of joining a union. It’s the path to union proofing your business.

11 Examples of How Great Social Media Sets Employers Apart

Forging meaningful connections via social media is a goal of most people. It’s not just individuals though; about 50 percent of large companies and 75 percent of small businesses use social media.

Here are a few examples of how companies excel in using social media:

  1. Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation (BSN): This is a community of Best Buy employees who share knowledge, best practices and ideas, regardless of their positions and even ages. Best Buy has successfully integrated this internal network with its employees’ lives and have used it to empower employees and engage them meaningfully.
  2. Zappos: Two-thirds of employees of this online shoe and clothing shop have a social media presence, where they are encouraged to freely connect online with customers. Besides that, the company fosters a culture that helps employees thrive and be happy. You can be sure that no employee of such a company would consider union organizing.
  3. Indium Corporation of America: This solder manufacturer has ten blogs and 15 bloggers. The company has been able to cultivate relationships that enhance not just customer satisfaction and brand loyalty but also employee satisfaction.
  4. Latham & Watkins LLP: The private social network of this large law firm is useful from recruitment to retirement as it contains relevant official and personal content.
  5. Starbucks: Although this popular coffeehouse chain has a social media team, it encourages its employees to share updates about the brand on their own social media accounts. Besides, it has an online community, MyStarbucksIdea, where customers and employees can suggest ideas to improve the Starbucks experience and see it happen. Such employers suck the wind out of the union-organizing sail!
  6. Giantnerd: This company sells equipment for outdoor activities like hiking, biking and snowboarding. They created a social network within their website. You can join it with just one click upon which you will receive a five-percent discount. If you click the Like button on the site or join its Facebook community, you get exclusive deals. Since adding the Like button, Giantnerd’s average order has increased by 50 percent.
  7. San Chez Bistro: This tapas bistro and restaurant uses social media to be in sync with its customers. You can use Twitter to reserve a seat, which is known as “tweet-ahead seating.” Once you tweet, the online hostess tweets back to confirm. They also use their Foursquare page to offer incentives to patrons.
  8. Hootsuite: This popular social media dashboard regularly posts its employees’ photos on Instagram. It tags the employee in the description. Acknowledging and applauding employees improve employee morale and can be a positive union-avoidance method.
  9. Marsh Inc.: When this global risk management and insurance broker wanted to teach finance to a group of employees, it approached its finance experts, who created a 27-part blog series that included both written content and videos taken using phones.
  10. Deloitte: The multinational professional services firm has an internal social network, D Street. Each employee gets a personal landing page at D Street, complete with a photo gallery, an “about me” section and a blog. D Street also has online communities where employees can interact with each other. You can be sure they don’t discuss union card signing there!
  11. Southwest Airlines: This major US airline gets its staff to share stories on its blog, Nuts About Southwest, and post things about the firm on social media. Its social media actions were much appreciated in July 2016, when a technical outage brought the company website and email system down and Southwest’s social media team worked nonstop to respond to frantic queries.

Companies use social media largely to increase brand awareness or as marketing and sales tools. However, it can also be an excellent way to engage your workers meaningfully.

One Word That Summarizes the Future of Employee Communication

Today’s workforce is the most diverse it’s ever been, with employees at large and small companies coming from many different backgrounds and spanning multiple generations. It’s an exciting time, but also one that means employers are tasked with finding new and more efficient ways to connect and communicate with employees.

One Word

The one word that summarizes the future of employee communication is customization. Employers need to customize material, training programs and overall communication to specific audiences to make sure their business runs as smoothly as possible. Here are some examples of how customization can help out in the workplace.

Custom-Crafted Employee Video

Far from the cheesy training videos from the past, today’s custom video creations are fun, inspiring, and not just consistent, but consistently effective. Consider custom video for your message, particularly if you have employees who speak a variety of languages and you need them all to get the same information.  Additionally, with the ability to place your video message online, you can reach additional audiences as needed, including employees’ families. This is a great plan if you’re making changes to your benefits plan or if the company is relocating or announcing other big changes. Creating a positive feeling around change can go a long way toward acceptance of that change.

