Creating a Communication Calendar
There are few things in business that aren’t done based on a plan. For anything related to spending, there are budgets. When it comes to employees, there are performance plans. Any significant undertaking is based on a project plan.
What’s surprising is how few organizations create an employee communications plan. Despite the fact that almost everyone agrees good communication is essential to engaging and motivating employees, there’s seldom any thought given to the content, format or timing of those communications. Instead it’s a largely ad hoc and uncoordinated effort that isn’t nearly as effective as it could be.
What’s needed is a communication calendar that will ensure your employees are kept well informed, not just on the routine and ad hoc information, but more importantly on the bigger topics related to your organization and its success.
More Planning, Not More Communicating
Creating a communication calendar seldom means adding more communication events. Rather it’s a matter of thinking about the events you already do in a more coordinated way. Consider for a minute how many formal communication interactions you already have with employees. Do you have routine team or project meetings? Performance review meetings? Lunch and learns? Sales team meetings? No doubt, you have some or all of them. They become the framework of your calendar.
With the events identified, start plugging in the high-level content. Your plan can include standing topics, the things discussed in every meeting, if you like. Doing so creates a precursor to your actual meeting agendas. (You DO have an agenda for each meeting, right?) What’s more important to include, though, are the larger themes or topics you want to present to your team in a thoughtful, coordinated way. These are the topics that will engage employees and help them feel more in sync with your organization.
What kind of topics or themes might provide grist for your communication calendar? The list is long.
Organizational Performance: Employees feel more engaged when they are kept in the loop about how your organization is doing. What metrics are of the greatest interest to employees? Identify one metric per month to share with employees in depth. Be sure to include an explanation of the employees’ role in improving those metrics.
Personal Development: What skills or behaviors do you want to encourage in your employees? Teamwork? Innovation? Safety? Select one per quarter to discuss with them. Share ways to build or improve those behaviors, and recognize employees who successfully model them.
Financial Results: Employees like to know how well their business is succeeding in the market, but for many of them the financial results are just numbers. They don’t really understand the significance of your inventory or cost of goods sold. Pick one aspect of your financials per quarter and educate employees about it. Again, include an explanation of what they can do to move those financials in the desired direction.
Corporate Culture: You, no doubt, have a clear picture of your corporate culture. You know what the company aspires to be and the image you want to project to your customers, community members and suppliers. Do your employees know those things? That would be a great conversation to have. Why not plan to do it?
Plan to Plan
Most leaders are so caught up in their day-to-day activities that creating a communication calendar is something that falls to the bottom of the to-do pile. Don’t let that happen. If you believe in the power of communication to engage and motivate employees, then the half hour it will take to create a communication calendar could be the most important thing you do today.
Set aside the time to give some thought to what would be beneficial to share with your employees over the course of the year. Most people do too little of this kind of big-picture thinking. Don’t be surprised that the act of thinking about what you want to communicate with employees forces you to clarify for yourself what’s useful or important to your organization. Over and over, when working on a communication plan with my clients, the simple act of discussing their communication goals provides them with valuable insights. Developing a communication plan is a valuable exercise on several levels.
Act on the Plan
Once your calendar is created, be sure it doesn’t end up buried in a folder, never again to see the light of day. As the year progresses, rely on the calendar to remind you about the things you identified as being important discussion topics.
What format should your calendar take? That doesn’t matter one bit. Use whatever tool is convenient for you to capture the information. It could be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet that shows the communication event (team meeting, for example), the timing (Week 1, Week 2 or January, February, etc.) and the topic(s) to discuss in each event.
Creating a communication calendar takes only a small bit of planning to create and a moment or two each week to refer to and identify upcoming topics. The payoff for this small investment of time can be huge. Sharing higher-level topics and themes with employees in a planned, coordinated communication effort is guaranteed to help them feel more informed and engaged in your organization. That will pay off in providing a clearer vision of their role in your organization’s success, and increase the likelihood that they can and will fulfill that role to the best of their abilities.