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Get the scoop from our consultants and creatives, as well as our clients and other thought-leading guests. In addition to our blog and video posts, don’t miss our popular podcasts — they’ve been heard regularly by thousands of leaders since 2012!
  • On the Engaging Leader podcast, we share communication and leadership principles, and tell stories that illustrate putting those principles into practice.
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214: 4 Great Interview Questions to Ask Before You Hire | with Paul Falcone

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Interviewing job candidates can feel like wading through a foggy swamp. You’re attempting to discern whether candidates would be successful on your team, while struggling to prevent the massive headache and wasted resources of a poor decision. 

 

Asking the right questions during interviews can bring clarity to the process by giving you a more accurate, complete picture of the person sitting across from you. In this episode, employment expert Paul Falcone shares four interview questions that can help cut through the uncertainty by drawing out honest, helpful answers from job candidates.

 

A bestselling author and top-rated presenter, Paul is currently the Chief Human Resources Officer for The Motion Picture and Television Fund, primarily serving retirees from the entertainment industry. Previously, Paul served as head of HR for Nickelodeon, head of international HR for Paramount Pictures, and head of HR for the TV production unit of NBCUniversal, where he oversaw HR operations for NBC’s late night and prime time programming lineup, including The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, and The Office.

 

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

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Seven Practices to Ensure Creative Brainstorming in a Virtual World

 

Many of us are used to generating our best ideas by tapping the creativity of a group of colleagues…in the same room with a whiteboard, flipchart, or sticky notes. The interpersonal dynamics and these tactile tools help make something magical happen in the brainstorming process.

How do we get the same result with a virtual team? Our Workforce Communication team needed to generate a bunch of ideas for our business this summer. Here’s how we did it:

1. Set up the question in advance. We emailed everyone a simple description of the topic.

2. Gathered via video conference so we could see each others’ faces…the next best thing to being there these days.

3. Followed ground rules such as no judging ideas, one person speaks at a time, build on others’ ideas, be positive, etc.

4. Gave ourselves one hour max. Spend too much time and you often end up criticizing or repeating ideas.

5. Took verbatim notes so we didn’t need to discuss ideas in-depth.

6. Facilitated a round-robin and gave everyone the option to pass.

7. Prioritized the ideas…everyone “voted” on their top three via the chat function in Google Meets.

In the end, everyone’s voice was heard, and we had three pages of prioritized ideas. The session was deemed successful! Easy peasy! Want more? Here’s a 10-minute read on the topic from Harvard Business Review.

What Are You Forgetting? Press Play on Video

 

Each year, our culture takes another leap in the digital revolution. This has sent video to the forefront of communication channels.

Some examples. COVID-19 has forced Zoom meetings to become the backbone of our daily schedules. TikTok and Instagram Reels have exploded on the mobile entertainment scene. And even Facebook now encourages advertisers to use video ads versus text-heavy promotions. All that has contributed to video being the most-shared, online content.

Back in 2014, Catherine Clifford, senior entrepreneurship writer at CNBC, predicted that the more information became accessible, the more companies would need to push harder to become increasingly competitive in their communication.

Consider these marketing stats as you plan how to use video communication with your workforce:
+ According to HubSpot, videos reach their peak share rate in Q4 of each year, which is coming up soon!
+ Video marketers average 66% greater qualified sales leads per year than those who do not use video.
+ Video ads achieve a 54% increase in brand awareness over non-video ads.
+ Product videos can increase purchases by 144%.

A video puts a face and a voice to an issue and a message. This allows your audience to feel closer to the content. Plus, information presented in video is mentally processed 60,000 times faster than printed text, freeing the brain to ponder on the deeper implications of your message more quickly. That’s a true advantage. How can you use video to amplify your next workforce communication message?

Serial Comma or Not? Whatever You Do, Be Consistent

 

The serial comma is a much-debated punctuation mark. Often called the “Oxford” comma, it’s the comma before a conjunction (“and” or “or”) in a list of three or more words or phrases. One, two, and three. Red, white, and blue. Burger, fries, and a drink.

There are two schools of thought on the serial comma. While some feel it isn’t necessary (think minimalism), the rationale in favor of the serial comma is that it promotes clarity. See this Daily Writing Tips blog for an array of opinions and examples. (5-minute read)

We all know writers on both sides of this debate. Let’s agree to accept our differences.

Above all, be consistent. Make your approach to the serial comma part of your editorial style guide so all writers and editors who work with you follow the same rules. It’s clear, simple, and smart.

The Best Open Enrollment Tactics in a Pandemic

 

With the virus still plaguing us, there are no standard operating procedures for our everyday lives…at home or at work. However, the benefits open enrollment for 2021 must go on! What’s worked in the past will need to be tweaked, if not completely revamped.

Meet employees where they are by using a multi-channel approach.

Employees may be working with alternative schedules in remote locations. Think about how to reach them in different ways, including video delivered via email or online, webinars and video conferences, and text messaging. You should also consider mailing something home this year to be sure you reach everyone.

Be responsive and answer employee questions quickly.

Face-to-face meetings and benefits fairs will be non-existent this year, but employees will still have questions. Be creative. Use video conference technology for live, virtual sessions. Cover anticipated questions online in an interactive Q&A or in a series of intranet posts. Promote one-on-one telephone support if you have it.

Limit the amount of detail you push out.

Streamline the information employees need to make their decisions. Don’t provide every detail about the plans during enrollment. Instead, provide employees and family members links to other resources with more details, including your benefits portal, online Q&A, or a recording of your virtual meetings.

Be present and send reminders.

People have a lot on their minds, are stretched thin, and will likely have other distractions. A once-and-done strategy is not a good idea this year. Send a heads-up message so employees know the enrollment dates and what to expect. Then, provide reminders regularly so no one misses the deadline.

