Employee communications were traditionally built around a simple belief that senior leadership knew more about everything than their employees. Internal communication strategies were built around this concept aimed at finding ways to get information from leader’s heads into the hands, hearts and minds of all employees. Cascading messages through layers of management to ensure that employees all got the same message, in the same manner, at the same time. This top down approach focused upon monologue rather than actively encouraging participation, discussion and dialogue. For many years this one size fits all approach was based upon traditional employee communication channels such as town hall meetings, newsletters, emails, magazines and bulletin boards.
Technology is responsible for dismantling this old model and driving and shaping our new communication channels focusing more upon collaboration and platforms for sharing information. But this shift is far greater than the methods of communication alone, it also represents a shift away from one single source of the truth, the concept of a central control of communication, today it’s about creating an appropriate and effective communication environment that actively encourages conversations.
The cultural shift required to transform an organisation who historically uses tools to cascade communications and broadcast information to one that actively listens and encourages conversations, promoting the employee voice, is a big step, but fundamental to improving employee engagement.
So how has this change manifested itself? Detailed below are some of the changes we have noticed:
Workplaces are becoming more social
Organisations are increasingly using collaborative platforms and digital tools to amplify content and take the content to where the employees are holding conversations and sharing information. Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) such as Chatter, Yammer, Facebook at Work, Jive and SocialCast are becoming the norm as a means of distributing and consuming content. Social media represents a huge opportunity for employee engagement, enabling more collaboration, feelings of connection, and more.
ESNs have the ability to improve the speed, volume and flow of communication within the workforce as well as build communities and fuel conversations. These conversations are thriving horizontally and are unrestricted by the previous hierarchical communications channels developed around the vertical organisational structure.
In large organisations where employees are separated into different functions, departments, teams, in different locations around the globe having an ESN ensures barriers can be broken down and employees connected more freely.
Internal communications today is about encouraging discussion, collaboration and two-way feedback on a sharing platform. This requires organisations to encourage employees to want to be involved, to be content creators, to share thoughts and ideas, to start and join a conversation.
Many organisations are now introducing a mobile first strategy to ensure that no matter where the employee is located, organisations can push information and communicate simultaneously and instantaneously with them. People now expect a consumer-like experience in the workplace.
Reaching a disparate workforce can be tricky – culture is important, workplaces are becoming more digital and apps are increasingly playing an important role, complimenting other channels and platforms and allowing employees to create, access and consume content easily. These enterprise mobile apps often have an in-built ESN solution which can offer a whole host of additional benefits to encourage staff engagement such as quizzes, surveys, messaging, news and events updates, video and photo hubs, noticeboards, employee-led blogs and post-a-question features.
Rise of the employee advocate or ambassador
The use of employee advocates or brand ambassadors to amplify and enhance an organisation’s reputation is increasingly important. Identifying employees skilled in using social media and who have a high degree of social reputation, good communication skills, ability to drive engagement, to influence and to be proactive are fundamental. These employees are empowered to provide content and start conversations that enhance the organisations behaviours and values e.g. they could be blogging about an organisation’s community work which they are involved in. Providing employee advocates with access to content for them to share is important. This content must be in-line with the organisations goals and values, must be worthy of sharing and must provide value to the sharer and the audience they are sharing it with.
The increase in the employee voice means that internal communications is moving towards curating and validating content rather than creating it. Content is increasingly visual to tell stories and enable employees to consume and engage with content quickly using mobile devices. Visual storytelling has the power to be memorable, fun, engaging and thought-provoking. Organisations are increasingly using more infographics, images, videos and data visualisation to convey content. This visual storytelling is also beginning to be used by many organisations through workspace branding to encourage a sense of pride, belonging, values and beliefs.