Custom Employee-focused Websites

Creating a powerful and effective employee website can be a challenge, and maintaining it is another proposition altogether. But customization is key – it’s no longer enough to just piggy-back off third party resources – as an employer of choice, your company has to provide customized resources that connect with employees and the all-important secondary audience at home. Creating password-protected sites that protect your company and your employees from outside interference is a great way to inspire trust and confidence in the resources you’re providing online. Including information on the state of your business, your union-free philosophy, Human Resources, and employee benefits is an important part of keeping a happy and healthy workforce. Custom-created websites allow you to keep the content fresh, interesting and relevant, making the information meaningful to employees.

Custom-crafted eLearning Programs

Not nearly as expensive today as they once were, custom-crafted interactive eLearning programs can help you create a sense of community among your employees, as your training and information instantly becomes consistent and spot-on with content employees and managers need. Interactive eLearning can engage your employees, bolster communication and build solid communication across geography, time zones, varying shifts, different jobs – everyone engages in the same way and learns the material you need them to know. Compliance tracking can provide you with the knowledge you need to make sure your eLearning is doing its job.

Custom Messaging through Social Media

Creating social media groups that let employees share information with each other and managers in a more relaxed and comfortable way can be another great method of improving employee relations. The purpose of social media is to build communities and facilitate interaction. (Check out our previous post on this topic, with some great insight, here!) You can use private Facebook groups to share news about your company and start new conversations or to recognize employees for their accomplishments, and you can use Twitter to communicate fast, short updates to your employees.

Employee communication is more important now than ever. Learn how to customize your interactions with employees to ensure they are happy and feel valued by your company.

Maximize Your Investment With Benefits Communication

Your company’s benefits package is a critical element in the recruitment and retention of a quality workforce, but if your employees don’t understand their benefits, your organization is losing out on the actual, well, benefit of providing a benefits package in the first place!

To get the most out of your company’s investment in these rewards, it’s critical that you communicate your benefits to your employees – and we’re not talking a once a year, droning HR meeting with a sleepy Powerpoint and a stack of take-homes, nosireebob. We’re talking about a fully strategized, year-round effort to communicate, update and generally remind employees about the perks of working with your organization. Basically? This should be an in-house PR campaign, with you taking the lead.

But it takes too much time!

But our budget is too small!

Yes, we know. We’re all being stretched every which way and money is tighter than it’s ever been. That’s why it’s so incredibly important to take stock of the time and finances you do have available for Benefits Communication and USE THEM WISELY.

Why Year-Round?

If you want your employees to actively engage with their rewards, you have to be actively engaged as well. According to a 2012 study, conducted by a North American communications strategy company, just 29% of employers communicate with their employees about benefits year-round – and yet, of those who do, 84% go on to meet all or nearly all of their communications goals for the year. Not bad stats.

Which brings us almost seamlessly to the idea of setting communications goals for the year, as in, this is something you really should do. It doesn’t have to be a big deal – just a list of four or five things that you would like to achieve and how you can measure your success.

Assess Your Communication Methods

Traditional Methods

A 2014 study conducted in the UK showed that 86% of the companies they surveyed relied on printed materials to communicate with their staff about compensation and benefits. But while printed materials may look great, they are notoriously expensive, they take time to create (which all but eliminates the opportunity for spontaneous communication) and with print, companies also likely incur additional costs for material distribution.

Other traditional pathways for communication include in-person meetings, which drain productivity and travel budgets for many companies and e-mail, which, while inexpensive, might not allow you to be as in-depth or personalized as you might like.

Modern Methods

We’re talking video, websites, e-Learning, social media, targeted text messages, even smart phone and tablet apps – these are all responsive, affordable communications options, and ones your workforce will be able to engage with whenever they need it, and on their own time. Technologies like these make it easy for you to reach out clearly and often to your workforce, without ever having to buy a single stamp.

Your Best Bet?

