- February 11, 2019
- Posted by: Hillary Feder
- Category: Employee Engagement
There’s no denying that effective internal communications (or lack of) impacts productivity. Successful companies recognize that means more than pushing information into the right minds. The most effective communication inspires and excites employees to exert discretionary effort beyond job requirements.
If only organizations would think about talking to their employees much like the people they are, they would be ahead of the game in retaining valued employees and reducing avoidable turnover costs. Communicating effectively with employees is the primary vehicle companies can use to shape positive, engaging employee experiences. How companies communicate with employees makes them feel either that they matter or don’t matter.
There are two big challenges managers have with employee communication. First, how to gain and keep the attention of employees in the face of all the other draws to their attention. Employers are constantly competing against social media, streaming services, and a myriad of other distractions to reach their employees. Second, reaching and engaging dispersed workforces that many companies find themselves with as the result of changing business models, expansion, mergers and acquisitions. Bringing employees together through consistent communications is getting tougher because employees are more dispersed and less cohesive.
Fortunately, today’s electronic communications tools can be a valuable resource in an employee nurturing strategy that strengthens employee connections to each other as well as to their company. Understanding that people differ in the way they want to receive information, let’s take a look at how these tools and current trends can address communication diversity.
There’s an App for That
Just about everyone checks their cell phone countless times each day. That’s why a company mobile app works well for distributing updates to a dispersed, diverse workforce on just about everything to do with a company: benefits, emergencies, crisis management, personnel announcements, etc.
For employees in the field, based in remote offices or working from their homes, mobile apps make it easy for isolated workers to stay in the loop and connected to decision makers across all corporate functions. When their phones ping them they know to check the app for new information when they’re able to. Having a dedicated, customizable employee communication app is essential. The key to a successful app—one that will be used—is that employees know that they receive only information that is relevant to them. What’s more, this one-size-does-not-fit-all approach honors employee individuality.
Companies have developed some creative uses for an app as well—like helping new hires link faces to names in a company directory. Talk about connecting with colleagues no matter where they are.
While the intranet is not new, it can be a great one-stop engagement asset for employees—only if it is kept fresh and relevant. I’ve seen intranets languish, having withered from lack of engagement from employees. Constant feedback and content review is essential for ensuring that unpopular features are deleted and content is relevant.
When created as a communication hub where colleagues can collaborate, collect essential information they need to do their jobs and connect with each other, an intranet is an invaluable employee communications tool. Make it a place where colleagues can congratulate each other for professional and personal milestones, including a service anniversary, promotion, successful project completion, new baby and marriage. Stronger connections with colleagues foster a more fulfilling employee experience as well as greater team work.
The Power of Internal Influencers
People seem to talk with and listen to those who are in the trenches with them. We’ve helped several clients form what we call “ambassador groups”. Composed of key influencers across their organizations (vertically and horizontally), these people are eyes and ears with a pulse on what’s really happening. Successful influencers are good listeners and have a knack for being inquisitive without making colleagues feel uncomfortable. For some, this may come naturally, while others may need some training.
They meet monthly as a group under the leadership of a facilitator who helps identify important messages from the workforce. As people who are trusted with information from leadership as well as their colleagues, they are able to keep communication flowing upward and downward.
Their influence can help power acceptance of new policies, development and implementation of strategic initiatives, especially if their input helped design them and they feel a sense of ownership. They’re tremendous assets in helping to establish an authentic, human corporate voice when given the freedom to be harsh critics as well as enthusiastic cheerleaders.
Make it Real
Creating employee experiences has become a popular method for building team and demonstrating company values. One entrepreneurial software company gave each member of their team $100 and a two-hour opportunity to spend it on themselves (a task requirement) at Mall of America, shopping up with a colleague or a small group.
After completing their mission, they joined the full team to enjoy a meal and discuss their shared experiences about what they bought and why. The idea was to learn about something that was important to each individual, and the time spent with colleagues shopping built a memory that deepened their relationship. The meal also celebrated the company successes and offered an opportunity for brainstorming ideas to further improve results.
Employee experiences don’t have to be extravagant. One of our clients in the analytical instrumentation market with three locations across the U.S. hosts a simple lunch on Fridays for employees. It has become a low-cost opportunity for reflecting on the week and a personal exchange of Q&A and ideas with company leaders.
A construction company client whose team is spread across 35 states hosts meaningful gatherings twice a year for their sales force. In addition to business updates, information about new products/services, success stories and challenges, the two-day meetings are sprinkled with relationship building opportunities and socializing in settings carefully selected to make these events special for attendees.
Humanizing with Humor
Today’s employees tend to seek fun work environments and a humane work-life balance. If your employees are having fun, they tend to stay. Laughter disarms people, decreases stress, and offers shared moments together. It’s a platform for spreading messages among employees. For instance, an Intranet with some kind of funny aspect to it will attract use, and people are more likely to share with each other. Employees may be invited to submit a joke of the day or a humorous cartoon.
When unchecked, humor can be a landmine. It needs to be clean, on-brand, relatable, and non-judgmental. Look for humor in family or everyday situations at work. Self-deprecation seems to score well.
Is Your Company’s Communication on Point?
Does it inspire employees? Does it make them feel like they matter? Is it part of a plan designed to shape a positive, engaging employee experience? If you’d like to know, take the assessment. If you’re looking for help, let’s start a conversation.