In what has been a world-changing, paradigm-shifting year, it’s safe to say that employee morale has suffered profoundly as a result. So, how can we use our internal communications to motivate, inspire and push our workforce onwards and upwards?
As the current crisis shows no signs of abating, the majority of employees remain working from home. After a surge of activity at the beginning of lockdown, feelings of negativity, burn out and restlessness are afoot. At this, organizations need to address the engagement gap. But when it comes to reaching out to our remote employees, how can we use internal communications to motivate and inspire?
In order to be as effective as possible, internal communications experts have to wear a lot of hats. From keeping employees informed of everything from the most benign company updates to the news that impacts people’s lives – their channels of communications need to open and dynamic. But at the same time, internal communicators also need to gauge the thoughts and feelings of the workforce, make sure they’re doing everything possible to get workers accessing comms, and encourage leaders to step aside from their usual duties to reach out to the organization.
How important is motivation?
Without motivation, the workplace is simply a mass of individuals who have no inclination or drive to do things better, look for solutions, work together, and complete tasks as well and as quickly as possible.
Whatever business you have, you’ll be providing a service or creating a product for a customer, client, or consumer. But quite often, employees will lose sight of the end goal. Reminding your people of the real-life difference their work is making to people’s lives is essential in keeping the big picture in view. This bird’s eye perspective allows them to see a purpose in their jobs: whether it’s a salesperson on the floor or a staff member on a production line. Motivation provides an array of positive feelings – instilling a sense of pride in their work, a push to develop their role, increased satisfaction, and a desire to do things better. In short, motivated employees improve the organization’s efficiency and bottom line.
What is motivating our employees right now?
Clearly, it’s been a tough year so far. Lockdown, health fears, and isolation have given way to losing colleagues to redundancies and an economy in crisis. It might feel impossible to think of anything inspiring our workers right now. But there are a number of motivating factors currently helping to boost morale – and as internal communications experts, it’s important to be aware of them.
- Comms channels: Aka the link from our homes to our workplace. Our instant message platforms, intranet, and video software have never been more important in linking us to “normality”.
- Our leaders: Walking around our office, we may be aware of the galvanizing presence of our leaders. However, working from home, leadership visibility must be increased via blogs, all-hands meetings, and interaction on intranet posts and emails.
- Rewards and recognition: Most of our work can easily be overlooked by the rest of the organization. Therefore, implementing employee recognition programs helps shine a light on outstanding work, and help workers feel seen and valued.
- Our individual teams: With the shared experience of lockdown, many teams may feel they have grown closer together. It is these little communities within our organization that are helping to keep workers buoyed.
- The collective goal: People like to feel part of a bigger picture, so a company mission statement is essential in giving employees purpose, direction, and motivation.
- Creating a business that works for the employee: Providing flexible working hours, employee benefit packages, and other perks allow the employee to feel appreciated and more able to do their job better.
How internal communicators capitalize on these critical areas will vary from organization to organization. However, the following questions should be considered.
Are you choosing the right comms channels?
Not all employees use the same digital tools. The platforms used by desk-bound employees will be different from those used by frontline workers, for example. Therefore, analysis must be run to check whether your comms are getting picked up by everyone. There could be a segment of your workforce that is unknowingly missing out.
Without good internal comms in place, employees will feel left in the dark, uninformed, and without direction. It’s essential that every member of your organization gets access to all important messages. Working out the audience segmentation for each communication platform is recommended. Find out what your employee’s preferred channels are, and use them in your comms reach. Whether it’s Slack or Yammer, Skype or Zoom: don’t assume your employees are going to find you. It’s up to internal communications to find your employees.
IC tip: Find out which comms channels your employees are using, when, and where. Your messages should work with the times that individuals are working, whether that’s the late shift or a different time zone.
Are your leaders communicating?
Leadership comms are essential to motivating staff. While internal communications fulfill a significant role in keeping employees informed, messages from the senior level have a real motivational impact. When people are working from home, a business can easily become faceless, as individual workers clear to-do lists and try to stay ahead of the game. For remote employees, communication is more important than ever. We need to feel part of a community, we need to be kept in the loop, and we need to know that those at the top are aware of the rest of us.
