on life, leadership,
Our Perspective on Life, Leadership, and Engagement
- On the Engaging Leader podcast, we share communication and leadership principles, and tell stories that illustrate putting those principles into practice.
- The Workforce Health Engagement podcast explores strategies to improve your employees’ health and productivity — and to protect your bottom line.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Theodore Roosevelt
In challenging times like these, it’s even more important than usual that your workforce knows you are trustworthy and caring. Effective empathy is something you can develop through regular practice of these six skills:
• Curiosity: Take the time to be curious about what other people think. Try to fully understand their point of view.
• Authentic Listening: Most people don’t truly listen. Stop planning what you are going to say, and focus on really hearing their thoughts and feelings.
• Imagination: Think about what it would be like to walk in their shoes. What if you woke up one morning and found you had switched places in life with them?
• Vulnerability: Respectfully share your reactions and feelings about what the other person is saying to confirm your full understanding.
• Sensitivity to Others’ Emotions: Develop your “emotional radar” to pick up on what people are feeling by watching their body language and facial expressions. read more…
The human brain is drawn to information that is visually pleasing and easy to understand. If you’re not using images, headlines, and whitespace to convey complicated concepts, chances are people will tune it out.
More than 50% of the cortex, the surface of the brain, is devoted to processing visual information. Some 93% of human communication is non-verbal. People process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.
• Use photos to evoke emotion.
• Use whitespace to give the brain space to process the content.
• Use graphs and icons to break down complicated concepts.
• Use headlines and subheads so readers can skim the content for both the big picture and relevancy of a section.
Some leaders look at their people, shake their heads, and say, “They can’t get there from here.” Sometimes that’s true. But often the solution is creating a stronger culture, where employees are encouraged and coached to contribute their best thinking.
People are different, and these differences can add value. As a leader, you need to figure out the best ways to leverage the strengths of the human beings on your team.
In part 2 of this conversation with Karin Hurt about her newest book, Courageous Cultures, we talk about dealing with five additional types of people who present a specific challenge:
- Just-Tell-Me-What-to-Do-ers: They consistently just want to be told what to do.
- Just-Do-What-I-Sayers: They are often successful and just want people to line up behind them and do what they’re told.
- Let-Me-Do-My-Thing-ers: They are certain of their direction and methods.
- Silent Wounded: They don’t trust you—and with good reason. They’ve been burned by previous leaders.
- Silent Ponderous: They may be quiet introverts, but they have insights you desperately need.
Karin Hurt is the award-winning author of several books and an Inc. Top 100 leadership speaker. She provides leadership development programs for organizations around the world. A former Verizon Wireless executive, she has over two decades of experience in customer service, sales, and human resources.
Resources Mentioned in This Episode:
- Book: Courageous Cultures
- Idea Inspiration Summit July 23
- Free executive strategy guide to creating a courageous culture
- Idea incubator guide (with pre-ordering)
- Book: Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results–Without Losing Your Soul
- Book: Overcoming An Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss
- Online course: Results That Last: 7 Roles Every Manager Must Master
- Website: letsgrowleaders.com
- Twitter: @letsgrowleaders
- Facebook: /letsgrowleaders
- Engaging Leader 135: How to Lead Meetings That Get Results (and That People Want to Attend)
- Engaging Leader 054: Humility and Leadership: How to Teach Confident Humility
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