Poor communications results in an average of $62.4 million wasted per company every year. There are many factors that contribute to poor communications. One notorious example is excessive use of business buzzwords. Such jargon consists of technical terms that are so overused that they have lost meaning, such as “ideate” and “disruptive.” Many business buzzwords started as industry terminology, but have lost substance through widespread use.
Why Do People Use Jargon?
Approximately 65% of American workers use jargon at least two to three times a week. People use this language to emulate how others in their industry talk or shorthand for communications. However, more common reasons for why people actually use business buzzwords are:
- They want to sound professional or intelligent.
- They want to hide unpleasant messages or dodge questions.
- They are trying to be politically correct.
- They find it easier than thinking of a more precise word.
Why Should You Stop Using Jargon?
Jargon results in in vague messages. In a 2017 survey by American Express, 88% of respondents admitted they only pretend to understand office jargon. Meanwhile, nearly 50% of this group also said that they use such phrases frequently. “The single biggest problem in communication,” said playwright George Bernard Shaw, “is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Avoiding buzzwords in business writing can be beneficial. Your communications will have a greater impact:
- You will sound more sincere. A study by New York University found that subjects perceived complex sentences with jargon to be less truthful than clear and concise sentences.
- You will minimize confusion. With so many ways to interpret jargon, it is likely that your recipient walks away with a different understanding of what you had intended.
- You will connect more personally. Using jargon with someone from outside your industry can make them feel excluded. Overuse of jargon can also make you sound robotic and inhuman. Even in business, people expect a more conversational tone. Meet employees where they are.
- You will sound less pretentious. Jargon-filled language can seem annoying and fake. If your messages are filled with double talk, employees might not be receptive. That can lead to a breakdown of trust.
How to Improve Your Communications
For heavy users of jargon, changing your ways won’t happen overnight. Start to pay closer attention to what you say or write. Often, a second look will help you avoid buzzwords in business writing.
When you create communications, remember the following tips to better connect with your audience:
- Know your audience. If you are talking to a technical audience about a technical subject, then, of course, incorporate technical language. However, if your audience is a mixed group or if your communication is about a non-technical matter, keep it simple. No matter whom you’re talking to, nobody wants to have to read your sentences twice in order to understand them.
- Use simple language. Be clear and concise. Limit your use of jargon, acronyms, and abbreviations. A good rule to follow for general communications is to make sure that a ninth grader or lower can understand you. Popular media, like Reader’s Digest, is written at that grade level. Microsoft Word will tell you the reading level of your document.
- Take a communication audit. Look at the last email that you sent. Do you spot any of The Hartford’s “60 Business Buzzwords to Delete from Your Vocabulary”? If so, maybe it’s time for a change.
Think carefully about your word choices. Don’t isolate your audience with business buzzwords.
Most of your younger employees don’t think that a life insurance policy applies to them. For the most part, they’re still healthy. For another, many haven’t yet married or had children, and see an investment in life insurance as a waste of money.
And yet, the truth is life insurance can be meaningful for everybody, no matter their age or stage of life. The challenge is to help them see how they can benefit from a life insurance policy when they’re not convinced they need it just yet.
That’s where effective communications come in. Use the right strategy and tactics to encourage younger employees to take a look at life insurance. Help them see its value and embrace that idea that it may not be as expensive or unnecessary as they think. To the contrary, buying a plan now may very well save them money down the road. Here are four tactics to get your younger employees to consider a life insurance policy.
1. Remind Them Insurance Protects Their Loved Ones In Case Of The Unexpected
While nobody ever wants an accident or injury to happen, the fact is it does at any age. That’s why your younger workers should consider a life insurance policy. It protects their family members from having to worry about paying for a costly funeral. If employees are aware of this huge expense it could sway them to buy a plan. Then they wouldn’t feel guilty about leaving those expenses up to someone else.
2. Convey That Plans Are Affordable
Let them know that you, as their employer, already offer them a basic life insurance policy. Show them the value of buying supplemental life insurance on top of it.
If your company doesn’t already offer it, think about adding supplemental life insurance to your voluntary benefits. Your employees will appreciate the convenience of one-stop shopping for benefits. Supplemental life insurance normally only costs healthy people in their twenties a couple pennies to the dollar per month. It is worth the investment to buy supplemental coverage, as it will not put a dent in their pockets.
3. Promote Now, Save Later
One of the easiest incentives for your younger employees to consider life insurance policies now is that they’re less expensive. Although they may not feel they need life insurance right now, they know they will need it later in their lives. This is a great selling point. Use side-by-side comparison charts and coverage examples in your communications to show them the value of buying when they’re young.
