How to Get Your Team to Listen, Engage, and Care

Ensuring that employees are engaged, invested in, and included is crucial for retaining talent and driving company growth. When it comes to internal communications, implementing the right tools and strategies can be an important factor for employee engagement — and overall business success.

How important?

Well, according to Gallup, only one-third of U.S. employees are engaged at work. And this jarring statistic might stem from poor communication from the top. The same study revealed that only 13% of employees think that their leadership team communicates effectively with the rest of the organization.

So how do you get leadership and your team to listen, respond, and care about what’s happening internally? Here are our top 5 strategies to help you successfully approach internal communications.

1. Take inventory of your communications

As with any strategic plan, the first step is to survey your surroundings and get a lay of the land. Are too many emails being sent when a meeting could quickly solve the issue? Or is the opposite happening and meeting rooms are overbooked even though projects could be discussed via internal chat? By taking a clear account of what works and what doesn’t work, leadership can gain a better grasp on what needs to be tackled, and in which priority.

2. Improve digital channels

How are your current channels — like email, intranet, internal chat, and feedback forms — being used? Are they used across the board or heavily by one department? Are specific teams using certain tools more efficiently than others? Improving the use of digital communication can be a peer-led initiative in many companies. For example, if the Marketing Team is effectively using LinkedIn to drive traffic to new job openings, perhaps a member of the team can host a lunch and learn for the rest of the company on best practices for leveraging social media to share company news.

3. Universally adopt new technologies

When it comes to implementing new technology in the workplace, sometimes it can become a hindrance rather than a help. Before plugging in a new tech, set some goals for what you want it to accomplish. It might be using internal chat to reduce time spent in email. It might be utilizing an app to keep employees connected via mobile devices. Whatever the technology is, having a plan in place helps with implementation, as well as universal adoption that allows new technology to be used to its fullest potential.

4. Mobile-friendly communication

A study by the Pew Research Center found that 77% of American adults now own a smartphone — an increase of more than 40% in merely seven years. Leveraging mobile in your internal communications plan can offer increased flexibility and higher levels of employee engagement. For example, remote employees can be easier to access via a mobile app or tool resulting in improved overall team communication. If your team is utilizing mobile, make sure to consider visual aspects of the platform like responsive content, scroll length, and image resolution.

5. Have clear policies in place

In our ever-increasing digital world, it can be easy for private or proprietary information to be divulged rather quickly and even on accident. To protect your employees, clients, customers, and company, it’s important to have internal communication policies in place. From employee issues to shared files to customer data, all employees should have a clear understanding of what is acceptable and expected.

“The key to an organization's growth has been — and always will be — its workforce.” – Gallup

Communication is at the heart of everything that happens at your workplace. By employing the strategies above, your leadership team can make internal communications a priority initiative that encourages employees to listen, engage, and care. At the end of the workday, incorporating internal communications into your company culture can create a feeling of unity and help develop interpersonal relationships across the team.

Soliciting and Receiving Feedback: How to Do It Well

Giving, receiving, and acting on employee feedback is essential for organizations that want to improve their company culture. Nearly 60% of surveyed employees and 72% of employees under 30 want feedback from their bosses daily or weekly, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Feedback matters at every level. But asking for feedback – and then receiving it with grace – can be challenging. Even though most employees and managers want to receive feedback, PricewaterhouseCoopers reported that only 30% say they regularly receive it. That’s because asking for feedback can be awkward and uncomfortable.

Thankfully, creating a culture of healthy, back-and-forth feedback is possible. When it comes to soliciting and receiving feedback from employees, here’s what you should keep in mind.

How to Ask For Feedback

You can ask for feedback in a number of ways – by arranging meetings with employees or by sending out a large scale survey. We recommend soliciting feedback in both of these ways, but for best results, you need to have a number of one-on-one conversations. Here’s how to ask for feedback in one-on-one meetings so that you get actionable results.

