Responsible Digital Communication in the Workplace
Many employees today spend a large portion of the day sending and receiving emails, IMs, DMs, social media posts and text messages. However, it’s very easy to be tripped up by the rules of digital etiquette, especially when you take into account the huge volume of messages, we send every day.
Effective digital communication in the workplace requires attention to detail and professionalism — every time.
So, how to you manage digital communication in the workplace?
As always, we think it’s important to be clear about your expectations, communicate these and then manage accordingly. Here are our top tips for responsible digital communication in the workplace:
- Consider your audience
As the sender you must consider the nature of your relationship with the receiver and tailor your approach accordingly. Using emoji’s is usually fine with colleagues, not so much with the CEO of a key customer.
- Apply the ‘front page test’
Never include anything in an email that you wouldn’t be comfortable with being made public. The main reason for this is that it could be! Also, it’s easy to accidentally send an email to the wrong person. If the content is sensitive, a phone call or meeting may be more appropriate.
- Use formal emails when required
These days we often don’t need to post or attach a letter. However, if the matter you’re emailing about is important and requires documenting you should keep this in mind and write your email accordingly. In these situations, your message should read almost exactly like a letter would.
- Be on brand
You represent your company in all of your work communications. If you work for a lawyer or accountant there will be different parameters than for those working in a less formal environment. Your level of professionalism and formality should be consistent with the company brand and industry.
- Be careful with social media
Social media posts by nature usually reach a wider audience faster than emails or other forms of digital communication. Be aware of your privacy settings, who can view each post you make and how the post reflects on you.
- Keep the personal separate from the professional
Always bear in mind the line between personal and professional communications. If you are communicating from a work account, about work and/or during work hours – keep the entire message professional. If you have a personal relationship with the recipient, send a separate message (or use another platform like text or IM) to communicate about other matters such as your after-work plans.
- Understand the consequences
If the content of your digital communication breaches the Code of Conduct of your company in any way or is otherwise problematical, you should be aware that a disciplinary process may follow. Communications sent using company resources are not private. All messages should be written as if your manager has been CC’d.
Positive People have developed an interactive workshop covering Digital Communication in the Workplace. Contact us today via firstname.lastname@example.org or 09 445 1077 to talk about how this module can be tailored to suit the needs of your business.
What are my Employer Responsibilities for “After Hours” Employee Activities?
With the Christmas season upon us, celebrations underway and festive cheer being spread, now is a good time to be aware of your employer obligations, not only for workplace conduct, but for all the happenings that may occur outside of work hours….
Many of your staff will not only attend your official Christmas party, they will celebrate with customers, with suppliers and have “unofficial” celebrations amongst themselves. This stretches the potential for inappropriate conduct far wider than only being confined to the official two hours of Company celebrations.
Given we’ve been in and out of lockdown twice, that employees are valuing face-to-face interaction and HR are reporting employee fatigue in general, it would be good to be aware that employees may want to fully enter into the Christmas ‘spirit’. Managing this without dampening the chance to socialise will be important.
Here are some key things to be aware of:
Getting to and from the Company Christmas party
As a function promoted and paid for by your business you must ensure, as far as is reasonably practical, the health and safety of your team. This extends to the responsibility for making sure your team are safe getting to and from the event. The biggest danger is drink driving. Make sure you have set clear expectations and communicate in advance the need for safe travel. Its also a good idea to have someone monitoring staff as they leave and taxi chits on hand to use if you think someone is at risk.
Questionable acts during a Christmas function
Just like at work, at the Christmas party you still have the responsibility to ensure your team are safe from sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination. It makes sense to designate some of your team to take on a hosting role to ensure that bad behaviour doesn’t occur and educate them on what to do if they see or hear something that shouldn’t be happening. Music and Christmas cheer do result in more casual behaviour, so have a sound plan in place to keep your team safe.
Behaviour at unofficial celebrations or after the Christmas party
At this time of year “unofficial’ celebrations start as well – whether it’s team drinks after work, Secret Santa’s or carrying on after the Christmas party. Key with any of these is to be clear with your Managers about what is a work function and what isn’t. If an employee in a leadership position organises or promotes the event, if the Company pays for it or if it’s advertised using the Company name, then your business is likely to have health and safety responsibilities.
Celebrations with customers or suppliers
During an event with customers or suppliers your team members are still representing your Company, and as such there is a safety consideration and a need to adhere to your Code of Conduct. Educating your team on this will help to save any embarrassing complaints about their behaviour after the event…
Social media has blurred the line for many people around what’s private, what’s public and what thoughts and feelings are OK to share. At any time of the year any public post which impacts negatively on your business or could be perceived as bullying or harassment of a team member should be investigated. It may be made outside of work time, but the impact will be felt during work hours, so you must address this and educate your team on the impacts of their actions. Having a clear policy on posting photos during Company events also helps.
