12 Ways to Improve Employee Communications

Effective employee communication allows everyone to stay informed and work toward shared organizational goals. It keeps employees engaged and eager to contribute to the company’s success. No matter how successful your messaging, you can always work to improve employee communications.

This is all about nurturing the employee experience, which has become a major focus for HR and communicators over the last few years. That means a consistent, positive experience from the job interview and onboarding, on into their daily role and throughout their entire career. It encompasses all physical, cultural and procedural facets, as well as relationships and wellbeing.

Good internal communications throughout the employee lifecycle helps people integrate into the organization and the culture, feel connected, involved and valued, and hopefully become happy, productive employee advocates.

1. Build trust, credibility and accessibility. 

  • Tell the truth always. Be transparent.
  • Communicate your mission, strategy and goals, and progress toward those things so people feel a part of the larger whole.
  • Share your values to reinforce your culture.
  • C-suite and managers need to set the tone, and they should be open and accessible.
  • Everyone needs to understand and promote the correlation between communication, engagement and the organization’s goals. 

2. Back up words with actions.

  • This goes back to building trust. Do what you say you’re going to do. 
  • Every broken promise, mixed message or badly executed communication undermines your credibility.
    • If you have a public campaign all about sustainability, but don’t offer recycling in your own offices, people will notice.
    • In the same way, if you tell employees that they have a voice in things, but don’t provide any channels for feedback, they’ll become disengaged.
  • You only get so many chances before employees either stop believing your communications or tune out altogether. And every employee has a different threshold. 

3. Understand your audience.

  • If you don’t know who you’re communicating with, you cannot be successful.
  • You’ll need to communicate differently with different audiences, and over different mediums.
  • Employees will have their own preferences for the information they want to receive, and how they want to receive and interact with it.
  • Localizing communications is more important than ever with the WFH trend, and technology is making it easier to target messaging, so there’s no real excuse.
  • Surveys and conversations are the best way to get this information.
    • It doesn’t stop with just asking what they want and where. You have to follow up to find out if you’re delivering what they need, when and where they want it.

4. Give people context.

  • People need context to fully understand, internalize and act on your communications.
  • Remember the 5 Ws and H – who, what, where, when, why and how.
    • What and why are the most important for employee communications.
  • Remember to tailor your message to make it relevant to individual audiences – tell people how they fit in and how the information affects them.
  • Just telling people that there are new online courses available is pushing out a fact. But if you advertise courses that are important to different groups in different messages, and highlight the benefits, it will make more of an impact.
    • For example, a time management course promises to save project managers 30 minutes a day.
    • An Excel course walks you through 10 common functions your accounting team could be using.

5. Use multiple channels.

  • Even though you’re localizing or personalizing, you still need to be consistent in your overall messaging.
  • The classic yarn that repetition is the key to effective advertising also applies to communications, too.
  • Make sure you reinforce your communications across multiple channels – intranets, digital signage, desktop apps like Teams, emails, posters (if you’re still doing that), and one-on-one.
  • But be sure that your message is consistent across all these channels. 
  • Also be sure you inform employees about their choices and get them training so they’re comfortable on those various platforms.

6. Communicate regularly.

  • Be consistent but systematic. You must have a plan.
  • We’ve all been bombarded by 10 intranet posts one day, then nothing for a couple of days.
  • People need to know what you want them to focus on. You tell them that by feeding them a steady stream of information that helps and informs them, but doesn’t overload them.
  • Create a communications calendar with different campaigns and messages so you can see where the gluts and gaps are.
  • Don’t overload people and don’t leave them starving.

7. Be clear and concise.

  • This is just a reminder to use good writing and design practices.
  • Avoid getting too technical or using a lot of jargon.
  • Just write like you’re telling someone sitting beside you.
  • If your messages are incomplete, unclear or confusing, it can lead to misinterpretations and misinformation spreading through your organization.

8. Make it interesting.

  • Your communications have to grab attention and spark interest for people care about them.
  • Use a lot of visuals and attention-getting headlines.
    • Use more visuals than words – photos, videos, data visualizations.
  • Be ready to attract attention at a glance and get your point across in less than 10 seconds.
  • You have to hook people so they want to learn more.
  • Use stories instead of one-off messages if you can. People like narratives.

9. Check for understanding.

  • First you need to measure reach (was it delivered, was it seen, was it interacted with).
  • Then you need to make sure the message they walked away with was what you intended to communicate.
  • If you don’t make sure it was understood, you could either have more misinformation, or worse, mistrust and disengagement.
    • At a minimum, you won’t have the behavior change or call to action you were hoping for.
    • Do surveys. Ask questions and adjust. Listen to feedback and reward it.

10. Beware of information overload.

  • Speaking of workload – everyone has one. By definition, you are interrupting that workload every time you send a message on any platform.
  • With people working remotely, they’re using more communication platforms than ever before for both life and work.
  • People are handling lots of emails, looking at intranet posts, managing projects in collaboration apps, all while answering Teams, Facebook, and What’s App messages, in addition to attention lots of meetings, both in person and virtual.
  • Streamline interactions by communicating only on the platforms they prefer.
  • Again, don’t overload people and don’t leave them starving for information.

11. Measure effectiveness.

  • Every communication is meant to prompt some behavior change or business outcome.
  • Tie every campaign or message to a measurable outcome.
    • If it’s about training, how many people signed up?
    • If it’s your mission statement, survey people to see if they understand how their work helps you achieve that mission.
    • If it’s employee recognition, see if that person remembers and values that in their performance appraisal.
  • Set objectives and measure your success. Otherwise, you’re just spitting into the wind.

12. Remain flexible.

  • 2020 taught us all that things can change quickly. We’ve all had to adapt to a new hybrid workplace and a vastly different communications landscape.
  • As much as you need a plan for your employee communications to succeed, that plan has to be flexible.
  • You’ll need to adapt and evolve based on the feedback you get when you measure ROI and get feedback from your audience.
  • Hopefully you won’t have to adapt to another pandemic, but you will certainly have to adapt to new technologies and new generations in the workplace over time.

The relationship between communicators and employees is just like any other. It should be about mutual trust, respect, dialogue, interest and engagement. Just as any relationship takes effort and adaptation, so does employee communications. If you follow these tips, you’ll improve employee communications and have a pretty good framework for the future.

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