When employees are overloaded with communication, both inside and outside of work, they react in predictable, understandable ways: they experience stress, get distracted, and eventually tune out and disengage, despite their best efforts to focus. So, how can employers get important messages to their overwhelmed employees during these times? They create, launch, and actively monitor a strategic communication plan.
Even though communication overload is a short-term issue, like any change or challenge a company faces, it requires a campaign-oriented internal communications solution. Without one, any messages you send will only contribute to the noise, further overwhelm your employees, and keep them from engaging with what you have to say.
Here’s how to develop a strategic communication plan that gets the right information to the right people at the right time:
Establish your goals and success metrics.
Before you send any messages, decide what you want your campaign to achieve. Maybe you want to boost employee engagement, drive retention, or improve the company’s performance overall. Once you’ve established your goals, determine how you’ll measure their success, both quantitatively and qualitatively. For example, if you want to drive employee retention, you could set out to reduce your turnover rate by 10%. By establishing success metrics, you’ll know when to change up your approach if you find yourself off-track.
Identify your target audience.
These are the people you want to reach with your messaging. If you need to connect with all of your employees, segment your audience into smaller groups by identifying the unique populations within your workforce, like managers, HR leaders, deskless workers, and remote workers. That way, you can tailor your messaging to each group’s unique experience of the company, making your communications feel more personal and relevant.
Choose your timing wisely.
At the outset, decide how many brief, straightforward messages you’ll need to send to achieve your campaign’s objectives. When it comes to the frequency of those messages, the rule of thumb is not too often, not too infrequent. To select ideal days to send messages, consider time of day and day of week. You want to make sure you reach people when they’re most physically and mentally available. It’d be unwise, for example, to send a message late in the afternoon on a Friday or first thing Monday morning.
Additionally, if multiple departments plan to run campaigns at the same time, create an organized schedule to keep outgoing communications balanced. Consider designating certain days of the week for certain messages. For example, business updates could be shared on Tuesdays, while culture-related messages are set for Fridays.
Make each message meaningful.
- Ensure every communication has a clearly defined goal, feels personal, and is brief, clear, and relatable. To achieve this:
- Tie each message to one of your campaign’s objectives. That way, each message feels purposeful and valuable.
- Personalize your messages by focusing on something that your audience values. For example, if you’re sending a message to managers about the launch of Workday, you could highlight how the platform is designed to save them time and paperwork.
- To keep your messages short and sweet, identify the key points you want to make and what action, if applicable, you want your audience to take. Not only will your audience appreciate your brevity, they’ll be much more likely to engage with your messages.
- Next, use the appropriate tone.If you typically use a more casual tone in your communications, make sure your future messaging matches. And, consider the nature of the topic; if it’s a sensitive one, adjust your tone accordingly.
- Finally, be straightforward and use conversational language when possible, so your audience knows exactly what you mean.
Leverage a consistent look and feel.
In terms of writing and design, consistency is critical, especially during times of communication overload. When employees receive a message they can immediately attribute to a familiar, ongoing campaign, they’re much more likely to engage with it. This consistency also helps your messages build on each other and become more effective over time. To create consistency, use the same writing style, design, and imagery elements across your campaign, so it’s readily recognizable.
Use a multi-channel approach.
Even if you know that your remote workers regularly check their email, utilize multiple communication channels to ensure your messages fully resonate with your employees. Plus, it’s worth keeping in mind that, during times of communication overload, employees are probably receiving a lot of emails already.
To pick a winning combination of channels, figure out what the natural touchpoints are in your audience’s workflow. If employees use Slack throughout the day to communicate with each other, consider using the platform to post general announcements in a dedicated channel. Then, use your communication channels consistently. If you make Slack your hub for announcements, avoid posting them in other places, too, like your intranet. Employees need to know what to expect from each channel you use.
Pair your communication strategies with a content experience.
Your communication campaign can reach your employees, but it can’t provide the type of learning experience needed to fully engage them. With consistent, recognizable branding, thoughtful design, short-form, mobile-friendly content, and clear calls to action, a content experience can communicate your campaign’s key ideas with increasing depth over time. Want your communication campaign and content experience to work together? Utilize a communication journey; they’re expertly designed for that purpose.
Measure and iterate.
Based on the success metrics you established at the outset, collect both quantitative data, like open rates, click-throughs, and minutes viewed, and qualitative data, like poll and survey sentiment, on how your campaign is performing. Collecting feedback is especially important because it enables two-way communication. This keeps employees from feeling like they’re being talked at, rather than engaged in an ongoing conversation in which their feedback and ideas are valued.
Finally, adjust as you go. Measuring your results will show you what’s working and what’s not, but, to optimize your results, you’ll need to act on the data you collect and adjust your approach as you go. If your target audience isn’t engaging with the messages you’re sending, you may need to recalibrate your approach.
A strategic communication plan can reach and engage employees during times of change, periods of communication overload, and every point in between. To make your strategy effective, utilize a personalized messaging approach that speaks to a specific target audience, leverage consistent branding and design, use multiple channels, supplement your campaign with effective content, and measure and iterate along the way. With this approach and the help of an internal communication platform, you’ll not only get the right information to the right people at the right time, you’ll give your employees a much-needed respite from the noise.