They say we live in an on-demand world. Right now, many business owners are demanding one thing: more workers. Unfortunately, the labor market is somewhat less than forthcoming.
In the so-called “Great Resignation” of 2021, droves of people voluntarily left their jobs, and many aren’t rushing back to work. Neither are many of those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic. This is putting pressure on companies to do everything in their power to retain current employees and look as appealing as possible to the relatively few job seekers out there.
One element of a business that can make or break its employer brand is its internal communications. When workers feel disconnected from ownership, it’s easy for them to listen to rumors and misinformation — and that can motivate them to walk out the door. Here are some ways you can step up your communications game in 2022.
When business owners get caught off guard by workforce issues, the problem often is that they’re doing all the talking and little of the listening. The easiest way to find out what your employees are thinking is to just ask.
Putting a suggestion box in the break room, though it may sound old-fashioned, can pay off. Also consider using an online tool that allows employees to provide feedback anonymously.
Let employees vent their concerns and ask questions. Ownership or executive management could reply to queries with the broadest implications, while managers could handle questions specific to a given department or position. Share answers through companywide emails or make them a feature of an internal newsletter or blog.
At least once a year, hold a town hall with staff members to answer questions and discuss issues face to face. Even if the meeting must be held virtually, let employees see and hear the straight truth from you.
Owners of large companies often engage PR consultants to help them manage not only their public images, but also the personas they convey to employees. If you own a small to midsize business, this expense may be unnecessary, but you should think about your internal profile and manage it like the critical asset that it is.
Be sure photographs and personal information used in internal communications are up to date. A profile pic of you from a decade or two ago says, “I don’t care enough to share who I am today.”
Although you should avoid getting up in employees’ business too often and disrupting operations, don’t let too much time go by between internal communications. Regularly tour each company department or facility, giving both managers and employees a chance to speak with you candidly. Sit in on meetings periodically; ask and answer questions. Employees will likely get a morale boost from seeing you take an active interest in their corner of the business.
In fact, for a potentially fun and insightful change of pace, set aside a day to learn about a specific company position. Shadow selected employees and let them explain what really goes into their jobs. Pose questions but stay out of the way. Clarify upfront that you’re not playing “gotcha” but trying to better understand how things get done and what improvements, if any, could be made.
Business owners face formidable challenges in the year ahead. One could say the power balance has shifted a bit from owners offering jobs to workers offering services. Being a strong, authentic and transparent communicator can give you a competitive advantage.