The Future of Internal Communications is Digital

“Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person – not just an employee – are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.” – Anne M. Mulcahy, former CEO of Xerox

Engaging internal communications has not always been a priority for businesses globally. Industries traditionally have tended to focus on keeping their customers happy to ensure loyalty and return business, and the satisfaction level of their team at times was overlooked.

The tide is turning however, as more and more companies realise that an engaged workforce where individuals are listened to, and likewise are kept informed, tend to make greater efforts to deliver results and improve business performance. According to Gallup, highly engaged teams are 21% more productive and have 28% less internal theft than those with low engagement. With the arrival of millennials into the workforce, businesses have realised the importance of digital platforms for internal communications, and that keeping staff happy is a win-win situation for all.

It was Aristotle who first described the keys to effective communication as Ethos, Logos and Pathos which today would translate as Trust, Emotions and Reason. A breakdown in any of these is often the source of missed messaging or lack of interest of the intended audience.  In order to be engaged, the person must perceive trustworthiness in the communication or the message will not be absorbed. When considering the message, an empathic approach is best to really sense how the recipient is feeling and tailor our approach likewise.  It is certainly not the case that one approach suits all. It has been shown that 96% of employees believe showing empathy is an important way to advance employee retention – State of the Worplace Empathy Study by Businessolver, 2018.

Further consideration should be given to the tone of the message. What is the tone? What words are being used? Is there a sense of empathy or hostility.  Additionally the approach of the employer in their message should appear reasonable to the employees.  Communication should not just be about top-down but more about how the connection is made and how both bodies exchange information.

The most common way to engage with employees is the online Hub or Intranet. This medium has the advantage that all relevant information and updates can be sourced in the one spot. However, the reliable intranet can grow stale and unappealing to staff rapidly, so content should be employee driven and ensure that information is flowing bottom up too. This stream of staff sourced information leads to high buy-in and greater engagement. It’s been found that 90% of staff will simply browse the intranet without adding value – this is evidently a wasted resource that could be tapped with areas for employees to add content.

With the workplace now being populated with millenials, who research has shown, check their phones up to 100 times a day, it would be foolish for any organisation intent on increasing internal communication to overlook the versatility of an app. Real time news can be provided via an app which appeals to those who are desk based and even more versatile for the increasing numbers who work remotely. According to CNBC, 70% of workers work remotely at least once a week. To this end push notifications are becoming the norm for instant connection with the workforce.

One of the most powerful tools for internal communication is digital signage. Any information that can be sent via a phone can likewise be visualised on such signage. This includes real time news, updates, feedback, opinion polls etc. This is a constant presence on the office floor that management are conscious of the importance of regular interaction, and that they value the voice and opinion of the workforce.  This builds loyalty and morale with a constant reminder in sight that their input is important.

Social channels are well used if not over used by individuals outside of the working environment and are also an ideal form of communication for work purposes.  Facebook, Yammer, Slack, Skype and Jive constitute the main mediums for enabling this interface.  Facebook launched its Workplace app to fill the need for employees to have a voice and stay connected.

There is no one size fits all scenario when it comes to choosing a digital medium for employee engagement.  Whichever medium or mediums are used, it is important for management to be conscious that Generation Z and millenials have a high demand for authenticity and therefore employee-created content should dominate any internal communications strategy.  Content created by employees results in 8 times more engagement which ultimately translates to profitability.

Having the voice of the employee heard is what matters just as much as serving the consumer. As the traditional work place moves to a remote realm, then the internal engagement strategy must continue to move to digital and mobile. It is worth noting that according to The Engagement Institute, disengaged employees cost U.S. companies up to $550 billion a year. Aristotle may not have envisioned a world of apps and hubs when he devised his pillars of effective communication but throughout time it has been proven that talking is good for business, but now maybe more importantly than ever, it’s time to listen.

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