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Entries in employee engagement (5)


MultiMedia Narratives: 3 Commitments for Successful Engagement 

Ever hear this at work?
“Are you kidding? No one reads that newsletter.”
“Hey, if it’s that important, someone will eventually tell me.”
“C’mon, it’s the same ol’ stuff– over and over.”

If so, you’re certainly not alone.

Nowadays, it’s getting harder and harder to:
• Grab someone’s attention (so you have a shot at getting heard).
• Be entertaining (so they stay with you).
• Connect the dots so it means something (so they can act on it).

So what the heck are you suppose to do?
Tell a story, of course!

Chances are, after seeing or hearing a story, you said or heard:
“That story really got me thinking…”
“How can I learn more?”
“Wow, I never saw it that way.”

Who wouldn’t want these kinds of responses in their communication strategies?

Why do narratives create these kinds of responses?
Because they’re emotional, memorable and spreadable.

But, hey- what if you’re not using narratives in your organization?
How do you get started? What perspectives, attitudes or commitments does it take to embrace narratives in your communications strategies?

Here are a few things to think about.

Multi-Media Narratives: 3 Commitments for Successful Engagement

Commitment #1: Renew
When we renew something, we “breathe new life” into it. Let’s not keep things stale doing the “same old, same old.”

Let’s commit to:
1. Picturing the end in mind.
What do you want to achieve? Does it tie into your business strategies?
2. Finding three champions.
Who will support your idea? What’s in it for them? Who else do they know?
3. Thinking big. Starting small.
Roll out the stories to a few people or areas at first. Then let it grow organically.

Commitment #2: Restore
When we restore something, it means we are bringing something back to its original condition.

Let’s commit to:
1. Rediscovering meaningful engagement.
Stop doing what is not working. Sure it’s safe, but really– if it’s broken, why bother?
2. Simplifying the complex.
Commit to keeping things simple. If it’s complex, map out several stories that gradually draw connections to the “bigger picture.”
3. Creating believable communications.
Capture real people with real stories. They’re everywhere if we just learn to tap into them.

Commitment #3: Rekindle
What happens after we rekindle something? Our passions and emotions become stirred. We feel alive. We become awake.

Let’s commit to:
1. Inspiring others.
Capture employees sharing their tips, their struggles, their dreams. We all inspire each other in unseen ways. Multimedia is a powerful way to capture the spirit that inspires us to act.
2. Connecting the dots.
Spend time deciphering and understanding the underlying processes that connects disparate ideas and people into a cohesive whole.
3. Always be curious!
Stories are created at the speed of light. Always be on the lookout for success stories, leadership stories, customer stories, etc.

There you have it. Three commitments: Renew. Restore. Rekindle.

Three commitments you need to bring your stories to life and engage your audience in a purposeful, meaningful way.

Over to you. What would you change? What parts work? What areas don't?


P.S. This post originally appeared in FastCompany.com.


19 Often Overlooked Questions to Propel Employee Conversations 

Smart leaders ask interesting questions.

These questions are ignored by many; used by a few.

Here are a handful of questions to help you bridge the gap from "cubicle to community."

The companion article to this post is "19 Surprising Questions To Help You Energize Employee Conversations."

These 38 questions in total will provide you some amazing answers for any media program you are designing and implementing.

Your mileage may vary but I wonder which ones might work for you?

What would happen if we:

1. Connected disconnected pieces to show the “big picture?”
2. Created a visual map making it easy for everyone to know where we’re headed?
3. Shared more success stories?
4. Showed stories of how problems were solved?
5. Showed stories of how ideas failed?
6. Learned to be more trusting?
7. Invited employees to share their personal leadership tips?
8. Listened by asking what matters most to them?
9. Simplified complex business ideas with personal experiences?
10. Encouraged and told stories that point to something bigger than ourselves?
11. Presented more personality and humanized our company?
12. Started thinking “community” instead of “corporate?”
13. Saw or heard stories of leaders capturing our imaginations?
14. Told employees why we are in business in the first place?
15. Demonstrated our values in action when recruiting potential candidates?
16. Stopped using or creating strategies that don’t work?
17. Simplified things?
18. Considered today as the first day we had a communications department?
19. Integrated employees regularly in our communications?

