One of the most critical points in a business’ relationship with customers is the beginning. That’s because the early relationship is vulnerable. Consider, for example, that mobile apps typically lose around 80% of their users within a week of download. Because they need to quickly demonstrate their value and connect customers to the brand, marketing and customer experience teams have spent time optimizing their customer onboarding processes to retain as many customers as possible.
First impressions are equally important with employees. In a recent survey, a staggering 30% of respondents indicated that they had left a job within the first 90 days. And according to research by SHRM, half of hourly workers leave new jobs within 120 days. This turnover has a significant impact on business productivity and success. As a result, many leaders are looking for ways to keep new employees engaged and connected long-term.
And many are finding that the old ways of connecting with employees aren’t working anymore. That’s because the nature of employment has transformed in recent years. The evidence is all around: consider the rise of “gig” work and increasingly de-centralized workforces (enabled by technology). Today’s employees are using multiple devices, from many different locations, and their routines often vary day-to-day.
What it means to work has changed—and so has the employer-employee relationship. Gone is the paternalistic relationship of the past: employees today want to be treated like customers. The lines between “work” and “personal” life have blurred, and employees expect consumer-like work experiences.
In light of these new expectations, it makes sense to consider how best practices from customer onboarding could improve employee onboarding. Here are three principles you can apply to up-level your new hire experience:
Emphasize—and Re-emphasize—Your (Employee) Value Proposition
Leading businesses don’t assume that once a new customer makes a purchase that their business will continue indefinitely. They nurture customer relationships and build loyalty by continually reminding customers of the value their products or services provide. Car companies, for example, often send new buyers materials after the sale to reinforce their decision and stave off buyer’s remorse.
Many companies excel at communicating their employee value proposition during the recruiting process. But in the transition from candidate to new employee, the message often gets lost. As with customers, however, longer-term loyalty requires reiterating the employee value proposition during onboarding and throughout the employee lifecycle. As you think about the key milestones for your new hires, ensure that at every stage, they’re able to see why the company is a great place to work and answer the question: what’s in it for me?
Focus on the Employee Journey
Leading businesses design their customer onboarding experiences around the customer’s needs. What this means is: rather than optimizing customer onboarding for efficiency or profitability, they focus on enabling the customer to achieve success with their product as quickly as possible. At software companies, customer support teams frequently hold webinars and training sessions to ensure that customers are using the product and seeing success quickly.
Traditionally, new hire onboarding has been all about the company: its processes, its policies, its paperwork, its people. That’s all important and necessary, of course. But leading employers avoid draining new employees’ energy with a 2-day data dump. Instead, they drip out important information in digestible chunks over time using a campaign format. This method frees up more time for the new employee to get up to speed in their role and make an impact quickly. And it allows you to reinforce information over time and engage new employees in a sustained way.
Personalize the Experience
Personalized consumer experiences, like shopping and entertainment (think Amazon and Netflix) have created an expectation that all of our experiences will be customized. Marketers know this, and they build trust with new customers by providing relevant information and offers based on what they know about them (purchase history, demographic information, etc.) If you’ve shopped online recently, you probably know that after an initial purchase, e-commerce sites are likely to send you a list of suggested purchases based on what you bought.
It works the same for employees. Early interactions with new employees are the time to show them that they can trust you to provide tailored and relevant experiences, messages, and information. With this expectation and trust established, they’ll continue to engage with you—and see the value in their relationship with your business—as time moves on.
Creating a Consumer-Grade Onboarding Experience
There’s no turning back the tide on change: consumerized employment is here. To survive, businesses need to rethink their people strategies, often by looking to best-in-class customer strategies. Today’s employees have many options and opportunities at their fingertips, making it especially important to create a sticky relationship early on. To get off on the right foot and keep new employees onboard, consider borrowing best practices from marketing and customer experience playbooks. By reiterating value over time and providing customized, employee-centric experiences, you may just find that you have more connected, happier employees that are also more productive over the long haul.
Today, most organizations want to understand what makes for an ideal employee experience—one that helps them attract and retain the best talent. To do this, organizational leaders are partnering with HR to create strategies for personalizing the employee journey. What may be surprising, though, is that these efforts extend beyond salaried workers. Nearly 60% of the American workforce is hourly. Understanding that this large group shouldn’t be ignored if they want to build a better employee experience, leaders are now crafting programs that take the experience of hourly workers into account.
Another reason for this heightened focus? Hourly workers tend to have much higher turnover rates than their salaried counterparts. Therefore, as hourly workers continue to make up a sizable portion of the workforce, it’s crucial to take into account their needs in order to build a more personalized employee experience.
