For an employee communications strategy to be successful, it should be inextricably linked to company culture, employee engagement and goals.
One-way organizational communication is a thing of the past. Instead, employees expect to be educated, informed, motivated and, above all else, listened to.
In part one of this Guide to Strategic Employee Communications, we broke down why metrics are so vital to strategic employee communications and how to measure your effectiveness for actionable results.
In part two below, we’ll highlight six best practices for employee communications that help you continuously improve your current strategy and ensure you’re using each channel to your advantage.
Employee Communication Best Practices
1. Conduct a SWOT analysis
During the strategic planning process, a SWOT analysis can help you and your team identify any potential roadblocks in the process and use them to make more informed decisions.
SWOT stands for: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.
These are your organization's best attributes and resources and how they can be leveraged to achieve your strategic employee communications goals.
To identify strengths, ask a few questions:
- What are we doing well?
- What are our advantages in this situation?
- What do employees see as our communication strengths?
- What do external audiences see as our communication strengths?
Next, build on the strengths you identify in your communication activities, i.e.:
- We can tap into a large amount of readily available content
- Employees are receptive to educational opportunities and innovation
- Streamlining communication in the world of remote work is a main employee concern for 2022
These are your organization’s faults, limitations or defects that need to be addressed to facilitate better employee communications.
To identify weaknesses, ask a few questions:
- What can we improve?
- What should we avoid?
- Which current channels are ineffective?
Next, map out which roadblocks need to be addressed by the employee communications plan:
- Leadership doesn’t consider employee communications a top priority
- Inadequate budget and/or resources for new tools or systems
- Current communication channels aren’t reaching employees
These are trends or developments that can positively affect your company and increase the relevancy or effectiveness of your strategic communications.
You can take advantage of these opportunities by tweaking your messaging to employees and other key stakeholders.
- A merger or acquisition will bring more staff and systems to support internal communications
- A new app, tool or technology can streamline remote work and connect employees who were otherwise feeling disconnected
- A digital workplace facilitates new ways for employees to communicate
This refers to dangers or developments that can negatively affect your communications planning and goals.
Threats can be identified by looking at obstacles, changes in technology, new operational requirements and other situations that stand to derail your efforts.
- New communications systems are expensive and out of line with allotted budget
- Employees may be poached by competitors with better employee communications and engagement strategies
- Learning curves for new products or channels
2. Engage your audience
Engaging your employee audience involves much more than a monthly newsletter.
With the global takeover of the remote workforce, casual communication touchpoints and in-person meetings are far less frequent than before.
To engage your employees and keep them informed about what’s going on in your organization, you’ll need to be creative:
- Create compelling Slack or Teams channels. Sure, certain departments or projects may have their own channels for project management and productivity, but what about more engaging topics like employee recognition, social opportunities, cool new benefits and even all-employee challenges like an at-home cooking (using photos) or trivia contest.
- Form an employee communications committee. Let the members who volunteer meet to discuss and plan for upcoming initiatives and celebrations (i.e. employee birthdays and anniversaries). You can even create a virtual suggestion box that empowers all employees to leave feedback on how to keep everyone informed, educated and engaged.
- Use internal influencers. You may have heard this term used in the social media world, but an “influencer” is someone who has the power to sway your target audience. In the case of employees, this could be a particular manager, someone who’s been on the team for a long time or even a new employee with a fresh perspective. Either way, equip this person to deliver important messages. Let them tell their stories and use them as a vehicle to dispatch your culture and key values. This is far removed from top-down communication and can really resonate with your employees with a more personal touch.
3. FACILITATE TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION
If you’re trying to create a more inclusive workplace, facilitating two-way communication between employees is essential. Not only for productivity purposes, but so they can have meaningful conversations with each other.
This can be accomplished in many different ways:
- Q&A and social sessions at the end of company meetings
- Regularly requesting feedback on your internal communications initiatives
- Remote and in-person social events
- Incentivized contests like fitness challenges
If you want to encourage growth in your organization, it’s time to give your employees a chance to join the conversation(s).
4. RUN IT BY MANAGERS FIRST
For many employees, their manager is the first person they ask when they have a question about a company decision, policy, benefit plan or initiative.
Managers are usually the first people in line and, as such, should be armed with the right information to communicate to their direct reports.
Before you roll out a new program or make a company-wide announcement, distribute talking points to managers ahead of time. This way, they can be prepared for potential questions from their staff and ask you any questions that can help them better deliver the message.
It’s all about having a cohesive, unified message at every level of the company, and the managers are an integral piece of the equation.
5. FOSTER A CULTURE OF ACCOUNTABILITY
There was a time when organizational culture was synonymous with free 4pm beers and break room Foosball. Today’s employees expect more from their employers. They want to work in a company with the kind of culture that prioritizes diversity, wellness, work-life balance, social responsibility and accountability.
The downside to this positive shift in mindset is that it’s much more difficult to promote an ideal than an actual activity. This is where strong employee communications become crucial to successful employee engagement.
Clear, consistent updates and communications strengthen your organization’s accountability. It’s your responsibility to clarify everything from benefits selection to performance reviews, employee recognition and, of course, those exciting social events that build up your team and make your workplace fun.
6. EMPOWER EMPLOYEES TO USE THEIR VOICE
Empowering your employees to amplify the message is one of the best practices you can undertake to build effective employee communications.
Employees can and should be the most important voices in your company, particularly in today’s tight job market where talented candidates expect authenticity at every turn. In the sharing economy, sites like Glassdoor have become invaluable tools for potential hires to assess whether or not your people like working for you.
By encouraging your employees to deliver genuine content and giving them the communication tools and channels to do so, you can strengthen your employer brand, embed advocacy and authenticity into your strategic communication goals and help them spread content that directly affects their personal and professional growth.
A successful strategic employee communications plan is the embodiment of your organization’s most important values, directly influencing employee engagement and company culture goals.
It starts with a solid understanding of the situation, involves a clearly defined set of actionable goals, uses metrics to measure the success of those goals and is prepared to pivot and adapt based on your findings.
For more information on how to measure your employee communications, check out part one of this guide.