How are your communication skills?
Too many organisations only focus on communication as it pertains to customers. It’s tempting to think that your marketing plan is all you need to worry about when it comes to building connections in the professional world. However, the truth is that employee communications are just as important (if not more critical) than the conversations you have with clients.
Put it this way, the McKinsey Global Institute discovered that productivity sees a boost of up to 25% in organisations with well-connected employees. That enhanced productivity leads to bigger profits, better brand awareness, and of course, more satisfied customers.
Ultimately, if your employee communication strategy isn’t up to scratch, then you risk sending the wrong message to your followers and brand ambassadors. After all, your clients communicate with a host of different people throughout your business, and they expect to get the same experience at every touch point.
You just have to look at McDonald’s for an example of how one out-of-the-loop employee can damage brand reputation.
Whether your aim is to create happier staff, ensure that you’re always giving your clients a consistent, top-of-the-line experience, or simply protect yourself from reputation issues, this guide could help. By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll know everything there is to know about designing an innovative employee communications plan for your brand.
What is employee communications? Kickstarting corporate correspondence
It’s all too easy for brands to forget that the line between internal and external communications is dangerously thin. Without an effective employee communications plan, you can’t keep your team members up-to-date on what’s going on in your business, nor can you ensure that they’re following the appropriate guidelines for social advocacy.
Your employees don’t live to serve your brand (no matter how much they love it). Hires have their own friends, family, and connections that they talk to about their experiences at work. Though you can’t completely control what someone says about you outside of office hours, an employee communications specialist could help to put some important guidelines in place.
Now that we live in an era where social media has bled into almost every aspect of our day-to-day lives, the connection between work and personal life is growing deeper. While people might not share the same rehearsed lines every time someone asks them about their job, an employee communications plan can ignite the passion inside your team members, so they’re less likely to share negative messages.
Effective employee communications are critical to keeping everyone on the same page. With a plan in place, your brand can:
1. Build stronger staff relationships
The connections your brand has with its hires are crucial. Not only does a good relationship give way to improved chances of employee advocacy, but it can also reduce turnover in your company. Since losing employees can be an expensive process, it makes sense to invest in the happiness of your team.
2. Spark creativity
A strong employee communications strategy can create a sense of freedom within the workplace. When people feel comfortable openly communicating with their peers, it’s easier to share innovative ideas and unique thoughts. This means that brands can begin to tap into the true potential of their professionals.
3. Reduce confusion and create cohesion
A unified team is crucial to creating a brand. When everyone is marching towards the same goal, with their eyes on the same values, the tone of your brand communications can remain the same on every platform. Banishing confusion can also help to build a more effective team because employees know how to make decisions that serve your company vision.
4. Contribute to company growth
Sometimes, a lack of good employee communication can lead to the collapse of a company. Although that might seem like a dramatic statement, remember that growing your brand is all about sending a consistent message to your customers and clients. Stronger communication aids productivity, improves accuracy and ensures that everyone is supporting the same image for your business.
5. Builds trust in your brand
Finally, when it comes to earning loyalty from your customers, it’s not enough to just tell your followers that you’re the best. A good employee communication strategy can transform your staff into advocates for your organisation. This means that they’ll share positive messages on your behalf and help to build trust through subtle word-of-mouth marketing. Employee messages are easier to believe, more authentic, and less corporate than brand content. Internal communication can gradually improve external communication by encouraging staff to share positive thoughts about your brand.
How to start your employee communications strategy
“It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it”.
That’s a rule you should always live by with your employee communication strategy. The way you communicate with your staff is essential if you want to ensure engagement and understanding.
Whether you’re working with an employee communications specialist, or you’re improving your integrated marketing efforts alone, you’ll need to make sure that you’re portraying your vision, values, and goals effectively to your team. Here are a few tips to get you started…
1. Envision and plan first
Before implementing any new strategy into your branding plan, it’s important to sit down and assess your goals. Think about what you want to accomplish with your employee relations communications strategy. What kind of initiatives do you have in place right now, and what could you do to improve what you’re already doing?
For instance, if you’re hoping that your employee communications plan will help you to launch an employee advocacy programme, then you might start by looking at your marketing mix, and how your staff can get involved. Next, you’ll need to consider how you can convince your team that advocacy is worth their time and build a set of guidelines they can use to communicate with your prospects. Finally, you can set up metrics to track how your strategy is going.
