By: Rachel Heisterkamp
Now more than ever, digital communications are the true connective tissue between you and your workforce. Without the direct ways employers were once able to reach out and build community pre-pandemic – in-person meetings, posters in the breakroom, team-building social outings, etc. – organizations are forced to connect to employees (wherever they may be) through a solely digital means. While this is certainly a disruption or major change for the day-to-day working order, it also presents a unique opportunity to prioritize connection in a way we may not have before.
Connecting and fostering the culture of your workplace isn’t a simple task, and it requires an ongoing, “always-on” effort from HR teams and business leaders, but it’s also incredibly worth it: How well you orchestrate and launch company communications can influence employee engagement in many ways, such as how your employees feel about their role, the direction of the company, and the level of equality and fairness at play. Gallup has found a strong correlation between productivity and engagement in employees, with engaged employee groups demonstrating 41% less absenteeism and 17% higher productivity. Communications that are proponents of your organization’s connectivity – that build teamwork, celebrate your own brand, or connect to the company’s mission – are the most direct way to build a positive company culture, whether your organization is working remotely, in-person, or in a hybrid of the two. Though communications may often feel like the vehicle for information on programs or initiatives (such as compensation, performance management, or wellness), your constant, consistent communications with your employees is also pushing forward another initiative: the connectivity and culture of your organization.
Use Communications to Develop an Internal Brand Identity
The more we’ve come to rely on digital communications throughout this pandemic-era disruption, the larger the obstacle we’ve created for ourselves along the way. Employees today are constantly inundated with digital messaging; both in consumer marketing in their personal inboxes or online, and now in their work lives as well. Digital communications are certainly the clearest way to get your message in front of employees, but you now have a lot more competition for even just a few moments of their attention, so you need to be wiser and more strategic in the way you use that time.
Leaders can use a centralized platform to launch communication campaigns that are engaging, personalized, and targeted in order to cut through the noise of the digital environment and reach their employee audience – but it’s the consistency in this approach that truly adds to the organization’s cultural understanding. When communications are streamlined and consistently managed, your organization is able to develop an internal brand identity, with a clear voice, mission, and employee value proposition.
Your internal brand can make it a simpler undertaking to communicate openly and frequently with your workforce – whether it’s a reminder to enroll in health benefits or critical perspective on major company change. When you take an employee-centric, empathetic approach to communications, you’re more likely to get across why a particular change or program is actually important to the people it will affect; and these incremental steps build more and more connectivity and trust between employees and their organization. Employer-employee trust, which can include how much employees believe in their company’s mission or simply the amount of transparency that employees are perceiving – can have major effects on the way your company functions. Compared with people at “low-trust” companies, people at “high-trust” companies report 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 76% more engagement, and 40% less burnout. Trust, employee engagement, and effective communications are obviously connected; the stronger your ability to communicate often and well, the more positive effects you’ll see with these results and byproducts.
Connective Communications are a Two-Way Street
Effective communications may not be the perfect or only solution to major company change or a critical initiative, but they can help you drive alignment and understanding as you move through those scenarios. The best way to make sure alignment and employee buy-in are really happening (for the majority of employees and to the degree that you’re looking for) is actually an obvious one: ask your employees. Gathering feedback and analyzing engagement data are easy ways to see through the window of how your workforce is actually receiving the communications you’ve sent. In a major organizational change, such as a merger or acquisition, you may not know how your workforce is genuinely responding to new processes or updates unless you enlist the help of two-way communications. Incorporating polls and ratings as part of your messaging can be helpful here, and so can virtual feedback group sessions – and, remember that the first hurdle you’ll need to clear is that employees are reading and understanding your communications in the first place. Engagement data can tell you how many employees have opened your emails, for example, or how many have interacted or clicked on something in your messages.
In gathering employee sentiment on your communications, you’re accomplishing two things: you’re sending the implicit message to your employees that you’re listening, which further serves to boost company culture and an environment of trust, but you’re also setting yourself up to improve on your campaign and switch gears if you need to. If you’re noticing a lack of engagement (few email opens or a low response rate) on your first message, for example, you may find that you need to re-launch using a different perspective or new approach. Over time, this process of communication, empathetic listening, and iteration will help you build a communication framework that is constantly cultivating a positive company culture, and improves with every send.