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Keep the ‘summer slump’ at bay with 5 ways to heat up communication

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Warmer weather, longer days, day trips to beaches and theme parks: For many of us, summer is a time to relax, recharge and soak up some sunshine.

But if you’re an HR pro, there’s a darker side to the season: the dreaded “summer slump.”

Research shows employee productivity dips by as much as 20% during the summer months, while average attendance decreases by 17%.

When the temperature rises, many workers have a decidedly cooler attitude toward the workplace:

  • 48% take extended lunch breaks
  • 31% use sick days to plan long weekends, and
  • 51% report an increase in distractions.

Ample vacation time — and support for actually using it, while balancing PTO requests and business needs — can go a long way toward helping employees stay focused and feel energized.

Summer slump tool

But you have other tools in your HR toolbox to enhance engagement during the summer months. One of the most powerful: Internal communications.

Research reveals a clear link between how well a company shares information with employees and how engaged they feel. As Gallup’s Q12 survey demonstrates, employee engagement increases when they receive clear, constructive communication on a regular basis — from clarity on expectations to understanding the company’s mission.

Whether your department owns an internal communication app or you partner with a dedicated IC team, try these five strategies to speed up the summer slowdown.

1. Amp up your culture calendar

To make summer more productive, embrace the sunny mood. Work social events can not only help people feel more enthusiastic by infusing some fun into their workday, they also foster positive relationships among coworkers, show your company’s commitment to work-life balance and strengthen your company culture.

And with Millennial and Gen Z workers making up a growing majority of the workforce, a supportive, collaborative culture can help with your talent and attraction strategy, too. A report by Deloitte shows that Gen Zers prioritize work-life balance over a high salary, while research published by Forbes finds that 88% of Millennials prefer collaborative work cultures.

One caveat: Don’t force the fun. Requiring employees to attend workplace social events can actually be a morale-buster.

Internal comms can come into play here in three ways:

  • Getting the word out. If you have an intranet, establish a dedicated culture calendar with upcoming team-building activities, company picnics, games and other fun summer activities, along with a way to sign up for them. You can also use email, employee newsletters, plasma screens and posters, and chat channels to advertise social happenings.
  • Giving people the opportunity to suggest or even organize social functions. This not only gives everyone more options to choose from, it also provides valuable insights for your planning committee about what employees will truly enjoy and value.
  • Sharing the fun. Summer social events not only promote camaraderie, they’re also rich sources of content. Share photos, videos and highlights across your internal comms channels — and keep employees engaged even further by encouraging them to share their own stories.

2. Brighten the mood with lighter content.

A positive work environment is an important driver of employee engagement. So approach your summer communications with the spirit of a carefree beach read. Try making more room in your communication plan for entertaining and interactive content, such as:

  • Employee stories and spotlights (bonus if they have a summer connection, such as a volunteering vacation or warm-weather event)
  • Favorite summer recipes
  • Summer playlists curated by employees
  • Trivia questions, and
  • Custom online jigsaw puzzles featuring employee or company photos.

The possibilities are limited only by the imagination of your team. Just remember to strike a balance between professionalism and showcasing your company’s playful side.

And consider incorporating plenty of video, photography and other imagery; studies show that visuals increase people’s willingness to read content by 80%.

3. Dive into planning together

Summer is an ideal time to evaluate your current HR programs and consider changes for the year ahead—and involve employees in the process.

Encourage staff to contribute their ideas and provide feedback on HR initiatives, including learning and development programs, performance review processes, goal-setting and even those social events you’ve been promoting. Of course, be as transparent as possible—and clear about what changes you’re actually able to make.

Here again, internal comms can be an effective tool. Invite employees to fill out an online survey. Ask them to use your intranet, chat channels, internal social media, text and even smartphone videos to submit ideas and suggestions.

Then, actually review and use their input to refine your strategic plans, and do your best to respond to their messages. As an HR professional, you can help foster a sense of engagement and ownership by making employees feel that they are heard and their opinions valued. In turn, that can lead to increased satisfaction and retention; a major reason for employee turnover is feeling overlooked, according to Forbes.

4. Start a summer session

School may be out for summer, but your L&D programs can become a centerpiece of the season.

If summer is typically a time of lighter workloads and more flexible schedules at your company, it can be a prime time to invest in professional development. Here are a few ideas for using your internal communications channels to give employees easy access:

  • Advertise workshops, webinars, and online courses that enable employees to enhance their skills and remain engaged in their work.
  • Promote lunch-and-learn opportunities where they can share their knowledge or highlight current projects.
  • Establish a dedicated section on your intranet as a centralized learning hub to house resources such as training materials, e-learning modules, video tutorials and industry articles. Organize them into categories and add a searchable database if possible to facilitate easy access and self-paced learning.
  • Make a game of it. Set up your intranet with skill-building challenges, quizzes or competitions where employees can earn points, badges, or other rewards for completing learning modules, achieving milestones or participating in knowledge-sharing activities.

By incorporating gamification, you can use the power of positive feedback to increase employee motivation. In fact, one study found that 89% of workers said gamification made them feel more productive, and 88% said it made them happier at work.

5. Make a splash about employee successes

Summer serves as an excellent backdrop to acknowledge and appreciate employees’ hard work. If your company doesn’t yet have one, you can implement an employee recognition and rewards program to thank employees for their achievements and make them feel appreciated and valued.

Don’t be put off if budgets are limited or you’re restricted by company policies. Rewards can be as simple as an acknowledgment on your internal comms channels, such as:

  • Companywide appreciation emails
  • Congratulatory blog posts
  • Virtual awards or certificates
  • Video messages
  • Plasma screens, posters, or a “wall of fame” in the cafeteria or conference room, and
  • Celebratory events and town halls.

Of course, if you have the funds, rewards such as electronic gadgets, useful swag like water bottles or fitness gear, gift cards, extra PTO and bonuses are almost always appreciated.

These efforts can have real benefits for your company. In a survey by SHRM and Globoforce, 68% of HR professionals agreed that employee recognition programs have a positive impact on retention, and 56% believe they help with recruitment.

Sun, fun and engagement

As the mercury rises, the right approach to internal comms can help keep employees’ motivation and productivity from plummeting. By implementing these strategies at your company, you and your HR team can make summer the most engaging season of the year.

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