4 life lessons on communicating with purpose

Posted by Melissa Yim on March 26, 2019.

For the past 15 years, I have been handling the toughest customers—ones who go from being satisfied to irate in seconds, ones who are demanding and sometimes hard to keep focused, but who also provide the most engaging experiences at the end of day. These customers are my children—and they have taught me a thing or two about communications. As a matter of fact, in my role as leader of Deloitte Human Capital’s Strategic Communications team, I use the lessons they’ve taught me daily.

Being a working mother in a job where I teach people to communicate with purpose, I have discovered a few insights that make my job at work, as well at home, a little easier.

1. Personalization is everything.
At work, we call this phase of communications maturity “branded”—this is the idea of consistency in look, feel, tone and style. Whether it is an email or a conversation, the brand is all similar. Tie that to life at home with four kids—there is this element of consistency that I may need to provide, but sometimes there’s these unspoken expectations of personalization. I think these are always the most dangerous on the business and personal side. In order to communicate strategically, you need to have set expectations. Take my life at home for an example, I have four different kids with four different expectations. How do I manage? I adjust while keeping the core values the same. I may take a different approach in the ways I communicate or engage with my teenager vs. my 8-year-old, who might need a simpler approach. At the end of the day, it is about making thoughtful and purposeful approaches that resonate with your audience.

2. Steady wins the race.
We call this communications maturity phase “intentional”—once you have solidified your brand and style, you can move into planning what the communications strategy will look like. Let me give you an example. Life with a teenager ranges from emotional discussions to one-word answers. I need to prepare for each and every interaction by being intentional. Just like in business, you need to have a communications plan that is organized and consistent. Your communication plan needs to be steady, healthy and balanced—not over- or underwhelming. When talking to your workforce you need to have a plan and understand how to implement and execute on the plan daily, monthly, and annually. And be ready to adjust as their needs change.

3. Meet them where they are.
We call this phase “engaging”—this phase requires you to discover the right mechanism to engage with your employees. Are you in a manufacturing environment and need to communicate with both line workers and executives on the top floor? You will need a different approach for each audience to engage and inform them. To do this consider a few questions. Are you able to leverage predictive analytics to drive the correct messages to them? Are you able to cater communication vehicles to their learning style? Do you have two-way communication with, in person meetings or technology vehicles such as bots? Perhaps there are mechanisms where you can ask questions verbally to an app and say “Help, I need backup childcare,” and your app responds with a phone number for a local babysitting company. That’s a very engaging way to communicate with an employee based on the benefits/perks you provide as an employer.

At home, I might need to have physical one-on-one time with my youngest son in the back yard throwing the ball to get him to engage in authentic conversation. While my youngest daughter would prefer I read a book, and my teenager is the most engaged walking through a museum. There are different ways to engage an audience and different technologies to enable engagement—think about the best way for your audiences.

4. A holistic approach keeps things on track.
We call this phase “holistic”—this last phase of communications maturity is where you bring the entire experience together, tying messages back to your business goals, or family goals in my case, and keeping it all aligned. The overall culture of the organization is driven by how connected your workforce feels to their purpose, experience, and relationship to the organization. But how do you communicate this? You should consider sharing information to your employees on how they help to drive business goals. One characteristic of how highly mature organizations practice holistic communications is that they clearly articulate how they support their employees through career development, provide recognition, and deliver top-notch benefits and perks.

At home, being holistic means that my husband and I are on the same page. We have the same goals for the family, in regard to sports and academics, ensuring our children are getting the same message from us, and what’s expected of them, and we let them know they’ll be consistently recognized or supported throughout their daily lives.

Communicating in this way—branded, intentional, engaging, and holistic—can, and should, be a pillar in your keys to success, at work and at home.

Communications Maturity Model

Source: Deloitte Consulting LLP

Melissa Yim is a senior manager in the Strategic Communications practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, currently leading the Strategic Communications Market Offering within Human Capital.

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