Hearing from the people in charge of your organization can not only inform, but also reduce feelings of anxiety or discontent. When senior-level management provide their employees with news or updates, it can boost morale, improve productivity, and employee satisfaction. This is particularly vital for remote or dispersed workers, who face a higher risk of isolation, loneliness, and disconnect from their organization.
IC tip: Encourage senior leaders to blog regularly – on a variety of subjects. In times of crisis, let these ramp-up to become empathetic and direct messages to the workforce about the plan ahead.
Are you using a rewards and recognition program?
How do your employees know if they’re doing a good job and are appreciated? When it comes to motivating staff, the role of an effective reward and recognition program shouldn’t be underestimated. When employees understand that they are valued, and that hard work is paid off, this can contribute significantly to motivation, satisfaction, and engagement.
A good example of this is from Countrywide Housing, UK’s largest integrated property services group, and their program, High Fives. This initiative was launched across the organization as a way of not only encouraging engagement but also to highlight great work that may have otherwise passed unnoticed. The initiative was very successful, winning a slew of awards and transforming how employees use the intranet and interact with each other. But ultimately, the program became a very effective morale booster – with all great deeds, no matter how big or small, recognized and highlighted across the business.
IC tip: Develop your employee rewards and recognition program on your company intranet. Allowing access to every individual in your workforce is key to its success.
Are you encouraging team leaders to foster a positive culture?
As we continue to work with dispersed employees, it has never been more important to build and maintain a strong team culture. Team managers should be encouraged to go beyond their regular duties to ensure their team spirit isn’t hampered by their different working locations.
There are countless digital tools that allow instant messaging, virtual meetings, video chat, and team huddles. Managers should find software that works to bring their team together. Daily chats should be initiated, and not just for updates on projects or deadlines. To build the culture needed for teams working from home, it’s important to encourage conversation that touches on anything from weekend plans, to the latest must-watch on Netflix. Prescribe a fixed time every day for a catch-up and get your team talking. That camaraderie seen in the office comes just as much from friendly banter as it does from your collective successes.
IC tip: Enable different departments to carry out a ‘show and tell’ of their recent achievements on regular company-wide get-togethers.
Are you connecting employees to a purpose?
People’s approach to work is vastly improved when they have a purpose. In fact, when they feel part of the bigger picture, it creates a motivation that provides long-lasting benefits. In fact, when leaders connect their employees to purpose, they are 373% more likely to have a strong sense of purpose, 747% more likely to be highly engaged, and 49% less likely to burn out (according to the 2020 Global Culture Report by OC Tanner). Employees see intrinsic value in belonging to an organization driven to solve problems, make situations easier, and help people.
When employees are purpose-driven, they are motivated to play their part, have more pride in their work, and are more willing to help and support their colleagues. This sense of duty is a massive asset to a business, who will see improved retention, productivity, and a happier working culture because of it.
And after a wearying time in lockdown, employees need to feel this sense of purpose in their work. It’s essential to motivation, happiness, and direction. You can read more about how a sense of purpose is beneficial in the workplace here.
IC tip: Push your company values and mission statement on the intranet. Recognition programs can be bolstered by highlighting behavior that embodies core values, using hashtags that align with your organization, eg: #helpingothers #solvingproblems etc
Are you creating a positive employee experience?
The employee’s interactions throughout the working day have a huge impact on their enjoyment of their job. These can cover a whole range of experiences, from the friendly atmosphere of the office to the social activities that the business organizes. While many employees work from home, organizations have to work hard to create a positive working experience.
During lockdown, with home-schooling, isolation, and general anxiety, this was hard to achieve. However, as we move into a new phase, companies can focus on weekly chats, provide more insight into plans going forward, introduce some employees back to the workplace and create the camaraderie that may have been absent during the peak of lockdown. When people are provided a warm, positive working environment, it pushes them to achieve more and feel motivated for the long-term.
IC tip: Use pulse surveys to check in on the thoughts and feelings of your employees. This anonymous feedback will provide you with the insights needed to make the necessary changes.
The simple fact of the matter is that work can be a huge boost for people right now. However, the tactical side of work – the deadlines, the ticking off of procedures, the completion of tasks must be balanced with a more community-focused approach. Re-framing the remote workplace, as a space for employees to communicate, problem-solve, collaborate, and be valued, can be extremely rewarding – both for workers and the organization. In order to make workers motivated, you need to make work motivating, and as internal communicators, it’s up to you to help bring this shift in perspective about.