Do You Know Who Is Influencing Your Culture?

 

No matter how the pandemic has affected your business, the dynamic of your workplace has undoubtedly changed in the past few months. Employees and leaders alike are adjusting to new ways of working (and managing family demands) while trying to maintain pre-COVID levels of engagement and productivity.

Each employee is faced with innumerable factors that influence their individual productivity and engagement. That’s why your company culture has never been more important. It’s the subtle drivers of social belonging, sense of purpose, and authentic connections to the organizational mission that will fuel your workforce forward during difficult times.

A healthy culture is a long game of multi-channel approaches, but during this time of decentralized and disconnected uncertainty, your organization might benefit from identifying and equipping the sources of internal influence.

+ Ambassadors: Employees below manager level who are formally designated as initiative representatives or behavioral role models.

+ Influencers: Employees who drive most informal conversations and who are sought for advice, knowledge, or support.

+ Advocates: Employees who voluntarily share opinions, facilitate initiatives, or take action because they feel passionate and committed.

Top Five Open Enrollment Messages for this Year

 

 

Each year, open enrollment provides employers with a captive audience to promote benefits and educate the workforce about them. Given the circumstances created by COVID-19, we think your messages this year should be focused and simple. Consider these:

1. Here’s a review of the changes to your 2021 benefits – Some employers will likely need to make changes to employee contributions or benefits to keep the program affordable and valuable. There could be benefit reductions, increased costs, and new features to help manage costs. Be up front about what’s changing and why.

2. Our medical plan provides valuable coverage…even if you get COVID-19 – Reinforce how expenses related to treating the virus will be covered. You might reiterate time off and leave benefits in the context of the pandemic as well.

3. The Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a great benefit – Highlight the free, confidential services for managing heightened stress and uncertainty brought on by the world we are now living in. Include tips for parents, ideas on managing social isolation, and links to tools and remote resources for emotional support.

4. Telehealth gives you access to care for basic illnesses and injuries from the safety of your own home – Explain this alternative to face-to-face visits. Focus on your plan options, associated fees, and how to prepare for a virtual appointment. Be sure to note that these providers can prescribe medications, too.

5. Your Wellness is still important – Maintaining overall physical health is more important than ever. We want people to continue managing their chronic medical conditions with doctor check-ins, maintenance medications, and the same protocols they followed before the pandemic. For more tips on conducting open enrollment during a pandemic, we find this 9-minute read helpful: Planning 2021 Benefits Changes for the COVID-19 Era

Pandemic Changes Workforce Trends — Three Types of Employees Highlighted in Gartner Data

 

Gartner, the world’s leading research and advisory company, shared recent survey findings that may affect organizations’ HR strategies in the near future.

1. Remote working is here to stay. The Gartner poll says that 48 percent of employees are working remotely now, versus 30 percent before the pandemic. We expect many employers will continue this shift in the future, sustaining a larger remote workforce indefinitely.

2. Companies say they will begin to expand their relationships with contingent workers again. One of the headlines the virus created was huge unemployment. So initially, many employers reduced their contactor budgets. But Gartner’s analysis shows that 32 percent of companies are now rethinking that. Gig workers provide more staffing flexibility than full-time employees.

3. Essential is a new category of employee. What this means is that companies may be looking more at “what people do” and their skills than at their levels or position structures. Gartner says this will motivate HR to change employee and career development programs in the near future.

For a full list of “Nine Future of Work Trends Post-COVID-19,” read the article at Smarter With Gartner. A 12-minute read.

Give It Some Space Don’t Cram Too Much into Your Communication

 

White space is more than just a white space…it’s an excellent communication tool to help you eliminate useless clutter in your message, your layout, or your conversation.

In visual communication, white space means any area that is free from text, images, or embellishments. Space directs your eye and emphasizes your visual point. It also gives your audience the freedom to process your message. White space could simply be the margin and line spacing of your text…or even the spacing between the letters. Space can be created with a photo or solid color background. It can also be created with a border or by removing a border. Read more from Canva about 8 ways to design with white space. A 10-minute read.

You also can create space in your message. Say. It. Succinctly. Every word you use should have a purpose and a meaning to your message. You don’t need big words or many words. Just say what you mean. This is true in written and spoken communication. However, it doesn’t mean you need to be abrupt or insensitive. It doesn’t mean you can’t tell a story to make your point. It just means to be thoughtful in your word choice. Write your message. Walk away for a bit. Then, read what you wrote and cut unnecessary words.

Conversation can have space, too…it’s called silence. As you share your message, tell your story, or facilitate your meeting, pause. Allow listeners to process what you have to say. It helps improve understanding and gives them a chance to respond. If you talk, talk, talk without a pause … at some point … your audience will get bored or distracted and check out.

7 Tricks to Make Your Communication Sticky

 

Have you ever put time and effort into communicating something important, only to have people ignore or quickly forget about it? Does it drive you crazy to hear, “You never told us about that!”

Apply three or more of these tricks to each communication, and people will be more likely to notice, care, and take action.

· S: Simple – Make the core message clear. Try to answer the WIIFM question, “What’s in It for Me?”)

· U: Unexpected – Make people notice. Humor or surprising images often work well.

· C: Concrete – Make people understand. If the topic is abstract, be sure to provide concrete examples.

· C: Credible – Make people believe. Use a trustworthy spokesperson or provide compelling data and logic.

· E: Emotional – Make people care. Show how it affects real individuals, not just lofty principles or faceless groups.

· S: Stories – Make people act. A good story not only pulls people in, it can inspire the action you are asking people to take.

· S: Short – Make it easy to digest. Keep it “snack size,” or else people will feel overwhelmed and just skip over it.

This SUCCESS Model is adapted from the research and model in Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath.

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