What's your take?
What questions have you used to drive employee conversations? What approaches work for you?


PS. If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it with the "Share Article" button below.

Originally posted in FastCompany.com.


19 Surprising Questions to Help You Energize Employee Conversations 

“Wow” answers need “wow” questions.

If you’re hungry for new answers or different ideas from your team or employees, try changing the questions.

Here are a few questions to energize just about any conversation you might be a part of.

You can use these questions anywhere, anytime:
• Audio or video podcasts
• Flip camera interviews
• Documentary crew interviews
• Online social interactions
• Offline social interactions

Go ahead and give a few of these questions a shot. The answers might surprise you.

1. What myths about your work or our organization would you like to set straight?
2. Do you know the story of why we are in business in the first place?
3. How does what you do fit into the “big picture”?
4. What do our customers need to know about us that they probably don’t know?
5. What’s a great day for you?
6. What moment are you most proud of?
7. What’s the most challenging part of what you do?
8. If you became CEO, what three decisions would you make your first week?
9. What do you think our customers love about us?
10. Why do you think employees become distrustful?
11. How can we turn low-trust into high-trust?
12. How would you start creating a deeper sense of community for our company?
13. How do we help employees feel safe about learning new skills?
14. How can our organization help you communicate more effectively?
15. What can we do to help people understand that their work matters?
16. What can we do to help people feel more connected to their work?
17. Do you think sharing our values with others can make an overall difference?
18. What can we stop doing that isn’t working?
19. What can we simplify?


PS. If you enjoyed this article, you can share it using the "Share Article" button below.

Originally posted on Fast Company.


Employee Engagement Lessons from Fast Company’s “30 Second MBA” Part 2 

Here’s part two of my conversation with Ellen McGirt, Senior Writer for Fast Company magazine and Dean of Fast Company’s “30 Second MBA website.

Part one can be found here. Thanks again, Ellen, for participating!

5. Many organizations see and hear the potential benefits of incorporating an internal social media framework into their communication strategies but are hesitant to make the leap. What would you say to these folks?

Grow a spine. You’ve already lost control! You might as well have some fun. And by the way, this is the golden era of the communications professional. In addition to expressing your brand values externally, they should be tapped to be the keepers of the communication flame internally as well. Let them, not your lawyers, lead the way.

I would then ask: What are the pressing needs of your organization? It might make sense to create a targeted social media effort directly toward a current problem.

6. What role do employees have in launching a successful internal social media platform?

They are the secret to your success – just like in other aspects of the business. Your employees are now your best marketers, customer service reps, troubleshooters and sources of innovation. Give them a way to weigh in – blogs, video posts, twitter, flickr, whatever – and acknowledge their efforts.

The third most popular blogger at Cisco (internally) is a guy that’s four levels away from their CEO. He blogs about technical matters specifically related to a single product area. It’s information people need to do their jobs better! The fact that he has a platform that he controls (no one vets the copy) and a way to interact with his colleagues means that he has become an indispensible resource to others. And he got a mention in Fast Company Magazine as a result. Not the goal, but I bet his mom is happy.

7. What goals or strategies do organizations need to think about before diving into the creation of an internal social community platform?

Brand comes first. The least cynical definition of a brand is that of an expression of deeply held values.

Social media turns that brand into a platform for others to express themselves. So, if you’re willing to open up your brand, then everyone needs to know what those values are. Everyone. This should not become a forum for one to develop their own personal brand – it’s about a shared common goal. Initiatives should be developed through the framework of those values – with an eye to maximizing the safety and success of the participants. (Privacy, rules of engagement, equal access etc.)

And the objectives should be clear and measurable. Are you using social media to innovate new ideas? To manage projects? To develop the potential of your staffers? To acknowledge achievement? To play a game or conduct a contest? Build rapport?

