Employee Communication

Effective Employee Communication – 19 Experts Share Their Wisdom

Email, face to face, live chat; there are so many channels and expectations when it comes to effective employee communication. What works for one team may not work best for another. We spoke with 19 leaders and employee communication experts on the subject of employee communication. This is what they said.

Employee communication has changed over the years. In decades gone, everything was done face to face. Now we have a plethora of different channels to communicate, with email, live chat, text, messenger, social media – the list goes on.

Effective employee communication means that your team runs smoothly, and that teamwork is encouraged. We spoke with 19 people who work in this space, to hear their thoughts on the evolution and challenges.

What is the biggest challenge currently with effective employee communication?

We asked our panel of experts what they thought was the biggest challenge facing cutting through the noise, and communicating with employees. The answer was overwhelmingly the noise; there are so many messages across so many different platforms, it can be difficult to reach your team in a meaningful way where they will pay attention.

Here are what some of them said.

“Cutting through the clutter. Employees get bombarded with information. Having content that is appropriate and tailored to them and their needs.”

Julie Moses, Communications, Symantec Cyber Security Services

“Balancing ‘Need to Know’ communication messages with ‘Want to Know’ engagement messages. Having a 3k+ employee pool, all being geographically dispersed and with differing engagement levels (e.g. part time uni students vs full time career employees), means that it is challenging to balance messages without over-communicating.”

Jade Fosberry, Internal Communications and Engagement Manager, Nando’s Australia

“Too many messages, not enough dialogue.”

Les Landes, President, Landes & Associates

“Alignment between the leadership of the organisation and the IC team about what value they bring and what success looks like.”

Jenni Field, Director, Redefining Communications

“It is not consistent or measurable, one person may send an email and another person may just say the message then the messages are slightly different and interpreted differently. The email may also not get read so some staff will not receive the message at all.

You cannot measure who has read what and it leads to inconsistency in the business. There is also an overwhelming amount of information for employees to keep on top of which means they don’t ingest communications properly because they get so many.”

Hayley Lloyd, Marketing Coordinator, Ocasta

“Many organizations operate under the assumption that if you are in a management or leadership position, you already know how to supervise others. Higher-ups have historically equated job performance with leadership ability, and it’s unfortunately not true.

This is rarely the case as people tend to get promoted based on the success of their job performance at the individual level, which rarely translates into managing others. Having unqualified people in leadership positions setting expectations and establishing norms in communication is one of the biggest challenges in effective employee communication and engagement in today’s workplace.”

Nicole Lipkin, CEO & Organizational Psychologist, Equilibria Leadership Consulting

“My biggest challenge with effective employee communication is meeting employees where they would like to be met.  You do this by understanding their Work Channels of Communication.”

David Miller, Kantar TNS Employee Insights

“Communication is a personal choice. When, how, what format, will each employee engage with? Creating a single message that can be delayed versed and will connect with employees working in different locations in different generations with individual media format preferences is the secret sauce to find.” 

Marlon Giese, Automotive Field Manager, AAA MountainWest NCNU

“Technology adoption – the more traditional the company (and people) are, the harder it is to get people out of silos to adapt to changing methods of communication.”

Leena Chitnis, Head of Internal Communications, Ericsson Corporation

“Most companies underestimate the value of a communications plan and think that they are communicating “enough.” Rarely is this the case; employees want to be included in the company’s journey and being well informed is a large part of that journey.”

Karen Kennedy, Founder, Insights To Growth

Team communication

Image: Pixabay

What do you see as trends in employee communication?

The increase in the reliance on technology means that employees are expected to use a variety of devices. Employee comms experts are now turning to innovative ways, such as quizzes, games and understanding the psychology of the messaging to get their communications delivered in an engaging way.

This is what members of our panel said.

“Bring your own device so we can use communication styles that we see outside of the workplace e.g instant messenger (Facebook, WhatsApp etc.) instant notifications similar to ones on the iPhone no more waiting for staff to open messages they’re sent directly to them, cutting through the inbox clutter.

Game apps which turn communications into quizzes or other fun formats. Live feeds with videos, polls or news summaries these all keep communications fresh and easy to digest.”

Hayley Lloyd, Marketing Coordinator, Ocasta

“In 2018, Forbes says that it is the year of Employee Experience. With changing demographics, increased technology focused on community, collaboration and communication, Employee Communication is more important than ever. The biggest trend is that organizations recognize that what they’ve been doing (stuff like newsletters, intranets, surveys) is not working to engage and enable employees.

So they are not focused more on employee engagement and employee experience but their investment has turn to tools versus strategy and it integrated and should focus on influencing communication versus simply delivering it or turning on a tool.”

Priya Bates, President, Inner Strength Communication Inc.

“Mobile friendly platforms that allow for easy flow of two-way communications between employees and employers.”

Alen Kopcic, Senior Internal Communications Specialist, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

“Digital communications / social collaboration. The larger the organization, the more important the need and skillful execution of digital communications, especially the intranet and social collaboration tools. But it cannot be at the expense of face-to-face communications, which is absolutely critical.

