Last week, I shared a case study of Mira and her challenges in getting staff aligned on the non-profit’s vision and plans. Got some interesting perspectives from readers: Collin suggested having a leader video to explain the vision and get better buy-in, Poonamrecommended a working group that assists Mira and providing incentives for ideas that employees contribute and Kevin believes doing a qualitative study may help.
Most not-for-profits are heavily focused on driving fundraisers and garnering corporate partners since it gives them confidence to operate in a competitive environment. Ignoring internal communication is however a serious flaw because unless your staff can connect to your purpose and know how to engage, no amount of funding can replace reputation loss.
Keeping that in context, Mira’s challenges are easy to address with a bit of re-alignment in the mindsets of those running the not-for-profit. It also means looking at staff as internal customers and not a marketing team who can garner funding or please stakeholders.
To begin, Mira needs to do a quick audit of her staff currently perceives communication. Knowing they don’t open and read e-mails are useful insights. Knowing ‘why’ they don’t engage and ‘what’ will make them change behaviors are better pointers to re-design an intervention. Taking the leadership aside to have a chat is helpful. The leader’s role is not to go about getting more clients. That is essential, no doubt, although not as important as aligning staff to the vision, inspiring them through storytelling, talking about failures and sharing lessons openly to build a culture of trust and respect.
When staff believe their workplace is transparent, they will in turn contribute through extra-social behaviors that goes over and above their responsibilities. This leads to better performance and builds reputation. The journey begins with the narrative. Everyone needs to be speaking the same language, irrespective of the location or stakeholder they engage with. Investing time to create a simple ‘one pager’ (not a handbook or a policy) that explains the reason for existence and why everyone needs to live the values are fundamental first steps.
If leaders are busy, the show does not stop. Ideally, the next line of managers must be equipped to drive the narrative and step up. That again is the expectation of leaders – to spend quality time explaining the context and sharing stories consistently.
When it comes to engaging staff with internal communications, the more you involve them (listening actively, inviting views, shaping the narrative, co-creating content and releasing control), greater the chances of success. Communicators are enablers and curators of corporate conscience and not paper pushers.
Mira can turn the newsletter around by forming a team of staff who are either ‘guest’ editors, choosing content that matters and making it interactive through quizzes, polls and by inviting feedback. Knowing that newsletters are in itself tough to maintain, she may want to consider having it centrally on the platform for each reference. When you have busy staff, it helps to keep things simple. For staff on the go, it might even take the shape of a pdf via Whatsapp if there is no confidential information in the content.
Getting leaders to share video content or blogs can form the bulwark of the narrative can reduce dependencies on their presence. Using the existing onboarding program for staff is another place to intervene early and get new employees on the same page.
What are your views?
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