Revamp Your Internal Communications Strategy for Employee Engagement
by WordWrite Staff, on Jul 1, 2014
I came across an Edelman piece on LinkedIn about the future of employee engagement and found it fascinating. Having spent a good bit of my career in a corporate setting, internal communications was a facet of the corporate communications department that seemed to move around the most. Was it best in the Corporate Communications Department or was it better suited to be under Human Resources or Marketing? What about executive communications? In larger companies, it seemed there was always a bit of a blurred line between the various departments—with overlaps, power struggles and inconsistent messaging resulting. The reality is that internal communications is everyone’s responsibility.
At one time, robust communications departments operated somewhat like a newsroom—conducting interviews and pumping out stories to publish in newsletters, post on bulletin boards and promote on the company intranet. It seems those days may be gone, but certainly not forgotten. Today, everyone is a communicator even if they lack the degree us professionals have. Social media has changed dynamics in ways we never thought possible. There are no gatekeepers anymore, as information is spread at record speed—by absolutely anyone with a phone. Water cooler conversations now take place on social platforms or via text message. The question remains, what does all of this mean for the company looking to improve employee engagement?
There is still very much a place for the corporate communicator—and certainly for some semblance of a centralized communications function, however, complete control of message and delivery of message may need to be given up in order to be successful. Old school communicators may find this terribly difficult to accept, but by forgoing some control, you have a greater chance of the right messages resonating with the right audience. How might this look—in a very practical way in a typical corporation that thrives (sadly) on silos? Here are some recommendations to get started:
Get rid of corporate speak altogether.
Let’s face it, no one read it, listened to it or acted on it—ever. Now, with so much social and media noise, it’s even more of a guarantee that the entire message is completely lost in the black hole of “stuff” employees toss aside. Adopt a conversational and less corporate-like tone. Keep messages extremely short and to the point. Use lists, bullets, images, infographics, and video clips.
Tell your story—through someone else.
Use your employees as storytellers. Trust them to be the professionals they are and limit what you edit or censor. It’s okay to have broad guidelines for employees to follow—such as no vulgar language, appropriate for work comments and a general focus on some overarching themes or business objectives. Employees understand what you are trying to accomplish and for the most part are eager to help when given the opportunity.
Segment your message.
This doesn’t mean you don’t trust employees or are keeping secrets from certain groups—it’s quite the opposite. It means you respect their time and only want to share and communicate the most relevant information with them. I’ve seen it happen when the desire to be all-inclusive meant stuffing too many messages into one piece or sharing something with the entire employee population when it truly wasn’t necessary. All that accomplished was that few people actually retained the key pieces of information most important to them or their job. Keep it simple and neat. Don’t over-share and definitely tailor messages to various audience segments. This involves some internal research and identifying some logical groups, in addition to some that might seem extremely focused. The piece I mentioned above, "What Will the Future of Employee Engagement Look Like?”, provides some ideas that go beyond the currently used (and tired), “all managers” or “managers and above” lists.
Break down internal barriers.
Silos are difficult to break down. That type of culture is inevitably established from the top down. If true employee engagement is the goal, then it doesn’t make sense for those responsible for communicating to and with employees to be in their own “silo-d” world. Adopt a “we’re all in this together” culture. Messages should support this, as should the actions of all communicators. It seems to me that we live in a more cynical environment and it’s more challenging to establish trust, which is why communicators need to lead by example. Be honest, transparent and real. Give up control when necessary and lead, don’t manage. It sounds strange, but communicators should strive to be a role model rather than just a company cheerleader.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these recommendations. Would they work in your company? Do you agree with them or do you have different ideas? Please share them in the comments below.