Making Employees Feel Appreciated

What do employees want from their employer? Sure, a decent paycheck, health insurance and vacation days are important. But the ABC Company provides these benefits, and so does the 123 Company.  So what makes one company more appealing to employees than the other? It’s the little things that show employees they’re appreciated. When comparing one company to another, the company with a culture of appreciation usually wins.

There are many ways to show appreciation that don’t require much time, money or effort. Take for example a simple verbal acknowledgement for a job well done. As the CEO or manager, taking a moment to speak directly with your employee to acknowledge his or her work can make a huge impression on that employee. It shows him or her that you’ve taken notice of the employee’s work. Employees, especially millennials, want verbal acknowledgement and feedback, and this is one of the best ways to show appreciation.

A handwritten note or an email is also effective if you make it personal to the employee. “I really appreciate the work you did to clean up the database. It’s not a fun job, but our next mailing will be more efficient thanks to your efforts.”

Other ways to show your employees you appreciate them include:

  • Unexpected time off. Consider giving an employee or the whole office a few hours off once in a while. For example, the first nice warm weather day or an afternoon in December to do some holiday shopping.
  • Bringing in treats, coffee or lunch. Food is always a hit, especially in our own office.
  • Inviting employees to sit in on planning sessions.
  • Holding frequent state-of-the-company meetings to keep all employees appraised of what’s going on in the workplace.

For some employers, it’s a big deal if their employees simply show up each day, dressed appropriately and use the tools they have to connect with customers. Appreciating your employees for being part of the team is also worthy of an acknowledgement.

We recently helped a banking client develop and execute a brand recognition campaign. As the new brand was rolled out over a six-month period, so too were small, but impactful, ways to acknowledge and recognize employees. One month employees received pins to wear at work. The pin had the new slogan on it, and if a customer asked the employee what it meant, it gave the employee the opportunity to explain the new brand and interact with the customer. Another month, each employee received a branded pen. The next month each employee received recruiting cards he or she could personalize with their name and hand to prospective employees. Employees loved the cards and felt empowered to help find the next great job candidate. These cards were tied to a refreshed employee referral bonus. Employees were rewarded with candy bars in November with a message that said the company was “thankful” for them.

The immediate impact of this overall campaign resulted in a lower employee turnover rate. Employees felt like they had ownership in the company and knew they were appreciated. It was a win-win. 

Check out our case study!

If you’re not already acknowledging your employees, consider putting together a small internal focus group to solicit input on ways to start recognizing employees. A little effort goes a long way to differentiate your company from the competitor, helping you recruit and retain the best employees.

If you were CEO for the day, what would you do to show appreciation?

Easy Recipe for Making Decisions

I’ve told my kids that the way to manage a household is to address needs in the priority order of the Three Ps: People first, pets second, plants last.

It’s seemed to work for our family (of course it helped that we never had a pet!)

Making marketing communications decisions is often a more complex business. In crisis situations, for example, you need to account for many moving parts. In messaging decisions, personalities, politics and positioning come into play. In planning decisions, time and budget constraints often require a delicate balance. How can you make an efficient decision, so you can move forward effectively? There’s no one recipe that works every time, but a few key ingredients usually produce a good result.  

1. Mission comes first. When weighing options, put them up against the organization’s mission or the project’s goal. If they don’t align, you’ve got more work to do.

2. Know your audience or customers and be true to his/her/their needs. The art of decision-making in communications requires the marriage of the message you want to share with the needs of your audience.

3. Say out loud what you’re thinking, to someone else. Do the gut check. Be open to honest feedback. It helps every time.

4. Follow the logical progression. Think beyond the moment. “If I do this, what might result next, and next?” Taking the long view might give you a different immediate perspective.

5. Be true to yourself, and let go if you have to. There are times when there’s no one, right decision. Accept it and move on. There are other times when you’ll be over-ruled, or even when you’re unhappy about a decision someone else makes. That’s when you really need to exercise good judgment and decide to release the outcome. You’ll be calmer, and the work will advance regardless.

It’s not as easy as deciding to make dinner now and water the plants tomorrow, I know. But by keeping in mind this mix of decision-making ingredients, you’re more likely to avoid a half-baked result in favor of an informed, defensible decision.  

Meeting Management 101

Meetings. The staple of every good business day, right? Or not, especially if they drag on without much action, keeping you from valuable work time at your desk or with customers. Meetings can sometimes pile so tightly after one another that it feels like all you’re doing is talking about projects or initiatives instead of doing something to move them ahead. But we think you can do both — manage meetings and progress.

