In 1981, when I was eight, my family emigrated to South Africa. It was my first time on a plane - back then, over 35 years ago, we didn’t go on planes ten-a-penny as we do today. But I remember it – it was very exciting.
Fast forward to today and we fly all the time. Getting on a plane these days is as easy and cheap as getting on a train to Cork or a bus to Belfast. Just recently I flew to the UK to see a friend in his first play – at £14, my taxi ride from Manchester to Stockport was more expensive than my €9.99 flight.
The airline industry has changed enormously and, for passengers, very much for the better.
But one thing hasn’t really changed – the in-flight safety briefing that, by law, airlines have to give before every single flight. Today, largely the same words are said in the same order on every flight around the world – that’s 101,000 safety announcements A DAY! Yes, it's sometimes done with a video or animation and some airlines get a famous personality - but even they tend to deliver the same words in the same way.
Listening to it might just save your life, so it’s kind of important (call me old fashioned but I quite like being alive!).
But people ignore it. Why? Because they’ve heard it loads of times, it’s the same things over and over again and
they think they don’t need to listen – even though their lives could depend on it.
And in many instances the same is true of how companies communicate with their staff.
It was Albert Einstein who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results”, and we do it in work all the time.
The same old news, trotted out in the same old formats via the same old channels.
And we wonder why, for example, things don’t change, the culture doesn’t improve or people don’t understand the company strategy.
So what can you do to change, to make your communications more impactful, more human, more interesting and engaging so that your staff DO listen?
Here are a couple of things to think about:
Think about words – We tend to have a speaking voice and a writing voice. In one we say words like start, best and end. But the closer people get to a keyboard, the more formal people think they need to become, preferring words like commence, optimum and terminate. Use short, simple words.
Think about tone - How are you saying what you're saying? If your tone gets a recipient's back up then you've lost- they either don't read the rest of the message or won't do what you need them to do. Do the 'Monday morning' test - imagine you've arrived at your desk on a damp, dreary Monday am. You open your inbox and your email is the first thing you see - how does it make you feel?
Think about channel - What's the best and most impactful channel to get your message across? Email's always the 'go-to' channel and it's often the easiest. But is it best? How else could you communicate so your message lands with impact? Yes, it might be more work but that extra work might just pay off.
Just try and think a bit differently - break out of the 'this is the way we've always done this' mindset. Perhaps it might just make your people sit up and listen?
I'm not saying that doing this will give you a better chance of getting out of a burning aircraft - you'll need to have paid attention to the safety briefing for that.:-)
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