The benefits of talking directly to employees

You've just received a ping in your inbox from a company leader. In it, she describes an upcoming eco-friendly initiative for your office, one that will allow the company to become more sustainable. Exciting, right? Now consider the following two ways the email is formatted.

Option 1:

Dear Employee,

Beginning next week, Company XYZ will be incorporating new eco-friendly policies and practices. As a result, all employees must now separate their trash into four categories: glass, plastic, recyclable paper and non-recyclables. Additionally, employees are encouraged to turn off overhead lighting during peak energy hours, use public transportation or carpool when possible.

Employee cooperation is appreciated as Company XYZ works to go green.

Best, Joanne

Option 2:

Dear Ted,

Beginning next week, Company XYZ is going green! I'm thrilled to share that we will be incorporating new eco-friendly policies and practices into our office. Here are a few ways you can contribute to this new initiative:

  • Separate your trash into four categories: glass, plastic, recyclable paper and non-recyclables.
  • Turn off your overhead lighting during peak energy hours.
  • Use public transportation or carpool with other Company XYZ colleagues when possible.

Your cooperation is appreciated as we work to become more environmentally friendly.

Thanks for your help, Jo

Which option would you read with greater interest? More likely than not, you would prefer option two. Talking directly to employees is a very personal and effective way for leaders to communicate. Using first and second person pronouns such as "I," "you," and "we" makes people feel included and respected, allowing them to palpably feel a leader's excitement for an initiative and what it means for the company. On the other hand, using third person and referring to team members as "the employee" feels cold, distant and impersonal.

One-on-one communication from leaders to employees is essential to boosting office morale and, in turn, workplace productivity. Here are a few additional tips to consider:

  • Highlight employee importance. Share how an employee's participation will contribute to the overall mission and values of the organization. Be as specific as possible about both your expectations and what success will mean for the company's future.
  • Empower employees to make decisions. Give employees a list of suggestions, not demands. The goal should be to make team members feel important in the decision-making process. It's a team effort to make any initiative into a success, and employees should know just how much their performance will contribute to the company's well being.
  • Value employee opinions. Listen and be open to employee feedback. If you send an email, you should make it clear that replies and comments are welcome. Your employees may offer ways to improve a program you've created, and you don't want to miss out.

Ultimately, it's up to the leader to determine the best way to communicate with employees, but the benefits of treating people like people, rather than cogs in a machine, are far too numerous to overlook. Start a conversation rather than a lecture, and watch how quickly your team responds.

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