Only good things happen when you find yourself in the right place at the right time. In modern folklore, timing is often a serendipitous event – walking past an ice-cream shop just as they start handing out free cones. In communications, however, you don’t need to hope, wish, or guess. Timing is in your control, and what a powerful tool it is!
Timing forms part of IC Thrive’s internal communications best practices methodology. Get free templates to start implementing these pillars in your organization today.
Talking about timing within a communications framework, we are looking at sharing messages at the optimal time for impact. This could relate to the time of day, the current sentiment in the organization, and the regularity of messages. Let’s explore …
Sending information to employees and asking for a response or “read and confirm” action at 5 pm on a Friday isn’t going to give you good results. Neither will it going work very well if you send a survey about an event a week or two after the fact.
Then we’re not even talking about the team in a different time zone!
When people receive information affects how they read and understand that content. This makes it quite a powerful tool in a communicator’s arsenal. Here are some steps to unleash its full potential:
Knowing what information needs to go out will give you a timeline to plan communications effectively. Most communication plans have a calendar format to schedule messages by date, go the extra step, and include time. This will be especially useful if you have teams based in different time zones!
Resource: Internal communications plan template
When is the optimal time to share information? Like all things in life, it depends. Of course, you can make a calculated guess not to send messages after 5 pm, but the best idea is to look at the numbers. Depending on the software you use, you may be able to see analytics related to timing. Otherwise, you’ll need to study this manually. Keep notes and experiment with your findings to find the perfect time to share different types of information.
Resource: Internal communications metrics tool
#DYK that we have a whole library of free internal communications templates and resources? And it’s completely free to download – browse around and let us know if you what you think! 😎 ☀️ https://t.co/1phxUBN4TY #internalcomms #employeeengagement— IC Thrive (@ICThrive) July 28, 2020
Data, numbers, and timing-related experiments will only get you so far. The fascinating aspect of timing is it’s mostly also context related. For example, is it the right time to send a fanfare of messages about an upcoming staff picnic, just after the organization retrenched multiple employees?
No, most likely, you’ll end up with upset staff and not a very cheerful picnic.
The example above is an exaggeration of what actually would happen in the workplace. In practice, these interactions are a lot more subtle. Does this mean you have to take every employee’s feelings into account before sending a message? No. But keep your ear on the ground and build connections with employees across departments so that you are aware of what’s going on in people’s work and personal lives.
“As in comedy, when it comes to feedback, timing is everything.” – Tracy Cote, chief people officer, Zenefits
During uncertain times (such as a global pandemic), contextual timing can be challenging to master. It’s a stressful time for many, and you can’t delay sending important information waiting for the right time. Again, go back to basics and read the room. Find out what people want to hear. Balance negative and more serious messages by highlighting positive stories.
“When a company truly listens to everyone’s perspective, it can be the spark that leads to innovation. Companies that are inclusive and diverse are more innovative, more profitable, and have improved employee retention rates” – Mallory Whitfield @TowardsTogether #worktrends— IC Thrive (@ICThrive) July 8, 2020
Nine read and confirm reminders, a newsletter, and a survey sent within an hour of each other? That’s a lot of information to take in …
To make sure your content makes an impact, you need to give your audience enough time to process each message. This can be tricky to manage when different departments and the leadership team run to you with requests. A multi-purpose communications plan to which department heads or managers have access can help.
Another trick is to segment your audience based on position, team, or even select interest groups. Making sure that only the relevant people involved receive the message, will lessen the content overload, and will make it more likely that people read and action different messages.
Resource: Audience segmentation template
When a crisis hits (either internal or external), the general response is to throw the rulebook out of the window and engage in panic mode. We’re going to say this louder for the people in the back: panic is not a plan.
Thoughtful and consistent communication is crucial when you are in the good times and the bad. In times of crisis, heightened volume, urgency, and seriousness will occur, but all the same rules should still apply.
To avoid a panicked scramble, establish communication guidelines and best practices. This way, you’ll prime your audience for what to expect from communications and the actions they might need to take.
It’s also never too late to start. Explore these internal communications best practice tools and templates to jump-start your communication efforts today.