Engage your employees

    Employee engagement is seen as one of the top three factors that drive an organization’s success (it ranks higher than strategy), and 75 percent of corporate of board members believe that it improves bottom-line performance.

    But in these difficult times, when the news is full of layoffs, reorganizations and shifting priorities, employee engagement is often not high on the business agenda. It needs to be.

    Without a doubt, it’s important to pay attention to those people who are losing their jobs. It’s equally important to pay attention to the people who remain … to the people who are asked to do more with less … to the people who your business now relies on to survive.

    These employees crave information. Without it, they become more stressed … and less productive.

    At the same time, these employees are being inundated with gossip and falsehoods. The rumors are not just shared during lunchroom conversations. They travel among employees with lightning speed via e-mail, texting, Tweeting, social media and other avenues.

    Without formal engagement and communication from company management, the rumors can grow in both numbers and in strength. Perception will become reality if a company fails to take the time to communicate with and engage its workforce.

    So, if your company is facing challenges, take the time to share and explain those challenges to employees. If you have plans, take the time to share them with employees. If you have bad news, take the time to share it  … face-to-face.

    Here are some suggestions on how to communicate information with employees and how to help ease the blow if the news is not all good:

    Communicate with the whole group at one time. This ensures that each employee hears the same words and doesn’t allow the grapevine to take control of your message.

    Speak honestly and simply. You’re probably feeling some anxiety yourself. Don’t be afraid to share that with your employees. And don’t veil your message in a bunch of jargon and buzzwords.

    Make it clear that you understand employee concerns by making a point of addressing questions that you know they’d like to ask if given the opportunity.

    Have a plan. Tell employees where the business is going from this point. Make your employees a part of your plan and keep them informed along the way.

    Break the news early in the day. Sharing bad news at 5 p.m. and then leaving for the day may well leave staff members in shock and worried, creating more questions than answers. Talking to them early in the day allows employees the time to absorb the news and to come to you as questions and concerns arise.

    Use the opportunity to bond with employees, to show the human side of management and to lighten the moment.

    Wait a minute … “Lighten the moment?” Yes. Let’s be honest. Managers and frontline employees alike are stressed, tired and would truly appreciate a few laughs. And that’s understandable, because it’s difficult to find humor in such demanding times.

    Unfortunately, most business-minded people tend to correlate laughter with irresponsibility. If this describes one of your beliefs, I want to challenge you to change that mindset. After all, humor can be a powerful management tool. It can relieve tension, enhance rapport, gain attention and make messages more memorable.

    Today, times are uncertain, and engaged employees are more likely to not only cope with the changes, but also to contribute to how their companies can survive and ultimately thrive.

    Informed employees are engaged employees. And engaged employees feel accountable to help find solutions that will benefit the companies that employ them, which ultimately benefits everyone.  n

    Dale Brown is president of Brown & Martin Inc., a marketing and public relations firm based in Waukesha.

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