Internal Communication: An Engaged Work Force = Productivity

7th Sep 2007

There are a number of U.S. workers dissatisfied with their employers.

According to Gallup research, there are three types of employees: engaged, not-engaged, and actively disengaged:

  1. Engaged employees “work with passion and feel a connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.”
  2. Employees who are not-engaged “are essentially ‘checked out’ putting time—but not energy or passion—into their work.”
  3. Disengaged workers “act out their unhappiness,” and “undermine what their engaged workers accomplish.”

A U.S. Employee Engagement Survey indicated that 69% of workers are either not-engaged or actively disengaged on the job. Further, that $370 billion/year is lost due to lower productivity. Can we do anything to increase the engagement level of the workforce?  Sure.  Certainly benefits, environment, etc. play a large role in engagement levels, but instituting an internal communications program has proven a valuable way to encourage employees to become stakeholders. Progressive companies view internal communications equal in importance to external communications. External marketing can reach its full potential only when employees fully “buy in” to a company’s vision, messages, goals, and values. Internal communications plans start with a clear statement of the company’s ethics, standards, and principles.  It’s also important to conduct a “communication audit” that analyzes how organizational communication occurs and answers some important questions:

  • Are employees receiving accurate information?
  • Are employees receiving regular information?
  • Are messages consistent across the company?
  • Do employees understand the goals/results of communications?

Once the audit is complete, a plan can be implemented that communicates employees’ worth and demonstrates that they are critical to the company’s objectives. In fact, there are countless ways to reinforce employee engagement from a communications perspective. Here are a few examples:

  • Contests with compelling prizes (free gift, etc.)
  • Celebrate of achievements (attended by senior executives)
  • Awards/certificates recognizing employee commitment
  • Internal mentor programs to link junior and upper-level employees
  • Community relations events sponsored by the company

Feedback is equally important.  Leaders should solicit employee feedback and suggestions about the company’s direction. Employees who feel that their ideas and suggestions are heard will be more engaged in their job. An organization with high levels of employee engagement enjoys reduced attrition and increased advocacy for its products and services. Implementing a well thought-out internal communications program will help companies leverage benefits for maximum advantage. Employee engagement can be the catalyst that leads a company to increased levels of productivity, creativity, and bottom-line results.  



Ready, Fire, Aim and some lessons learned along the way

30th Jul 2007

“Ready, Fire, Aim” is a hackneyed expression but I cannot think of a better way to describe incomplete or improper planning.  During my career I have been guilty of this error…and I have seen companies with great ideas struggle and even fail because of a lack of planning.  Transition Capital Management, West Des Moines, IA, has asked me to deliver a presentation on this topic next month to a group of Des Moines small and start-up businesses.  Planning is a discipline that my management teams and I have spent a lot of time and effort on.  Planning is really a simple exercise that small businesses often ignore…and many large businesses spend too much time on!  The key is balance.

“Ready, Fire, Aim” mentality is most prevalent in small cap, start-up and turnaround companies but occurs in large operations as well, even in those who over-plan.  Smaller operations can react so quickly that tight resources may be expended too rapidly.  And start-up and turnaround operations may jump at what appears to be a good opportunity…only to find out that they jumped too quickly. 

Here is an example:  I was part of a technology start-up that has a wonderful product.  The company was under-funded and its product was well ahead of its time.  The target customer group did not recognize the value, did not know they needed the product and, as such, the product got an early black eye despite the benefits it could deliver.  We were guilty of developing incorrect distribution channels and believing that guerrilla marketing could overcome what was really poor planning.  The initial pricing was an obstacle to success and the potential customers were resistant to technological advance.  We modified the product, reduced its cost and capabilities, focused on a different market segment, and were able to successfully re-launch the product.  But the cost in time, money and energy was enormous.  Clearly, a few months of market research and planning would have preserved capital, re-directed product development and put us in the market much more rapidly.  Today (four years from the initial launch) the product is accepted and drawing rave reviews.  Who knows what success we may have enjoyed by now if we had just done a little more marketing and sales planning. 

All of you know the PLOC’s of leadership…the P being planning.  It is vital that all of you in leadership, marketing and sales positions in smaller operations make a conscious effort to force planning and strategic thinking time into all of your new product or process launches.  And all of you in those over-planning larger operations…keep that planning activity in your process but reduce the time frames.  Ensure your competitors don’t beat you to the punch!

Ready.  Aim.  Fire.  Plan and win.



People, your most valuable asset

29th Jun 2007

Through the years many managers have grown from mere supervisors into true leaders, doing all they can to remove the obstacles inhibiting their team’s ability to excel and win.  Are you and your management team included in this leader group?  I hope so.  If not, you can improve the performance of your teams by undertaking a very simple leadership approach, one of optimizing your performance management process.

We all recognize that our teams’ motivation levels vary, in some cases significantly.  Often, we call under-performance a people issue.  But is it really?  I believe it is most often a leadership issue.  You’ve seen the research.  Most people aren’t motivated by money alone.  Most perform well for a variety of personal motivations.  Nearly everybody wants to do a good job in all their endeavors.  And all employees want and need  to know what’s expected of them and how they are performing against expectations.  If you can do a proper job of communicating your company goals, your expectations of the employees and provide proper feedback on how you view their performance…you’ll see a marked improvement in the performance of your teams and, hence, the bottom line.

This doesn’t mean you should merely initiate a performance management process.  It means building a process, implementing the process and committing to continued use and improvement of the process.  Those old-fashioned annual evaluations have little value.  In fact, the results may be opposite of what you hope to achieve.  The same is true for evaluations completed by unskilled supervisors. On the other hand, a properly conducted, objective and open communication and feedback process can result in improved job satisfaction, morale and performance.  This process should be conducted much more frequently and include employee evaluation of supervisors.  It’s not a difficult task but it does take a commitment of time and resources and a champion.  And that champion should be a senior leader.

Want to hear or discuss more?  Stay tuned, I’ll be writing more about this subject in the coming days and will share some of the successes I’ve seen or enjoyed.