Mobile. Video. Social media. Gamification. It’s easy (and necessary!) to discuss internal communications trends in terms of technology, with all of the opportunities and challenges that technical innovations bring to the industry. No matter what formats or platforms turn out to be right for your organization, though, here are five underlying trends that should guide internal communications strategy in today’s corporate world.
1. Employees are consumers too.
It can be tempting for companies to invest heavily in the consumer experience, while shortchanging the members of their own workforce. Your employees are accustomed to getting their news, entertainment, and shopping with the swipe of a finger at their convenience. If browsing your intranet or reading your newsletter feels like a 15-year step back in time for them, don’t be surprised when they’re less informed or engaged than you’d like.
2. Communication goes both all ways.
Gone are the days when internal communications strategy was built on a “shout-loud-shout-often” approach. While all-company email blasts may never disappear entirely, the focus now is on building robust networks in which communication isn’t just top-down (or bottom-up), but peer-to-peer as well. Giving every employee a voice can drive innovation and help identify best practices – and a team member who feels like her perspective is heard and valued is more likely to stay longer and accomplish more for your business.
3. Attention must be earned – and rewarded.
Your time is among the most precious commodities you control. So is everyone else’s. Rather than bemoaning the dwindling attention span of Millennials and other employees, make sure you’re creating content that is meaningful and engaging, so they have a reason to spend their precious minutes (or even seconds) on it.
Similarly, avoid the temptation to “trick” your audience with clickbait headlines or misleading thumbnails. Remember that your goal isn’t to get hits or ad revenue from your workers; it’s to maximize their knowledge, their alignment with your corporate strategy, and their preparedness to excel at their jobs. If your content doesn’t reward their attention, it runs the risk of breeding apathy or even cynicism.
4. Authenticity trumps ostentation.
It’s entirely appropriate to help craft and manage the image of your CEO and senior executives; a leader who’s entirely unscripted and rough around the edges may make mistakes that could undermine employees’ trust in the direction of the company. However, beware the pitfall of making every appearance and communication feel like a big-budget production. Polish and style are less important than a substantive message that feels genuine and relatable; an occasional low-budget video shot on a handheld smartphone may come across as more authentic and effective than one with sleek production values – especially when (for example) your company is belt-tightening to reduce costs.
5. Nothing beats a good story.
Suppose you’re tasked with promoting a diversity initiative – say, a newly formed employee resource group (ERG) for people of color. Perhaps the most common approach is also the least interesting: write a few paragraphs articulating the group’s charter and objectives; include a quote from the vice president of HR, and provide a link to a registration form. Much better is to tell the story of an employee – a member of the ERG, or perhaps one of its officers – describing their experiences and the value they see in joining. Better still? Find a member of the group who is interested in telling their own story, in their own words, and give them a platform where they can share that story with others.
If none of the tenets above feels particularly groundbreaking, that’s a good sign; they shouldn’t be. The bottom line is that your employees are people – not automatons and not statistics. If your internal communications are built on a foundation that treats them like people – busy, discerning people whose trust and attention must be earned – then you’re well positioned no matter what technological advances may be around the corner.
Author Greg Lennox is a member of the CorpComm Expo Advisory Board and will be a Panelist on the Thursday, October 1 Keynote Thought Leadership Panel at CorpComm Expo 2015 entitled, “Taking Aim at the Future – Insights into Employee Communication for the Next Generation,” from 9:00-10:00am that morningat the Georgia World Congress Center. That panel will discuss the outlook for the corporate communications environment and how to deal with the “digital noise” bombarding employees on a daily basis. For more information about CorpComm Expo, or to register for this or any other educational seminar or workshop and learn more about digital communications technologies and strategies go to www.corpcommexpo.com
As the Senior Manager of Digital Communications for Aramark’s corporate communications team, Greg Lennox uses a variety of web, interactive media, and other digital solutions to inform, engage, connect, and align over 270,000 employees in 22 countries around the world. His areas of responsibility include Aramark’s intranet, digital signage network, and internal social media channels. He also produces a monthly video series through which senior leaders reach front line associates across multiple lines of business, and helps the CEO and executive leadership team deliver strategic direction through live and virtual event production. Lennox lives in Philadelphia where he works in Aramark’s world headquarters.