  • Loop employees in. If you’re asking for feedback from employees, you want them to be prepared. You don’t want to surprise them with unexpected meetings or email surveys that they did not expect to receive. Be sure to loop employees in early, explaining how you’ll be soliciting feedback, and why you’re doing it.
  • Focus on the qualitative. Although quantitative feedback is easy to analyze and has its place in large surveys, it’s best to ask for qualitative feedback, as employees’ perspectives can be very nuanced. Ask open-ended questions and allow the conversation to move in different directions, depending on what’s most pressing.
  • Show interest by asking questions. In order for employees to be honest and direct with their feedback, you need to show you are interested in them. Start by asking about what’s going on in their lives, how they feel about coming to work every day, and what their future goals are. Remember to keep your questions open-ended.
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues. Not all the feedback you receive will be verbal. Nonverbal cues, such as looking away, and body language, such as crossing your arms, can tell you a lot about an employee’s comfort level.

How to Receive Feedback With Grace

Employee feedback can help you make improvements, as it gives you essential information about the current workplace. However, you’re likely to get feedback that’s difficult to hear. You might not agree with what your employees have to say, be confused about the feedback, or even be personally offended. Even so, you need to receive feedback with grace in order for it to be a healthy experience for employees and the organization as a whole. Here are a few tips:

  • Listen and be ok with uncomfortable silence. Although you may be tempted to combat feedback with explanation, your job is to listen to what employees have to say. This means listening to an employee explain themselves, as well as being ok with uncomfortable silence as an employee thinks through their answers.
  • Avoid defensiveness. Employees need to feel safe when offering their feedback, and defensiveness is an immediate way to prevent them from sharing. Sometimes we get defensive without even realizing it. Resist the urge to explain yourself, blame others, or question the validity of the employee’s perspective.
  • Check your body language. If you cross your arms or sit far away from the employee, you’re sending a signal that you are not open to hearing what they have to say. Make sure your body is relaxed – and lean in.
  • Own your mistakes and apologize when necessary. You’re likely to receive feedback about mistakes that you or your organization has made. Rather than blaming the employee or denying the mistakes, own up to them. Admit that things may not have been handled in the best way, and tell the employee that you’ll make sure the feedback gets to the top levels of the organization.

Using Feedback to Grow

The purpose of feedback is to gather information that can help you, your employees, and your organization grow. Throughout the process, be sure to document the feedback. If you don’t document your conversation in some way, then you won’t be able to quantify what you learned so that you can make improvements.

Although soliciting and receiving feedback can be challenging, it’s essential for maintaining a healthy company culture where employees feel they have a say.

This post is part of a special blog series on ‘Building a Healthy Feedback Culture' in support of ProService’s Growth Series event taking place on September 19, 2018. Offered exclusively to ProService clients and special guests, the Growth Series are interactive learning experiences that feature industry-leading speakers and networking opportunities that will inspire and provide tools for business leaders to take their organizations to the next level. To register, please visit our event page and register with code GS2018.

How to Prep Your Business for Hurricane Lane

UPDATE: As you may have heard, all ProService Hawaii offices will be closed on Friday, August 24 as the islands prepare for the worst of Hurricane Lane. As your client experience is still our top priority, if you have an HR-related issue on Friday, please call 808-394-8878 and press “0” to connect with a team member during this time. Our offices will plan to reopen on Monday, weather permitting.

As Hurricane Lane approaches the islands, all of us at ProService hope that you and your employees stay safe during the storm. As your HR partner, we encourage you to communicate with your employees about hurricane preparedness and to share your evacuation contingencies in advance to keep your employees informed and safe.

But, what else can you do to prepare yourself for Hurricane Lane’s expected impact? Whether you’re a ProService client or a local business owner, we’ve compiled a quick list of need-to-knows for those wondering what you should do next.

If You’re a ProService Client…

If you’re a ProService client with payroll on Friday, ensuring your employees get paid on time has never been more important. Especially when a hurricane looms nearby and preparedness may have already taken a financial toll.

That’s why we highly encourage you to connect with your ProService team if you have any questions. We’ve already reached out about how you can successfully post your payroll in advance and get your people paid as scheduled if Lane hits hard. As long as your banks remain open and on-the-ground mail delivery operations continue as scheduled, direct deposits and checks should be processed and mailed out as usual.

For others of you, maybe you’re considering closing your business or worksite this week. What does this mean for non-exempt and exempt employees? What happens if an employee wants to work-from-home while your business remains open? Understanding the HR implications of your disaster preparedness decisions can feel stressful and complicated. Talk with your ProService team and let us help you get prepared.

