Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Write Newsletter Content as Do's, Don'ts, and Checklists

It's a fast-paced work-life we live, so you need to cut down on the narrative content of your newsletter articles. People who read your newsletter are not in a lounge chair. They are in go-karts with the accelerator stuck. So, you want your articles to be fast-paced with lots of to-dos and checklists. Most of the content I write for newsletter customers -- whether it's the U.S. Congress's employee newsletter content or the mom and pop store, I write in a way that people can snap up the information fast.

Here are a couple recent articles from this month's and last month's issues of FrontLine Employee and WorkLife Excel. They follow this format:

Avoid Mistakes at the Gym
If you’re using gym equipment to help create a “new you” in 2010, follow a few simple rules to keep yourself safe. Start with an OK from your doctor, and get expert advice on using gym equipment. The American Council on Exercise says the following mistakes are commonly made by new gym-goers: 1) not warming up prior to training (muscles need time to adjust to demands before you start); 2) lifting too much weight (gradual and progressive resistance is much better); 3) not cooling down after exercise (this lowers your heart rate and boosts flexibility); 4) not doing enough stretching after an exercise (this can help you prevent injuries); and 5) consuming energy bars and sports drinks during moderate workouts (unless you are working out for two hours a day or more, you’re piling on calories you don’t need). Source: American Council on Exercise.

Goal Achievement: Boiling It Down
There are thousands of books on goal achievement, but not all of them have a unique message. In fact, most boil down to four principles stated in many different ways: 1) You must decide precisely what you are going to achieve and accept no substitute for achievement; 2) you must decide that you will act vigorously and relentlessly to make the goal reality; 3) you must recognize progress and lack of progress so you can repeat, add to, or not repeat action steps accordingly; 4) you must abandon preconceived notions of what should or will ultimately work.

Feel free to use the above articles if you wish, simply add my copyright (c) 2010 by WorkExcel.com

Almost any newsletter article content can be reduced to bullets and to-dos. Try this approach and you will get more readers, and even better, you will have them looking forward to your newsletter! You can learn about an editable newsletter content publication here.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Is Your Quarterly Newsletter a Sheepish Apology?

What a weird question? Well, it's one of the many elephants in the Work-Life-Productivity newsletter living room, so let's discuss it.

Can a newsletter that you distribute too infrequently from your department make your program less visible and more likely to be cut? After communicating with hundreds of EAPs and watching what happens internally, I have slowly gravitated to an answer on this question. It’s “yes”.

It’s convenient not dealing with the distribution of a newsletter more often, but still appearing as though you are “doing something” to promote your EAP. Is this your mindset?

This vintage approach to communicating wellness information in a technological era has become almost an apologetic frequency as your newsletter sheepishly slips into employee in-boxes every three months.

I would like to make the argument that this is too infrequent and makes a statement about the importance of this material and your program, in particular.

Do you disagree? Consider why you do this. Is it because there is a history of EAPs always doing it this way because that is all that was initially available from vendor sources? So, by default, did it become the standard for EAPs, and you copied others? I think this is precisely what happened.

Since I joined ALMACA (EAPA’s early name) in 1978 – 32 years ago I have witnessed the evolution of this service. And, I have watched it grow more important.

With all the stress that employees face, and with the degree of importance that you place on your EAP as a life-saving and cost-saving mechanism, isn’t it a bit ironic that you only distribute a quarterly newsletter to employees when you could do it bimonthly or monthly for less, and with less hassle?

You may have a quick comeback — employees have too much to read! Don’t fool yourself. This is your codependency talking. You're giving in to a HR manager’s phone call telling you to slow it down about other material you may have sent. Or it's simply your imagination, because you haven't received such a phone call at all. You're just making this statement to avoid the work and it sounds damn good. I have caught many EAPs in this argument. It's not reality. This, too-much-to-read line is bogus.

If you are hearing this line, it is all about muscling you around and telling the EAP how to do its job. Why is that the most important thing employees read regarding their well-being and perhaps the one thing that they really look forward to most receiving, is the one thing that should be cut back?

What you’re hearing from HR, if indeed at all, is one HR manager’s opinion, or at best a manager’s opinion relayed via HR.

You need to understand something: HR managers don’t argue with top managers. They are their primary customers. Instead HR managers ask how high to jump. Corporations are on a big outsource-the-HR-departmet kick these days, and HR managers -- like EAPs are a threatened species.

I assure you that you are not getting the results of a survey that is supported by employee opinions.

Here’s the problem. Employee newsletters have historically been four pages. The problem begins and ends there.

Quarterly newsletters are always print or sub-links to the vendors own web site destroying your seamless look. They are expensive, with 500-600 word articles, and they are a vintage solution manufactured for EAPs in the early 1980’s when anything more frequent would be over-kill. Employees had more leisure time then to read these "books".

But the problem today is that they sacrifice your EAP or program visibility. You become less competitive with other things in the organization. You don’t want that. It will jeopardize your program.

You are sacrificing visibility and communicating the message that quarterly life-saving health and wellness information is quite enough. Trust me, you do not want to send this message.

An EAP newsletter is a resource, and visibility mechanism, and item of extreme interest to employees. And it is a way to compete against other things in the environment that are targeting the employee’s attention. You must not give in to the “stop distributing this material because our employees don’t have time to read it” mantra.