Digital communications will continue to advance, become more universal and synchronous (two-way dialogue), and the use of mobile and PDAs to use digital workplace tools for communications will explode.”

Toby Ward, President, Prescient Digital Media

“A growing trend in employee communication is an increased awareness of the psychological contract. The psychological contract is the unspoken agreement of an employee-employer relationship that isn’t explicitly written in a legal contract.

An employee offers their discretionary effort, loyalty, commitment, sacrifices, and creativity to their employer. In exchange, an employer offers opportunities to grow, security, respect, acknowledgment of successes, and a generally comfortable environment. The psychological contract is often not considered, until it is broken.”

Nicole Lipkin, CEO & Organizational Psychologist, Equilibria Leadership Consulting

“Trends are moving towards instant two way communications through forums and live calls.”

Andrea Heslop, Communications Manager, The Co-op Group

“In companies with excellent employee engagement I see multi-channel, distributed communications. These companies do not leave it up to one leader or one communication method to share information with their employees.”

Karen Kennedy, Founder, Insights To Growth

“Digital workplaces, employee experience, profiling, relevancy, personal. Besides that (social) purpose of the company is really important to attract new employees and to create ambassadeurs of your organisation. From pushing content to personalised relevant content and more focus on using data to increase relevance.”

Frank Hoekstra, Digital Channels Strategist, Abn Amro

“Text messaging is rapidly becoming common in business communication while email is losing ground. Memos and posters are seen as old school while video clips are more widely expected. Engagement requires use of the material presented and that means delivering what your team wants in format where and when they will digest it.”

Marlon Giese, Automotive Field Manager, AAA MountainWest NCNU

“Less long-form communication, more infographics & social-media-style communications.”

Dayna Schmidt-Johnson, Internal Communications Senior Specialist, Protiviti

With changing demographics, increased technology focused on community, collaboration and communication, Employee Communication is more important than ever.
– Priya Bates, Inner Strength Communication Inc.

How important is effective employee communication to your organisation?

We know from studies that effective communication with your team is absolutely paramount to the success of an organisation. We pitched this question to our experts, to see what they would add to this.

“Our culture is based around our values and the ability to have conversations with anyone in our organization. For any internal communication program to work, leadership must actively and vocally support it, day in and day out.”

Alen Kopcic, Senior Internal Communications Specialist, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

“It’s at the heart of what we do. We look to take a benchmark as to where we are and then measure the comms and the changes they have made.”

Andrea Heslop, Communications Manager, The Co-op Group

“Mission-critical. The company is dying if there is not adequate employee communication.”

Toby Ward, President, Prescient Digital Media

“Effective communication is important to every business and engagement studies in businesses almost always show communication as one of the top issues employees want improved.”  

Marlon Giese, Automotive Field Manager, AAA MountainWest NCNU

“Extremely important – employees like to be informed.”

Kellie, Senior Executive Communications, RPS Group

“It’s vital to ensure our employees know how to do their job, and are engaged more broadly. Employees who feel like they have the right amount of information (information they ‘need to know’ and ‘want to know’) are more likely to stay with the business and also provide a better experience to their customers.”

Jade Fosberry, Internal Communications and Engagement Manager, Nando’s Australia

“Very important, as a digital services studio we never underestimate the importance of communication.

We know that consistent communication is the driver of successful projects which is why we always close feedback loops to ensure staff are always discussing improvements or ideas and supporting each other on the way. We are dynamic and make small changes often which means it is vital we have effective communication.”

Hayley Lloyd, Marketing Coordinator, Ocasta

“Extremely important! It’s critical for our employees to be engaged in the workplace and excited to learn about and implement new programs and processes.”

Dayna Schmidt-Johnson, Internal Communications Senior Specialist, Protiviti

employee communications

Photo: Pixabay

Do you have a unique way that you communicate to your employees?

The trend in answers we found here, was the use of the word ‘to’ instead of ‘from’. In years past, managers would communicate to their teams, that is, send directives.

Nowadays, that strategy doesn’t work – you need to communicate with your employees, that is engage them in two way dialogue.

Here is what the panel said.

“You’re never going to be in the position where all your employees feel that they have the right amount of information; they will either feel that they don’t have enough information, or feel that they are being over-communicated with.

It is important to plan your messages early, ensure your functional business areas are giving you ample notice to share their messages, and that you spend time creating engaging messages that you can share at multiple times throughout an  employee’s experience.”

Jade Fosberry, Internal Communications and Engagement Manager, Nando’s Australia

“You can’t communicate TO people – that’s just message distribution.  We communicate WITH the people on our team in a variety of ways – nothing unique, just frequent, substantial and interactive.  

When people say we need more two-way communication in this place, I ask them what other kind is there? What people call one-way communication is like one-handed clapping.  It may move the air around, but it rarely makes a connection.”

Les Landes, President, Landes & Associates

“Start with strategy and goals. Also recognize that we should focus on the system and culture in order to fix the challenges of engagement.”

Priya Bates, President, Inner Strength Communication Inc.

“We recently started moving away from traditional back of house printed communications to more digital signage that can be access via a mobile app. With an increase in email communications it is sometimes difficult to get your message across if you are already not filtered into a separate folder.”

