During the Peloponnese Wars, most Greek resident soldiers facing
their opposite number in the enemy line shifted laterally to naturally avoid
having to deal with their adversaries head on. It was a reaction motivated by
self-interest and self-preservation. Spartan warriors, however, were trained
from their youth to face the one enemy directly to their front and battle until
the job was done. This strategy represented the personal commitment to dealing
directly with the task ahead; of doing their individual part to ensure the
collective victory of the group. It was an aspect of Spartan culture that made
them a fearsomely effective organization.
Companies today rarely line up and charge each other on an open field. But,
they still have a better chance of organizational success if employees are
engaged and doing their part. Engagement by any of its several definitions
generally involves two parties. In the specific case of employee engagement
these are obviously a company and its workforce. Effective communications
between these two entities can be a powerful and contributing driver to
engagement. Most communications pros would generally agree that these
communications will be most effective when they are two-way in nature. This is
because they emphasize an exchange of messaging, reciprocity and mutual
understanding of the two parties.
How to Get Employees to Meet Their Job Targets
You probably don?t have the opportunity to train your employees from their
childhood like the Spartans. Still, there are some significant things you can do
now. Here are five strategies that can be critical to having employees meet
their daily jobs head on.
1. Live your values (walk the talk), and communicate that ?living? (talk the
Few things are more damaging to management?s credibility with employees than
platitudes about corporate values that appear to be nothing more than shallow
window dressing. Employees need to know that your organizational values really
do guide management?s business actions, and should guide theirs. Before they
commit, they need to believe that their management believes. And the best way
for that to happen is for the company management to openly make business
decisions that are demonstrably values based. However, to make these real,
employees have to know about them, and that?s where effective internal
communications plays a critical role.
When Corning first introduced its Total Quality program, many employees were
skeptical, having seen several quality programs come and go over the years. But
when a plant manager destroyed a load of ?just slightly out of spec? product
rather than release it, his employees became believers, and the word spread.
2. Avoid the rush to put up posters.
According to Fortune magazine, 80% of companies surveyed have put their values
up on the walls. While posters, bookmarks, wallet cards and the like can all be
effective tactical components of a communications program, they have been used
nearly every time corporate management launches a new initiative, regardless how
short-lived. To many employees, these have too often become hallmarks of their
company?s program du jour. Communicators rushing to produce printed lists of
values, taglines, or programs without some sort of well-established basis in
reality behind them risk losing credibility, and being seen as nothing more than
Executives at a Midwestern power company spent a great deal of time creating a
list of values that spelled out ?SPIRIT.? The SPIRIT program had posters,
awards, logos, and newsletters. One thing it lacked, according to many
employees, was substance, particularly in the value of Respect for People.
Employees were quick to point out what SPIRIT spelled out when it was lacking
3. Listen to the people who have been doing the job (then make heroes out of
Most employees know way more about their particular jobs than their company?s
executive committee ever will. So if the company wants to reduce downtime on its
manufacturing lines, increase production speeds and product quality, there?s a
better than even chance that the employees who have been working those tasks for
several years have some practical ideas to make that happen. Listening in the
work place cannot only increase productivity, it also generates respect and
inspires confidence up and down the organization. General George S. Patton, Jr.
said: ?Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will
surprise you with their ingenuity.? The internal communicator?s role is to find
out about those ingenious folks, and then let the rest of the company know about
their contributions. This demonstrates to the rest of the work force that the
company is not only listening, but also actively supporting engagement by their
coworkers. It connects company success directly to employee success. Such
communications go a long way in motivating employees to become more engaged
4. Speak the same language as your employees
Why is it that so many companies are global in scope, yet treat their employees
in countries other than where the world headquarters is located as secondary
audiences? English may be ?the language of business.? But to be accurate, it is
the common external language of business. Its internal applications reside
largely in its use as a common language for upper-level management and
technologists. Employees, no matter where they live, have communications
preferences, and to be effective, internal communications must satisfy them.
Even if your non-US/UK employees can speak English, it is probably not their
preferred language for company information. Internal communications provided in
the employee?s preferred native language is a credible indicator that the
company is truly capable of operating globally. It reflects the high value the
company places on the individual employee, no matter where he or she lives, and
it ensures a higher probability that your messaging will have higher penetration
5. Teach your employees the language of business
If you want your employees to participate in the success of your organization,
you want them to think and act like business partners. You want them doing their
part to improve the numbers every day. They?ll be more effective at that if they
have a better understanding of not just those numbers, but the business as well.
Communicators have a tremendous opportunity to raise employee business literacy
because they manage most of the employee communications channels. The challenge
is to present this information in an interesting, memorable and relevant way.
Eastman Chemical Company recently launched an effort to bring all of its
approximately 12,000 employees up to speed on its new corporate strategy. The
company developed a communication kit -- complete with one-pagers, Q&As,
discussion guides, templates and slide show presentations -- and used a cascade
approach from level to level, and from executives to plant operators. The goal
is better employee understanding of both company business decisions, and how
external forces such as pricing affect the company.
Implementing all these suggestions won?t guarantee that your organization
will become filled with fanatical and engaged employees. Communications are just
one, albeit critical, driver of employee engagement. But not doing them will
certainly ensure that your employees will never collectively look their
competition in the eye, and meet the job in front of them head on.