Instead, stop sending 4-page newsletters. Send two-page newsletters bimonthly or monthly.

Employees do not generally finish or complete four-page newsletters in my experience and in my view. This is another reason that you are locked into a 4-page solution distributed quarterly. It’s nuts to send it more often! And its expensive. So, change the model to the 2010 solution. Get out of the 1980's.

In this era, go for less content, shorter more action-oriented tight copy, and more frequency with the ability to edit the content yourself on the fly. This way your EAP will stay visible, be perceived as being more valuable and relevant, and be more effectively mainstreamed. Anything less and you’re in danger of being seen as expendable during next budget cycle.

Distribute EAP-wellness-productivity newsletters via PDF. Post them on your web site and send a link to employees when they are added to the site.

Distribute print to employees without computers, or send copies to appropriate locations. Your utilization will increase, your visibility will be enhanced, you will spend less, and employees will read more, more frequently. Your EAP will be talked about more often, and this is what you want.

A two-page monthly newsletter is 50% more content than a quarterly four-page newsletter! (Read that again.) And, the two-pager is more likely to be completely read. Are you with me?

You’ll will also reduce waste, motivate more self-referrals, and reduce more risk to the organization with a two—pager, monthly newsletter. Oh, and it will cost less than print. Everything I am writing here is pure logic and it holds up in real life.

Still need paper, make copies from your clean PDF supplied by the vendor. Can’t get permission from the vendor? Dump the newsletter vendor!

FrontLine Employee and WorkLife Excel are your modern day solutions to effective employee and EAP newsletters.

You can get brochures here:

FRONTLINE EMPLOYEE EAP WORKPLACE NEWSLETTER

WORK-LIFE-EXCEL WORKPLACE NEWSLETTER

Monday, January 11, 2010

Employee Stress: What Can You Do About It

A recent press release issued by the Conference Board Research group has discover that employees hate their jobs more than ever.

65% of employees hate jobs! Truly amazing.

What are you doing about this problem? The impact on productivity, and especially innovation and creativity to American business is enormous, and let's face it folks, -- this is a crisis.

There are several ways to help employees feel better about their work, but the most important underlying mechanism to make it happen is effective communication that helps employees feel like they are not simply cog in a wheel.

Here is an article that you are welcome to place in your newsletter. Simply be kind enough to place "Copyright 2010 by DFA Publishing, LLC. Used with Permission".

TITLE: Getting More Excited and Finding Meaning in Your Job

Let’s face it — not many of us will ever land our dream job. Instead, most of us find some acceptable compromise between salary, perks, job security, schedule, and job satisfaction. We don’t expect to have it all; we just want balance. But what happens when external obligations make you feel trapped in a job that you can’t stand?

The bottom line: You must figure out how to feel better about an unchangeable situation.

What Does “Making a Difference” Mean?

Everyone has moments when they ask themselves, “What am I doing to make a difference? Does what I do really matter?” Unless you work for a charitable organization, finding meaning in your work can be elusive.

Making a difference doesn’t have to involve grand gestures. People make small differences every day, even when their work isn’t intrinsically altruistic. Simple kindnesses such as a pleasant greeting or words of encouragement when a coworker is having a rough day can have significant impact on the well-being of others.

Positions, titles, and salaries don’t determine influence. Actions do. Never underestimate your potential to influence others in a positive and meaningful manner.

Find Your Gifts

We generally find happiness and satisfaction when we’re able to fully use our natural gifts. Everyone is exceptionally good at something, but not everyone has a job that plays to their strengths. Unfortunately, a lot of managers aren’t good at steering employees toward their potential. So it’s up to you.

Write down five things that you’re very good at and find some way to apply them to your work, even indirectly.

Widen Your Focus

Is your career at a standstill? So what? YOU don’t have to be.

You are not your job, but neither are you separate from it. Try as we might to compartmentalize our work selves from our private selves, all parts of our lives overlap and blend.

Bring your personal goals to work. When frustrated with on-the-job tasks, shift your focus to self-development and away from concerns about where your career is or isn’t going. When you move forward personally, other parts of your life tend to move along with you.

Let Life Teach

Use job-related setbacks as teaching moments by relentlessly pursuing their underlying lessons. A bad day at work can teach you all kinds of things about yourself when you’re able to step away from the situation and review it dispassionately.

Look for opportunities to expand your knowledge in ways that will make you more marketable. Always be alert for prospects both within and outside your organization. Keep an open mind; life can take you in directions you’ve never imagined.

Reconnect

All of us at one time or another lose sight of our values. When work has you down, it’s often a sign that you’ve strayed off course in some larger sense.

Find some quiet time alone when you can give thought to prioritizing what matters to you and formulating a plan for getting the most that you can out of life. You may find the things that have been bothering you the most aren’t as important as you thought they were.

Dream

Whatever your circumstances, you’re not trapped forever. Don’t let your present situation prevent you from developing skills that will lead you to something better. Visualize where you want to be, and plan how to get there. You never know when doors will open, but you can always be prepared for when they do.

To get a Free Trial Subscription to FrontLine Employee corporate wellness newsletter visit http://behavioralrisk.com/eap-newsletter.html

Share this post!