Time and again, communication survey results show employees want to connect with senior leaders, be respected and trusted, and feel engaged in the company’s strategic direction. In fact, hearing from the boss is a key driver of satisfaction for employees.
That’s why it’s important to keep leaders front and center in the workplace. Leaders have a crucial role in explaining where the organization is heading and what employees need to do to help it succeed, as well as sharing progress and accomplishments.
When leaders fulfill their communication role by being visible, employees are engaged and trust builds. As a result, employees say:
· “My leader is consistent and authentic.”
· “I’ve seen my leader.”
· “I recognize my leader’s voice.”
· “I’ve had the opportunity to read my leader’s body language.”
What defines a leader? Leaders are typically grouped in two categories, both with specific communication responsibilities:
· Senior leaders (CEO and senior management team) need to articulate where the organization is heading, clarify priorities and share progress (milestones)
· Key leaders (VPs and directors) must reinforce the “big picture”
Here are five great ways to increase your leader’s visibility in the workplace.
1. Leverage a variety of communication channels
Use existing channels or create new ones to give your leader a presence across the organization.
Balance your leader’s communication program by using current channels to share his or her perspective with employees. Including your leader’s “voice” in all communication makes the message more human and less corporate. Take advantage of opportunities for your leader to tell a story or provide meaning and context for an issue.
You can also create a new communication vehicle, such as a blog or webcast, to help your leader share his or her personal perspectives and experiences. Position this vehicle as a way for your leader to communicate relevant facts and big picture information.
Tip: Whenever your leader says something meaningful and memorable (even if you helped shape it), highlight these quotes in sidebars or callouts of news articles.
2. Make town hall meetings interactive
Town halls offer employees a rare opportunity to interact (live) with senior leaders. These meetings build employee confidence and trust in leaders, so it’s important to design your town halls to encourage meaningful dialogue.
You can start by creating a town hall meeting agenda that includes audience participation. You can still share important information, but carve out time for activities. When employees have an active role in the town hall meeting, they will feel more engaged in the topic.
Tip: If your employees are global, go global then local. The first half of the session can be devoted to a virtual message from a top leader to all locations. Then, hold an “local” meeting led by another leader where employees can interact and participate.
3. Hold informal group meetings
Less formal meetings, such as coffee chats or lunches with the boss, are great opportunities for leaders to connect with employees and make them feel heard. Usually, meetings like these are less structured, but they can focus on a specific topic or issue.
Senior leaders are constantly traveling to different sites for meetings, so look for opportunities to schedule employee events while they are in town. Your leader will send a message that employees are valued by including them in the visit.
Tip: Level the playing field. Set up the room so your leader is seated at the same level as employees. This may seem like a minor point, but it creates a friendly, around-the-campfire dynamic.
4. Use social media
Even the most time-pressed leader can have a presence on social media. In fact, there are many ways to participate that only require a few minutes.
Leaders have no shortage of thoughts and opinions. The key is to capture what they say in short, 25- to 50-word observations. Just like that, you can have microblog entries that start with: “I’m working on an exciting project…,” or “I was at a conference and learned…”
Internal social media platform
Encourage your leader to “tweet” (very short updates) on your internal communication platform (e.g., Yammer). Answer questions (in 280 characters or less) such as: “What’s my thought about this topic?” or “What am I working on?” Plus, conversation platforms allow employees to participate by liking, commenting and re-posting content.
When your leader does a TV interview or delivers a speech, use the audio portion to create a podcast that is posted on the intranet. Employees can listen on their computers or download it to play later.
Tip: Instead of writing, say it with pictures. Encourage your leader to use his or her phone to take candid photos at an event, and then post them with short captions on the intranet.
5. Make short videos
Video can help you break through the clutter and engage your audience. Employees don’t always get to see leaders’ faces, so video is a great way for leaders to show their personality, bring a story to life and get employees engaged in a topic. But, the video needs to be short (less than 60 seconds) and focused.
How likely is it that a senior leader will talk for 60 seconds or less? Not likely, so you need to have a good strategy for shooting and editing. Prepare a list of three to five specific questions, and share it with your leader prior to the video shoot. While filming, ask your leader to give a short response to each question (it’s OK to do multiple takes). Then edit the footage into 30- to 60-second segments, and share them as a series on the intranet.
Tip: When people see videos, they think of YouTube: fun, interesting and fast moving. So, for your next video, add something that will be attention-grabbing (e.g., animation, green screen, etc.). Or ask your leader to have fun with it — do or say something unexpected that will surprise employees.