Category Archives: Internal Communication

Measuring Employee Engagement — So Then What?

"Engagement" is, as we like to say, the buzzword of the month (decade?) amongst organization leadership, employee communication and human resource professionals.

Getting an engagement score helps an organization know how they compare with other organizations like theirs as well as to win headlines for "best places to work" in magazines and newspapers.  What it doesn't do is tell leadership anything about what might be wrong and what they can do about it.  Does the score reflect a problem with trust? transparency? empowerment? teamwork? satisfaction? something else?

A team of public relations academics and professionals set out a few years ago to dissect employee engagement in an effort to understand what are the driving factors of employee relations, and what truly contributes to building a workforce that is committed to and fully productive for the organization.  A team lead by Sean Williams of True Digital Communications, Ohio, Julie O'Neil, Ph.D. of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, APR Kent State University and me, along with 13 other international professionals and scholars, sought to fully define Measurement Standards for the profession around employee relations.

The research identifies 22 Standards, broken down into three key categories: 

  • Outtakes — Whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messages
  • Outcomes — evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors
  • Organizational Impact — Whether and how internal communication has influence organizational performance

What is NOT a category is outputs, or what is generated as a result of a program or campaigns, and is typically measured by the number of releases, brochure, posters, meetings held, etc. or the number of column inches generated.  Outputs were discarded by our group because they show no impact, only production.  Using these data points for measurement would be like rating your dentist's effectiveness on the number of x-rays he took of your mouth to cure a toothache!

Next steps for the committee are to identify methods for measuring each of the 22 Standards — both by self-reporting (surveys) and observation (behavioral indicators already available in an organization).  The committee hopes to work with three different organizations to test these standards and their measurement methods — Southwest Airlines is already on-board!

If you are interested in a copy of the 22 standards and their definitions, contact me at ssmith@jjwpr.com.

Internal Communication Is King: Kelly Ripa/Michael Strahan Controversy Is Case In Point

For years, JJ&W has counseled its clients, often anxious to rush out the door of external communication with whatever news they have, that their first stop needs to be communication to any internal audiences affected by that news.  It’s the priority.  And it’s common courtesy.  Period.

And we don’t stop with asking them to communicate with their employees – all of their employees, including the part-time flight attendants in the airlines, the cafeteria workers in the schools and the receptionists (especially the receptionists) at the desks of the Fortune 50 companies, who are likely going to be fielding the calls about the news when it gets out.  Go deeper than that.  In the case of the schools, think of your Board members, your parents, your alumni, your volunteers, your coaches of sports teams…even the vendors who are considered your business partners.  There is an easy way to determine who should be told before the rest of the world hears the news.  Think to yourself, if you were that employee, that volunteer, or that coach, wouldn’t you want to hear this from the organization you’re connected to before everyone else does?

Given that as criteria, it’s truly bizarre why Disney and ABC executives did not figure out that Kelly Ripa – the co-host of “Live” – would not deserve the courtesy of finding out that her co-host Michael Strahan was going to be leaving the show to go full-time at Good Morning America, where he is currently working part-time, in advance of everyone else.  Their rationale?  “She’s going to be upset no matter when she finds out.”  Perhaps, but what they forgot to think about was how they would feel if they were in her shoes and how much more upset she would be about the lack of communication and common courtesy extended to her in a place she has worked for over 2 decades.  So she gave them some time to think about what they had done while she took a few unplanned days off, as they scrambled for substitute co-hosts and flew their highest-level executives in to deliver a personal apology.

Kelly’s re-entry to the show today (on April 26th) was beautifully executed and appeared very genuine, and she delivered it to an audience that showed her the love and support she deserved with a standing ovation that went on until she finally shut it down to make her statement.

After acknowledging in a very honest way that she had taken some time off to process the news and really think about what she wanted to say in response (with some humorous comments about ABC likely having snipers with tranquilizer darts if she went “off message”), she talked about the fact that this situation had started “a much greater conversation about communication and consideration and most importantly, respect in the workplace.”  Amen to that!  She went on to talk about her longevity with the show and that it was a place that felt like family to her.  And all of us could imagine what it would feel like if family kept such an important piece of information from us.  It wouldn’t feel good.

She ended by acknowledging the personal apology by the parent company and the happiness she felt about the new opportunity for Michael – and he reciprocated with a heartfelt response.  If there was tension there, it didn’t show, and they went diving into the entertainment portion of the show with their usual carefree back-and-forth banter.  So it ended happily, at least for now.   The proof will be in the pudding when her contract comes up for renewal.

The lesson for the leaders of any organization – be it of a national television show, a corporation or a school – is really as simple as the Golden Rule.  Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Period.  Internal communication will always be, and should be, your priority for news that impacts members of your internal family.

Robin Schell/rschell@jjwpr.com

How Improving Employee Communication Skills Can Make The Difference

Overall success in a matrix organizational structure depends largely on the presence of constant, clear communication.  From the very beginning, all aspects of the matrix process — from roles & responsibilities to the evaluation process need to be clearly defined and managed with open communication and unambiguous accountability.  But what if they aren’t established or working properly?
Many organizations assume the effectiveness of operating a matrix structure lies with the human resources department. In most organizations, communication professionals do not set up the matrix structure – that is usually the purview of human resources.

However, it is the skill set of the communication professional that can help the matrix structure function effectively and ensure its success.
Those who have lived in a matrix structure easily can point out pros and cons:

Click Here for Full Article

Stacey Smith/ssmith@jjwpr.com

“The new CEO does not know our culture” Union Leader, July 28, 2014, pg. 1

There is likely not a business school nor a communications program out there that is not following the developments of the Demoulas/Market Basket crisis as it is unfolding.  To JJ&W, it is yet another illustration of how powerful corporate culture can be when it comes to the success or failure of an organization.

For those not yet aware of the events, the upper and middle management of the chain, headquartered in Tewksbury, Mass, walked out in protest of the ousting of their leader by the Board of Director’s, Arthur T. Demoulas, the long-term CEO and leader of one segment (slightly less than half) of the family of investors.  The management team, many who were fired but continue to protest, have taken the brunt of the punishment, encouraging hourly employees who need their jobs to pay weekly bills to stay at their post and not risk their jobs — a very different approach from typical strikes where the average employee is out on the street and middle management is working to keep things going!  

For many years, the Market Basket stores had been known as only one place to shop among many but nothing special; some perceived the family as tough to work for and a bit unfriendly.  There were always rumors of how the family was divided and internal fighting would go on from time to time but the stores just plodded along. About five years ago, the quality of the stores began to turn around.  Click Here for Full Article

Stacey Smith/ssmith@jjwpr.com