Good briefings can make a big difference to your staff

Valerie Morton on the best way to keep your staff informed

Valerie Morton
Valerie Morton

Q: I want to develop my regular staff briefing process to give it more impact. Can you help?

A: All credit to you for having a process in the first place. It is surprising how many charities do not, perhaps citing the fact that staff numbers are too small to need one (the "we are all in the same office, so we know what's going on" syndrome), or the major management error of believing that, if all their information is on the intranet, it automatically means it is being read.

Good staff briefing processes not only achieve the obvious benefit of ensuring an effective flow of information between teams, but also have an equally valuable role in improving both staff motivation and effective cross-team working. Hearing about the charity's achievements shows how each individual's work contributes to the bigger picture, and being able to share challenges creates a culture of openness and trust.

Number of levels

Briefings can be at a number of levels depending upon the size of your organisation - there might be charity-wide ones that are cascaded down to all staff and also ones for individual departments.

So how should you give briefings more impact? Let's split it in to process, content and style. If you wanted to evaluate your success, you could ask your staff to score on these criteria.

My top tips on the process front are: don't assume that if you publish information, whether electronically or in print format, it will automatically be read by everyone; remember that unless the process is truly embedded into the culture of the charity and people's working lives, it will start to unravel after a very short time; and lead from the top by making sure you and your senior managers are an integral part of the process.

Benefits, not features

Moving on to content, I suggest you edit information in such a way that key messages are not lost in lots of drivel. Remember the "benefits, not features" mantra: for example, a quote from a client about what a new service means to them hits home a lot better than a statement that you have launched a new service.

This one might seem counterintuitive, but don't signpost or segment information too much because it leads to people cherrypicking what they think they need to know rather than what is actually useful.

Style is the area with big potential. Here my suggestions are: make it a relaxed atmosphere rather than a formal one; allow opportunities for spontaneity, such as someone mentioning some good news they have had that day; and don't expect people to stand for 20 minutes.

Finally, use bribes and incentives - coffee, biscuits and fruit all do the trick. We are only human, after all.

Valerie Morton, is a trainer, fundraiser and consultant

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