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What if the future is personal? What if the true answer to inclusion, belonging, engagement and productivity was not about treating everyone the same, but in unique ways that matter to each and every one.
The last couple of years as we’ve navigated the chaos – the accumulative impacts of the pandemic; the increased focus on diversity, inclusion, equity; the disruption of hybrid work; and the movement into The Great Resignation and War on Talent – a new conversation is starting to bubble up that goes something like this: “Don’t treat me like everyone else, I’m different.”
For the most part, people are not stopping work, they are leaving managers and employers to find either an opportunity or company that meets their unique needs right now OR they are designing the perfect job by entering the gig economy and entering the freelance or entrepreneur market.
This disconnection with present managers/employers is exacerbated by the lack of personal connection in a remote working world. Gone, for the most part, are the personal conversations and relationships that would have been built in a face-to-face environment. That quick, since you’re here, let me show you something or bring you in on this project.
The 2022 Gallagher State of the Sector report told us that only 45% of managers even receive communication training. They’re doing their best with the limited tools they have been given and are quite frankly making it up as they go along.
As I work with organizations to do focus groups, what amazes me is the passion and conviction of employees who are simply happy to be asked about their opinion. That being said, they are also telling us that they are growing weary and skeptical of the lack of action by organizations after they have received feedback.
The Communication EVOLUTION
We’ve seen a bit of an evolution when it comes to internal and manager communication:
One Size Fits All
These are the organizations who have set calendar of All-Hands events and All-Company emails that they send regularly to everyone. This works for milestone communication:
• Quarterly or Annual Results Town Hall
• Company-wide message from executives
• The employee magazine
• Manager updates and team meetings
These one-size fits all communication, for the most part, check boxes that allow an organization or manager to say we informed you of the updates and priorities in other words, the “I told you so,” communications.
Targeted communication is really the next step and an important part of the strategic communication planning process. We identify key stakeholder who require different content or context. We attempt to get the right information to the right employees at the right time. These target messages, as long as they remain useful and relevant, tend to get a little more attention. Managers know that they are receiving information that is important to them. The Sales department may get different information than the Human Resources department. The content applicable to Europe may be different than what is applicable to Canada.
The tools now available to organizations that work closely with the Microsoft Suite to target a variety of groups based on your strategy and goals have really become quite sophisticated, and they are actually make the jobs of Internal Communication easier.
For me, customization is about individuals choosing their own journey and adventure. It’s your internal opt-in to what is important to the employee. From a communication perspective we offer a menu of options and the employee gets to choose whether they want to be included as part of a specific group. The Gallagher State of the Sector tells us that for the most part, organizations, communication professionals and managers are hesitant to provide choice for fear that it reveals clearly what information doesn’t matter to employees. Yet, in a world where so many are busy doing work that doesn’t matter, I see major opportunities for both efficiency and effectiveness.
From a people manager perspective, simply asking your team what they want; what tools they prefer to use; how often they want to meet as a team and 1:1; will go a long way to build trust. From a technology perspective, allowing employees to opt-in to areas of the business, groups they want to connect with, internal social networks that are meaningful to them, is a great way to create culture and relationships.
Personalized gets to that unique 1:1 experience for each and every employee. As the diversity, equity, inclusion conversations start building, we are starting to hear that individuals do not want to be put in a box. Everyone is not looking to be treated exactly the same. They don’t want to be forced to choose. We’re seeing this manifest in so many ways:
• Office workers who don’t want to be forced to be in the office or at home, but a mixture that meets their needs that is hybrid. The best of both.
• Flexible benefits that can change depending on needs that change as individuals navigate life’s milestones.
• Diversity and belonging programs that recognize all factors – gender, race, ability, age, sexual orientation – because you can be all of these things at once.
• Career Paths are not always the same. Our challenge is that we’ve incorrectly told people that there is a specific timeline and roadmap that defines success, but what if that isn’t true. Not everyone is motivated by promotions or travel. I’m fascinated by the innovation happening in the space to help drive a different conversation between employees and managers.
Here’s the reality. Employees, and all of us as individuals, want to be seen, heard and valued -not for fitting in, but standing out. Not for being the same, but bringing our unique perspectives and experiences to the conversation.
I simply think the future is personal, and in an employees’ job marketplace, with limited loyalty, that’s what employees are doing right now. They are making it personal. They are finding the workplace and work that excites them. They are finding the cultures where they can contribute. They are looking for workplaces that match their speed of delivery and productivity. They are looking for places they feel valued…and if they can’t find that, they are hanging up their shingle and creating the reality for themselves.
What are your thoughts? How are you making work personal for yourself?