Don’t Forget About Employee Morale

A conversation with a friend the other day shed a bright light on the casualties of pandemic leading, management and meetings. My friend is well-established in his career, works in public education, is in upper management and is an incredibly hard working, and also humble person.  He is the first person to compliment others’ work, always credits the team, and is least likely to accept credit and compliments for his own work.

Since March, COVID19 closed public schools and transitioned everyone into some form of distance instruction and remote work and my friend, like many others, was able to resume regular meetings via Zoom, and continue his work via email, file sharing and telephone.

When my friend contacted me because he was troubled by his feelings of being under appreciated.  As I mentioned before, my friend is not someone who strives for compliments and recognition, so for him to feel this way meant, to me, that many valuable things may be missing in his environment–and probably many work environments of others who are working remotely–that are having an impact on employee morale.  And, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel appreciated and recognized–we’re hard-wired as human beings to appreciate rewards for hard work, thanks to our brain chemistry!

Having worked remotely for a better part of my career, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way. The biggest piece of advice I can give to leaders and employees is to be intentional and purposeful when bridging genuine and authentic connections with others.  This doesn’t happen by chance or by mistake!

  • Problem: Lack of Human Interaction: Although Zoom has resumed the “business of holding meetings” they only get the job done of holding meetings and sharing business in meetings. Regular in-person meetings accomplish so much more: the time before the meeting when people have casual conversations to catch up, people sharing the same space creates an environment that reinforces shared norms and values–not to mention eye contact and observing body language, even the time after the meeting’s conclusion offers opportunities for additional casual conversations and banter.  These personal touchpoints allow for bonding and real human interaction.With remote work, these casual touchpoints also disappear–gone are the “watercolor conversations” and drop-in discussions.Email and telephone interactions are typically transactional or, what I call, “lobbing the ball over the net” until you get the ball returned.It is through these in-person meetings and conversations, whether formal or informal, that compliments and praise are easily and naturally provided, smiles and laughs are a part of the environment, and the true culture of an organization ebbs and flows in the everyday.

    Remedy: While offices are still closed (or are limiting the number of employees on site), offer to meet with people one-on-one, over lunch or coffee. Take some time to have the casual conversations, offer praise for their work, and discuss goals.  This interaction may be just what the other person needs to also feel valued.

  • Problem: Lack of Praise: The pandemic has created a crisis-like environment where everyone’s thoughts and actions are centered around the unfamiliar and tackling the situations at hand. While in crisis, teams are in “fight or flight” mode where there is a common understanding that everyone is getting the job done, going above and beyond where necessary.  When in crisis-mode, there is not always time to take a deep breath and say, “We’re doing a great job” especially when the results of the efforts–either positive or negative–are completely unknown.As humans, we’re conditioned to cross the finish line before we celebrate, and we’re even more deeply conditioned to only celebrate if we know we have been successful.  In this pandemic, with public education, we have no idea if our efforts are successful, because we are literally building the ship while we’re sailing it.

    Remedy: The number one factor behind the happiness of employees is appreciation.You still have to remember to celebrate and recognize employees, each day.  According to a recent post from Leadership First: When employees feel valued, they will contribute more and perform better at work. They tend to be more engaged, passionate, and incredibly loyal to their work to help the organization fulfill its purpose and vision. How can you make your employees feel valued, here are a few simple examples according to Bridget Miller:

    • Recognition. Provide employees with the recognition they deserve.
    • Say “thank you”—simple, but effective, and often overlooked. Tip: Consider writing and mailing a handwritten thank you note.
    • Solicit their opinion and utilize it as often as possible.
    • Invest in their continued development.

There are many more strategies one can use to genuinely show their appreciation; these are just a few.

It’s okay to celebrate in the middle of this race–celebrate the small wins along the way. We don’t know how it’s going to end, whether we were 100% successful, and we definitely don’t know where the finish line is. However, you don’t want your team to drop out of the race before it’s finished, so remember to cultivate genuine connections where possible, show appreciation, and keep their morale at the forefront, no matter what–your outcomes will be much more successful.

