Getting out of Your Internal Communication Slump: The 5 Tips You Need to Connect Across Multiple Locations
Employee engagement is the act of building and maintaining a relationship between your employer (company or brand) and employees.
Whether it’s friends, life partners, family members, or co-workers, the building blocks of a healthy relationship are all the same. You need to establish trust, mutual respect and — you guessed it — healthy communication. Connecting with five different generations under one roof is hard enough. When this challenge is amplified by a dispersed workforce, things go from hard to seemingly impossible. Engaging employees across different buildings, cities, states, or countries can be done successfully, but first, you need to recognize the two challenges unique to your situation.
CHALLENGE #1: Interpersonal Connectivity
In many situations (not all) body language makes up 55% of how we interpret communications. Tone of voice makes up 38%. And actual words that are spoken (or read) make up only 7%.
When you oversee a single location, opportunities to interact with employees using all three communicators are abound. Proximity also provides more context for your communications. Generally speaking, you tend to know more about the people who share your daily environment. When communicating with multiple geographic locations, these opportunities don’t exist, which means you have a lot less to work with when trying to make meaningful connections.
CHALLENGE #2: Logistics
When communicating with multiple locations (especially international organizations), HR often has to work around time zones, cultural differences, and technological hang-ups, like mediocre collaboration tools, spotty call quality, or systems and platforms that don’t play nicely together. It’s also easier for employees to disregard communications when they come from an obscure person or place instead of the office down the hall. As the saying goes — out of sight, out of mind.
5 Tips to Tackle These Challenges
TIP 1: Keep messaging short but meaningful.
Our society is now accustomed to instant gratification. As such, we’ve also become a distracted and impatient bunch with an attention span lesser than that of a goldfish. When it comes to internal communications, brevity is your best friend. Keep your company-wide communications light and to the point.
TIP 2: Mix up your message mediums.
Emails and memos are boring. If you want your employees to pay attention, you need to mix things up every once in a while. Use memes and infographics to visually entice them. Try producing a company podcast that keeps employees up-to-date on the latest in-office news.
If the message deals with a large quantity of information or a complex topic, use video to simplify the message and make it easier to digest. Watching and listening to information requires less effort than reading and deciphering, which makes video one of your most effective communication tools.
Last year brand28 produced a video for a Fortune 500 company to explain employee benefits and the importance of open enrollment. The organization had several locations across the country and saw a 73% increase in benefits enrollment as a direct result of the video. Check out the case study here.
If a video can make open enrollment engaging, imagine what it can do for other important messages.
TIP 3 Think like a marketing professional.
Many HR departments are in a “boy who cried wolf” situation with their employees. They’ve sent so many communications that employees have stopped prioritizing them. Marketers face a similar challenge in the over-saturated marketplace and have developed unique strategies for re-engaging tired consumers.
Segment your employees by department, special interest, location, or other differentiators that make sense for your processes.
Target each employee segment by personalizing the message. Address the recipient by name (dozens of email tools will help you do this). Let the recipient know up front who the information is for and spell out why the information is important.
Create a call to action that explicitly tells the employee what you want them to do after reading, listening, or watching your message. Your call to action should appear at the beginning of the message and at the end.
Have a distribution strategy. Lead off with the call to action, and — most importantly — send communications more than once. Email delivery does work, but you have to understand that the average employee receives 121 emails per day! If you are banking on a high-volume response from a single email, you will be disappointed.
Measure your performance. If your internal communications strategy isn’t producing results, what insights can you pull from your data to improve outcomes? The following practices will help you measure success:
Use an email tracking tool to monitor open and click-through rates.
Distribute employee polls.
Count the number of requests or complaints that HR receives and compare quarterly.
Track social media signals and interaction.
Create focus groups and discuss key issues.
Conduct anonymous surveys to encourage unfiltered responses.
TIP 4: Use social media.
If you can’t connect with employees in person, be social in the digital realm. Spruce up the company’s social media pages and encourage employees to like and follow them. You can leverage these channels as a way to express the company culture across geographic lines, interact across time zones, learn about your remote employees, and promote important company-wide events.
TIP 5: Create company-wide initiatives.
Many of our clients use their wellness programs to set up friendly competitions between branches and bring dispersed workforces together. For example, a step challenge that encourages each branch to track their activity. The branch with the highest count wins! Another idea is to participate in a charity that inspires relationship-building over a shared mission. Whether it’s learning healthy habits or helping others, initiatives are a great way to show employees how much your company cares.
If you ever lose your way, think about how you want to receive information and create that delivery for others. In many ways, we all want the same things. To be addressed as individuals and recognized for our efforts. To be entertained and inspired. To be included and to belong to a community of like-minded people.