Unique Needs of Hourly Workers
Hourly workers have unique needs when it comes to feeling valued and performing their best work. Unlike salaried employees, hourly workers tend to have unpredictable workloads that fluctuate from project to project or even from day to day. While some hourly workers may have flexibility over their schedule, such as the flex schedules offered in healthcare, other hourly workers find their actions tend to be watched more closely, reporting on how every minute of the day is spent. A recent study found that flexibility for hourly workers often doesn’t help if they don’t have control over their workloads. Workers receiving minimum wage, for example, may need to work more shifts during certain life events to cover unexpected costs. Meeting their need for greater predictability in the work they do is one way to make the employee feel more valued.
Since the turnover rate of hourly workers is so high, employers also tend to overlook them when crafting career development opportunities. Career pathing is typically offered to salaried workers, but not all organizations offer the same level of training and development for their hourly workers. Whether they are full-time or part-time, hourly workers have the need to see where they fit in the company structure. They also like to know that they are valued enough for the company to make an investment in their training and in promoting them to higher positions.
Last is the need for hourly workers to feel connected and integrated. If there isn’t open communication from employers about what hourly workers can expect, this can provoke feelings of anxiety. It’s easy to see why hourly workers may feel isolated from other employees and feel anxious about their position within the organization—and daily anxiety is anything but an ideal employee experience. The more employers can think through the needs of their particular hourly workforce, the better the employee experience they can create.
Improving the Hourly Employee Experience
What can leaders do to improve the employee experience for hourly workers? Here are a few recommendations:
Be Direct: Don’t ignore hourly employees or treat them differently from full-time staff. Have meaningful performance discussions with them to unearth why they stay, what would make them more challenged at work, and what makes them feel valued. Then, act on what you learn.
Find their strengths: When you get to know your staff on a more personal level, you may learn that they use skills outside of work that will benefit the organization. For example, if you have someone who is very involved in planning and organizing functions for their children’s school, capitalize on those skills and use them in that capacity on the job. Find out what drives them outside of the office so they can bring that passion to work.
Offer Career Planning: Hourly workers are often seen as transient and less in need of a career path. If you already have programs in place for salaried workers, extend those to your hourly staff as well. Give them paths to either grow in their hourly roles or to move into salaried positions.
Communicate effectively: Be sure to communicate often. Understanding that hourly workers may have less opportunity to stay connected because they work fewer hours, limit details in your communications to 3-4 key points. Be sure to communicate often and regularly so that hourly employees feel included as part of the wider staff.
Focusing on ways to improve the employee experience for hourly workers is an approach that businesses hope will impact employee loyalty, reduce turnover, and result in stronger financial performance. One business setting the standard for others to follow is Rent the Runway (RTR). RTR is a pioneer in the luxury clothing industry that enables members to rent clothing. Jennifer Hyman (RTR’s CEO) is a true innovator in her approach to showing people they matter. Recently, RTR began offering hourly workers benefits such as parental leave, family sick leave, sabbatical options, and bereavement leave. This approach goes beyond what many other organizations are doing and clearly shows the hourly workers that they are valued just as much as their salaried colleagues.
Through clear communication and creation of a positive employee experience for hourly employees, organizations can retain employees for longer periods of time and show them that their work is integral to the success of the company.
With the current spotlight on transparency in the workplace, companies can no longer hide issues such as a gender pay gap. The disparities are well documented: According to the advocacy group Equal Pay Today, women worked until April 10, 2018, to match what men made, given the current umbrella pay gap of 80 cents. Further complicating matters, there is even a gap in understanding the pay gap: In a study conducted by CNBC and LinkedIn, only a quarter of women think their employers pay them the same as men, while half the men believe their company has no gender pay gap.
A gender pay gap—either real or perceived—can hurt your recruiting: A survey by Glassdoor found that more than two-thirds of employees report they would not apply for jobs with an employer where they believe there is a pay gap.
That’s why the challenge is not only to bridge the gender pay gap, but to clearly communicate policy efforts and progress both internally and externally.
“Our aim is to help more employers move beyond just raising awareness to actually taking action to address the gender pay gap. By doing so, we hope to encourage other employers to follow suit, and make an ongoing pledge and concrete action toward gender pay equity in the workplace,” said Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain in a company blog post, one of the key ways that it communicates with its employees.