Here’s how:

  • Set a time frame and honor it
  • Prepare an agenda before the meeting
  • Set objectives to accomplish by meeting’s end
  • Utilize a “Parking Lot” for ideas that are important but would distract from the main conversation
  • Include the right people – those with responsibility, authority and expertise related to the topic
  • Keep it small if possible
  • End the meeting by reviewing next steps and to-dos

Shaping the New World of Health Care

When you’ve got a challenging topic to address – something like the Affordable Care Act (ACA), let’s say – you need a clear vision of what you want your audience to understand and do as a result of your communication. This fall, when we partnered with a healthcare provider in northeastern Wisconsin to produce a community magazine focused on the ACA for 240,000 households, we kept the provider’s prototype customer, named “Lori,” front and center in our planning, researching, writing and design. The result was a useful and helpful publication that allows consumers to more easily understand and access the kind of quality, lower-cost health care envisioned in the ACA and already available to Lori locally.

Reader feedback has been encouraging. Consumers are embracing easy-to-understand, locally-linked healthcare information. They want to know how their own doctors are managing change. They want to learn about the health insurance exchange and changes to employer-provided insurance. They value clear, concise definitions of key terms now heard frequently, but often not well explained – terms like electronic health record, essential health benefits, individual mandate and qualified health plan. They appreciate accurate local insight into scary national headlines like “Beware the coming doctor shortage” and “How do you know you’re getting quality care?” In the pages of the publication, they found a partner and a resource to offer credible reassurance that their local provider not only was ready for a new world of health care – but had started improving and reshaping health care years ago.

Other audiences, too, appreciated this unique publication. From internal audiences to media to government officials, we heard that folks valued the strong connections between what’s been happening locally for years even as the ACA is implemented now. Many audiences made “aha!” connections between the rollout of the ACA and what has been going on in their own backyard. Others found a trusted source for sharing information internally and talking externally.

Want to see for yourself? Read the special edition of ThedaCare magazine, and let us know if you found it as helpful as other readers.

Why Should the C-Suite Listen to You?

The people in the C-Suite listen to you when you understand what they value and approach them with an executive mindset that recognizes the challenges and demands of a “day in their life.”

A fast way to learn what C-Suite types value is by looking at their professional backgrounds and skill sets. What do they tell you about what they value? Let’s take a look.

 For the CIO:

  • Transformed IT into strategic business partner
  • Established rapport and credibility with department heads
  • Hired and managed geographically dispersed staff of differing cultures, weaving them into a team
  • Contributed to the definition of key strategic business objectives

 For the CMO:

  • Skilled at reducing marketing costs
  • Analyzed industry trends and competitive business practices
  • Created, tracked and evaluated internal metrics and management reporting to identify performance of marketing and effectiveness of programs
  • Delivered a 50 percent annual growth rate

The mindset of C-Suite executives is the framework you need to work within to get their attention and build credibility. The chart below summarizes those mindsets and the desired outcomes.

(Click on chart to reveal larger chart.)

Chart

With an understanding of what C-Suite executives value, as well as the challenges they face and their desired outcomes, you can build trust and credibility, the two main elements of believability.

C-Suite people trust you when they know that you’ll not put them in harm’s way by doing anything that impairs their reputation and brand. In order to put their trust in you, executives need to know you understand their challenges. Credibility, on the other hand, is all about your expertise or capability to make executives successful and further their causes. With credibility, they simply are trying to determine whether you can get the job done.With an understanding of what C-Suite executives value, as well as the challenges they face and their desired outcomes, you can build trust and credibility, the two main elements of believability.

Gaining believability with the C-Suite comes from a conscious effort to refocus your branding, marketing, sales and communication efforts on the things that matter most to executives: risk, outcomes, personal goals and their peers. Recognizing C-Suite trust and credibility cues is a mission critical if you want the boss to listen to you and your team.

Leaders, Leading Change

When we presented a communication seminar recently to a group of area school district administrators, we learned that the ripple effects of significant changes in public education are making transparent communication challenging. How do you communicate when trust is in the balance?

The tips we shared apply to many communication challenges, particularly when organizations are managing change. Building or rebuilding trust takes time, intentionality and consistency. It takes monitoring, a willingness to be honest and a desire to improve. It isn’t easy, but it is essential if your organization is going to not just weather the change, but also embrace new beginnings.