People don’t want everything they do live streamed on Instagram!
In todays environment, where the health and safety of our teams is paramount it is no longer acceptable to say “If it’s 5pm, our employees aren’t our responsibility”.
Being knowledgeable about your responsibilities will help you minimise risk and keep your team safe – a win/win for all.
Positive People have over 25 years’ experience helping organisations understand and manage their HR obligations. Call us today on 09 445-1077
Positive Reinforcement – Why managers should prioritise praise
“If each of us was to confess our most secret desire, the one that inspires all our plans, all our actions, we would say “I want to be praised”” – Emil Cioran, Philosopher
When we see an outstanding leader in action, one of the first things we notice is their ability to recognise achievement and celebrate success in a way that feels genuine. This has an uplifting snow-ball effect on the team.
This is evident in data gathered from global engagement survey providers, which consistently tell us that there is a direct link between enhanced retention, productivity and revenue and employees receiving praise and recognition at work.
But even when we know that praising employees for their work and commitment has a positive effect on our bottom line, it can still be something we struggle with.
Practice makes perfect.
Knowing you should give positive reinforcement, and actually doing it are two very different things. Also, saying the same thing on repeat will quickly lose its impact. So not only does it need to become a habit but you also need to mix it up.
“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount” – B. F. Skinner, Psychologist
- Find out what motivates each member of your team and tailor your positive feedback to drive their performance
- Use different channels. Some people prefer one-on-one, others in front of the team, or in an email. Most people will respond well to praise, however it is delivered, so use a variety of forums to keep it fresh
- Remember your introverts. You may not hear as much about their accomplishments so make the effort to dig a little deeper to find out how they are going. If they’re delivering great results, let them know
- Commit yourself to never forgetting to praise a team member who you see going the extra mile. Discretionary effort is the hallmark of engaged employees and these are the people you need to retain.
- Remember, it is far easier to spot mistakes than it is to focus on what is right with a piece of work. Keep this in mind when delivering feedback and make sure it’s balanced.
- If you have a consistently high performer, don’t forget to consistently praise them for their efforts. Sometimes when a high level of performance becomes the norm from someone, it can be easy to let the positive feedback slip off the radar
- Performance reviews are the ideal opportunity to link an employee’s efforts with the bigger picture. Tie their achievements to the strategic goals of the organisation – this reminds them of the ‘why’ and the important part they are playing
- If you’re working on an area of development with an employee, take every opportunity to positively reinforce behaviour or actions that show they’re improving in this area
Positive People can help you to develop your frontline leader’s ability to recognise their team and elevate performance. Contact us today at email@example.com or 09 445 1077.
Verbal Warnings – Do they have a place today?
As the disciplinary process evolves, it is helpful to reflect on your own organisation’s process and make sure it is up to date, current, fair and reasonable.
A key part of a traditional disciplinary process is the verbal warning – a step Managers can take when they believe an employee’s actions are serious enough to warrant more than an outline of expectations or a coaching session, yet not serious enough to warrant a Written Warning. Frequently these warnings are given by Managers without following a full process, and Companies often then mistakenly rely on them as the first step in a progressive warning process for misconduct.
A general rule of thumb for misconduct is that the progressive disciplinary processes should allow for three formal warnings for the employee prior to dismissal being considered. It’s important to consider whether a verbal warning forms part of the progressive disciplinary process for your organisation, and if so, specify this in your Code of Conduct.
For a verbal warning to be part of a progressive disciplinary process:
- It must be confirmed in writing, outlining the breach of policy and procedure and future expectations, and ideally have the employee’s signature
- You must still conduct an investigation, allowing the employee to respond after having the opportunity to prepare, have a support person present, and have access to all the information you have gathered about the misconduct
To be utilised and considered as part of a progressive process, the process you follow before issuing a verbal warning must be the same as if a written warning is given.
If you do not follow this process, then a verbal warning may be considered as part of the investigation into further misconduct but cannot be relied upon as one of the formal steps. It is instead background information confirming that the employee was aware of the Company rules and the impact of their actions.
If you do not follow this process, details of the verbal warning should not be stored on the employee’s personal file. Instead it would be considered the same as a coaching session, a letter of expectation or a Manager’s diary note.
For many Companies this requirement for a full process has meant that verbal warnings have become a thing of the past.
A more current approach is to streamline the process, doing away with verbal warnings altogether:
- First instance of the behaviour – Informal discussions reflecting concerns. The Manager would be advised to keep “diary notes”
- Second instance of the behaviour- Issue a Letter of Expectation alongside conducting a Coaching session driven by a Performance Improvement Plan (if appropriate). This is an informal process which does not require a formal investigation. The Manager outlines the impact of the behaviour and uses a coaching approach to help the employee identify ways they can improve. This is documented by the Manager and kept as part of the Performance Improvement Plan
- Third instance of the behaviour – An investigation is initiated, which can then set off the formal disciplinary process, inviting the employee to respond. It also includes the other requirements of a full process. A possible outcome could be a first written warning.
