Proper employee communication is an important aspect of running any business. It ensures that employees know what they are supposed to do and when to do it in order to achieve business goals.
In order to streamline communication and ensure that the messages are delivered to employees and that they too can communicate with management, there is need to select the right employee communication strategies.
For any communication strategy to be effective, it should have these 5 aspects:
- A defined target audience (the employees)
- The context (the why)
- Desired outcome
- Key message (the what)
- Appropriate medium (the how)
- The preferred messenger (by whom or through what channels)
Effective employee communication strategies can result in the following benefits; improved employee engagement and productivity as well as improved customer satisfaction and the public perception of the company.
Make space for two way communication
It is s big mistake to think that employee communication strategies are about management crafting messages for employees and then pushing them down. Great employee communication strategies make room for bottom-up communication. This allows employees to respond and react but also to contribute to the messaging before it is even disseminated.
Top management has a role to play
On the other end of the spectrum is when top management takes a backseat in the implementation of employee communication strategies. This can be detrimental and even lead to failure. Leaders set the tone for the entire team so it is important that they model the behaviour they want to see in their staff.
If for instance a strategy calls for transparency and open dialogue, leadership should lead the charge by sharing about wins as well as work related challenges they are facing. This will encourage the flourishing of an open door policy better than the company policy stating that the organisation ‘has an open door policy’.
Make employee generated communication part of the business
This is an employee communication strategy that will enhance engagement and team work. Employees can network across departments, share ideas and have a role in building the company culture.
This strategy however needs for management to provide guidelines so that the channel doesn’t devolve into a social communication platform. Pick a leaf from Bosch which provided their employees with a platform named The Spark to share knowledge and hone their presentation skills.
Lean into technology
With the prevalence of remote work, the right tools for communication are essential. Companies should invest in training all employees to use these tools and paying for them if they are not free. With digital tools, all employees, no matter where they are in the world will be on the same page.
Avoid information over load
One of the benefits of technology in communication is that it creates a selection of communication channels. From email to instant messaging on a range of apps. And while this can be a good thing, it can create information overload.
Picture a situation where a message is communicated on employees’ emails, their WhatsApp, Teams and Slack. Rather than delivering the message, information can instead slip through the cracks. Remedy this by having a specific channel for work messages only.
Use different channels for communication
That being said, it is helpful, particularly in change situations to use different methods of communication to get the message across. These work as reminders when trying to get employees to adopt new behaviour.
A good example is how companies communicated to people about safety requirements during the pandemic. There were stickers on floors to show people how much distance to keep, messages about safety were added to email signatures, hand washing stations were highlighted and so much more. While the message was the same, it was replicated in different places.
Enlist employees to champion the message
You can call them ambassadors, change agents or influencers. These are employees who will champion the message in the communication. For example an organisation that is introducing a physical arm to their wellness program will benefit from enlisting a few employees to lead the charge.
This group will be the first to try out the program and sell it to their colleagues. Hearing first-hand information from their team mates can go a long way in encouraging uptake.
Having change agents is a great communication strategy to lean on where communication requires a change in behaviour, as is usually the case in major transformation. This communication strategy can support change management in an organisation.
Maintain in-person communication
Talking to employees in person or one-on-one is a communication strategy that should not become extinct in the face of tech. Rather than using technology to replace one-on-one interactions, use it to enhance them for remote workers. Where possible, managers should communicate in person with employees. In person communication encourages bonding and facilitates trust.
Create a repository for information
Not all information will expire. There are certain communications employees might need to reference or review. Make it easy to find by creating a central searchable repository. Replication of work will also be eliminated. When there is a need to re-issue certain communications, an update and reference to what was done last year might just do the trick.
Avoid assumptions and stereotypes
A great employee communication strategy to adopt a sense of curiosity. In the workplace, it may seem like a time saving tactic to guess at the needs of employees but it can be a bigger drain on time and money when that leads to wrong messaging.
In an increasingly global workforce, cultural, religious and other differences may affect how certain messages are perceived. When in doubt, avoid relying on your own biases and instead ask employees for their views. It is also a good idea to take teams through diversity trainings to ensure everyone is communicating in the ways you need them to.
Communication strategies and in particular the company messages should be designed to support the business objectives. It is also worth noting that flexibility should be key when designing employee communication strategies. Have mechanisms in place to monitor the efficacy of any strategy and where necessary adjust it for better results.