For today’s communication professional, the rate at which technology is evolving can be overwhelming. Employee expectations have evolved in parallel with the way they use technology in their personal lives, but most of the time, the tools, platforms, and channels we use to reach them haven’t. Cutting through the noise has become more difficult as employees are receiving real-time information from a variety of external sources. While other departments rely on data to optimize their efforts, communicators still struggle to measure impact and efficacy.
Innovation doesn’t just require access to new tools; it also requires us to think about how to communicate with today’s employee in a new way. For decades, we’ve relied on face-to-face meetings and static, one-way communication tactics like breakroom posters and corporate memos. In today’s mobile, mixed-media reality we depend on internal blogs, community forums, and social media. We Skype, Slack, and Snap. We send emojis to show approval and share videos to create an intimacy that scales. To be effective, today’s company communication must evolve to reflect the world we live in now, not 10 or 20 years ago. If we want to build the trust and alignment needed to help employees do their best work and meet business goals, we have to show up in a way that is convenient, relevant, and mirrors the way employees communicate in the rest of their lives. Our workforce communication should increase productivity, not interrupt workflow.
Some companies have invested in HRIS systems that track but don’t engage, and others continue to spend millions on one size fits all intranets that only serve to highlight the fact that we know who our employees are, but don’t know anything about them as people. Even more alarming is the trend to automate employee communication—a one size fits all solution that will never provide the kind of communication employees deserve.
To build the trust and alignment employees need to do their best work, we have to show up in a way that is convenient, relevant, and increases productivity without interrupting workflow. We have to leverage technology to improve reach and impact and measure those results, so we have the information needed to inform our investments and enhance the employee experience.
It’s time that communication professional lead a movement of change. Here are three things you have to do for impactful company communication.
1. Look people in the eye digitally.
Ted Rubin, the author of How to Look People in the Eye Digitally, wrote about ways you can leverage the online world to create deeper relationships with people you may not interact with face-to-face. Translating some of the in-person interactions we have to the online world, Rubin discusses how things like addressing people by their name, showing someone you’re listening, or sending them a note “just because” can improve the tie you have with others.
“Think reputation, not ranking. Connection, not network. Loyalty, not celebrity.” – Ted Rubin
Employees want to feel valued, prioritized, and heard. They want to be a part of something innovative and engaging. And most of all, they want to be understood and valued. If your team is still communicating with them in an overly formal, tone-deaf way through outdated intranets and stale memos, this is not going to create the connection you need.
The most significant opportunity is to just acknowledge where people are communicating – on their phones! Employees are regular people and every day they are using apps on their phones. To build trust and alignment, you first need to acknowledge and make sure they know that you get them. They communicate on mobile because that is the world we all live in and working for a company who neglects that will drive them to feel detached from your mission and goals.
2. Be human.
“Communication shouldn’t be complicated. It should just be genuine and simple, with the humility and understanding that we’re all multi-dimensional humans, every one of which has spent time in both the dark and delightful parts of life.” – Bryan Kramer, author of There is no B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human H2H
With the rise of technology like AI, the temptation to automate employee communication is high. But it’s critical that we maintain human connections in our communication efforts and look for opportunities to offer personalized interactions. –
The smartphone has created a communication revolution that works to our advantage. Communicating on mobile is one of the most intimate ways we can engage our employees. In today’s mobile reality, we’re attached to our phones. In fact, Dscout says we touch them 2,617 times a day on average. (Gulp!)By offering targeted content on mobile, we put essential news and information in the hands of our employees- a much more natural and effective way to connect. Provide the content they need on their terms instead of forcing employees to go to seek out information on your intranet proactively.
We need to use technology to humanize and scale our communication, not to automate it. Technology helps us to be efficient, but to be effective, we need to authentically communicate like empathetic, human beings and do so in a way that inherently underscores the fact that we understand our audience and know how they want to hear from us.
3. Create content that fits your audience.
Often, communicators focus so much on their external audiences but our internal audiences are far more critical. Mark Ragan, CEO of Ragan Communications and PR Daily said: “Today’s communicators have to create content that is empathetic, valuable, and entertaining.” Through technology, communicators need to make content convenient, accessible and relevant. This is how we build relationships and alignment with employees. There is no one size fits all. You must be delivering relevant content to each employee – so that they know you value them enough to send them something they will appreciate. Their time is a precious resource.
Companies need to generate content that uniquely speaks to employees. Although nothing beats in-person communication, technology can be a great catalyst to broadcasting important information in a human way. You can create a video that connects them, publish unique stories, or share photos from recent events.
Because technology changes so quickly, it’s likely your format and style will as well. This is why it’s even more important to track metrics appropriately and use them to inform your investments. As your workforce grows and evolves, your strategy will need to as well. But remember – while the focus on clean employee data is foundational, what we do with it is what matters.
As you develop your new strategy to better connect with your employees, remember that technology is merely a tool, not a replacement, for authentic communication. Your brand voice and your understanding of what employees want to see requires a platform that streamlines everything so you can have a human approach.