By: Sarah Kyo
Salt and pepper. Shoes and socks. Pen and paper. Some things in life are a natural pair – they’re just more effective together. When it comes to successfully driving change at your organization, you need this dynamic duo: data and communications.
Whether it’s updating your talent strategy, launching a new program, or undergoing a digital transformation, organizations are constantly facing changes. To achieve those goals, your employees need to be informed and included during the transition. With successful corporate communications, you can help your employees adapt, prepare, and feel more secure with your company’s change acceleration.
Why Your Internal Communications Are Unread
Before diving into the steps for creating a strategic plan, recognize why you need one in the first place: noise. Each day, your employees face information overload from their inboxes, notifications, video call meetings, and other messages.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced many organizations to convert to remote workplaces, your employees were already bombarded with messaging. The findings of this pre-pandemic IDC InfoBrief are startling, especially when it comes to the most popular corporate communication medium, email:
- Overall, employees at U.S. companies receive 576 billion emails per year.
- On average, employees receive 50 work-related emails each day.
- Employees perceive 40% of the messages in their inboxes as unimportant, and 90% of those messages are routed into the trash due to email rules.
With the constant stream of messages, it’s understandable why many employees become disengaged and miss the most important messages from you.
Accelerate Change with Communication and Data
Even if your employees read your email, your messaging may still not get through to them. The same IDC InfoBrief further highlighted this disconnect between employers’ objectives and employees’ interpretations:
- Employees believe 45% of their received emails require action on their part, whereas employers composed their messages in that manner only 33% of the time.
- Employees perceive most of their employer’s emails are part of a series, even though that was the case only 40% of the time.
Statistics like these can help companies better understand overarching workplace trends. Likewise, using data – in this case, information about your employee audience and how they interact with your messages and content – can help you be more intentional and tactical in how you communicate with them. Data can seem intimidating, but you can start by focusing on a smaller data set or a single message before addressing something more complex.
When conducting analysis, your program’s purpose should also determine your campaign’s success. For instance, let’s say your organization wants to implement new software as part of a larger digital transformation initiative. However, the odds may be stacked against you: 70% of these large-scale initiatives don’t succeed and $900 billion gets wasted in these failures.
A top reason why certain initiatives do triumph is a human element, not a technical one: Resistance from employees is a common obstacle that organizations face because change can be an uncomfortable process that comes with its share of stresses, anxieties, and fears. With that in mind, these five stages for developing a strategic corporate communications plan will positively increase the program’s impact in this imaginary scenario – and the real-life change initiatives of your organization:
First, you need to identify and understand how effective communication can help you accomplish your overall business initiative. For this software launch, you want to educate your employees and get them on-board to increase the odds of long-term success. Then determine what goals you’d like to achieve. In this case, your organization might want 100% of your employees to sign up and complete a series of trainings by the end of the quarter.
Your leadership and IT teams probably understand the purpose and importance of this new software: It’ll help make work more efficient and save money for your company over time. Many of your employees, though, might view the software trainings as an inconvenience on top of their daily routines. Directly communicate your intentions to employees while also understanding their perspective, making the information relevant to them. Using data to create audience segments allows you to share different messages that address specific groups’ needs, such as by department or location in the case of the software trainings.
It’s one thing to simply reach your employees and inspire them to read an email or click play on a video. While that data is great content engagement, remember the bigger picture of achieving your digital transformation goals: The most meaningful communications influence behavior and inspire action. Therefore, create communication programs and efforts that reflect your desired actions and audience requirements. In this example, make it clear that you want employees to click on a call-to-action button to register for the mandatory software trainings, and use that data for determining success.
An individual one-size-fits-all message won’t be enough to create lasting organizational change. Instead, communicate intentionally and continuously through a series of messages and content experiences. In other words, guide your employees on a communication journey to better prepare them for this change. For example, the first message and piece of content can encourage employees to imagine what the company could be like in the future after a successful digital transformation, and how this new software can help you get there. Subsequent messages and content can share more information about the new program itself and the upcoming trainings.
After setting up your campaign and sending the first message, you’re only just getting started. While tracking your progress toward your strategic communication goals, consider a variety of factors and make informed adjustments. You can include short surveys during your campaign to find out which pieces of content are helpful and where there are knowledge gaps. Communication analytics can help you figure out which messages are performing well, so you can identify long-term trends such as a specific timeslot being popular for email consumption.
Change is hard, but effective use of data and communications can make the process much more manageable. By keeping your employees updated with relevant information, you can help them feel more prepared for whatever comes next. When executing your communications, data takes out a lot of the guesswork by providing the information you need to develop a strategy, personalize your messaging, target relevant audiences, measure success, and iterate during the process. In other words, data and communications need to be the bread and butter of driving your change initiatives.