4. Show Them the Stakes
Most younger employees don’t consider the stakes involved in not having life insurance coverage. The risk of disease and death is lower for the young and healthy, but the unexpected can happen. And if it did, how would their loved ones fare? Employees need to understand life insurance offers them and their families’ important protection. Their families won’t go into debt paying for their care or funeral expenses.
Younger employees should consider other expenses too. If a parent co-signed on a private student loan, they would be responsible for the balance. That can be a hefty sum.
Employers should communicate to younger employees that life insurance is indeed for everyone. Help them see the wisdom of buying a life insurance policy at an earlier age. It is an important way for employers to help their people stay healthy—physically, mentally, and financially.
We hear stories every day about the perils of identity theft. It can not only impact a person’s credit, but in some cases, their entire lives.
ID theft is not an isolated incident. In fact, identity theft was the number one complaint consumers made to the Federal Trade Commission for 15 consecutive years.
Do you offer your employees a robust identity theft protection plan as part of their benefits package? About 36% of companies offer some form of ID theft protection services as an employee benefit. This voluntary benefit is a great way to distinguish you as an employer who cares. Employees have a sense of security when they know they have a plan to protect their finances and future.
If enrollment in this benefit is not as robust as it could be, maybe it’s time to beef up your communications.
Promote the Need for Identity Theft Protection
Your employees may have questions about identity theft protection services. What exactly is ID theft? How is it different from credit card fraud? Why do I need ID theft protection? Communications should seek to solve these concerns.
Lay out the stakes. Credit card fraud is a quick and deliberate attack that’s solved with a phone call to the credit card company. Identify theft is more complicated since it’s designed to duplicate a person’s identity. The thief’s goal is to take as much as they can until they are caught. If employees are not protected by a solid ID theft plan, they could potentially lose everything
In today’s world, most hackers launch network attacks where they attempt to crack weak passwords. Add to the benefit and point employees in the direction of training to learn about safe data management practices. These include the use of strong passwords and the avoidance of suspicious email links and websites.
Communicate About ID Theft Protection During Open Enrollment
During open enrollment, your employees feel overwhelmed as they try to navigate through all the options. After learning about their other benefits, they might not have the bandwidth to process more information. Identity theft protection is usually an employee-paid benefit. So, use your communications to emphasize its worth.
Make it easy with targeted pieces of information about ID theft protection services. Lay out what the benefit entails and why it makes sense. Recovering from identity theft is a stressful process that takes time and money. A protection plan assists with some of the associated costs. These can include phone bills and postage, notary fees, costs of obtaining credit reports, and maybe legal fees. Of course, each carrier’s benefits will differ.
Carriers will have resources you can mine for data, so why make more work for yourself? Use those materials for source information and to answer common questions. Attach downloadable fact sheets to videos, place flyers in gathering spaces like lunchrooms and copy rooms and ask managers to distribute materials in meetings.
Engage with Real-Life Stories About the Value of ID Theft Protection
Engage employees with real-life scenarios that show the benefit in action. Stories add credibility behind the value of the ID theft protection benefit and create connections. Employees love to read about their co-workers and how the company’s benefits make a difference in their lives. Use stories throughout your various communications— newsletters, videos, even posters with pictures.
Helping employees stay safe and secure and protect their personal information is a great service. Thorough communications help employees appreciate the value of this benefit.
One of my clients recently asked me to make sure that all of her written communications used either “email” or “e-mail.” All consistency of style had been lost in a flurry of internal stakeholders reviewing and editing multiple drafts, leaving a mishmash of “emails” and “e-mails” in their wake. My client really didn’t care if the hyphen was used or not; “…just pick one,” was her only direction. Easy enough, but now the challenge becomes to hyphenate or not to hyphenate.
My own preference, and I could argue it’s the correct one, is for the less conservative “email.” After all, the Associated Press Stylebook, the de facto style and usage guide for much of the news media, dropped the hyphen way back in 2011. Even the staid New York Times finally succumbed. Unlike my client though, I’ve found that many people stubbornly cling to those hyphens, as evidenced by the continued use of the archaic “co-pay” and “co-insurance”.
But why does it matter? After all, it’s not really wrong to use “e-mail”, or for that matter “co-pay”, it’s just out dated, right? True enough, but the thing is, somewhere, someone reading your communications will know the difference and to that person, you’ve lost some credibility. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the details when it comes to punctuation and style.
