Does your company have an internal communications strategy? There are many great reasons to have a plan in place, and a solid one at that. So much meaning is derived from what you communicate to your employees — and even more so from what you don’t.
A recent Harris poll found that employees who believe their company communicates valuable information to them are twice as likely to rate their company’s reputation favorably. Likewise, 71% of employees who are familiar with their company’s goals and objectives say their company is reputable (compared to just 39% of those who aren’t familiar with the goals and objectives).
But the same poll reveals only a third of managers strongly agree they are a primary communicator to employees. These managers have so much untapped power in shaping how employees regard their companies. So where’s the disconnect?
That lies mostly in the execution of an outdated or half-formed communications strategy. To combat that, managers can embrace a few key internal communications trends, which we’ve outlined below, that will soon become the norm.
1. Having a Team Culture Lead to hone your internal communications strategy
Let’s start at the source. Now more than ever, job seekers want to know whether a company’s culture is a good fit for them. While culture develops naturally no matter who’s on your team, an employee dedicated to shaping your company’s culture and internal communications strategy can foster an environment that attracts the best candidates for the job (and keeps your top employees around). Job titles like “Talent & Culture Director” and “Culture Curator” are becoming increasingly common.
Unlike traditional HR, which addresses issues as they arise, a Team Culture Lead actively shapes your company culture and prevents problems from happening in the first place.
If you’re a small, bootstrapping startup, your culture lead may also take on some of the responsibilities traditionally associated with HR, like submitting payroll and managing benefits. But unlike traditional HR, which addresses issues as they arise, a Team Culture Lead actively shapes your company culture and prevents problems from happening in the first place.
The larger your company, the more beneficial it is to have someone dedicated solely to helping departments better communicate with one another — and helping management communicate with employees. A culture lead must possess emotional intelligence, empathy, and a strong intuition, plus good writing skills and the ability to anticipate people’s needs.
2. Humanizing your brand to show why it matters
Another way of molding a positive culture is by giving employees a reason to care about your company’s mission and making it personal. While this may not be the newest trend (some of the most successful companies have been doing this for years — think 129-year-old Coca-Cola and its countless heartwarming ad campaigns), it’s become increasingly necessary for newer companies to stand out and succeed.
How do you humanize your brand? Above all, employees need to understand the “why” of your company: the problem it aims to solve, the people it aims to help, and how employees’ roles fit into that picture. This ties back to the Harris poll findings above — if employees understand the goal, they look upon the company more favorably. Your brand is further enhanced when your leadership is accessible, receptive and transparent. Consumers and employees alike respect transparency, and it’s how you earn their trust.
3. Less email, more chat for well-rounded communication
Email isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but it shouldn’t be your team’s only source of internal communication, either. Inboxes get too overwhelming, nuance and inflection are often lost, and it’s just a little too detached for relationship-enhancing exchanges. For quickly connecting teams, departments and work friends, chat software is often a more efficient way of getting messages across, and its real-time capabilities make for an inherently more intimate exchange. There’s a reason Slack has more than one million users, and it’s not just the emojis — though those help.
Of course, nothing trumps frequent face-to-face communication, and it’s important for people in different departments to regularly interact with one another — and for executives to regularly interact with employees — in order to build relationships and establish trust and understanding. Company-wide meetings, one-on-one check-ins and team outings are just a few ways to give employees facetime with one another, giving them the chance to exchange ideas and feedback and actually get to know their colleagues.
4. Gamifying work to boost incentive and productivity
Another way to get employees interacting more is by facilitating a little friendly competition. Rewards for top performers are always effective incentive granted they’re generous, but even the smallest office tasks — like unloading the kitchen dishwasher or watering the plants — can be gamified by designating them points to create a playful atmosphere (and make mundane tasks more enjoyable).
Just assign points to specific tasks, reward players at predefined stages if appropriate, and recognize the most accomplished players on a special leaderboard. (Just be sure to keep vigilant, public track of points.) You can further encourage company-wide communication by creating teams made up of people from different departments.
Get more ideas for gamifying your office in our Company Culture Cookbook.
5. Implementing digital signage for information and engagement
What technology can inform and inspire your team by displaying things like company news, social media posts, weather updates, motivational quotes, customer testimonials, KPIs, upcoming events and those team leaderboards we mentioned? Digital signage. By acting as an information hub in highly trafficked areas of your office, digital signage can be used to share information with your team, and employees can use it to post updates of their own. (See how else you can use digital signage in your office for corporate communications.)
6. Using video to explain complex ideas
You likely understand the importance of customer-facing content like video, but video is a powerful tool when used internally, as well. A recruiting video that gets to the heart of your culture reinforces your brand’s authority and attracts like-minded candidates. An onboarding video can help new hires understand the goals of the company and how everyone’s roles contribute to that goal.
Video explainers can be helpful far beyond the hiring process, particularly when they’re used for complex ideas or anything especially visual. (Infographics work well for this, too.) Video is great because people can refer back to it over and over, and it’s a chance to reinforce your brand through tone, message, images and any other elements that embody your company’s culture.
Enplug tip: Videos with captions or text overlays allow people to watch them easily without sound, which may come in handy in the office.
7. Recruiting employee ambassadors to cultivate passion
There’s likely some untapped talent and creativity lurking in your office. By rallying your most passionate team members and recruiting them for an employee ambassador program, you can encourage them to represent your company publicly and to boost morale internally. Employee ambassadors’ enthusiasm can be contagious, and they often inspire others to participate more fully in your culture. Ambassadors further humanize your brand, and most importantly, they instill a greater sense of community within your office.
8. Providing constant opportunities for feedback
With tools like online surveys and metrics that measure open and click rates, it’s never been easier to evaluate employee satisfaction. That’s not to say it isn’t challenging, but it does mean there’s no excuse for fielding regular feedback from your team. Employees want to feel like they’re heard, and you can’t afford not to hear what they may have to say. In addition, employees should fear no repercussions for voicing their opinions.
Employees will have interesting perspectives on every aspect of your company, which means they should have every opportunity to voice those perspectives. Regular surveys, peer recognition programs, office polls and of course one-on-one meetings should all be standard practice. Employees should fear no repercussions for voicing their opinions, and they should be able to expect a response to their concerns.
There’s no such thing as one-size-fits-all communication in the workplace anymore, and while that makes for a greater challenge in outlining your internal communications strategy, it also provides better opportunities for fine-tuning your culture and getting to know your employees as the individuals they are. The more clearly you can convey the culture you want to embody and the mission your company aims to achieve, the more willing and excited your employees will be to help it do that.