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Boost employee engagement in tough times: Lean on company values

From company mergers to pivots in business strategy to global health crises, challenging times in an organization can make inspiring and motivating your people … well, challenging. In a shakeup, you may be adjusting environments to ensure physical safety, adjusting policies and processes to ensure psychological safety, and connecting everyone to the information and tools they need. The ribbon around all of these is communication.

How you present changes and the way you frame updates makes a world of difference in how employees respond. You can probably think of several examples yourself of how certain words or a particular tone made a message you received feel energizing or discouraging.

But how do know what to say and how to say it, especially when emotions are heightened? You ground your words in the shared values you’ve cultivated as a company.

Highlight what’s always been great

There are particular cultural principles that attracted people to your company in the first place, and continue to keep them around—what are those? How can you emphasize these strong, beloved aspects of your company culture in your communications, to anchor employees in the shared vision and ways of working you’ve all previously rallied around?

Perhaps you have a company value of excellence, for example. To reflect that, you could pass your drafts through a few trusted peers to ensure you’re hitting the quality bar, even when the pressure is on. You could speak directly to the importance of high performance in your messages; you could choose phrasing that connotes quality and skill.

Not only can infusing your company values into your corporate communications re-stabilize people and renew team cohesion, but it can also provide a boost of inspiration just as it’s needed most.

Incorporate new values for this moment

In extraordinary times, you’ll likely find your organization needs to make some shifts in company culture to rise to the challenge. Maybe changes in the market are necessitating changes in your product offerings—how can you inspire innovation in employees in these moments? If you’re going through a merger or a company reorganization, how can your internal communications encourage collaboration among new teams and teammates?

Be mindful of what may be especially helpful to invoke right now, and try to shape your messaging in ways that will inspire newly relevant attitudes and approaches.

Listen for emerging new principles

As impactful as it is to emanate certain concepts from your corporate communications, it’s also important to be tuned in to the bottom-up cultural development happening. Teams will likely come to value different ways of working in different times—be sure you’re gathering this feedback, and thinking about what it means for your culture.

Is there a renewed emphasis on customer focus? Are folks signaling that they might be losing faith, and are buoyed by messages of resilience? Don’t lose these learnings!

With this information, you can be strategic about what to celebrate and what to counteract going forward.

Evaluate and evolve

While your core company values are unlikely to change, unique periods will require unique modes of operating. And some of what emerges will be welcome to stay. To keep employees engaged beyond a distinct company initiative or challenge, continue to reflect your (refined) organizational principles in your internal communications. Even as a comms pro, you might be surprised by how much words can matter!

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