Guest post: Chelsea Woodhead, CPO of BuildASign.com, on keeping your employees informed.

Chelsea Woodhead- 2014-2BuildASign.com is an interesting place to work. On the one hand, our culture rivals any small startup; impromptu office happy hours, company parties for all occasions, Taco Tuesdays, Dr. Mario competitions – and I do believe Tiff’s Treats is making a delivery as I type. We work hard to maintain the startup attitude and atmosphere that came organically when BuildASign first launched.

On the other hand, we’re now officially “started up” and have surpassed the small scale numbers – both in fiscal terms and employment size. What that means is now an announcement from Dan can no longer reach our entire team simply by yelling it from the ping pong tables. As we continue to grow, we have to get serious about creating processes around how we communicate to our employees – especially with having our team in multiple locations and half our 300 folks not regularly on email.

The communication process is incredibly important and applies to just about any piece of news or company happening – from a great performance or team effort, to policy changes, to structure and title realignments. Keeping every employee informed of news, regardless of content, offers cultural benefits like overall department alignment, individual excitement for company growth, employee engagement, and a sense of stability and predictability.

With an employee group as diverse as ours, we at BuildASign have to communicate in many different ways and at many different times. We email (duh), have a robust structure of department meetings and huddles, casual stand ups, one-on-one meetings, quarterly all-staff reporting sessions, weekly newsletters, bathroom posters (yep) and printed information posted all over our facilities and, well, we still occasionally yell from the ping pong tables. Sometimes, because we can, we even print business cards with a message on them and put them in everyones keyboard.  We know our options and can plug and play where needed from our menu of communication channels.

Are all of them effective? Debateable.

Are we constantly innovating around how to communicate better and in different disruptive ways? You know it.

All that to say, creating patterns and consistency in communication helps folks know when and where to look for different types of information. And how do you know what to communicate? Just remember that anything that impacts company priorities, people’s jobs, the way people do their work, or how they feel about the company are all important pieces to communicate. From the serious stuff to the fun stuff – keeping everyone in the loop will prove to be a huge cultural positive and will provide your teams feeling tremendously valued.

Now, we aren’t perfect. As I mentioned, we’re rapidly growing and with growth comes change, and sometimes we miss the mark on communicating those changes effectively. Failure to inform folks about big initiatives or give updates on sensitive projects leads to too many unknowns, which then leads to confusion, lack of trust, and ultimately create lots more work on the communicators. Ask yourself regularly: Who needs to know this information? How quickly do they need to know? How do they receive information best? What is the best method to use in delivering the information? Doing it right from the get-go takes less than half the time it does to correct a botched communications job.

Bottom line – just because you are in the know, doesn’t mean other folks aren’t. Water cooler conversation is very real, and as the communicator you want to do everything you can to eliminate the unknowns (read: rumors). Even if it feels redundant and unnecessary, a truly engaged team is one that is informed and unified on the communications front, and one that takes the time to appropriately deliver information to their teams.

Remember, no amount of free booze can cover up a miscommunication.

An open letter to twenty-somethings

Dear Twenty-Somethings,

While you were out there somewhere undoubtedly feasting on some overpriced and under-portioned aged quail and black pepper pickle froth, the general election for public officials happened last week. And as the interwebs were trending with political chatter, talk proved to be cheap. Turns out, 2014 general election voter turnout was the lowest it’s been in any election cycle since World War II. Just 36.4% of the voting-eligible population cast ballots as of last Tuesday, continuing a steady decline in midterm voter participation that has spanned several decades. The results are dismal, but not surprising. Midterm election voter turnout is always lower than presidential elections, but that percentage is “the punch line to a bad joke“, according to MSNBC.com.

But hey, that pickle froth was a seasonal offering so you did what you needed to do.

Just know any complaints about taxes, transportation, abortion, the environment, ordinances and protocols, or student loan debt are hereby void – mostly due to your overwhelming apathy and unrealistic expectations of work to be done by everyone else in your community.

Yikes. Does that sting a little?

Good.

On the one, you millennials and twenty-somethings alike have an incredible upper hand. You are currently the majority of the workforce, and on the cusp of dominating the working population some 80 million strong. You are rewriting consumerism as we know it and totally paving the way for the technology industry. You are active, social, and [somewhat] involved. You are poised for influence!

But on the other hand, you are fighting a whole slew of unfortunate labels and generational stereotypes that might be making you drag your feet. You’ve heard it before – you’re a coddled bunch, you’re socially disinterested (unless it comes with a like button), you’re entitled, you lack conviction, and you can’t commit. To anything. Ever.

On top of all of that, you’re also just young humans. And selfishness is expected. Your 20s aren’t meant for political activism or philanthropy. According to every single millennial-targeted online publication, and, well, history, your 20s are supposed to be spent finding your spirit animal and enjoying the aforementioned plated pickle froth. Freedom! Festivals! Traveling! Substance abuse! Buzzfeed!

But twenty-somethings, millennials, graduates – I want to encourage you to start facilitating a different set of stereotypes. You don’t have to wait until your 30s to be cognizant of your surroundings and to root yourself in something greater than yourself. Voting is a really simple way for you to not only help direct the future of this country, but to immerse yourself in topics that call for a much bigger conversation than that microbrewery you just gave 4 stars to on Yelp. Hate to say it, but right now your biggest political contribution is incorporating Obama with the #selfie hashtag. Find your voice, set yourself up for success, and discover how you can devote your time and talent for the betterment of your own damn future.

After all, it’s up to you.

If you’re in Austin and you feel brave enough to deny yourself hipster debauchery a couple nights a month, get involved! There are tons of awesome groups for young people in this city, all spanning across a wide range of interests. Some of my favorites include:

Sincerely,

A former twenty-something.