2. Use the right tools
There’s no doubt that your team is busy in this fast-paced competitive world. The last thing they need is a complex employee communications system that makes it harder for them to connect with co-workers. The good news is that the rising popularity of the employee communications plan has launched a selection of great tools to make your methodology more manageable.
You can try implementing company chat software like Slack, or Microsoft Teams, consider cloud technology for sharing files (if you’re not already doing so) or implement a social intranet for sticky content. The right tools for your brand will depend on your goals and the needs of your employees. If you’re not sure what could benefit them, try asking what resources they feel they need for better communication.
3. Get visual
Science tells us that around 65% of the population learn better with “visual” resources. That means that if you want to convey important information to your team about your marketing plan, or something similar, then it’s important to include plenty of context-enhancing images.
When used properly, images and infographic design can convey information in a way that’s quick and easy to digest. With the right images, you can inspire your team and motivate better employee communication in the future. For instance, you could:
Demonstrate achievements through graphs.
Inspire through motivational quotes or great employee reviews.
Inform your team of announcements and breaking news.
4. Be entertaining
Today’s employees are looking for more than just a salary. Though the statistic might be a little old today, a study in 2013 found that 88% of millennials want a fun and social environment to work in. Since millennials still make up much of the workforce, it’s important to create an employee communication strategy that’s entertaining and informative.
Adding images to the mix is a great way to start when it comes to entertaining your employees. However, remember that it’s important to give hires a free space to simply chat when they’re not busy with a task or project. This can build important internal relationships.
5. Keep your eye on the bigger picture
Finally, no matter what you do, make sure that you don’t lose sight of your goals as a brand. Keep your eye trained on your company vision, and make sure that you don’t start sharing irrelevant information with your team members.
Alongside employee relations communications that cover day-to-day matters, remember to host regular meetings about business goals, missions, and purposes. Doing this will help to ensure that your image and employer brand remains consistent.
Innovative employee communications: Updating your plan for 2018
The more time you spend in the business world, the more you’ll discover that the way you communicate can change. Whether you’re connecting with employees, customers, or even word of mouth influencers, trends and expectations can quickly transform your strategies.
In 2018, now that we have more millennials in management positions, and even younger Gen Z entrepreneurs entering the game, it’s important to update your employee communications plan. This is particularly true when you consider the fact that internal communications are set to grow in relevance in the coming years.
Here are a few trends to keep in mind as you head into the future of employee communications.
1. Speed is everything
While lengthy phone conversations and emails might have been the cutting edge of effective employee communications a few years ago, that’s no longer the case today. The trend in messaging today points towards a need for brevity.
Pew Research tells us that people under the age of 35 crave instant gratification, and don’t have much patience. As everything becomes faster and more accessible, employees rarely have the time to read through extensive newsletters about your brand. If you want employee communications to work, then you need to keep messages brief, and relevant.
2. Facilitate feedback
We mentioned above that the right employee communications can help a brand to retain its top-tier talent. However, this is only true if your plan includes a strategy that allows your people to properly have their say in your industry.
While most companies know how valuable feedback from customers can be, it’s easy to overlook the messages you generate from your employees. Knowing when to stop talking and start listening to the needs and concerns of your staff could be crucial to facilitating a stronger future for your brand.
3. Consider trying video
We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, some studies suggest that a minute of video content could be worth about 1.8 million words. When your staff are struggling with a busy schedule, video content could be a great way to update them on important company information without wasting too much time.
If you’re not sure whether video is the right choice for your employee communication strategy, then it might be helpful to reach out to your hires and ask them what kind of content they’d like to receive. A vlog version of an article or newsletter could ensure that you have the best of both worlds incorporated into your plan.
4. Turn employees into content marketers
Today’s consumers are desperately seeking more authenticity and transparency from brands. While there are ways that you can boost the believability of your marketing messages, one of the best strategies will always be to try transforming your employees into brand advocates. Staff members are becoming one of the most important voices within any company.
With the right employee advocacy strategy, you can encourage your staff to share thoughts updates, and ideas. This means that not only does your internal communication strategy become stronger, but your external messages grow more appealing too. All you need to do is make sure that your employee communications plan includes a set of social media guidelines and a content curation tool.
5. Gamify employee communications
Depending on the goals you’re trying to achieve with your employee communications specialist, gamification could be an incredible tool for any brand. Not only does this process enhance productivity, but it can also help to ensure that employees retain the information given to them in newsletters, meetings, and training sessions.
