May 10, 2023 Posted by Pocketstop in Mass Notification Social Share
Internal communications are critical, but employees regularly miss or disregard them. With so many messages on so many platforms, it can be hard to ensure yours are read and acted upon.
The good news is there’s several tactics you can use to increase engagement with your messages: focus on what happens before you communicate, personalizing messages, and engage and empower employees continuously to build trust. RedFlag recently sat down with Trudie Mitschang, co-founder and consultant at Caravan Consulting to explore three ways you can increase the effectiveness of your internal communications.
The Challenge: Getting Attention and Interaction
Much about the way we work and communicate has changed over the past few years. Many workplaces went fully remote, and are just now returning to offices or hybrid situations. An interesting aspect of remote work was that employees tended to be communicating outside of typical work hours and on platforms they previously may not have utilized often or at all. This increase in messages and alerts makes it challenging to prioritize.
There are three main challenges related to internal communication alert fatigue:
- Overload: A major contributing factor to not getting employees’ attention is the sheer amount of information on various platforms any employee receives in a day. Email, voicemail, social media, SMS, Slack, Teams, and even direct mail can make it difficult to filter and discern which messages need attention. The options for sending alerts can also be overwhelming when sending internal communications.
- Irrelevance: Not everyone needs to get every notification, but sometimes we make the mistake of sending messages to everyone in hopes of reaching the individual targets that are necessary. Often additional messages on the same topic are sent, resulting in redundancy.
- Reach: Ensuring that contact data is up to date allows for better segmenting and effective use of communication channels.
Ineffective use of communication channels is another challenge. Each mode has strengths and weaknesses, and is suited to different topics and audiences.
- Email: Read rates tend to be low, so this is not a channel to use for urgent information. However, it is a great option for official communications and tracking who opened which messages.
- Company apps: It is challenging to convince people to change their behavior, and downloading and using an app falls into this category. An app can be a good place to organize information and tools, but may not be the best for communicating.
- Intranet: An excellent choice for storing information, and could be a place to direct employees to for more information. It is not well suited to alerts or messages.
- SMS/Text: A very effective communication channel, but messages must be timely and relevant. These alerts should not be informational but a call to action.
Case Study: Restore the human element in your communications
“I had a client who used technology in a very human way that was really effective. They were trying to do weekly communications from the CEO and they just weren’t getting a lot of traction.
There was a lot of valuable vital information in this messaging that was going out via email. But the open rates were poor and people were continually complaining that they didn’t know what was happening, and it was very frustrating. So the decision we made was to leverage the really charismatic personality of this CEO and switch from an email messaging platform to have him actually do video updates. But what made these video updates interesting is that he filmed them on his iPhone. Sometimes he’d be having a cup of coffee, sometimes he was in an elevator or walking down a hallway. So the end product just had this really contemporary vibe.
It looked like you were watching somebody’s Instagram feed. Very authentic, right? So now we have this great piece of content, and we were able to send it out, disseminate it using email, dropping it in a Slack channel, sending it as a text, putting it on the company app. All of those platforms had their place. But employees begin to really look forward to these weekly updates, and that’s why it worked.”
Strengthening Effective Internal Communication – Strategy 1: Begin with WHY
Before communicating, we have to begin with why. Not just the why of specific communications, why is effective employee communication even important?
Effective internal communication helps employees better understand your organization’s goals and is an opportunity to promote your core values and help them connect to that larger “why.” We know when employees feel their work has meaning and purpose, it enhances productivity and engagement.
Questions to consider for internal communications:
- Why: It’s not just about crafting the perfect message, but considering how to motivate people, the purpose and outcome of the communication, and feedback mechanisms that promote conversations.
- Who: Identify a specific audience that needs this information. One size fits all usually doesn’t work well.
- What: Context around what might be going on in the company or even in the world can impact your message. Coordinating with other divisions will also avoid alert fatigue.
- When: Choose the right timing and cadence to have the most impact for your audience.
- How: Tailor and personalize messages, as well as omit jargon. Encourage two-way communication to foster conversation.
Case Study: Leadership change
“A very small, fully remote company long before COVID made that necessary, was undergoing a significant change. The CEO had just resigned. This was someone who had been with the organization from the start, and he was very loved and respected. This communication felt like a potential crisis.
The other aspect was that the senior marketing officer was stepping into the CEO role. He was well liked and well respected, but he was pretty new. So people hadn’t developed that level of trust with him yet. We needed to think through several questions: who are the employees that need to know this first? How are we going to roll this out?
We put ourselves in the recipient’s shoes. What are they going to feel when they hear this news? There’s going to be some surprise. There’s going to be some sadness. There’s going to be some shock. How do we manage through that?
