Although it has never been easier to contact your employees digitally with the click of a mouse, it has probably never been as difficult to actually reach them as it is today. The flood of crisis reports and fake news in the past year in particular has led to a kind of information fatigue and declining level of trust in politics and organizations. This also applies to the flow of information in companies, and it is precisely here that employee communication comes in.
Employee communication is often referred to as the “exchange of information and ideas between management and employees”. That also explains why it is often used as a synonym for internal communications. The problem with this assumption is that employee communication goes beyond traditional internal communications. This is particularly evident when it comes to optimizing employee communication in companies and identifying and validating the real and current needs of employees. Let’s clear up the ongoing confusion around this term once and for all. The following is a deep dive on the topic of employee communication – including the latest studies, strategic approaches, measures and benefits.
Employee communication and traditional IC – what’s actually the difference?
Although the basis of internal communication is the exchange of information within a company or organization, for a long time this exchange tended to mean sharing information with employees. Traditional internal communications functioned for decades on end as one-way, top-down sharing of updates and facts. If companies rarely asked themselves why good internal communication is important, what benefits it brings and how to optimize it, it’s because the communication options were far more limited than they are today.
As the digitalization process advanced, communication and the use of media underwent dramatic changes. Thanks to the Internet and social media, which are now part of every employee’s everyday life, job-related communication is no longer a one-way street either. Leading market research firm Gartner describes this rapid transformation with the following words:
“The entire social media landscape and work environment has changed so much that it’s no longer recognizable, even if you only look back five years.”
If the use of media and communication channels have changed so much – why not also the perception of the role that internal communications plays? To get to the bottom of this question, we must first differentiate between the various purposes of information.
The two pillars of corporate communication
An essential part of optimizing employee communication is to identify the different purposes behind different types of messages. For example, is a given message an organizational update or an operational or corporate announcement? Most message and information flow within an organization can be categorized into one of these two areas.
This type of update refers to company-wide projects and industry news from your own business unit, such as current news, financial reports, policies, as well as news about major events, potential mergers and acquisitions: i.e. news that is relevant to forming an idea of where the company stands and understanding the business environment.
This is mainly about daily internal business communications, such as daily project updates and coordination between different teams. The messages are often more specific and relevant only to the company’s employees. Rather than raising general awareness regarding the company, it’s about sharing internal information like new COVID policies in the office, event updates or product news.
Internal e-mail circulars or bulletin board postings are no longer options for engaging employees today and keeping them informed. Communication must be much more differentiated today, depending on the purpose of the update. It is also indispensable to make information accessible to all employees in real time – as well as on a mobile basis, such as via a social intranet with a connected employee app.
Companies are still struggling with employee communication in 2021
We took a look at some recent studies to identify the most common pain points and thus find possible solutions in the next step. Although the deficiencies vary widely, they do have one thing in common: even in 2021, after a year of remote work, these points are still giving many companies headaches.
This makes it clear that, on the one hand, the technical side can seriously obstruct change if the company is not willing to create the right set-up with appropriate tools, such as a social intranet. On the other hand, even with the right technological set-up in place, optimizing communications via a social intranet is anything but a no-brainer – technological investments will not bear fruit without a communications strategy, digital leadership skills and employee engagement.
Why is it high time to invest in employee communication?
Companies usually make an investment when they have reason to expect one or more benefits in return. But what is the ROI of optimizing employee communication? The employee experience is not only important for the employees’ sense of well-being, it is also decisive for a company’s economic success. According to McKinsey, the productivity of companies with networked employees increases by a good 20 to 25 percent.
As the ongoing healthcare crisis and the New Normal are forcing many employees to work from home, comprehensive employee communication is a must. This is the only way to stop important information from falling through the cracks while ensuring that coordination works remotely and crisis communication can take place transparently in real time.
How can companies boost their employee communication? 🚀
Having answered the question of WHY employee communication needs to be optimized for long-term business success, we now take a look at HOW and outline the strategic implementation options.
Take all stakeholders into account
You must evaluate the diverse needs of all your employees – and do so before the first planning steps. A wide variety of people with different roles and needs work in one and the same company. An optimal communication strategy must involve everyone. This may mean personalizing content via specific social media channels as well as providing comprehensive mobile support and an internal communications solution for employees without job-related e-mail addresses or regular office hours. The goal is to create an environment of inclusion without any “uninvolved” employees.
Forget about top-down communication!
One of the biggest mistakes you can make in internal communications today is to take a top-down approach to employee communication. Management staff in particular must be made aware of this. Classic leadership skills need a digital upgrade. Click here to learn more about developing new digital leadership skills.
The risk that colleagues will feel lonely, ill-informed and isolated from the rest of the team is particularly high when many employees are working from home.
Information coming “from the top down” does little to ameliorate this situation. It is better to encourage conversations that make your employee communication platform a safe place where your employees can openly share their thoughts, ask questions, provide feedback, and respond to the content that is being shared. If your staff is working from different locations, it is even more important to adapt employee communication in such a way that all employees feel supported and heard. The following graphic visualizes the various communication channels companies can make use of.