Be prepared to get staff input every step of the way (bottom up, not top down), accept that there will be many versions and understand that failure is always an option. It’s baked in to the iteration process.

8. What is the next evolution in the “30 Second MBA” format?

Glad you asked. Future iterations include a thumbs-up button, so viewers can vote up popular videos, and easier ways for people to share the videos with others.

Now that we have a nice library, I’m hoping to cross pollinate them into new and fun lesson plans – “Swimming with Sharks Week” – the best advice on how to deal with difficult people. Etc.

Ultimately, my plan (always subject to the input of others) is to create a credit system – the more people watch, comment or post a video response – or even do things in the world, like mentor others - the more credits they get. You can spend those credits for things that you want, like sponsored gifts, or actual feedback from real faculty members. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could connect you with the hottest CEO in the Valley for a fifteen minute business plan assessment? Would you give 20 hours of mentoring for that? Fun to think about.

This article was originally posted on Fast Company.

Ellen McGirt’s Bio:
When she's not chasing former Vice Presidents or leaping social networks in a single bound, Ellen McGirt occasionally shows up at her job as Senior Writer at Fast Company magazine. She covers a range of business topics, but never stops looking for the writer’s holy grail: The business ideas - and people - who are changing the world.

McGirt joined Fast Company in February 2007 from Fortune, where she was a senior writer. She was also a columnist and editor-at-large for Money, where she covered a wide variety of health care, consumer, personal finance and investing topics. McGirt has served as a guest correspondent for CNN's American Morning, and has appeared frequently on Good Morning America, CBS Early Today, NBC Nightly News, CNBC, CNN, and American Public Media.


Employee Engagement Lessons from Fast Company’s “30 Second MBA” Part 1 

I’m a big fan of Fast Company’s “30 Second MBA” site.

The minute it launched, I felt it offered a simple yet highly effective way for organizations to integrate social media concepts into their internal communication strategies.

I wanted to know more. So I asked Ellen McGirt, the Senior Writer and Dean of “30 Second MBA,” a few questions about her experiences in launching the site. I was particularly interested in seeing how the “30 Second MBA” framework could be adapted for internal communication purposes. Here’s part one of the interview. And many thanks, Ellen, for sharing your ideas!

1. How did the Fast Company “30 Second MBA” idea come into being?
I pitched the concept about two years ago. I was looking for an unusual way to tell stories using video on the web. The verdict: Cute idea, we’re not ready.

Fast forward about a year and a half, and we had a new web direction, some development momentum and a new editor. I re-pitched the idea and it got some traction. We went ahead and started planning the interface, etc – and we got the news from our publisher that she’d been able to find a sponsor. Score! Suddenly we had some additional cash to build out the first version. Although we were prepared to go rogue and do it with existing resources, the new budget was a welcome addition.

2. Take us behind the scenes a bit. How are the videos created? How do you find your video guests? How many members are on your team? How are your themes for each week discovered? Any other things readers would find interesting?

The beauty of the idea is that it’s a real DIY project. And, although it’s labor intensive, it’s not expensive. I have a ready list of candidates – people who have appeared in the magazine or who are associated with industries or companies we’ve studied. The questions come from interviews I’ve conducted with both business leaders and readers, and range from the deeply philosophical – is technology changing the nature of leadership? – to the mundane – how do you run a meeting? (Contrary to popular opinion, actual interviews are a better way to get information from people, not web polls.)

I extend an invitation to potential participants via e-mail, and then offer an array of questions to choose from, with a deadline and upload instructions. I emphasize that rough is great – Flip cam, hand helds, Skype are all terrific. Tell us stories! These answers should be the type of personal advice you’d give a friend in need. And it’s very very cool to see people in their natural habitats, so I encourage people to shoot from their offices.