Because “Everyone is Worth It” at L’Oréal
“Because you’re worth it” might be skincare company L’Oréal’s famous tagline, but it also knows that its employees of both genders are worth equal pay. Widely regarded as a pioneer in this field since its first gender pay gap analysis in France in 2007, the company expanded the approach worldwide in 2018.
“Our company has had, for many years, a strong commitment to gender balance at all levels as well as to pay equity because we know that it is both good for society and good for business,” said Jean-Paul Agon, chairman and CEO of L’Oréal. By conducting audits and sharing results internally, the company makes sure its employees know this is a priority.
In an interview with 60 Minutes, CEO Marc Benioff said that he doesn’t believe you can be a decent CEO in 2018 and not be committed to gender equality, but he’s had to convince other male leaders of its importance, and sometimes fields questions about whether the well-documented pay gap even exists. The company shares its findings on its blog, communicating transparently with employees.
1. Use internal communication and transparency to show efforts
They often say that “sunshine is the best disinfectant,” which means that the first step in addressing the gender pay gap is acknowledging it exists through open communication. According to a study released by outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas, nearly half of companies are reviewing their compensation policies to ensure gender pay equity (an additional 28 percent said they already pay workers equally).
The first communication effort, however, should revolve around getting employees on board with the importance of transparency. That’s because 80 percent of respondents to a survey conducted by researchers at Harvard Business School and UCLA said they would actually pay money to stop an email from being distributed with their salary information. One way that companies can combat this reticence is to strip personal details from any salary disclosure, and provide anonymity by focusing exclusively on the gender pay gap.
2. Conduct regular audits and share the results
The Challenger, Gray & Christmas study found that 90 percent of companies do not implement salary transparency, but an annual audit can help shine a spotlight the issue and help the company recalibrate salaries to fix it. Even if the first numbers are not where companies want them to be, an audit offers a starting point and future communications can focus on what the company is doing to bridge the gender pay gap.
As companies compete to attract and retain talent, it’s crucial to recognize not only the benefits of diversity in the workplace, but how crucial open communication is with both current and potential employees.
Pleasing customers is the number one goal of pretty much every company. To accomplish this, more and more companies are starting in a non-traditional place: with their employees.
That’s because the day-to-day relationship with customers is forged by employees. By focusing on employee culture, you can create a positive employee experience that leads to engaged employees who subsequently feel more committed to the job, the company, and its customers.
Research reported in Harvard Business Review found that the companies that invest the most in employee experience are included 28 times as often among Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Companies,” 11.5 times as often in Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work,” 2.1 times as often in Forbes’s list of the “World’s Most Innovative Companies” and 4.4 times as often in LinkedIn’s list of “North America’s Most In-Demand Employers.” Investing in employees pays off, both in innovation and future recruiting efforts. And while your customers might not see the efforts first hand—they will surely reap the benefits.
Here are three companies bolstering the employee experience through an elevated culture:
Union Square Hospitality Group Cooks Up a New Restaurant Culture
Danny Meyer, CEO of Union Square Hospitality Group, is one of the most outspoken naysayers of the motto, “The customer is always right.” Instead, he advocates putting employees at the center, investing in employee experience through prioritizing professional and personal growth. As he shares in an article in strategy+business, this drives employees to provide an excellent customer experience, and the all-important repeat business subsequently follows.
The company’s executive team stays close to employees and their needs through training sessions that impart core values. They also conduct a regular culture survey, called the “Trust Index,” that measures how employees experience their work environment. And they encourage all employees to have a voice by soliciting ideas for improvements.
Trader Joe’s Has Employee Culture in the Bag
Trader Joe’s has been named one of Glassdoor’s “Best Places to Work” a total of five times—and the reason is clear. The grocery chain focuses on creating a superb employee experience through flexible scheduling, solid benefits, and an emphasis on individuality.
For former employee Hayley Benham-Archdeacon, the culture revolved around giving team members a sense of ownership and pride in their work. “Mates [middle managers] maintained an attitude of ‘there’s 1,000 right ways to do something,’ which made both new employees and crew veterans feel safe about making suggestions or changing up methods without worrying that our managers’ egos would be threatened.” That translates to engaged employees who seem truly seem happy to be there and go the extra mile to create an excellent customer experience.
Employee Experience Flies High at Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines was ranked highest in customer satisfaction among low-cost carriers for the second year in a row, according to the J.D. Power 2018 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. And while that’s undoubtedly important to them, there’s an audience that’s even more crucial—and that’s their employees. In fact, in a blog post, the company touts its “magic formula”: Happy Employees=Happy Customers=Increased Business/Profits=Happy Shareholders. “We believe that if we treat our Employees right, they will treat our Customers right, and in turn that results in increased business and profits that make everyone happy,” the company says.