And that’s where we didn’t rely only on technology, but we pulled in the human component. We rolled out the messaging by first having Huddle meetings with the senior executives. Those were conversations where they could express emotion, ask all the questions they needed to ask, and get them answered. Then we loaded up managers with all of the talking points, the slides, the Q&A that they needed to be able to talk to their teams. This was a cascade communication that happened human to human, not via email, not on the intranet, not via a text message.
And then the final piece of it was an all company zoom meeting where we actually did a send off and passed the baton from the departing CEO to the new one. There was time for roasting and jokes and storytelling, and what could have been a crisis turned into a very feel good moment with a lot of optimism for the future.”
Strengthening Effective Internal Communication – Strategy 2: Continuously Engage and Empower Employees
When we talk about internal communications, it’s really not so much about what we say but the relationship that already exists. For messages to be effective, we want to empower employees by involving the audience early and supporting managers so communication is happening at all levels. Effective communication is always two- way, a conversation. It cannot just be top-down messaging or it won’t work well.
A good framework for this idea can set up your communications to have the biggest impact:
- Heads: Rationale – Why are we doing this? What is the goal? This is the part of communication that deals with logic and gets ahead of questions.
- Hearts: Motivation – How does this news impact me and why should I care?
- Hands: This is the call to action.
At the core, starting with Heads and Hearts is really about building trust. The best way to do this is to empower your people managers. They need to be trained and equipped and know that communication is an essential core part of their job. They become co-partners in any messaging campaign.
Case Study: Ambassadors
“A good way to involve managers is an ambassador program. If you have a major communication program rolling out, get your employees assigned to volunteer roles to help disseminate that messaging. If you’re rolling out a big safety training, start a safety ambassador program and get employees in specific roles where they feel not only empowered, but really motivated to share information and motivate their colleagues to get into training.”
One way to transition your current messaging to this model is to complete a communications audit, and see where you can make changes. Consider the following:
- How many channels are you using?
- Can you tell when messages are received and read?
- How often do you send messages?
- Do you have any data or feedback from employees?
Strengthening Effective Internal Communication – Strategy 3: Personalize, segment, and target
This strategy is about building trust by displaying empathy. A successful internal communications plan thoughtfully includes personalization, segmenting, and targeting so recipients get only messages they need on appropriate channels.
Personalization in messages makes the reader feel like you are writing directly to them, and they are much more likely to engage. Research shows that personalization can yield a 4%-12% better response rate to your message:
- Tailor communications by group, team, or location
- Personalize messages whenever possible, use identifying information, and omit corporate speak
- Consider multi-channel notifications, including different options depending on job type and preference
In addition to personalization, you can group and target recipients to ensure information isn’t redundant or irrelevant. One-size fits all communication is impossible now, and in order to be effective you must have a hybrid approach and complex segmentation:
- Location based: The information is relevant only to people within a specific place (weather, store closing office location, state, or zip code)
- Identity based: The individual’s profile (title, department etc) is an important criteria (mobilizing IT resources, supply chain interruptions impacting manufacturing, Management only update)
- Engagement based: Targeting based on previous behavior (results of a poll or acknowledgment of receipt of a message)
Case Study: Change Management
“I recently had a client who had to really pivot in terms of their approach, and it was a decision to realign some of their sales force and marketing plans to address some pressure in the workplace. We devised a communication plan that started at the top with a message from the CEO.
This is a global organization, so timing was really important. We did a cascade of messaging that went first in multiple time zones at about 5:00 a.m., followed by a message from a senior vice president that reiterated what was said by the CEO, but took it sort of a different tone and level of detail for that audience. From there, we had one additional message about an hour later that also went out on the same day, but simultaneously. After the email messages went out, we pulled together some very small town halls to get the right people in the room to get all their questions answered and make sure they had all the tools and resources needed to manage the change within the organization and the concerns that employees had.
Then we announced that we were having office hours live on Slack with an “ask me anything” kind of format. We armed all of our execs with talking points and FAQs, and we were prepared to just take questions in real time so that employees felt like we were being absolutely transparent. And that is one thing that I think is really critical.”
Bonus Strategy: Enhance communication with planning and technology
On a daily basis organizations are reacting to situations, things changing very rapidly. Not having a master strategic communication plan is one of the biggest mistakes a business can make – it is always better to be proactive than reactive.
An approved and reviewed communication plan (especially for crisis communication) prevents an incident becoming a crisis.
- Include a detailed set of steps for each stage: risk analysis, chain of command, response action plans, internal and external comms.
- Other areas of the plan: activation protocol, resources, training and review.
- Choose the right communication software
- Make sure you are updating recipient data, ideally with a sync
RedFlag is a 5-star rated, award-winning mass notification system that equips companies to communicate with employees, contractors, customers, and third parties in real-time with relevant information to keep them safe and supported when seconds count. For more information, visit pocketstop.com/redflag.