I’ve also reached out to many extraordinary people I don’t know, like Alan Mulally of Ford. He loved the concept and signed on before the site was even built! We want the project to be a reflection of the sensibilities of our magazine – about innovation, inspiration and possibility – and inclusive of all perspectives. So the mix of voices is profound -from the C-suites of Ford, Intel, Schwab, Facebook and USAA, to soldiers in Afghanistan/Iraq, artists, educators and social entrepreneurs in a variety of fields. There are some very cool surprises coming up.

This is a team effort of technologists and editors on both the digital side and magazine side – not to mention our magnificent publisher and marketing team. Now more than 20 people think about and work on Thirty Second MBA from a Fast Company perspective. That is absolutely my favorite part of this. It went from a crazy pitch to a full on team effort. Thanks especially to Bob Safian, our editor in chief; Noah Robischon, our web editor; and Christine Osekoski our publisher - for their guts, hard work and spirit.

3. If an organization wanted to adopt the “30 Second MBA” idea internally, what steps or ideas would you suggest to them?

It’s a lot of work but really worth it. Keep the project and the subsequent requests for participation clear and focused – people want to contribute, but they also don’t want to be embarrassed. Be prepared to answer a lot of questions about what you want and how the project will be used. What can they expect? What kind of help or support? What do you want me to say again?

Be sure to frame the project as having a bigger objective. Our stated goal is to grow the leadership capability of our readers by giving them a nugget of wisdom from executives we admire that they can access when they need it. And, I make sure people know that I consider their participation a generous act.

Also, get buy-in from the top of your organization. I mean, I never do, but why make things harder than they need to be? ☺

4. A 2008 survey conducted by the Corporate Leadership Council indicates: “By improving employees’ level of engagement, organizations can see significant improvement in employees’ performance rating and decrease the probability of employee departure by 87%.”

With the phenomenal rise in social media, what ways can an organization use the MBA framework internally to increase employee and customer engagement and retention?

I am so lucky. As part of my job I get to have exceptional conversations with people who are making business happen – the Mark Zuckerbergs, the Paul Otellinis, etc. They invariably say something incredibly interesting about how they do what they do, how they’ve solved a leadership problem, or how their thoughts about work have evolved.

Almost never is that the subject of the interview or relevant to my piece. But MAN, I wish I had web cam in my brain to capture that moment. The 30 Second MBA was born from that wish, and a desire to share my world with my readers. (Without me in it, by the way. I don’t want to watch any more fake talk shows on the web!)

So what would that mean for your organization? What wisdom or inspiration is going unrecorded? When you hit your head and say – man, I wish my colleagues/customers/friends could hear this – you’re on your way to an idea.

I would also tap the routinely overlooked HR department for insight. They tend to know more than you think. It’s also helpful to think in modules. The 30 Second MBA works because it is both structured and diverse. We get five very different people to answer the same question, so the contrast is automatically interesting. Would it matter to you that the guy in the mailroom is also a hospice volunteer? That the VP of finance produces community theater? The very notion of introducing a company to itself is a valuable one. But to use it to teach what they know is really cool. And makes an excellent recruiting tool.

So maybe ya’ll are on a budget or not so good with a web cam. Even a simple Facebook network with a complete list of employees and their talents, skills, strengths and interests can help people in big organizations connect with others who can help them when they need them. It’s also a cultural thing – it must be unacceptable NOT to share your expertise with your colleagues whether you know them or not. That part comes from the top.

Stay tuned for part two.

Part 2 can be found here.

Originally posted on my Fast Company column.

Ellen McGirt’s Bio:
When she's not chasing former Vice Presidents or leaping social networks in a single bound, Ellen McGirt occasionally shows up at her job as Senior Writer at Fast Company magazine. She covers a range of business topics, but never stops looking for the writer’s holy grail: The business ideas - and people - who are changing the world.

McGirt joined Fast Company in February 2007 from Fortune, where she was a senior writer. She was also a columnist and editor-at-large for Money, where she covered a wide variety of health care, consumer, personal finance and investing topics. McGirt has served as a guest correspondent for CNN's American Morning, and has appeared frequently on Good Morning America, CBS Early Today, NBC Nightly News, CNBC, CNN, and American Public Media.

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