Category Archives: Internal Communication

Designing Recognition Programs That Motivate Behavior

Whether you’re in charge of designing a rewards and recognition for your organization, or putting an awards program together for your industry, the question to ask yourself is: what behaviors are we trying to motivate? Teamwork? Employee retention? An above-and-beyond work ethic? Awareness? And the million dollar question: Is our current recognition program doing the job?

A few years back, JJ&W was conducting an internal communication study for an airline client. One of the objectives was to get feedback from employees on how they felt about the client’s recognition program. Amazingly, one anecdote came up consistently in the 25 focus groups we conducted. It concerned one of the airline’s toughest financial years. At the holidays, the CEO sent a letter recognizing everyone’s hard work, along with two cookies, to each employee. Here’s what we heard from employees: “If you want to motivate us, don’t give us two $3 cookies in a $6 box…bring in lunch for our crew when we’ve been working 24/7 during a tough weather stretch!” If you don’t know how employees want to be recognized and rewarded …ask! A little research can go a long way in helping you to design an effective recognition program. Note: as a result of the research JJ&W conducted, the recognition program was revamped to include both individual and team awards, given that teamwork at an airline is a must-have behavioral goal. After all, we all want those pilots, gate agents and baggage handlers working together to deliver customer delight!

A few tips on designing a strategic rewards and recognition program:

1. Evaluate your program…is it driving your behavioral goals? The Yankee Chapter of PRSA gives an award, originally known as the Yankee Award, but renamed for JJ&W’s founder and now called the Patrick Jackson Award. The Chapter asks its members to nominate professionals who are not in the public relations field but who successfully use public relations principles to benefit their organization and society, while demonstrating a track record of building public relationships that earn trust. Last year, Van Mcleod, former NH Commissioner of the Arts, won the award posthumously and joined a list of NH heavy hitters including Governor Walter Peterson, Bishop Gene Robinson and former NH Charitable Foundation president Lew Feldstein. The whole idea behind the award is to educate those outside our profession about what PR is and what it looks like when it is done well. The award has been in place since the 90’s, and rather than just keep giving the award, there is a committee in place to evaluate its effectiveness – are we getting the behavioral outcomes we want? Are we educating NH’s senior leaders about the value of PR by giving this award?

2. Consider filling a niche that doesn’t exist. Think about scholarships – there are many schools with awards for financial need and sky-high GPAs. When my high school scholarship committee got together to design the criteria for our class scholarship, we decided to go for a new niche and reward the “slow starter that finished strong”. When we are screening applications, we’re looking for the person who turned the corner in the latter half of their high school career, balancing GPA with work, outside interests and public service.

3. Design an industry award that gives back to the profession in some way. At our 35th anniversary (over 30 years ago!), Jackson Jackson & Wagner established the JJ&W Behavioral Science prize with a donation of $35,000 to the PRSA Foundation. The intent was to honor an individual behavioral science researcher whose scholarly work enhances the understanding of the concepts and theories that contribute to the effectiveness of the public relations practitioner. Since JJ&W’s focus is behavior change, this research is an important foundation to the work we do for clients. Pat Jackson coined this type of giving “enlightened self-interest” — you do good for others but it reflects positively on your organization as well. The winner is honored at PRSA International Conference, with the idea they will conduct a professional development session based on their work, so conference attendees can all benefit. Note: the award is not given every year; just when the awards committee finds a deserving candidate.

Similarly, PRSA established the Silver Anvil awards back in 1945 to recognize the best public relations campaigns in our industry – these are all catalogued on PRSA’s website, www.prsa.org, for the benefit of all members. Last year, NASA was recognized with the Best of Silver Anvil awards for their “Year in Space: Communicating NASA’s Historic One-Year Mission from Space to Ground” program. Click here to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5iTaEyl1Mcg

A final thought: if you’re on the receiving end of a prestigious award or recognition, don’t stop at issuing a press release to announce it – go direct to the audiences that matter most. When I earned my APR back in 1991, JJ&W notified our clients directly, and I got some wonderful hand-written notes of congratulations from fellow PR practitioners and friends acknowledging this accomplishment. As a measure of how much those meant to me … I still have them in my possession today, all these years later.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is senior counsel and partner for Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management consulting firm. For more information about Jackson Jackson & Wagner, visit our website at www.jjwpr.com.

21 Measurement Standards To Help Really, Really Understand Employees And Build Effective Communication Systems To Reach Them

For a long time, the focus for internal communications has been building and measuring employee engagement. How “engaged” are our employees in our organization and in what they do? How does our workforce compare to others? Fortunately, there are all kinds of tools to measure employee engagement and see how your organization rates compared to others. Woo hoo!

But in the words of legendary PR practitioner Patrick Jackson, “SO WHAT?” What does it mean that your employees are on par with or slightly above (or below) others in your industry or region on their engagement score? And, what can you do about it? What does it really mean and how do you raise a low score or increase an already high one?

This month, the PR Journal has published a paper on this very topic that I have been working on, along with my colleagues, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Associate Professor at Kent State and Sean Williams, M.A. True Digital Communications, OH, for the past few years. We recognized a while back that it is the components of engagement that we must measure, in order to affect change — not the overall concept of engagement. “But what are those components?” we wondered.

After conducting both professional and academic literature reviews, a two-round Delphi study with leading Internal Communication professionals (those with 10 years plus of practice in the field and a known thought leader in the profession), plus numerous presentations at PRSA, International Public Relations Research Conference (IPRRC) and elsewhere, we arrived at 21 specific standards divided into 3 “buckets”. Those buckets are:

1) Outtakes (whether employees received, paid attention to, comprehended or retained particular messaging),
2) Outcomes (evidence of changes to or reinforcement of opinions, attitudes or behaviors)
3) Organizational Impact (if and how internal communication has influenced organizational performance).

Each bucket has specific standards that can be measured independently of each other and thus be tackled for improvement in many ways– words, symbols, actions, etc. All together, these 21 standards might define “engagement” but without measuring them independently, we really don’t know the root cause of an engagement problem. See specific standards for each bucket below or in the article at: https://prjournal.instituteforpr.org/

We also believe that it is not necessary to measure all 21Standards concurrently or even work on all of them simultaneously to see improvements. Your organization could identify a few in each bucket (or just one bucket) to begin work. Just identifying areas for work is a step in the right direction! Utilize your employee body to help select those standards that need the most attention. Ask them what can be done to improve. Involving them in the process is a great first step to building a new path and a culture builder/healer.

Currently, the team is seeking a few organizations who would like to work with us in identifying how to measure each of these concepts — with survey research and behaviorally with data an organization may already have on hand. If your organization might have an interest, let us know!

Measurement Standards for Internal Communication 2018

MEASURING EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT — WHAT TO MEASURE & WHY

“Engagement” is, as we like to say, the “flavor of the month” 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 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 to 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 order to understand what are the driving factors of employee relations, and what truly contributes toward building a workforce that is committed to and fully productive for the organization. Lead by Sean Williams of TruDigital Communications, Ohio, Julie O’Neil, Ph.D. of Texas Christian University, Michele Ewing, Ph.D. of Kent State and myself, along with 13 other international professionals and scholars, we sought to fully define Measurement Standards for the profession around employee relations.

A glimpse into the soon to be published paper, shows 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, what is generated as a result of a program or campaign, and now 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 is 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!

We expect the paper to be published soon, but if you are interested in a bootlegged 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