The airline shares its values from the beginning with a training program that’s focused on making new employees feel like part of the team from day one. The “Cohearts” program pairs a newbie with a more seasoned employee. Throughout their tenure, employees are encouraged to be involved in the core business. For example, the company invited employees to design new uniforms by communicating the request through an all-employee call for input.
Connecting the Dots
Successful companies increasingly realize the need to put employees at the center by engaging them in a more personalized and relevant way. The ones winning at the employee experience game are leveraging communication techniques to reach employees in ways that fit their lifestyles—not just their work schedules.
Companies need to make sure that their values permeate throughout the organization at all levels. And they can ensure employees get the message by using the various communication tools at their disposal. In fact, a strong employee experience depends on strong employee communication. To be effective, leaders can borrow many of the same marketing tactics companies use to reach potential customers.
Companies should start new employees off with a comprehensive onboarding program that underscores the importance of employee culture. Then supplement with frequent communication through a wide variety of channels, including internal face-to-face meetings, webcasts, blog posts, texts, social media posts, posters—any communication vehicle that allows you to share employee-focused initiatives in the way the employee prefers hearing from management.
Another important tactic for empowering employees is soliciting ideas through employee suggestion boxes or surveys, and transparently sharing the results through a variety of communication mediums. Encourage your team to share their own employee experience wins, since insight from colleagues can help bolster top-down communication.
By effectively using a variety of communication tools and channels, companies can make sure they are maintaining an open dialog with employees—a crucial step to building an ideal employee experience. Investing in employees is crucial and customers will likely be among the first group to notice the difference.
2018 is drawing to a close, and as it does, we’d like to take a moment and reflect on some of the year’s most popular topics related to employee communications and the employee-centric enterprise. Here’s what our readers found most interesting this year:
Culture has been a buzzword for years, but it’s not just a meaningless catch-phrase. More and more research shows just how vital company culture is to company success. Data from Lighthouse Research and Advisory shows that culture fundamentally affects the market performance of a firm. For example, companies with collaborative or creative cultures are much more likely to have better performance. Additional research shows that companies with performance-enhancing cultures have four times the revenue growth of those that do not. On both micro (employee) and macro (company) levels, culture is more than a buzzword—it’s a key lever for engaging workers and driving firm performance.
Culture isn’t just about posting some core values on the lobby wall. Rather, it’s about creating a cohesive set of beliefs that can guide every decision people make within the organization. As culture expert Charlie Judy explains, strong culture depends on alignment between published company values and what is valued within the company in day-to-day practice. If the firm says it values honesty, but punishes whistleblowers and those that highlight problems in the firm, that’s a cultural red flag. If these differences are significant enough, then employers will struggle to get employees on board with the culture.
Components of Best-In-Class Company Culture
Creating an amazing culture is part art and part science. While there isn’t a perfect recipe, some specific elements have indeed risen to the top of the list. A great culture requires the following:
Clear values and expectations: When employees know what is expected of them, they can focus on delivering with excellence, not worrying about what they’re supposed to be doing.
Leadership “walking the talk”: Leaders that live out the values of the company in a public way encourage employees to buy in, too. Lead by example.
Celebrating core behaviors: Employees should be recognized for exhibiting behaviors that align with the company’s values. This reinforces expectations both for the individual and their peers.
Taken alone, any of the above components is a good practice to implement. However, when combined, they create a powerful way to influence culture throughout the organization by connecting culture to core values. In fact, if cultural transformation is the goal, it’s important to be very clear about core values: What are they? How are they identified? How are they recognized?
An HR executive recently explained that her organization was trying to create a comprehensive list of core values—but she wasn’t sure if it accurately depicted the values of the firm. Rather than create the values in a bubble, she decided to solicit ideas from employees and then narrow the list into a set of key themes and ideas that embody the culture of the business. Why? Because while the CEO and leadership teams influence the culture, they don’t own it. The collective beliefs and actions of the workforce form the cultural backbone of the organization.
Case Study: Creating a World-Class Manufacturing Culture
The manufacturing and mining sectors are on a definitive growth trend. In one of ADP’s 2018 employment reports, those two industries alone added 12,000 new jobs. That said, Gallup research shows that manufacturing engagement levels often lag behind other industries. Organizations in manufacturing (and similar sectors) often struggle with culture because it’s a notably “squishy” topic in a field where quality and productivity metrics are the priority.