Since we spend so much of our time at work, aspects of employment have begun to bleed into our personal lives. We’re always carrying emails and messages with us on our smartphones. To avoid a generation of burned-out experts, it’s important to make employee communications fun and engaging. Make employee advocacy a competition and reward the highest performers. Test people on how much they remember from their last training session. The opportunities are endless.
6. Think outside of the box
Finally, sometimes the best way to make your employee communications plan more effective, is to devote some time to creative thinking. Today’s staff are communicating with each other in new and diverse ways, and if you can tap into some of the techniques they’re already using, you might find that your strategy becomes more effective.
For example, many organisations are now implementing social media into their employee communications strategy. A Snapchat from a boss is far more endearing than a lengthy email. On the other hand, you could try including emojis in branded messages to make your company culture feel more fun, friendly, and laid-back.
Mistakes to avoid with your employee communications plan
Just as there’s no pre-set roadmap for brand identity evolution or logo design, there’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for employee communications. Every company is different, and the unique needs of your staff will guide your hand when it comes to choosing the resources and techniques best suited to you.
Of course, while there might not be a step-by-step guide to effective employee communications, there are best-practices to follow, and mistakes to avoid. Here are a few common issues to be aware of when you’re building innovative employee communications for your brand.
Mistake 1: Overwhelming your employees
Effective employee communications aren’t just about connecting the people in your business. It’s also about giving the right people the right information, at the right time.
The digital world has given us access to easier instant correspondence – something that can be both a curse and a blessing. When it comes to internal communications, remember that less is more. Keep things brief, simple, and to the point, and make sure that every message is relevant to the recipient.
Mistake 2: Forgetting to inspire action
While an employee communications strategy can be great for keeping your experts in the loop, it’s capable of so much more. As well as providing updates, remember that you inspire action in your staff and motivate them to go above and beyond. You can do this by:
Recognising employees for their hard work. 69% of staff say they’d work harder for better appreciation.
Sharing reviews and testimonials from happy (or even unhappy) clients.
Offering to reward teams and individuals for accomplishments.
Including calls-to-action that support your communication goals.
Mistake 3: Creating a monologue, instead of a dialogue
Employee communications are fundamentally a method of engagement. It’s not just about telling your people what to do. You also need to facilitate powerful and lucrative conversations in the workplace.
Remember that the goal of any employee communications plan is to inform, support, and inspire your staff. Employees feel more valued if they know that they can discuss their issues with employers and have their concerns heard.
Mistake 4: Being fake
You should know by now that a fake company won’t get far with today’s customers. Clients want more than just a USP from their favourite brands, they want a story and personality they can believe in. Of course, like most things in the branding world, transparency starts from within.
Being honest with your staff members is a process that breeds accountability, trust and sets the tone for open, two-way dialogue. If your team feels like you’re hiding things from them, they might begin to resent you, which damages the harmony in your company. No matter what, when something big happens, or a change occurs in your brand, make sure that your team is the first to know. Be honest about your mistakes and shortcomings, and never lie to your employee advocates.
Mistake 5: Losing track of consistency
An employee communications strategy is rarely something an organisation sets in stone and forgets about. As mentioned above, as generations, expectations, and trends evolve, your communication strategy will change too. However, just because you need to be prepared for a little flexibility, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be consistent with your plans.
Make sure that your staff know when they should expect an update from you through email or a social intranet. Schedule monthly meetings if you prefer to communicate with your team face-to-face or get everyone on-board for a video conference. The more your employees know what to expect, the more natural your employee communications plan will become.
Hiring an employee communication specialist: How to engage employees
An innovative employee communications plan can do so much more than you might expect. Not only does it make sure that everyone in your team is on the same page, but it also inspires loyalty, improves trust, and leads the way for better customer experiences.
If you want to create a strong organisation with an engaged and unified workforce, then the first thing you need is a powerful internal communications plan. This means finding the right avenues to connect with your employees, keeping them entertained, and making sure that everyone can get involved.
At the end of the day, an employee communications specialist can teach you how the right plan can empower your employees. When staff feel informed about the vision of their brand, and the way the company is heading, they feel more confident and respected at work.
People are naturally more likely to be passionate, proactive, and productive in their jobs if they understand their place in a larger mission. With effective employee communications, you can create happier employees who turn into advocates for your brand. Those advocates can then share your message on your behalf, build trust with your customers, and lead the way to stronger brand affinity.
How do you make the most of employee communications for your brand? Let us know in the comments below, or contact Fabrik today to access your very own engagement team.
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