Alen Kopcic, Senior Internal Communications Specialist, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

“I establish a foundation of open, honest communication and mutual respect with my employees. By building a genuine and trusting relationship with the members on my team, we are able to directly address conflict, take risks, and be creative. These relationships are so crucial because humans are hardwired to form relationships, the foundation of which is trust and mutual influence.

Insincerity, the misuse of power, and manipulative attempts to gain influence quickly crack that foundation. If you focus on treating your people with kindness and respect, and let them know that you value them and their work, you will receive the same in return. Your influence will grow, and so will your personal and business success.”

Nicole Lipkin, CEO & Organizational Psychologist, Equilibria Leadership Consulting

“Yammer, Teams, Discussion threads. Conference calls and email, however, should never be discounted though because they’re no longer seen as ‘cool’. They are highly effective, and will continue to be dominant forms of communication (they’re not dying, thank-you very much).”

Toby Ward, President, Prescient Digital Media

“I always preach the 80/20 rule. Nothing is 100% certain anymore.  Change is the only thing that is guaranteed. Be flexible. Always try to tell a story that allows employees to “choose their own adventure” depending on how it applies to their role in the org.

Empower them to visualize their success by opening the door to determine the other 20% for the optimal outcome. Finally, and most importantly, recognize and reward them for choosing how the adventure ends, AKA, innovating.”

Kathryn Accardo, Internal Marketing & Communications Manager, TIAA

“I think we are building it right now, a digital workplace in which we integrate key functionalities and content from several ecosystems. We are also starting to implement user generated video content in our intranet. Video is becoming more important.”

Frank Hoekstra, Digital Channels Strategist, Abn Amro

“Less detail, more key messages. Creative graphics, video etc – capture the audience with tools other than text.”

Kellie, Senior Executive Communications, RPS Group

Related article: Ultimate List of 90+ Tools for Managing a Remote Team

Any other thoughts on employee communication?

Where to from here with communicating to your staff? Are there any areas that we collectively need to consider improvement? Here is what our experts wrapped up with.

“Cost-cutting on communications technologies may help the company bottom line, but at a disastrous effect: people don’t take well to cheaper platforms to communicate.”

Leena Chitnis, Head of Internal Communications, Ericsson Corporation

“Employee communication is too important to left in the hands of professional communicators. It’s everyone’s responsibility to do it.  The job of the professional communicator is to help them do it well.”

Les Landes, President, Landes & Associates

“There has never been a better time to invest in upping the employee communication game. We need to start with an assessment of what is working and isn’t. We need to have a plan to solve the business problems with communication programs that inspire conversation, build relationships and create pride.”

Priya Bates, President, Inner Strength Communication Inc.

“You might think that having a best friend at work is outside of a leader’s purview.

Of course you can’t force people to like each other. You can, however, hire for cultural fit and create an environment where your employees have the opportunity to build relationships with each other.

If you like the people you work with, it will be much harder to leave. Even just having one person you care about at work can make it exponentially more difficult to leave.

As a leader, think of social connection in terms of building a clan. In order to have a collaborative and efficient clan it behooves you to hire with personality in mind, not just credentials.

Not because you want your employees to join into one big group hug and sing campfire songs, but because relationships pay out to the bottom line.

Your employees will accomplish more if they can work together, and they will feel engaged if they feel connected to each other.”

Nicole Lipkin, CEO & Organizational Psychologist, Equilibria Leadership Consulting

“I think it’s simple but remembering what the employee is receiving everyday and what they need to do their job and making it tailored to them and not to forget that.”

Andrea Heslop, Communications Manager, The Co-op Group

“Employees are a company’s biggest asset AND competitive advantage. When communication is absent, or worse, manipulative, all trust is broken. This leads to disengaged employees and is an enormous waste of money and human capital. If you do not deliberately choose to “Make A Team,” you will certainly “Break a Team.””

Karen Kennedy, Founder, Insights To Growth

“Create opportunities for people to talk! Digital is great and can sustain the conversation, but make sure your comms plan gives people the opportunity to sit down (preferably with a nice cup of tea!) and have a good chat about [insert absolutely any topic here]!”

Frank Hoekstra, Digital Channels Strategist, Abn Amro

“I work in this field, and there’s no excuse for any company to not have a focus on effective communications. Supply people with the appropriate tools to deliver and drive their work.”

Kellie, Senior Executive Communications, RPS Group

“Businesses must look at how effective apps are for communication outside of work and feed this into their communication strategy. Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat are the most used apps in the world, companies must take note of this and produce a similar solution for their workplace communications.”

Hayley Lloyd, Marketing Coordinator, Ocasta

Employee communication is too important to left in the hands of professional communicators. It’s everyone’s responsibility to do it.
– Les Landes, President, Landes & Associates

In Summary

The old office memo is dead. Employee communication now is focused on real time messaging, such as live chat and similar tools. Remote teams are using voice calls and using channels that didn’t exist just five years ago.

As nearly all of these leaders and professionals have stated, employee communication is the key to building a successful company culture, where people are engaged and want to work as a team.

A very big thanks to everyone who participated in providing us feedback for this article – we appreciate it!