I love listicles and devour them for news. 5 Things You Need to Know This Week. 10 Things to Make with Leftover Chicken. My boyfriend hates them. He prefers getting his information from discussion forums. People have grown accustomed to getting news in their desired format: lists, long-form articles, discussion forums, infographics, videos, etc. So why do companies expect their one-size-fits-all employee communications will be effective?
There are currently five generations in the workforce. Each generation brings insights from their different lifestyles and experiences. Each also has different preferences and expectations for communications. While traditionalists generally expect audiences to be passive and respectful to authority, millennials want to be engaged.
This generational gap is one of many in a workforce where one-size-fits-all communications fails. Others may include gender, culture, location, and roles. After all, what would an employee at a manufacturing plant think about receiving an email of corporate speak?
In a study by GuideSpark, over 70% of respondents said that they want their companies to improve how they communicate information.
It’s Just Talking to Our Employees. Why Does It Matter?
Research from Gallup shows disengagement remains a critical problem for the American workforce It costs businesses up to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. In the American workplace with more than 100 million full-time employees:
- 16% are actively disengaged – completely miserable at work.
- 51% are disengaged – just there, doing the bare minimum to squeak by.
- 33% are engaged – truly love their jobs and make their organization better every day.
Employees who are actively disengaged are “more likely to steal from their company, negatively influence their coworkers, miss workdays and drive customers away.” One cause of low engagement is leaders who don’t define and communicate the company vision and rally employees around it.
- Only 22% of employees strongly agree their organization’s leadership has a clear direction for the organization.
- Only 13% of employees strongly agree their organization’s leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.
What Can Employers Do?
Communication is “the cornerstone of an engaged workforce” and is key in improving employee engagement. To communicate effectively with employees, employers must:
- Understand your organization. Talk to your employees and find out what they want. What is working? What is not working? What do they need? How do they want it?
- Personalize your approach. Once you understand the differences in your organization, decide how you want to engage the various groups.
For each message, consider the following:
- Audience: Who needs to get this message? What is the best way to group to capture their different interests or viewpoints in this message? You could group message recipients by demographics, geography, or employment area.
- Content: What does each group need in order for the message to resonate with them? Do they need proof points or background information?
- Channel: What’s the most effective way to reach each group? This may include face-to-face meetings, mail, email, text messages, social media, or company intranets.
- Medium: What’s the most effective way to communicate different messages? This may include in-person, video, email, article, blog post or infographic.
- Speaker: Who should deliver each message? Would it be more impactful if a message came from a higher-up, like the CEO or someone who knows the group personally, like their line manager?
- Obstacles: Consider different factors that may impact your message reaching your audience. Is it the group’s busy time of the year when they are already behind on emails? If so, will another email be just lost in the shuffle?
Think of your organization’s different audiences and consider their needs when planning communications. You will be able to reach them more effectively and improve your employee engagement.
As with everything now, there’s a new term that describes what I am: a foodie traveler – someone who travels for food. As such, I value (and take) every one of my vacation days. I have used my vacation days to taste crawfish in New Orleans, crab cakes in Maryland, smoked ribs in Texas, and pasta in Italy, with time for sight-seeing. Even at this moment, I’m researching top BBQ restaurants in North Carolina for an upcoming trip. But, I appear to be in the minority.
According to a study from Project: Time Off, 54 percent of Americans did not use all their vacation days in 2016. That left a total of 662 million unused days. Reasons employees gave related to concerns about their employer’s perception of them, including:
- Fear that taking vacation could make them appear less dedicated at work (26%)
- Do not want to be seen as replaceable (23%)
- Worried that they would lose consideration for a raise of promotion (21%)
However, the managers surveyed in this study agreed:
- Improves health and well-being (82%)
- Boosts morale (82%)
- Alleviates burnout (81%)
- Improves employees’ focus upon return (78%)
- Renews employees’ commitment to their job (70%)
Where’s the Disconnect?
The same study discovered that two-thirds (2/3) of American employees receive none, negative, or mixed messages from their company about taking time off. A majority of managers recognize the benefits of taking time off, but many do not engage with their employees about vacations. This lack of communication creates an unintentional “vacuum where negative perceptions thrive”. In fact, 76 percent of employees said if they felt fully supported and encouraged by their boss, they would be likely to take more time off.
Why Should This Matter to Employers?
“Why should I care if my employees don’t want to take any time off? It’s their decision.”
There are many reasons why employers should care that their employees take time off. There are benefits to both the well-being of the employee and the company’s bottom-line.
- Improved Productivity: Logic says employees are more productive when they’re in the office working and not on vacation. Yet working for long periods without time off hurts concentration, creativity and productivity
- Improved Health and Well-being: Taking a break lets employees recharge, reduce stress and lower the chance of developing depression or heart disease. This can help cut down on sick days and employee burnout
- Increased Job Satisfaction: Project: Time Off’s State of American Vacation 2016 found employees whose bosses supported vacation were more happy with their jobs.
- Reduced Liability on Company’s Balance Sheet: In 2016, there was a $272 billion vacation liability sitting on the balance sheets of American companies. With employees not taking vacation and rolling their unused paid time off to the following year(s), this liability continues to grow.
What Can Employers Do?
Employers and managers have a significant role to play in ensuring that their team members take time off. Here are some things you can do:
- Engage Your Employees About Vacation: Talk to your team. Ask them about upcoming vacations or plans. Discuss the value of taking some time off. Let them know that you are supportive of it.
- Take Time Off: There’s no better way to lead than by example. Start taking time off and your employees will follow.
- Limit Carry-Over of Paid Time Off: A hard deadline for using vacation days may encourage more employees to take vacation now instead of continuing to push it off.
- Reward Employees with a Day Off: After the completion of a huge project or a busy season, reward your hard-working employees with a day off so that they can recharge.
Go Big or Go Home
Some companies have implemented company-wide policies to ensure that their employees take time off. Here are examples of what some companies are doing:
- TED closes for two weeks every summer.
- Salesforce offers seven paid volunteer days a year to employees.
- HubSpot enforces a minimum two-week vacation for all employees. Salespeople are allowed to reduced their quotas twice a year so that they feel comfortable using their two-week vacations.
- SteelHouse offers $2,000 a year for their employees to use for travel expenses for vacation.
If you’re still eyeing that cruise to Bermuda, now might be the time to take it. For me at least, I know there are definitely some Las Vegas buffets in my future.