Combine methods. Cross the streams. Get strategic! Invest your time and your budget in a combination of traditional and modern communications methods to engage your employees and keep them engaged.

Projections is here to help you create a custom benefits communication strategy for your workforce – and, if you like, we’ll even manage it for you, too! Contact Projections today to see how we can help you find solutions to your trickiest communication challenges!

The Nine Employment Blogs You Should Be Reading

HR Blogs to ReadNo matter if you are a labor attorney, human resources professional, or business owner, no matter if you’re looking to stay informed about the Employee Free Choice Act, or you just want to recruit and retain the best employees – in the blogosphere, the answers are all there. The problem is, there’s such a wealth of information, it’s nearly impossible to know where to focus your energies.

In an effort to ease that queasy drinking-from-a-firehose feeling, I offer the following nine labor relations and employment law blogs. These are the ones I subscribe to, the ones I wouldn’t live without:

  1. The HR Capitalist Launched in 2006, the HR Capitalist is the blog of Kris Dunn, vice president of people for DAXKO. With more than a decade of experiences as a human resources professional, Dunn’s blog focuses on the intersections of HR practices, technology, and business results; performance management and recruitment; and other numerous topics that affect HR generalists at all levels.
  2. Right to Work Blog The Right to Work Blog covers labor topics for the National Right to Work Committee. Established in 1995, the National Right to Work Committee is nonprofit, nonpartisan, single-purpose citizens’ organization that combats compulsory unionism, ensuring that all people have the right to join a union without being forced to do so.
  3. George’s Employment Blawg George’s Employment Blawg is a trusted resource for issues and commentary related to employment law. George Lenard, a lawyer specializing in labor and employment law, began the blog in May 2003 as a result of his online reading about employment law. As the popularity of the blog grew, Lenard started posting additional topics on general employment information and human resources.
  4. Labor Pains Labor Pains is the blogging home of the Center for Union Facts and the Employee Freedom Action Committee. The blog features commentary from Richard Berman, a longtime labor expert and the executive director of the Center for Union Facts, and J. Justin Wilson, the managing director of the Center for Union Facts. The blog also features guest commentary from other labor and employment law experts.
  5. AFL-CIO Now Blog The AFL-CIO Now Blog delivers up-to-the-minute labor news and commentary from one of America’s largest unions. The AFL-CIO is a voluntary federation of 56 national and international labor unions that represents workers from a variety of backgrounds.
  6. The S.H.I.E.L.D. NetworkRun by former union leaders, union organizers, and top labor relations professionals, this mission of this blog (and companion website) is to “dispel the myths for both you and your employer and to expose today’s union tactics that are being executed on employees all across America—in the workplace, in the media, and on the streets.”
  7. Culture to Engage Culture to Engage offers tips, examples, and how-to insights to help companies develop an employee engagement culture. Culture to Engage features blogs from Tim Wright, who focuses on helping management professionals in hospitals and other business leaders with employee engagement issues.
  8. Union Review Union Review provides labor-related news and views and acts as a forum for rank-and-file, as well as non-union members, to openly discuss work, struggles, and ideas to strengthen the labor movement. The blog is owned and run by Richard Negri, a freelance writer and union member.
  9. e2e Projections’ own blog offers commentary, insight, and current news on labor relations and HR. Established in 1979, Projections, Inc. is the country’s leading provider of custom employee communication resources (video, Web, and eLearning), specializing in critical issues such as skills and management training, health care issues, layoffs and closings, pension and retiree issues, new employee orientations, corporate compliance and ethics, labor relations, and other employment-related issues.

Staying abreast of labor and employment issues is the best way to ensure that your organization remains union free and successful. Make checking all or some of these blogs part of your daily routine by subscribing to their RSS feed or bookmarking them.

Projections has been helping companies communicate with employees for more than 3 decades. CEO Walter Orechwa believes in working with the Human Resources and Labor Relations experts that help those companies maintain positive employee relations. For more information on the video, web, and eLearning resources Projections offers, please visit their website at www.ProjectionsInc.com