One firm that has been able to successfully deliver a positive, engaging culture through intense growth is MBX Systems. As highlighted on the manufacturing.net industry research site, MBX has doubled the size of its workforce in recent years while boasting an impressive 94 percent employee retention rate. The President of the firm, Jill Bellak, attributes this success to a few key factors, including:
Directly engaging employees in process improvement activities by soliciting ideas and pursuing innovative concepts
Prioritizing training by rotating workers to different stations, eliminating bottlenecks, and increasing the skills of the workforce
Connecting members from disparate teams in social activities designed to break down silos and perceived barriers
Perhaps most importantly, Bellak points out that communication is critical to culture development:
It’s hard for employees to be engaged if management doesn’t engage them back. The cure for that is to utilize every possible communication channel to impart information, raise issues, recognize work effort and facilitate an open dialogue with company leaders.
Any firm can follow these principles to improve their own culture, whether in the manufacturing industry or not.
Tying Communications to Culture Change
Transforming culture doesn’t happen overnight. It requires steady, consistent communication across a variety of channels to educate and reinforce the direction of the firm. When leaders are trying to push the culture in a new direction, they must be vocal about it:
Start every team meeting with a conversation about the culture
Send regular updates about the progress to employees
Highlight examples of people living out the new culture
Successfully changing your culture hinges on properly communicating the type of culture you’re trying to create, and sharing the journey and reinforcing information each step of the way. By being transparent and using a variety of communication methods, leaders can involve employees and drive long-lasting results. Culture isn’t just a trend—investing time and energy in building a workplace full of engaged and committed employees will reap rewards that are well worth celebrating.
Offering a good benefits package is becoming even more important to workers. But employees are still not any more satisfied with a key element – their health plan.
Although employers believe their health benefits are getting more competitive, employee satisfaction with them is not increasing, says global insurance brokerage and consulting firm Arthur J. Gallagher in its 2018 Benefits Strategy and Benchmarking survey. The number of employers who think they offer competitive health benefits rose three percentage points, from 71% in 2017 to 74% in 2018. But confidence in employee satisfaction hasn’t budged – remaining flat at around 61%.
If employers want to make this better, they may have to get more creative about communicating health benefits to workers, says Bill Ziebell, CEO of the benefits and human resources consulting division at Arthur J. Gallagher.
“I think the complexity of the benefits is what’s driving all that,” Ziebell says. “A lot of folks are still stuck in the paradigm of open enrollment and are not really getting creative about communicating and explaining the benefits.”
Employee dissatisfaction with health plans may also have to do with the cost, particularly of family plans, the survey indicates. While three quarters of respondents say managing the cost of health benefits is a top priority, only 44% say they have an effective strategy to do so.
But, employers are making effort to diversify their healthcare offerings. Overall, Gallagher found that 22% of employers now offer three medical insurance plans and 13% offer four or more options.
Ziebell says employers have found more innovative ways to add to their health and well-being benefits, by including telemedicine and wellness offerings that focus on decreasing the cost of healthcare.
“You have to look at the total well-being of an employee, it’s evolved from just wellness,” he says. “It’s really connected to a better return on investment on health plan expenses.”
But the focus isn’t just on health plans. Companies are also looking to benefits like financial wellness and tuition assistance as a way to attract and retain workers across generations, Ziebell says. In a competitive labor market, he adds, benefits like this are becoming more important than ever.
“The economy is heating up. If workers don’t feel a connection back to the employer, they’re going to go take that phone call and have that interview,” Ziebell says.
Making sure that a benefits plan is on par with what employees need is a challenge for all companies, Ziebell says. But data can help. He suggests surveying workers to get a better sense of how they are feeling.
“You can find the spots where you might have some trouble and then you put a plan together to address that,” he says.
Typically, he adds, it is a company’s communications strategy that may need to be improved. Having a good adviser can also help.
“It really comes down to wiping the board clean, looking at your data, looking at your demographics, working with an adviser that can help put a strategic communication plan together and help you be more effective in how you’re engaging your employees,” he says.
This article was written by Caroline Hroncich from Employee Benefit News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ll admit I was late to the emoji party. For years now, people have been texting me thumbs up, fire bursts, and the occasional unicorn. But I held out, responding with plain old text. Then one day I finally decided to dive into my emoji keyboard.
That’s when I discovered the incredible communicative power of something as simple as a high-five icon. One tiny drawing. A whole world of emotion and context.
