By Wendy Silver
As an actuary you understand the importance of analyzing statistcs and data. You probably also have policies and processes in place to ensure you regularly communicate important information to your clients to ensure they are evaluating these data and mitigating risk where possible. But amongst day-to-day operations, deadlines and projects, it’s easy to overlook your employee communication plan. Even as your practice grows, it’s difficult to let go of a small-firm mindset where, of course, everyone knows what’s going on so there’s no need to reiterate. Moreover, efforts to communicate with employees might take a back seat since it’s not perceived as a profit-yielding business necessity. However, investing time in developing a robust employee communication plan is essential.
According to a 2017 study by Employee Channel, Inc., a provider of mobile apps for employee engagement and communication, employees want more communication and ranked “communicates frequently and effectively with employees” among the top behaviors that generate positive experiences in the workplace. Why? Because employees feel most valued when they feel trusted and appreciated. This engagement has a direct correlation to increased revenue.
If you fail to communicate regularly with your employees, you run the risk of sending two bad messages. The first: “We don’t trust you enough to tell you what is going on.” An employee who does not feel trusted will eventually become disengaged and exit the practice, hopefully before causing any real damage to your firm.
The second is the unintended message, “We trust you, but we just don’t think you need to know.” Implying, of course, that your employees just aren’t that important. Employees who don’t feel important will in turn fail to see how their role connects to the mission and purpose of your practice. If an employee cannot make this connection, they too will become disengaged, affecting both their productivity and quality of their work, directly impacting your bottom-line.
To ensure employee communications gets the attention it deserves, all actuaries should consider creating an employee communication plan. Below are some tips to get you started.
- Designate a time each year to evaluate and assess your employee communication efforts and needs. Communications needs change over time for a variety of reasons, including changes in firm size, business levels or activity. Issues beyond the workplace may also impact your employees and should be addressed. Regardless of specific political beliefs and opinions, the current political climate is likely affecting your employees, who might be coming to work stressed, anxious and tired. Conducting regular check-ins with your workforce to ensure they are taking care of themselves is important to promoting a safe and productive work enviroment. Regularly revisit your plan to ensure your efforts are effective and up-to-date.
- Provide opportunity for communication across the workforce. It’s great to have a top-down approach for senior leaders to communicate with employees at all levels. But don’t forget to include opportunities for employees to communicate up the various levels of management. Encourage managers to create their own plans and to implement them with their teams, perhaps using common themes identified from the larger plan. Since the heart of most employee relations issues is communication, it’s just as important to provide employees with the ability to interact with each other. Finally, don’t just provide the opportunity, but encourage it by having managers and leaders lead by example.
- Utilize different modes of communication. Communication comes in all forms: staff meetings, all-hands meetings, one-on-one meetings, memos, informal face-to-face exchanges and electronic communications. All of these are equally important at different times and for different reasons. Actuaries should consider what approach to use and when. An effective plan will likely use all forms of communication at various points in time.
- Provide the what and the why. It’s not enough to just tell employees what you are doing. If you really want to create a workplace environment with trust, respect and value, you have to tell people why something is happening. Employees may not always agree with every decision, but if they understand why a particular decision was made or why something is happening, they can at least respect it.
- Communicate your plan. Yes, you have to communicate your communication plan. Share the details of your plan and why this is important to you. Sharing this information with your workforce will create accountability and transparency.
As you create and revise these plans, consider including your employees feedback in this initiative. That way you can be sure your assessment is accurate and all perspectives are being considered. Looking for a starting point? Ask your employees what they think about how you are doing and what you could do better with respect to your communication—and genuinely listen to their feedback. Just asking the question is a form of communication that can go a long way.
Wendy Silver is the founder and president of Beyond the Workplace LLC (http://beyondtheworkplacehr.com/), a boutique HR consulting company specializing in employee relations. Wendy can be followed and contacted at https://www.linkedin.com/in/beyondtheworkplacehr/ .