If You’re a Local Business Owner…

In addition to making your payroll a priority there are other steps you can take to plan and prepare. Thinking through a preparedness plan not only for your family but for your business and worksite will be critical in anticipation of Hurricane Lane’s potential disruption. Here are few considerations to think through:

  • Create a hurricane preparedness plan for your business, using The Ready Business Hurricane Toolkit that helps you take action to protect your employees and customers, and ensure business continuity as well. While preparing for a potential disaster should occur long before the event, you can leverage this toolkit to think through priority areas as it relates to your staff, surroundings, space, systems, structures and service.
  • Create an employee alert system (email, phone, or otherwise) to alert employees and other necessary staff about the hurricane and your plan of action as it relates to your business. Additionally, encourage employees to think through their own disaster preparedness actions with their families and to download their local news app of choice with notifications to stay up-to-date on local weather developments.
  • Protect your important assets such as files, documents, equipment and any other items necessary to reopen your business following a disaster. Consider creating an electronic backup of your important documents, relocating your critical contents at least one foot above ground, and documenting your business valuables.
  • Know your local resources, whether it’s Hawaiian Electric’s Emergency Preparedness Handbook or the City & County of Honolulu’s Hurricane and Tropical Storm Preparedness Guidance. As much as possible, research ahead and know where to find key emergency information in your region..

As the islands await Hurricane Lane’s arrival, we encourage you to think through your disaster preparedness plan, communicate with your employees and staff earlier rather than later, and to talk with your ProService team regarding your HR concerns.

Stay safe everyone!

Sheila Heen, New York Times Best-selling Author, to Headline Fall Growth Series Event

Gaining feedback from within your organization is essential to learning, growing, and innovating, especially as your business scales. But giving, receiving, and using feedback can be challenging.

On September 19, our fall Growth Series event, “Build a Healthy Feedback Culture, will focus on fueling your business growth through healthy feedback. In this final Growth Series of 2018, we’re excited to announce Sheila Heen, New York Times best-selling author, as our keynote speaker.

We couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Heen to the islands. She’s provided training for the Obama Administration, and her work on improving the quality of your feedback conversations has been featured in Forbes, Fast Company, NPR, Quartz, and the Harvard Business Review, and on shows as diverse as The Oprah Winfrey Show to CNBC’s Power Lunch.

Who is Sheila Heen?

Sheila is the Founder of Triad Consulting Group and a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School. No stranger to challenges in business climates, Sheila often works with executive teams to help them work through conflict, repair relationships, and make decisions together. Her clients include MITRE, BAE Systems, HSBC, Tatweer of Dubai, Unilever, the Federal Reserve Bank, Standard Bank of South Africa, Merck, and numerous family businesses.

For the last twenty years, Sheila has been with the Harvard Negotiation Project, developing negotiation theory and practice. Sheila is co-author of the New York Times best-sellers Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most (Penguin 2000), and Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well (Even When It’s Off-Base, Unfair, Poorly Delivered and Frankly, You’re Not in the Mood) (Viking/Penguin 2014).

What will she be speaking about?

Sheila’s keynote will focus on how healthy feedback can help an organization grow. She will unpack how you can improve the quality of your feedback conversations by understanding the reactions we all have to the feedback we get from bosses, colleagues, spouses and friends.

She’ll cover challenges, common misconceptions, and practical tips for leaders to use within their businesses to make feedback more effective – at all levels. If you’re wondering how to use feedback for annual planning, innovation, or employee happiness, Heen’s talk is a must-listen.

What are Growth Series events all about?

Growth Series are free, quarterly interactive learning experiences that feature industry-leading speakers and networking opportunities. Catered to our clients and the broader local business community, we host these events to inspire business leaders and provide them with tools and resources to take their organizations to the next level.

Our summer Growth Series, “Get Fully Staffed: Finding & Keeping Great People”, took place on June 27 with keynote speaker Eric Chester, with our largest audience ever. But if you missed our summer event, you’re in luck — here are our Top 5 Tips to Get Fully Staffed: Key Insights From Our Summer 2018 Growth Series.

To learn more about our fall Growth Series with Sheila Heen: Visit our event page and use the offer code GS2018 to register for the event.

Making Plans for Next Year: Why Feedback and Candid Conversations Matter

When it comes time for annual planning, gaining employee feedback that can help you chart your course. But why is employee feedback so important anyway? How can candid conversations impact annual plans?

Next year may seem like a world away, but from an annual planning perspective, it’s just around the corner. As we cruise into fall, many of us are thinking about annual planning for 2019. We’re assessing what worked well, what we’d like to do differently, and generally how we can better serve our employees.

