Aristotle is quoted as saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” In the world of communications, this philosophy hits the nail on the head. Communications today is a process, not an event. Messages need to be on target and disseminated via multiple channels to be heard and, more importantly, retained. Creating an internal communications program aligns business strategy, generates employee commitment, leverages technology and cultivates actions that engender trust.
In hospitals across the country, a new methodology modeled after the Baptist Health Care System is taking hold. In the book, “The Baptist Health Care Journey to Excellence,” CEO Al Stubblefield outlines four key ingredients to the recipe for excellence.
- Select and retain great employees. Ask yourself several fundamental questions when hiring staff. What are your organizations’ standards of performance? Are fundamental communications skills being established? Is business etiquette present? Is there a sense of ownership? Are you conducting employee forums to engage and create loyalty? Are you celebrating successes and learning from failures? Are you rewarding and recognizing?
- Commit to service excellence. Internal communications connects employees to the bigger picture. The communications team plays an instrumental role in making sure all channels are used to deliver the messages. Employees welcome succinct messages they can understand and, in turn, share with others. Ask yourself when is the last time you went into the field to get a true understanding of the process. Don’t just assume that once you create the message it will be delivered — test your own delivery system!
- Continuously develop leaders. Bench depth in an organization is crucial. Be it a volunteer organization or a Fortune 500, developing and implementing a leadership academy is one way to identify diamonds in the rough. Confident leaders can put their ego aside to ensure the next generation is given the credit.
- Hardwire excellence through accountability. Empower your employees through tools and skill development to assist them in being accountable to the organizations’ overall goals. Create dashboards that measure follow-through in real time, not just annually.
Excellence is not happenstance. It takes planning, communication and execution. A structured internal communications program provides the basis for conflict resolution and teamwork. It’s about making a connection. Effective employee communications creates a link. It provides a rationale for why decisions are made, what has happened and, more importantly, what is being planned. In a day of reducing budgets, many executives think that internal communications can be cut because “it’s ingrained in us.” Before this happens, ask yourself and your organization whether we’re leaving it to chance or taking charge. Is excellence becoming a habit?
Gail Winslow-Pine, APR, is a member of the PRSA board of directors and of counsel at Jackson Jackson & Wagner.