Meet a Bright Mind: Andrea Feldermann on Employee Experience

When the going gets tough… how to maintain a positive employee experience in difficult times


By Andrea Feldermann, Philips
Member of ConnectMinds Intranet Expertengruppe Stuttgart

The factors that make for a positive employee experience are much the same elements people appreciate in their personal life: we want others to treat us with respect, accept us the way we are, honor our accomplishments, take our concerns seriously, and support our growth so we can unfold our full potential.

In Internal Communications, we utilize many tools to support a positive employee experience. However, as most companies face increasing uncertainty and change, even the right channel strategies and change management processes may not be enough.

As communicators, we can provide the often-underestimated human touch. In doing so, we can play a powerful role in helping employees move along the change curve. Here are a few seemingly simple tips that can pay off big (and backfire if disregarded).

Be honest, and walk the talk

There is no point in telling people one thing, when their everyday experience looks different. Any communication needs to address issues openly and, ideally, in a proactive way. Focusing on solutions rather than problems is key, but first employees need their concerns to be recognized. The mere acknowledgement of a problem by management can go a long way.

Especially in longer-term initiatives, employees have many questions early on, but typically, answers only become available as the project progresses. If there is no answer yet, do not pretend to give one by using standard phrases that do not mean anything. An authentic “I don’t know” is far more helpful, and ideally, you can say by when you will know more. Be extremely diligent with following up; if you promise an update, make sure you give it.  

Listen first

It is essential to be in touch with employees and to provide the opportunity for an open conversation. In particularly heated situations, I have made positive experiences with setting up what you could call “Let-it-out sessions”. Employees were able to voice their opinion in a confidential, peer-to-peer setting. Management was not present, but received an anonymized summary afterwards.

A few basic rules help: Participants use “I”-messages, only speak for themselves and about how they perceive things rather than how things supposedly are. This helps to avoid generalizing statements and to keep everyone open-minded about other viewpoints. As a moderator, do not defend but explain. Lay out available information again and provide more background to better explain the Why and How of a change initiative.

Stay in touch

Provide ample opportunity for updates and, ideally, face-to-face meetings and dialog. Town Hall Meetings or videos messages are great for addressing large audiences. Hold meetings with smaller groups at intervals that are more frequent, and focus on interaction. If a team faces a specific challenge, join their regular meeting. When confronted with a sensitive issue, offer to have a conversation over a cup of coffee instead of sending an e-mail.

Finally, stay flexible in your approach and actively seek input from others: of course, from the employees you want to create a positive experience for, and from communicators in other companies and industries. They may have valuable best practices to share. After all, no matter our professional field, in our want to be appreciated we are all very much alike.

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