Your boss handed you the portfolio of internal communications after reading about it in several high-profile business trend studies. “Effective communication in the workplace is essential to increase productivity!”
But your expertise is in marketing, but now you find yourself sending out mass emails to the staff directory, rushing from desk to desk to get responses and signatures, which leads to hours sifting through excel sheets to organize those responses. You don’t find joy in your new role, nor do you see yourself impacting the organization.
You are not alone. Internal communication is a relatively new field for which the rules have not entirely been written yet. Although companies now understand employee engagement’s vital role, communicators are rarely empowered to take on the challenge and affect real change.
So, where do you start to communicate in the workplace effectively? With the theory, of course.
“In life, as in football, you won’t go far unless you know where the goalposts are.” – Arnold H. Glasgow
Communicators often find themselves in one of two scenarios. The first: inundated with requests to send messages on an ad hoc basis, resulting in three to four emails sent to employees on a Monday morning. The second is a far more complicated predicament: unlimited freedom to decide how and when to send messages.
How do you make a positive change when you are either micromanaged or not managed at all? Well, you set out the rules of the game with an internal communication strategy.
What is the mandate of internal communications? What are you trying to achieve? What are your objectives and tactics? What are the communication needs of your audience?
Tip: By setting out a strategic roadmap, you, as an internal communicator, have a clear plan to achieve your goals, and managers have a guide to understanding the internal communications mandate.
“Speech belongs half to the speaker, half to the listener.” – Michel de Montaigne
Not all audiences are alike, especially when you are speaking to diverse groups. Knowing and understanding who you’re talking to is critical to ensure your message hits home.
The old way of communicating with employees would be to send an email to all staff, and the job is considered done. Today, however, you need to assess the message, its importance, and relevancy before hitting the send button.
Does the message pertain to the whole company? Would all staff want to know about this even if it is not specific to their department?
Tip: Segmenting audiences is a terrific way to see higher engagement rates. Not only will you build trust with your audience by sending messages pertinent to them, but you’ll have the freedom to customize and craft content to specific groups.
“Content isn’t king; it’s the kingdom.” – Lee Odden
When the CEO sends a 500-word essay to his or her employees detailing the company’s vision, mission, and goals for the next year, people are bound to read and engage with the entire piece. When the CEO talks about major concerns employees face, such as job security during a recession or bonuses, you can be sure that everyone will read the message and even open it multiple times.
Now consider the same format, a 500-word message, but one that lists ways of staying healthy during flu season with a call to action to use hand sanitizing stations set up around the office. Yes, it’s an important message, but unfortunately, people just aren’t going to read it.
The first example is a message directly from company leadership. People want to know the whole picture and want to understand the decisions that affect them directly.
The second shows a message that doesn’t have high priority status and is packaged as a long-form piece that requires time and effort to read. Using graphics or even video would have made the tips about flu season much quicker and easier to understand.
Tip: Packaging content in the right format is a great tool to enrich a message and optimize its chances for success.
“We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for sharing.” – Billy Graham
What are the different channels where communication flows through your website? Do you use email, direct messaging, or the announcement-board in the kitchen? These are but three communication channels found in most organizations.
Do you know where and how people communicate? Going one step further, have you asked the staff how they prefer to receive communications? One person may request updates via SMS, where another prefers email.
Tip: By understanding current communication tactics, internal communicators can contact employees on their terms and increase their messaging efficiency.
“Timing is everything in life and golf.” – Arnold Palmer
The simple act of being aware of what the timing of communications means is a strategic one.
Sending out an urgent tax form at 5 pm on a Friday is a bad idea. Just as sending out three different communications within one hour is also a bad idea.
Sending a message at the right time is integral to the success of a campaign. This means the time of the day, the company environment (is it a stressful time at work?), and communication consistency.
Tip: When people know they can expect a company update every Wednesday at 8 am, they will be alert in receiving this message and eventually fall into a habit of reading and engaging with it.
“War is ninety percent information.” – Napoleon Bonaparte
What constitutes a successful campaign? The number of opens? Interactions? A happier office?
Only by defining and setting metrics to measure a campaign’s success will you know the difference between a job well done and have sent a series of messages into oblivion.
Tip: Metrics should directly correlate to goals laid out in the internal communication strategy. Can you measure a happier office? Not in numbers. But you can count the number of messages read and engaged with average opening times, to mention a few.
“Data! Data! Data! I can’t make bricks without clay!” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Monitoring a set of metrics will allow you to gauge the success of one campaign. Looking at all the data together will let you see the bigger picture of your efforts.
What were the most successful campaigns? What about these specific messages made them perform better than the rest? How can this be implemented in future campaigns for better results?
Tip: Complete a data analysis at regular intervals (weekly or monthly) track each period’s learnings consistently. If the same conclusion is found a few months running, it’s time to adjust your strategy and head back to the first best practice principle. If you’re new to the world of data analytics, here’s a guide to help you get on a stronger footing.