As you’re revisiting your people strategies for the upcoming year, it’s a good idea to find out what your employees think. Employees can not only offer unique insight on how to best serve them, but they can even surprise leaders with their creative ideas on how to grow and innovate the business too.

But why is employee feedback so important anyway? How can candid conversations impact annual plans?

1. Your Employees Want to Feel Heard

This should be no surprise. Employees want opportunities to provide feedback and be heard within their organization. Just as important, they want to feel as though their ideas and perspectives are listened to and carefully considered by leaders. According to a recent study by SHRM, employees want to feel valued and included.

Even so, most organizations suffer from low employee engagement, as 87% of workers aren’t engaged, according to Gallup. This suggests that while employees want to be engaged, if they don’t feel heard by their organization, they’re unlikely to remain engaged over the course of their tenure at a company.

Thankfully, if you don’t know where to begin, getting started can be as easy as asking your employees three simple questions: What are you getting from me that you want more of? What are you getting from me that you want less of? What are you not getting from me that you want?

2. Open Communication is Essential to Job Satisfaction

With Hawaii’s low unemployment rate, improving communication between employees and management has never been a more relevant strategy in retaining top talent. In fact, it is essential to job satisfaction. According to a survey conducted by Energage, two-way communication is the largest differentiator in the top places to work.

Indeed, other studies have shown a clear relationship between levels of communication with an organization and job satisfaction. This is especially true for an employee’s communication with their direct supervisor.

Candid conversations can become a cornerstone of an employee’s relationship with their company, regardless of their role. Opening yourself to transparent, candid conversations with employees can build trust and increase job satisfaction, which can improve employee productivity, overall performance, and reduce employee churn.

3. Two-Way Feedback is Good for Everyone

It’s good to remember that feedback goes both ways. You want to be able to give your employees feedback on their performance so they can improve, and they want to give their organizations feedback, too. Additionally, employees are likely to have their own creative ideas about how to fix problems, introduce new products, or manage transitions.

Unfortunately, roughly two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable offering feedback to employees. They find candid conversations uncomfortable, at best, and terrifying, at worst. Most organizations don’t emphasize how important it is to have these candid conversations – and both employees and the company suffer as a result.

How to Gain Feedback for Annual Planning

So, now that you understand the importance of feedback, how can you actually gain feedback and take action on it? Here are a few things to keep in mind as you solicit feedback, have candid conversations, and ultimately use what you learn to inform your plans:

  • Give everyone the opportunity to share feedback. If you’re in a leadership position, it may be tempting to have a few conversations with your direct reports. But it’s essential to hear what everyone has to say – at all levels of the organization. You never know where the next great idea will come from.
  • Develop a system for collecting feedback. Don’t collect feedback in a willy-nilly fashion. Instead, develop a system and schedule for collecting feedback so that you can quantify it. Consider setting-up one-on-one conversations, leader lunches or even exploring survey software tools such as SurveyMonkey, 15Five, or TinyPulse. You can even offer incentives, such as gift cards, to encourage participation.
  • Strategize on how to use feedback to inform annual planning. Once you’ve collected feedback, make sure you have a strategy in place for how you’ll use it to inform annual planning. You might need to break down the feedback by category or job function to make it as useful as possible.
  • Complete the loop with your employees. Finally, take time to communicate how feedback was collected and interpreted, as well as which actions took place because of it. This reinforces that the business took action, making employees feel valued and encouraging future feedback.

When it comes time for annual planning, you want to gain feedback that can help you chart your course. Maybe you need to roll out a new product or maybe you need to iron out inefficiencies.  Maybe it’s your people strategy that requires a little extra TLC.

Whatever it is, if you want to make positive changes for next year, collecting and analyzing employee feedback can be a critical component in your planning process. Tapping into employee insights through feedback and candid conversations can revolutionize how your business serves employees, spark new and interesting ideas, and make your employees feel trusted and valued.

This post is part of a special blog series on ‘Building a Healthy Feedback Culture' in support of ProService’s Growth Series event taking place on September 19, 2018 . Offered exclusively to ProService clients and special guests, the Growth Series are interactive learning experiences that feature industry-leading speakers and networking opportunities that will inspire and provide tools for business leaders to take their organizations to the next level. To register, please visit our event page and register with code GS2018.