DeVaughn Narratives

Creating digital stories that resonate and inspire

Category: Strategic Communications

The Importance of Well-Traveled Employees


The Importance of Well-Traveled Employees

There are some people who never feel the urge to leave their home. They’re content to stay in the city they came from. Then there’s the rest of us: the people who can’t sit still. Having an incurable case of wanderlust, we returned home from our latest vacation in pursuit of our next big adventure.

In today’s competitive market, you must find ways to differentiate yourself from your peers. The skills and experience gained from traveling abroad can give you a competitive advantage and enhance your career. When traveling abroad you are likely to possess the skills needed in the global economy – economic and geographical knowledge, cross-cultural communication skills, analytical skills, flexibility, an understanding of and familiarity with local customs, an ability to adapt to new circumstances, and may be proficient in multiple languages.

Traveling Improves our Communication Skills

When trying to converse in foreign cultures, verbal and non-verbal communication is necessary to overcome language and cultural barriers. Being able to communicate with other people from diverse cultures and backgrounds is an important skill in any job.

Traveling Improves Negotiation Skills

Whether you’re haggling at a market or negotiating a fare with a taxi driver, bargaining is a regular part of traveling abroad and is an important skill to hone. Employers want people who are savvy negotiators.

Understanding Cross-cultural Sensitivity

Today companies both large and small are effectively competing on the global stage in order to survive and prosper. Living among people as you travel abroad, talking with them and learning their stories and culture gives you a competitive advantage in the workplace.

Becoming Self-sufficient and Confident

When you’re traveling abroad, you don’t have anyone to call for help. As you figure out how to get around in a foreign country, you build confidence and adaptability in foreign situations. Things can go awry and plans change. As a traveler you are forced to change plans constantly.

While in Turkey, we were suddenly left without travel arrangements to Greece. Without internet service in our hostel, we found a nearby internet café and had to research a new flight to Greece within time frame and budget. This turned out to be no easy feat.

The ability to adapt is important and appealing to employers.

Learning to Budget and Plan

Prior to traveling, I had to plan and save for each of my vacations abroad. In addition, I had to continue to monitor my budget once we arrived.

In conclusion, employers are looking for people who are versatile and adaptable. By embracing your travel experience on your resume, you are demonstrating your willingness to seek out new experiences. Having relevant global experience on your resume can be an advantage.

Creating a Workplace that Embraces Diversity and Inclusion

Creating a Workplace that Embraces Diversity and Inclusion

The demographics of the workplace are changing and will continue to do so in the coming years. Demographically, many organizations look different than it did a decade ago as the U.S. population is becoming more heterogeneous, with minority groups making up larger portions of the populace.

Diversity can be defined in many ways. One such example is that diversity includes Diversity and inclusionall the ways in which people differ and is an awareness of and respect for individuals with unique perspectives, backgrounds, and their attributes working towards a common goal. It’s about people.

Inclusion, on the other hand, is about the organization and involves putting the practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of respect, and where everyone is valued and included. Inclusion should be reflected in an organization’s culture, practices, business strategies, mission, and relationships.

One of the most important things leaders can do is create a culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace for their employees. This is key to building a successful business with today’s workforce.

Workforce diversity can bring about an increase in productivity and competitive advantage. Organizations can offer more solutions to their stakeholders because of new ideas and processes brought into the organizations. Moreover, diversity gives access to a greater talent pool which can improve a company’s reputation and image.

Communicating with a diverse workforce does have its advantages. Research suggests that one of the advantages of communicating with a diverse workforce is the increase in creativity. Employees from different backgrounds can bring in a variety of solutions on how to achieve a common goal. When team members are culturally diverse, more ideas are formed because they may approach a problem totally different.

One disadvantage is the implementation and successful management of diversity programs in the workplace, which can be challenging.

Following are a variety of strategies that employers can implement that can make great strides toward promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace:

  • Diversity training
  • Mentoring programs
  • Employee resource groups
  • Diversity task forces, committees, and advisory boards
  • Employee network support groups

Research has shown that nothing drives home the message of inclusion than exposing diverse groups to one another. That is exactly what one company did when they were facing a demographic problem of epic proportions. Here’s their story.

