The Current Landscape of Employee Communications
HR.com’s recent May 12th event, The Future of Employee Communications, Tools & Processes 2021, attracted over 1,000 HR and internal communications professionals – all looking for new ways to improve the way they reach employees. This turnout alone shows the accelerating interest and importance of internal communications. After such a tumultuous year, the need for communications has rapidly accelerated – companies are now taking a keen eye to the way the connect with their increasingly digital and distributed employees, how they promote internal programs, and how they align their workforce to shared goals.
The event was built around the latest employee communications survey and research from HR.com, and there were a number of compelling findings about the importance of employee communications (and the need to improve), including:
- A strong consensus that employee communication is important to organizational success, with the large majority saying it is very (36%) or extremely important (52%).
- 80% of respondents agree or strongly agree that employee communication has a positive impact on the employee experience and engagement.
- Only 30% say their employee communication has a high or very high degree of effectiveness. About half of organizations (51%) feel their organization’s communications are only moderately effective, and the rest rank it even lower.
In other words, employee communication is critical to business success, and has unmatched value when it comes to the overall employee experience… but organizations are still struggling to get it right.
At the event, I presented on several techniques to deliver effective employee communications, including a blueprint for organizations to create a “Communication Center of Excellence.” Between the larger survey and polling during my presentation, the trends were clear: employee communications are critical to the success of business initiatives, but there are a staggering number of obstacles to delivering successful comms, and the need for a consistent enterprise to be successful. Here are my key takeaways from the event, including tips around how to combat the challenges we’re all facing with employee communications.
The Communication Overload Challenge
The evidence of a communication overload is clear: even pre-pandemic, employees were receiving upwards of 576 billion messages annually – and 34 billion of those are directly routed to the trash. Now that most organizations have gone through a dramatic digital transformation, the amount of digital communications have only increased. Digital noise is the single largest obstacle companies face when trying to reach their employees. Because digital messages are easy to send, and employees use more digital channels than ever, it creates a haystack of information that can be overwhelming for employees.
In my presentation, I asked for details on what’s getting in the way of effective communications – 39% of respondents indicated that there’s too much content and information circulating for employees to absorb key points, and 34% noted that sending a “quick” digital message is so easy to carry out, information overload is inevitable. Hitting “send” isn’t enough of a strategy to get through the digital clutter, make your message heard and drive your HR program outcomes.
Four Tips to Cut Through the Noise
To get through to employees, internal communicators need to start thinking like marketers:
1. Build experiences, not one-off messages
Today’s employees are more digital than ever, and the content they’re used to has only become shorter and more engaging. Employee content and communications need to keep up to catch the attention of this evolving workforce. By reaching your employees with collections of short-form, multimedia content, such as videos and infographics, you’ll be able to deliver more than just information – you can craft holistic employee communication experiences that drive engagement and alignment.
2. Personalize & target communications for different employee groups
17% of attendants at my presentation agreed that there are too many “one-size-fits-all” communications, which only adds to the communication overload and an overall sentiment of irrelevance. To combat this, consider different ways to identify key employee groups with different messaging needs. This could depend on role, desired behavior, or level in the organization. Personalization helps focus on what those groups care about by catering to their particular emotional state or motivation, and helps deliver the information they actually need. And, further personalization of the delivery channels you use can help meet employees where they already are: if the group you’re targeting already uses Slack or MS Teams for most communications, use that as your primary means of connection.
3. Use data to iterate & optimize the experience
In their survey, HR.com found overwhelming evidence that communication measurement tends to be weak: In 77% of organizations, HR professionals say their organizations measure employee communication to only a moderate, low or very low degree.
Data is critical when it comes to understanding how effective your communications truly are. Combining both quantitative data (such as actions taken) and qualitative feedback (from surveys or polls) can help provide a complete picture of your employee engagement. When you understand how your campaign is resonating, you’re better able to react and iterate based on that feedback, so content is always as valuable as possible to your audience.
4. Use automation to save resources and make communications easy to scale
Marketers commonly use automation technology to reach and engage large numbers of potential buyers; HR & communication teams can use similar techniques and technology to understand and reach their employees, and ultimately connect with them better. For example, automatically target communications to employees at key “moments that matter” – think: a manager promotion, a change in family status, or an accepted offer. Automation can mean added value to your employees as well as time savings for your team. Integrating these functions with existing IT systems, like an HRIS, make it even easier to reach and engage employees with their everyday tools.
Not only does HR.com’s data show us that digital communications are becoming increasingly noisy and overwhelming, it’s also clear that the need for effective messaging is drastically increasing. Cutting through this noise is critical to reaching and engaging employees to drive your program success.. The 4 techniques outlined above – building engaging experiences, targeting and personalizing, leveraging data & analytics, and adopting new automation features – will enable you to significantly improve the effectiveness of your employee communications.
Keep an eye out for my next blog post, where I’ll walk through the second half of my HR.com presentation, which outlined the fundamentals of a communications center of excellence for the modern enterprise.