Navigate through change by allowing these guidelines to frame your communications:

  1. Work toward a listening culture. People need to be heard – employees, customers, key stakeholders. Listen by creating open channels for feedback, setting a tone of openness and repeatedly asking, “Help me understand. Tell me more.”
  2. Begin internally. Always deliver news, information updates, changes to policy and more to internal audiences first. They shouldn’t hear, read or see anything in the media or other public channels that you didn’t first share with them.
  3. Communicate early and often. Repeat your message, and use multiple channels. Most of us need to hear a message at least seven times before we “get it.”
  4. Whenever you can, communicate face-to-face. Internally, take advantage of meetings and other opportunities to share and build confidence. For internal and external audiences, respond to long emails with a phone call or in-person conversation.
  5. Access support and align messages and timelines throughout the organization. Are others talking about the same thing? Find out and coordinate what they’re saying, and when they plan to say it.
  6. Be brief and to the point. Everyone is on information overload, so don’t ramble on – in speech or writing. When sharing changes to policy or process, provide additional resources for people to learn more, and especially, ask questions. Then, make sure they get a timely response.
  7. Always tell the truth. Also expressed as: never tell a lie. Even one lie kills your credibility. If you tell a lie, admit and move forward. Don’t pull a Ryan Braun. Stick to the facts, don’t speculate and keep calm. Look for the positive.
  8. Have and follow an actionable communication plan. Develop a simple plan that highlights your primary audiences, the two or three key channels you will use to reach them, and the key messages you want to deliver. Establish the frequency of your communication. Engage others who can manage the channels. Only include what you know you can do. Then, do it.

Whatever changes your organization is facing, and whether or not they are the result of internal or external decisions, move through the change by using communication to your advantage. Trust hangs in the balance.  

Evaluation is Essential

The evaluation step is an important step in any process, especially public relations. It helps to identify the key areas of improvement and identify goals more clearly. Bottom Line launched an annual customer survey in 2004. Our goal is to have 75% of our client responses in the “virtually always” and “almost always” categories.

We value the input we receive and use it to continuously improve our quality of service. We think it’s important to share our yearly results with not only our clients, but you, too. To see the results from our 2012 Customer Survey, click here.

Capture and Tell Your Stories

More and more of our work for clients revolves around messaging and positioning. Our clients know how critical it is to really nail those foundational elements as a first step in an effective marketing or communications program.

Three elements of this foundation are:

  • Define yourself ( or somebody else will).
  • Position your company (so you can best leverage your assets).
  • Tell your story in ways that affect how people think, feel, say and do (the essence of effective communication).

Storytelling creates links with images and feelings people have about your company, its products, its people, your brand. Ask yourself these questions:

  •  What are your company’s unique stories – ones that only you can tell?
  • Why and how is your story important for your audiences to understand, and what does it motivate them to do?
  • How does your story define your culture, your new product development, the relationships you want to have with employees and customers?
  • How can you add texture to your story that brings it to life in a way that unequivocally defines you?

Every organization has unique stories. One of our mission critical tasks as marketers and communicators is to capture those stories and how to put them in the context of what makes your company, product or service different. With the amazing amount of clutter and noise in today’s information age, it is more important than ever to break through and connect with your customers by telling stories that capture their attention, engage and educate them and prompt them to action.

 

Out of Sight — Out of Business

A recent research report from The Nielsen Company shows that “out of sight” can mean “out of business” for financial services institutions.

What’s the most effective way to stay “in sight” and “top of mind?” The research indicates that public relations strategies are more likely than advertising to be effective in building consumer confidence in financial institutions.

When asked what factors would increase confidence in the safety and soundness of their financial institution, respondents cited:

  • Reading positive news/features stories in the press, 44 percent
  • Seeing regular advertising for that institution, 25 percent
  • Receiving regular mail or e-mail offers, 25 percent
  • Regularly seeing Internet offers/advertising, 21 percent

The research results amplify the point that the most effective messages are those that are transmitted through trusted third parties or by word-of-mouth.

The Nielsen research on brand confidence was a national online survey of 5,500 U.S. respondents, who were asked questions about their confidence in:

  • The bank where they have their personal checking and savings accounts
  • The company that handles their investments and retirement accounts
  • Their life insurance company

The current economy underscores the importance of marketing via third-party influencers and channels, one of the true domains of public relations. Since unpaid media placements are more credible to buyers, public relations should play a key role in building brand value, especially among high involvement brands like financial institutions.

Are you using public relations to stay “in sight” “top of mind?” There’s never been a better time to consider public relations.