Lockheed Martin, one of the world’s leading global aerospace, defense, and advanced technology companies, needed to replenish a large majority of their engineers who were expected to retire. To create a more diverse and inclusive workforce, Lockheed Martin’s MS2 employee communications and design team developed an “Embrace Diversity” print postcard campaign that helped employees understand the beliefs and backgrounds of all the workers who comprised the organization. The team created innovative, vibrant, eye-catching postcards as a communications tool to get employees to think about their own reactions and beliefs. This campaign involved a series of different postcards that explored topics such as generational differences, cultural and religious traditions, teamwork, as well as company loyalty. The communications team designed the postcards with the diversity messages to spark discussion among employees.

In conclusion, diversity and inclusion is relevant to successful business strategies that increase quality performance and better productivity.


Are Your Employees Engaged?

employee engagement

Unleashing the energy and talent of people in the workplace and engaging employees more fully in their work is a critical challenge facing organizations. Engagement is particularly important today due to morale problems, lack of harmonious relations between employees and managers, lack of career development opportunities, and organizational reputation.

If a business is to succeed and remain competitive in today’s corporate landscape, it is essential to keep their employees engaged.

But some contend if it is even possible to achieve employee engagement in a hierarchical organization where leadership dominates. Still, others believe that engagement is a manipulative management technique to squeeze more out of an overworked and understaffed workforce. Clearly, engagement is not a simple matter.

According to recent research conducted by Towers Watson, a leading global professional services company that helps organizations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management, only a small percentage of employees are actively engaged. In fact, research suggests there has been a considerable decline in engagement over the last several years.

But, what exactly is employee engagement? Employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment an employee has to their organization and its goals, their job, and their colleagues.

Oftentimes, employee engagement is confused with employee satisfaction because the concepts are similar, so the terms are often used interchangeably. Employee satisfaction is an attitude where employees are happy or content with their jobs and work environment. However, engaged employees are passionate about their jobs and are committed to the organization and its goals. Just because an employee is satisfied doesn’t necessarily mean they are engaged.

When I worked at Signet Bank (Union Trust) in the 1980s, I was proud to be working there. The company wasn’t perfect, but it took care of us. Later I had the same commitment and passion during my years at Union Memorial Hospital, and then again at LifeBridge Health. Yes, sometimes management issues got in the way, but it was always my ability to contribute and make a difference, innovate, and enjoy the people who made me happy, which got me engaged.

How is employee engagement measured? Employee engagement is typically measured using an employee engagement survey that has been developed specifically for this purpose. These surveys must be statistically validated and benchmarked to measure your employee’s level of engagement.

One such survey, the Gallup Q12, was designed to measure employee engagement to worker productivity, customer loyalty, and sales growth. Twelve survey questions were chosen ranging from topics including basic needs, management support, team work, and growth. The answers were used to categorize employees into three areas:

  1. Engaged—employees who love their jobs and feel a connection to their company. Actively engaged employees demonstrate high levels of performance, a drive for innovation and efficiency, commitment to their roles and to the organization as a whole, and high-energy enthusiasm.
  2. Disengaged—employees who do as little as possible just to get by. Disengaged employees view their jobs as an exchange of time for a paycheck. They complete their tasks, but they do so unenthusiastically and put in little to no additional effort.
  3. Actively Disengaged—employees who are not only unhappy with their job but they have a bad attitude and are damaging to the workplace. They are actively negative and voice their displeasure in the work place. Their negativity permeates the job place and often undermines the performance of other employees.

The benefits of an engaged workforce are clear. Research has shown that organizations with engaged and committed employees are significantly more productive than those where employees are disengaged. Employee retention rates are also considerably higher. A Towers Watson study found that companies with more engaged employees produce greater financial returns.

Our organization regularly takes employee satisfaction surveys. In order to get some anecdotal feedback, I raised the question of employee satisfaction surveys with some of my coworkers. My question seem to strike a raw nerve with many of my coworkers because they felt the surveys are not anonymous since very specific demographic questions are asked about each employee. Any negative feedback brought forth could mean fear of reprisal.   Further, one would have to look at the validity and reliability of feedback methodology.

How can leaders effectively engage their employees? Following are several tips that can stimulate employee engagement:

  • Provide Clear Direction: Leadership needs to know where the company is going and how employees can help it get there. This is where a mission and core values come in. Change often fails because of the lack of clear and credible communication. Management cannot and should not expect employees who lack awareness and understanding of corporate strategy to become committed to carrying out the organization’s policy.
  • Communication: Once the strategy is in place, the leaders need to communicate and reinforce the overarching message among all employees. Each employee should know how he or she can contribute. Leaders and professional communicators can help by aligning words with actions, building relationships, and conversing with employees rather than communicating at them.
  • Employee Development: Organizations should offer training to employees to help them advance in their careers.
  • Supportive Managers: Managers must give their employees clear goals, offer feedback, and have an open door policy.

