Too often I’ve heard leaders say they think they’re doing “ok” or “enough” when it comes to communicating the mission of their business and building a culture of openness and trust, and recognition for hard work. But it turns out that 7 out of 8 employees don’t really understand their company’s mission and only 1 in 5 believe their company communicates openly and honestly. And while most business owners say that company values are important, almost half of their employees believe they aren’t recognised when they demonstrate them.
This tells me there’s an enormous gap between what employers think they’re doing well, and what’s really going on in their employees’ day-to-day experience.
If we want to close the gap between perception and reality, we need to do something radically different.
As leaders, doing “ok” isn’t going to cut it anymore. As leaders, what our employees need from us is our best. They need us to be their champions, and to proactively connect with them and create an environment where they:
feel part of something bigger than themselves,
have a sense of ownership and mastery over their career, and
receive the feedback they need to understand the impact they’re making on the company’s success.
This might seem like a big task, but here are a few simple ways that any leader can start to bridge that gap.
Integrate employee reward and recognition into how you communicate
As a leader in a global organisation, one of the challenges I face is making sure the leaders and teams in our offices around the world have visibility of the work my people are doing locally and the impact this has on the business.
How can we do this? By combining the best of two words: communication and recognition. When I update the rest of the company on what’s happening on my side of the globe, I need to recognise the work our employees have done in a way that’s specific, timely, and meaningful, with communication that’s social, inclusive and multi-directional.
Let’s break that down:
Specific: Spotlighting an achievement or milestone — like closing a deal or reaching a project milestone
Timely: Soon after it’s happened (e.g. the same day or week)
Meaningful: Using the language and channels that are comfortable for me and the person I’m recognising
Inclusive: Acknowledging that many people or teams were part of the achievement and the impact this has on others
Social: Inviting others in the company to respond
Multi-directional: And allowing that feedback loop to continue anywhere in the organisation and flow in any direction - be it from one manager to another, or one employee to many.
This might mean mentioning a team member’s achievement during a leadership team meeting and using both employee reward and recognition and internal communication tools to extend the moments of recognition and amplify their contributions.
For example, when any of our sales people around the world signs on a new client, we receive an automatic notification in our email inboxes and in one of our global Slack channels. The notifications include a list of has contributed to winning the deal, and people can comment in the Slack thread, tag each other, or respond with emojis and GIFs. If someone has worked especially hard on a deal, I send them an eCard which is linked to the values they demonstrated.
We also introduced Thank You Thursdays to encourage employees to share stories of help from others in the company, or a message from one of our customers saying thank to one of our people. To amplify these moments, we encourage our employees to publish the stories in our employee engagement platform, boom!, which allows other people to comment on the post, or recognise the team members involved with an eCard or instant award.
Another example of integrating recognition with communication is our recent launch of the Sydney offices. The project was a team effort and I wrote an internal blog post about the project so the rest of the company can read about what was involved — it allows our employees from around the world to get a better understanding of how these things come together, and if they want to they can respond with likes, comments, or recognition for the rest of the project team.
As a leader, it’s up to you to take the first step — and continue to make open and honest communication and recognition a priority for your business. What this looks like in practice will differ for every organisation based on the tools available, but whatever your situation, the key is treating both online and offline communication across the business as opportunities to be a champion for the people in your team.