The choice of language in an organisation has a key role to play in how you connect with employees. Every organisation has its own unique identity, reinforced in part by the terminology you find within it, which helps define and underline its culture and enhance its sense of community.
Today’s guest post as part of my Advent series is an article I published back in January 2014 looking at how to connect emotionally with employees. It forms day 12 of my countdown to Christmas – we’re half way through and I’ve enjoyed reflecting on all the great stories I’ve shared this year from professional communicators, and hope you have too.
How to connect emotionally with employees
According to author Phillip Clampitt: “Across the world the function of internal communication departments is to help employees understand the organisation’s vision, mission, values and culture; to open lines of communication between management and employees; and to forge a sense of community. But how members of an organisation (including internal communicators) code messages and how other employees perceive, give meaning and respond to those same messages, is culturally bound.”
Not only is she one of the Top 30 under 30 internal communicators named by the Institute of Internal Communication (IoIC) in 2013, she’s also got a brand new role as a mum, after giving birth to her daughter Sophie on 13 December 2013 – congrats Katy!
Neopost is a manufacturer of postage meter and mailroom equipment. It ranks number one in Europe and number two worldwide in mailroom equipment and logistics systems.
Over to you Katy…
How to connect emotionally with employees
When a new MD joined Neopost, bringing a new Vision for the company, we realised that we needed an internal communications strategy to support our employees through this cultural change.
Having worked in HR for nearly five years, this is where my heart lies. Understanding and building relationships with employees, and developing initiatives to better support and engage with people, is my passion. This was how I ended up focusing on Internal Communications, and why I feel that it sits best as part of the HR function.
My first IC project was to launch our new employee Principles. This was a great opportunity to start to embed the journey of cultural change.
The Principles had been developed for our people, by our people, with their feedback and comments taken into consideration every step of the way.
Already the foundations were strong; by including employees, the Principles resonated with them and they were receptive to the change in required behaviours.
What are the Principles?
Acting with Integrity
- We always try to do the right thing and act professionally and with positive intent at all times.
- We are truthful, open and honest in our dealing with colleagues, customers and suppliers.
- We value the differences in the people we deal with at Neopost and we treat everyone with respect at all times.
- We treat internal and external customers with high levels of enthusiasm and courtesy.
- We are driven by the desire to meet the needs of our customers, both internal and external, and to provide them with a customer experience that exceeds their expectations.
- We listen to our customers, hear what they are saying and strive to deliver what they are asking for.
- We recognise individual efforts and team achievements and celebrate and communicate our successes.
- We develop and enhance our skills and abilities through a combination of individual effort, a positive attitude and planned training and development.
- We all actively contribute to making Neopost a successful, fulfilling and enjoyable place to work
- We always deliver against what is expected of us.
- We constantly challenge the status quo and always seek to improve on what we do.
- We are all stakeholders in Neopost and continually promote Neopost, its products and its services.
- We work as a team, supporting others when required and request their support when it is needed.
Preparing for launch
To launch our new Principles, I wanted to do something different to what we had done at Neopost before. I wanted to make it fun, memorable, and create a talking point amongst employees.
We launched them in February 2012, in line with the start of our financial year.
I decided on a Valentines themed campaign – after all, the Principles were being launched because we care about our people and want them to connect with us emotionally!
I arranged “anonymous” love letters that were sent to employees as a teaser campaign and quoted directly from the Principles themselves.
We told employees we admired them for “always being supportive and making the effort” or for being “truthful and honest, always listening and showing respect.”
Most recognised the wording from the Principles. Others hid them away and blushed, which was very funny to see! Either way, the reaction was what we wanted – people started to talk!
Later, on 14 February, every employee received a sealed red envelope and a heart shaped box of chocolates. The red envelope contained “Our Principles”, printed on an A6 sized card.
Nearly two years later, the success of this launch is still evident – if you take a walk around Neopost House, the Principles card is still displayed on employees’ desks.
It helped me realise the power an effective IC campaign can have on employee engagement.
Our appraisal process now includes an assessment of employee’s behaviours in line with the Principles, and our Employee Recognition Scheme has a huge volume of nominations coming through each month – all of which are shining examples of our people exhibiting these behaviours.
Since the success of my first IC project, the Principles, the Vision, and the Strategy are a common theme in all of my communications.
I ensure that stories are related back, cementing them into our culture and helping employees see the relevance in their day-to-day jobs.
I am also responsible for our community related Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities, including Charity of Year and fundraising, Employee Voluntary Working, our Apprenticeship Scheme, Mentoring, and Family Fun Days.
For me, IC isn’t just about telling the story; it’s about creating the stories.
The activities I organise give our people the opportunity to interact and communicate with us, building the engagement that all internal comms pieces aim to do. This is why I love my job.
Some thoughts about being in the 30 under 30 class of 2014
Less than two years after first becoming aware of IC as a profession, I decided to enter the IoIC’s 30 Under 30. I am very humbled and proud to have been recognised on the list.
The application process has enabled me to review my own strengths and weaknesses. I have been able to assess my own career progression to date, the difference I have made to internal communications and employee engagement at Neopost, and what my career goals are going forward.
I would love to draw on my experience of mentoring apprentices, to mentor others just entering IC as a profession and sharing my experiences. I think the 30 Under 30 initiative is really valuable to the industry.
The next generation of internal communicators are able to come together, share best practice, and really help shape the future of Internal Comms.
Post author: Katy Stanley.
First published January 2014 on All Things IC blog. Republished December 2014.