- Continuation of the Disciplinary process
Having a process which is sound, streamlined and allows for the employee to have an opportunity to change their behaviour is critical to minimising the risk of any comebacks on the process.
This area can be a minefield, and is not easy to get right.
Positive People are experienced in developing performance management frameworks which are legally compliant, understandable and practical for both managers and employees. Contact us today and we can help you review yours.
Engage and inspire your team with effective communication.
In today’s digital world communication is everywhere, yet why is it so hard to still get cut through in the workplace? From a time when under communicating was a key workplace issue, these days it is easy to over communicate, lose your messages in the noise, or get lost in translation.
So how do you get it right?
To make sure your employees receive and understand your key messages make sure you:
- Keep it simple
- Have a mechanism for feedback
- Include verbal communication in your plans
- Tailor your message to your audience
Keep it simple.
When drafting emails, memos, newsletters or updates it is easy to include too much information or over explain. This will cause your essential messages to get lost.
Before you start think carefully about exactly what you want to say – then say it. This way a clear concise message will be received.
Have a mechanism for feedback.
What if your message doesn’t make sense to someone? What if they don’t understand a concept? How easy is it for your employees to ask questions and are they encouraged to do so? In any company communication plan, it is essential to have a place or forum where the team feel comfortable to ask questions and deepen their understanding of your message. Remember the message that you have sent is only what your team understand it to be, so promoting two way conversations and feedback makes sense to help you get this right.
“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
Include verbal communication in your plans.
The increase in online Company communication forums means it is easy to forget the importance of face to face verbal communication, as it is so much quicker and easier to post something online. Written messages can be misunderstood, lack the right tone or a human face, which can aid the impact of your message. Regular team meetings or Company gatherings are crucial to keeping messages personal and connecting your team to your message.
Tailor your message to your audience.
It is easy to communicate a message in a way which you understand, but think carefully about your team – are they all like you? Do you have employees with English as a second language, or team members who don’t understand more technical terms, or don’t have an extensive knowledge of business? Giving updates which the team don’t understand adds to the noise and decreases the self-esteem of the team. Think carefully about your audience, recheck your words and write for your team – not for yourself.
Strong workplace communication is essential for engagement and motivation and helps to create inclusive, collaborative teams. Using the tips above will help you to get cut through in an increasingly noisy world and create a better workplace for you and your team.
Would you like to improve your Company communication? Positive People run a Communication module as part of our popular Leadership Development Program, which can be tailored for both Managers and staff. Contact us today at firstname.lastname@example.org or 09 445 1077 to discuss our group or individual training, coaching and development solutions.
Communication is one of the essential tools of any business, and also one of the most difficult to get right. Every business has communication at it’s core, with interactions between staff, departments, customers and suppliers happening every minute of every day. The quality and content of these interactions can have a huge impact on both staff morale and overall business success.
Our experience in staff surveys has proven to us that good communication is key to staff engagement, and is the most frequent improvement area we see. Getting it right can bring big rewards to an organisation, whilst getting it wrong can have serious negative consequences.
So in a medium sized organisation how do you get it right? It may seem easy if you have only 40 staff, but how often do you hear your team say “no-one told me” or “that wasn’t what I thought you meant”.
Without strict formal communication channels and strategy the most effective way to do this well is to ensure everyone in your organisation understands what a good communicator does and takes ownership of their own communication. Make sure they know why communication is so important and provide them with the techniques to be a good communicator. If all of your team take on the responsibility to ensure they communicate well, your business can excel in this area.
To do this we suggest:
1. Training your team on communication. It is easy to open your mouth and talk, but it is a lot harder to send a clear message and ask for feedback to make sure messages have a common understanding. Encourage your team to think about tone, body language, content and method of delivery. Help them to understand how it will benefit them directly if they communicate well.
2. Make communication everyone’s responsibility. It is easy to assign communication to Managers, yet when you operate in a lean and flexible environment everyone has responsibilities which impact on each other. Let your team know that communication is a Company-wide responsibility. Encourage them to suggest ideas to improve communication and get them involved with implementing these suggestions.
3. Give feedback. Usually in appraisal or feedback discussions we focus on the delivery of tasks or achieving KPI’s. By widening this discussion to include not only “what” your team member does, but “how” they do it and “how” they communicate, you can help embed a culture of pro-active communication and then provide feedback and coaching to improve this.
Excelling in organisational communication can bring direct improvements to your business through improved engagement and increased productivity. Not to mention the reduction of misunderstandings. Communication can be difficult in a business of any size but with the right training, accountability and feedback you can get it right.
Positive People have extensive experience assisting organisations improve their communication. We have proven communication training and systems which can help your organisation become excellent at communicating. See Communication training. Contact us now.