Woman yelling at coworker through bullhorn.

Employee communications must be more than HR missives

The employee newsletter is dead; long live the employee newsletter! In other words, employees want their companies to communicate with them, but they have very specific ideas of what that should look like. Not sure what they want? Try asking them.

Let’s start with the general idea behind employee communications, and how things can go wrong.

An effective communication tool is something distributed in print and/or online via email or company website that:

  • informs employees about what the business is doing
  • highlights specific individuals or groups who are doing great work
  • communicates important information (benefits changes, etc.) that requires action
  • fosters a sense of pride and builds loyalty.

All too often, what employees get is a glossy, four-page roster of HR news, and few if any of us get terribly worked up about benefits memos, admonishments about assigned parking spaces and reminders to get a flu shot.

Employee publications don’t have to be boring

A recent study by Survata showed that 70 percent of employees want better communication from their employer. That alone should spark a look at what you’re doing, but there are economic reasons as well.

Look at the time companies spend building a great culture, from flexible hours to well-stocked relaxation areas and myriad other perks. Sure, everyone wants those healthcare updates, but they want more. They want recognition. They want to know what the team in Sub-Basement B is doing. And they want those communications tailored to their specific lifestyles, which means including mobile delivery.

The study showed that slightly more than half of employees learn company information through coworkers in office conversations. A few more said they heard news through management. That leaves a lot of people out of the loop, and a lot of information not communicated. So, what to do?

Have an approach. Design what your communication is going to be. If it’s a quarterly newsletter, plan on a print component that’s supported by an online version (optimized for mobile), and a series of emails that break out each section into digestible chunks while also linking back to the entire package so that those who are so inclined can connect to that platform and read the whole thing at once.

Develop a strategy. Make sure that senior management, human resources, benefits, R&D and any other part of the company that has information to impart to the whole organization is on board with what you’re doing. Each department should have a stakeholder who’s in charge of gathering their news and stories, and then submitting them to whoever oversees assembling the pieces and producing the content.

Make it friendly. Don’t go to all this trouble to produce numbingly boring, corporate mandates dressed up as news. If someone within the company is in charge of communications, make sure that he or she has the time, and the skill set, to do the job properly. This is the face of your company to employees, as well as to anyone outside who reads it — don’t dump it on the second vice president’s administrative assistant who’s heading out on maternity leave in three weeks. If you don’t have an internal communications person, bring in outside help.

Follow up. Hooray, the first one’s done! It’s hard to gauge how well a print piece is doing, true, but for the online and email versions you have a wealth of data waiting to be mined. See what topics get the most readership, and be sure to include a way for readers to respond to stories, as well as suggest future topics. Nothing creates buy-in more than a sense of ownership.

There’s a tendency to think of the company newsletter as a quaint relic along the lines of a fax machine. That’s dangerous. The evolving workplace, and the barrage of data people receive from all sides every day, mean that it can be hard to get important information in front of employees in an effective way. Newsletters, magazines and partner online portals designed to support and recognize employees for their hard work can’t be an afterthought.

A well-formed, thorough communications strategy that involves multiple stakeholders, and has the backing of senior management and the support of employees, will go a long way toward making sure that everyone’s on the same page with regard to company mission and goals — and that they’re excited about making those happen.

Want to talk about your strategy? We’d love to listen, learn and recommend some next steps. Get in touch with us.