Even more surprising, this realization didn’t come in my personal communications. It came at work, where the majority of our young, gen-Z workforce is rapidly moving beyond using text as their primary mode of communication.
For those, like myself, who came of age in the era of email, it might be easy to assume that text is and will always be king. After all, emojis, GIFs, and Instagram-style selfie videos don’t have the usual gravitas we assign to workplace communications. Opinions are still split as to whether they’re acceptable in a business environment at all. But the proliferation of powerful (and emoji-friendly) workplace communication platforms like Slack suggest the debate is over.
We can thank gen-Z, and the breakneck evolution of mobile technology, for much of this change. The generation that grew up with smartphones (and HD cameras) in their pockets has never known anything other than an instantly connected world primed for short bursts of visual communications. Why describe a scene in words when you can make a Snapchat Story with video and pics instead?
According to them, even email is an outmoded method of communication reserved for school assignments and not much else. My youngest employees treat email the way that I looked at the fax machine when I got my first real job: a relic from a bygone era, and an absolute last resort if efficient communication is the goal.
The array of non-text options at their fingertips—from emojis and GIFs to photos, Boomerangs, and self-made videos—has fundamentally altered the way they communicate and expect to be communicated with. In fact, studies show that, although gen-Z and millennials spend similar amounts of time on social media, the younger generation favors platforms that prioritize visuals. Their use of sites like Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube outpaces time spent on more text-based platforms like Facebook.
And it’s not only the medium but the tone of the message that’s changed. Compared to boomers and their poker-faced business tone, gen-Z are emotional communicators. They use the full gamut of communication tools at their disposal to attach meaning and personal context to their thoughts and ideas. Gone are dry emails, replaced by Instagram Stories overlaid with quotes, stickers, and running commentary. Importantly, this isn’t just in their personal lives but in their professional lives, as well.
And far from being inappropriate in the workplace, this can actually be a serious advantage.
For us, embracing this shift has led to some important innovations. One of our gen-Z hires, frustrated with prospecting for new customers via email, helped us come up with GoVideo, a free email plug-in that makes it easy to create video messages for business communications. It’s now one of our most profitable product lines.
Why less text can increase clarity
Contrary to popular belief, using fewer words can actually increase understanding—and profitability. One study found that incorporating visual tools like video, screenshots, GIFs, and emojis in business operations amounted to $167 billion in saved time, reduced misinterpretation, and increased profitability.
I’ve certainly seen this in my own company. I used to send out a monthly progress report to our entire organization updating everyone on our performance, upcoming projects, and profitability. Try as I might to make it short and engaging, it inevitably ended up being a wall of text and numbers. Once, after I’d sent it out, I caught wind of a rumour circulating in the office: Apparently the company was running out of money. It was news to me—and also completely untrue, the result of someone misinterpreting my email, and passing that on to others who had probably only skimmed it, at best.
That’s the thing with relying on text. People have to read it, and carefully at that. Even if you can convince someone to skim to the bottom of your 1,000-word update—increasingly difficult to do in our world of shrinking attention spans—the risk of misinterpretation is incredibly high.
So I now do my updates via video. Not only is there more uptake from my team, who can casually open and watch while they take a break or answer their Slack messages, there’s much less room for misinterpretation. I can say exactly what I mean, in my own words, and my demeanour, tone, and body language add layers of context that’s almost impossible to include via text. I’m delivering vital information in a way that’s verifiably easier for the majority of my team to digest.
Overall, leaning more on visual communications has also been a big time saver in my daily communications. As the CEO, I get pinged all the time by people looking for go-aheads or final sign-offs. One thumbs-up emoji, and that part of my work as a leader is done.
Adapting to the new paradigm requires support
Of course, just like the generation before me had a steep learning curve when it came to email, not everyone today is versed in the visual values of gen-Z. To survive and thrive, there needs to be some intergenerational education.
This works both ways. I sit down with my young hires to walk them through the ins and outs of email etiquette. (It’s not totally dead yet, after all.) But I’ve also had to clarify the nuances of texting and emojis with older colleagues. One board member explicitly told me I’m the only person who texts him. Initially, our rapid-fire back and forths led to more confusion than clarity.
For employers and team leaders, the key right now comes down to keeping an open mind and developing fluency across platforms. The communication landscape is shifting fast. Email has its holdouts, while a new generation is image-first and often image-only. Rejecting any one platform as either outdated or frivolous risks alienating a big part of your workforce—and a big part of your customer base, too.
This article was written by Michael Litt from Fast Company and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.