Language, like the benefits marketplace, is constantly evolving. With that said, consistently following current writing style guidelines is a hallmark of well-executed, professional communications that are sure to make the impression you want.
Of course, if you’re a busy HR manager like my client, you probably can’t spare the time to worry about hyphens and the like. Luckily, there are communicators like me for that!
Happy New Year! As my colleagues and I return back to work after the holidays, getting back into the swing of things can be quite challenging. To help ease the transition and set the stage for a successful year, we take these first couple of weeks to reflect on 2016, and plan for the year ahead.
Communication and collaboration is an essential part of this process. We think about what our goals are collectively for the business as a whole, for our team, and for our own individual personal and professional development.
In the spirit of setting us all up for success in the new year, I’d like to share some tips that I feel have contributed to the success of our team here at Trion.
I have never worked in an environment where colleagues hold so many meetings. At first, this was overwhelming – meeting constantly and discussing many topics which I did not fully understand.
But now I realize the significance of gathering in a conference room for an hour or two to discuss the week ahead. We can openly discuss upcoming projects or assignments, our progress and feedback, and suggest ways to be more efficient. It is extremely important that everyone is on the same page. This way everyone has a full understanding of what the team is working on.
There are a variety of projects we work on daily. Some may take anywhere from a day to a month, even a whole year, to complete. There are also ongoing assignments — those that are built into our routine and our marketing plans.
Additionally, we frequently receive requests that are outside of our plan of action. When they come in, we draw up a plan as to what is being requested, how it can be achieved and who will work on the project. This way, the work can be distributed evenly amongst the team. We can also take the initiative to own certain projects if we realize our team members are busy with other assignments.
Put it on the Calendar:
Our team is great about communication! We have a shared calendar, which every team member has access to, where we house all of our projects. These can be anything from email blasts to trade shows to meetings.
We place anything with a deadline in our calendar ‒ this way the entire team can see what we have coming up in the weeks/months ahead and who the project owner is. This is tremendously helpful to have on hand should any questions arise or someone needs assistance with a project.
Keep a Log:
This may be more of a personal task and coincides with our project plans and team calendar. Keeping track of all the assignments and projects I work on throughout the year is valuable. I create a spreadsheet with the name of the project, a brief description, the date I started and completed it, and what worked best or needs improvement.
This gives me a physical document to show to my boss and/or colleagues if needed, and comes in very handy during the annual performance review process. I can also use it as a tool to reflect upon everything I completed and achieved during the year, and look for ways to become more effective for the following year.
Best wishes for success in 2017!
In the blink of an eye, we find ourselves gearing up for another holiday season, welcoming a fresh start and a new year. Where does the time go? As 2016 comes to a close, we begin to think ahead to 2017 and what the new year may hold: career goals, travel adventures, home and family changes…
It’s difficult to ignore this season’s abundance of ad campaigns and news headlines centered around the topic of new year’s resolutions, which consequently leaves you feeling pressured to create that master list of ways you are going to better yourself (and your family, and your friends….and the whole world for that matter!) Assessing how you will actually check these things off your list is enough to make your head spin.
So, here’s a resolution to solve your conflict with resolutions (see what I did there?): be realistic. There are many benefits associated with the process of self-assessment and establishing goals to better one’s self, but do yourself a favor and be realistic. Use your new year’s resolutions as motivators – don’t let them become discouragers by asking yourself to tackle the issue of global warming in one weekend.
Here are a couple tips to help you generate a (realistic) resolution list for 2017.
Start small: Quality, not quantity. You don’t need a five-page list of goals and resolutions to set yourself up for a productive year. Keep it simple and begin by identifying a small task you’d like to complete that may contribute to a larger goal. You can piggyback off the first step throughout the year and before you know it, you’ll be on to bigger and better!
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: I’m sure you’ve heard that before, but it’s worth saying again here. It’s a risk to invest all of your time, money or emotions into one thing, and while this can sometimes be rewarding, it also creates potential for a big letdown. As you consider your goals and resolutions for 2017, try to spread the wealth by focusing a bit of attention on your personal life, another bit on your professional goals, and some on your health, environment and/or family life. And, of course, if you’re looking toward strengthening your communication strategy or improving your employees’ knowledge of benefits, check out the many ways our team at Trion can help!
Acknowledge your successes: Finally, as you’re gearing up for another year of health, happiness and productivity, be sure to take some time to reward yourself for all you’ve done this year. ‘Tis the season for holiday treats, so indulge in that cookie platter and carve out a little time for some well deserved R&R!