This clearly indicates a company’s communication flows: although occasional one-on-one meetings between managers and employees are a step in the right direction, they are not enough to encourage long-term engagement. Collaborative communication must become an integral part of employee communication – just like the opportunity to exchange information with colleagues and supervisors regardless of hierarchy level.
Push internal influencers
Every company has employees who feel more confident using social media and new digital platforms than do other colleagues. Such individuals can contribute significantly to the general acceptance and use of an employee communication platform.
Select particularly active users and leverage them as multipliers and in order to spread a positive image of your employee communication platform within your company. It is important to win over advocates and active users in different departments and positions. You should also make management and team leaders aware of how crucial their activities are in this case. A CEO blog, Q&A sessions, open discussions and video messages are examples of how you and your colleagues can create a platform that is relevant to all employees. In short, there are many ways to be a thought leader and influencer – and they don’t necessarily all have to do with a management position.
No measurability, no learning!
A strategy to optimize the employee experience can only be successful if results can be measured. When it comes to internal communications, you can’t rely on only your gut feeling. It takes KPIs and analytics to understand how well the strategy is working and what needs to be improved. Don’t be afraid of taking a trial and error approach – you can only learn from making mistakes. It helps if your platform has a connected analytics tool showing activity and key performance figures for specific content. This also shows you the content that performs particularly well and where there is still room for improvement.
Always keep in mind that you are communicating with different internal audiences who do not all have the same requirements and needs. Not every user of an employee experience platform will interact and engage in the same way. It thus makes sense to break down the analysis to the level of these internal audiences in order to reach every last group. Differentiation can be based on a range of criteria – from the age of an employee, to their role, to personal interests.
It’s the content mix that matters
When it comes to moving from internal communications to employee communication, offering a diverse content mix is a critical piece of the puzzle. Informed employees tend to be happier and much more productive. Engaged employees are a brand’s best advocates. Informing and engaging employees requires the provision of information and content relevant to them. This includes, for example, external technical articles, reports on competitors and industry updates. According to the “rule-of-third” approach, the optimal employee communications mix can be divided into three categories:
1. Corporate news
Every company has relevant news from time to time. Keep your employees up to date on current campaigns, successful pitches, new employees and office locations. This type of information is important for each individual employee – especially when the different teams lack interfaces and daily contact. The sources should be both internal and external. Compelling third-party content from public feeds also boosts employee engagement while offering a different perspective on what’s happening in your organization. This type of information can be shared via social intranet feed, employee newsletter or live stream, for example.
2. Industry news
Business success requires keeping track of what is happening in the industry as whole. Knowing what is happening in the industry not only pays off for the C-level, but also for the employees. This includes industry news as well as developments at competitors and partners. Make sure every last colleague is kept up to date on general trends.
3. Daily business
Rather than the pure information value of a message, what matters here is the emotion it can trigger. That’s precisely why daily business communication is a great opportunity to boost interpersonal interaction. Surveys, games, series tips or personal facts can be shared to connect with employees. It is thus important to ensure to reach all the employees and let them know that their voices are being heard and they mean more to the company than a mere number on a payroll.
Making snackable content accessible on the go
Ask yourself the following question: How compatible is your employee communication platform with your employees’ daily work? How well does it suit the way they are used to consuming information? And how accessible is it really? It is especially important for your mobile employees to see that they receive relevant information, e.g. via an employee app, as reliably as their office colleagues. Content must be responsive, accessible, and as easy to consume as possible. Video channels can be used for information and entertainment purposes. So you shouldn’t be afraid to incorporate videos as the main source of information, for example. This type of content can be absorbed more quickly and easily – especially when there are only a few minutes during a break or commute.
Choosing the right platform
Whether it’s a social intranet, messenger, newsfeed, or doc-sharing tool you are looking for, using the right employee communication software for your company can support your internal communication strategy, thus boosting employee engagement and, in turn, your company’s efficiency.
As an employee communication platform, COYO provides all the functions you need for an uncomplicated exchange of information. COYO Messenger allows employees to network as well as share information and docs on a mobile basis, or even send voice messages when they are on the go. The platform also features a personal news feed, an internal blog, extensive search functions and a staff directory. All of this helps overcome classic inhibitions and blockers in the internal communications process.
In summary, traditional internal communications has long ceased to meet employees’ current needs. Outdated structures, outmoded communication channels and top-down relationships do not succeed in making employees feel included. Internal communications needs to be transformed into a broader and more contemporary concept that reaches all employees with the right employee communication tools – both on a professional and personal level. Employee communication encompasses the diverse channels companies can leverage to communicate with their employees – and does so in a dynamic and collaborative rather than a one-way, top-down manner.
Investing in an employee communication platform can nevertheless only bear fruit in combination with the right communication strategy.
The most important steps at a glance:
Really include all employees
Avoid top-down communication
Identify internal influencers
Make relevant internal and external information accessible
Make the content as snackable as possible
Deploy the right tool
Focusing on employee communication is the basis of future-proof internal communications. Companies that fail to take this step will have difficulty ensuring employee satisfaction and productivity going forward. The principles of traditional internal communications were developed before digitization and have long become obsolete in the New Normal of 2021.
If you are interested in learning more about how COYO can help your company improve your employee communication, feel free to contact us.