How To Streamline Internal Communication–Starting Today

Email InboxThis past weekend, I spent a couple of hours talking with new teachers during a Communication Confidence Boosters workshop and “Throw Your Communication Challenges At Me” Q&A session.

First, I was absolutely floored by the number of teachers participating in their own professional development after what was likely the first week of launching distance education for many of them.  They are true rockstars!

Next, when one teacher asked how she could organize and prioritize the “hundreds of district emails” in her in-box—and the affirmation of the other teachers who related—I realized that internal communication in a lot of organizations is likely looking like my personal email in-box: like a bunch of people yelling at me telling me that their message is important.

Although I gave this teacher some advice on how to filter and organize her in box so that she could at least see parent emails first—and then create priorities and timelines around when she could check the other emails—the truth is, your internal audiences should not need to spend hours setting up email filters and in box folders to organize and prioritize your messages.  That’s a late 1990’s/early 2000’s thing. Don’t get me wrong–organizing your email inbox is a must, however, with your internal communications,  your organization should be doing this through integrated, organized, strategic and concise messaging.

Remember what I’ve said before? More communication is not better. More communication means that you’re making your audience choose what they want to read and open.

Better communication filters out the noise and hones in on the most important messages. More communication means that you’re asking audience members to read to wordy messages, long videos and poorly messaged content to determine whether what they read and saw was important, or if it was just a “fluffy message filler.”

Better communication puts the information succinctly in one place, and prioritizes the messaging. 

So how can you accomplish this?  Simply–put the information in one spot for the employee.  And keep messages brief and to-the-point.  Here are a few suggestions:

Employee Newsletter

An employee newsletter is a great way to put all the information you need to send to employees in one place.

  • Frequency: Aim to send the newsletter 1-2 times a week.
  • Length: Your newsletter should be no longer than 1-1.5 printed pages.  The key is to hone in on key information.  Provide links to more detailed information on your website, where necessary, but not in every single story.
  • Format: NOT a pdf download.  If you make people open an email, then download a pdf to read your newsletter, you’ve lost at least 50% of your audience. There are several online email programs that provide easy-to-use, attractive formats.  Constant Contact and MailChimp are a couple of popular email programs.  And, depending on the number of email address in your organization, you may even be able to use their free versions. These programs also allow you to look at open rates, and link click through rates, which is a wonderful way to track how many of your emails are being opened and which links people are clicking on for more information.
  • Include a couple of pictures (not clip art, but pictures of real employees, or from school sites) where relevant.
  • Because of the frequency, it’s key to ensure that the information is timely, and to organize information around the timing of the newsletter’s delivery.
Employee Intranet

Over the past few years, there has been a small rise in the use of employee intranets (closed internal communications network), though the use of Google Drive has also served this need.

  • Pros: It’s streamlined. An employee intranet gives your employees one place to access shared drives and information.  You can post important employee-only calendar events (versus posting them on your public-facing events calendar), reminders that can be integrated with email, and notifications.  Many organizations have multiple ways that employees must obtain this information, and anything that requires an employee to log in to multiple platforms to obtain information basically reduces the chance that the employee will log in and see that information.  So, if you want success with your employee interfaces, then look at one place they need to log in.
  • Cons: They can be costly and somewhat time consuming to set up.  However, the employee time saved and the opportunity to ensure that they are seeing and sharing your messages is worth the up front costs. Here’s a link to a great article that outlines Employee Intranet: 40 Reasons Why Every Business Needs One.
Employee Texts

If you have employees who do not regularly use email, but do have an employer-issued phone, consider sending brief texts intended just for those employees.  Obviously, they don’t need all the tech-related updates relevant to distance education, but they still need to be kept in the loop.

Employee Phone Messages

You may have some employees who are not working right now who usually receive information via district mail or on a bulletin board.  It’s important to keep them engaged and informed about important matters.  Utilize your organization’s phone messaging program (if you have one) or ask directors and managers to reach out to these employees individually to provide them the latest updates (and to check in on them if they’re personally calling each employee).

Need help setting up strategic and streamlined internal communications, or need some advice on how to do so?  Give us a call at 916.673.8868 or send us an email.  We’ll get you up and going within the day on an email communication, employee phone messages and texts, or can refer you to great employee intranet vendors.