In conclusion, engagement requires a sustained effort from everyone. Organizations must carefully identify the causes of disengagement through data gathering and surveys then address these issues with a clear strategy in mind.

The Impact of Technology on Corporate Communications

Corporate Communications

Nationally, the newspaper industry is in a state of collapse. Many newspapers have either been forced into bankruptcy or have become extinct. Even the New York Times has been forced to seek outside investors to stay afloat. The major reason why the industry is crumbling is the internet. Since more people get their news from computers, newspaper circulation and ad revenues are shrinking and readership dwindling. With the adoption of the internet we have seen a shift in budding forms of communication (journalism) from print to online. Another transformation that took place is that people wanted a voice so communication (including journalism) moved from monologue to dialogue. Traditionally, journalism was a one-way form of communication. In stark contrast, social media is about dialogue, audience, and citizen journalism.

Social media is created and distributed by the audience and represents the channels of communication that the audience uses to write, create, and share information. Today, the explosion of digital solutions provides communicators with a new arsenal of tools. These tools can take the form of blogs, social networking, visual communication, and podcasts. Since organizations use different types of media to reach their audience, knowing how to select the right medium for your message and how to create different forms of communication is integral in today’s corporate landscape. Today’s communicators need to learn the foundational digital skills in order to stay competitive. These new skill sets include but are not limited to using RSS feeds, search engine optimization, video production, and analyzing/monitoring metrics. Although digital media is important, companies should not solely concentrate on electronic communications at the expense of print or face-to-face communication. Each has a role and should be used accordingly.

While technology has made business communication easier and faster, at times communication is more distracting because of message overload. From constant emails to cell phones, instant communication can make it hard to focus on meeting deadlines so at times you need to turn off communication devices.

Is Corporate Reputation Important?

Corporate Reputation ManagementAccording to Tamara Gillis, author of the  IABC  Handbook of Organizational Communication, the term corporate reputation refers to how positively, or negatively, a company or similar institution is perceived by its key stakeholders. Corporate reputation, which is considered a soft or intrinsic concept, is important because it affects the efficiency and effectiveness of the way a company operates. Additionally, a good organizational reputation can increase competitive advantage because customers will be more loyal and may influence other potential customers by word of mouth. While some organizations place this intrinsic concept on the back burner to more critical matters, other businesses consider organizational reputation to be of great importance. This is especially true if their business is in the financial, legal, or medical arenas. These sectors proactively try and build their image and good will.

All organizations have the responsibility to operate in accordance with all applicable laws and regulations. Organizations must also have an economic and ethical responsibility. To enhance organizational reputation, a company’s level of corporate social responsibility can increase competitive advantage and attract customers.

Having a good organizational reputation has many benefits. Some of these benefits include but are not limited to: being able to attract and retain talent, being able to charge premium prices for products and services, being able to weather bad times, being able to attract investors, increasing market share, and gaining more favorable media coverage.

One thing is for sure, there is a high cost to pay for an organization losing their reputation, the good standing among stakeholders. Past experience has shown that a badly handled crisis can taint or potentially ruin a company such as the Exxon Valdez, BP, Arthur Andersen, and Enron incidents. A smaller organization could be devastated by loss of reputation. Conversely, the skillful handling of a major issue or crisis can maintain a good reputation. As history has shown, rebuilding a reputation is not easy and takes a lot of time. It is my belief that repairing a reputation is often harder than building reputation.

There are several measures that organizations can do to safeguard their reputation. Media and reputation perception audits should be conducted regularly. In addition, organizations need to frequently monitor the Internet for what is being said about them, their competitors and industry.

One of the most effective strategies for protecting corporate reputation is creating an early warning system that detects and tracks potential threats, and provides response-related policies and procedures, before the threat matures into a full-blown crisis. Giving in to the natural tendency to believe that a potential problem will dissipate over time has proven to be a fatal mistake for far too many companies. As the Internet has shown us, company crises live forever and are nearly impossible to erase.

Regularly and consistently communicating internally the importance of corporate reputation, and the company’s commitment to protecting it, is also important in ensuring that a positive reputation remains a priority for all employees and a core feature of the corporate culture.

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