Employee communications requires balancing company objectives with employee needs

3 Keys to Successful Employee Communications

Every organization wants to have effective employee communications. Most do not do it well.

In fact, 85 percent of employees report being dissatisfied with the quality of communication in their workplace. And most employees are not engaged at work. This is not an issue to be left with the human resources department. It threatens business performance and needs the attention of all communicators.

That was my essential message when I spoke to the Mental Health Marketing conference, held recently at Lipscomb University. The healthcare marketers in attendance needed to be especially concerned about this problem because these dissatisfied employees are not keeping their feelings to themselves. Half have posted about their work on social media. And 16 percent admit to posting something negative about their employer.

Bobby Stark presents at Mental Health Marketing Conference
Mental Health Marketing Conference session on employee communications.

Since poor communications can do real damage to recruiting, morale and reputation, it’s important to understand what a good employee communications program does. These are the three key elements that I have seen succeed in a variety of industries:

1. Start with business objectives

Whether you are starting an employee communications program or evaluating your current efforts, it’s essential that you tie what you are doing to specific business objectives. Know why you are doing what you are doing, and how you will measure success. Write it down so you can measure communication ideas against your objectives.

Your objectives may contain one or more of the following:

  • Communicate the company’s strategy and direction
  • Promote a set of corporate values
  • Create alignment within the workforce for the company’s strategy
  • Improve execution of that strategy
  • Create a more unified and loyal workforce
  • Explain to (often dispersed) employees why it is good to be part of the parent organization

2. Identify your employees’ needs

Your communications objectives may be solid, but you will not achieve them if employees don’t feel connected to them. Your employees are bombarded by thousands of messages on a daily basis and will gravitate toward those that meet needs that they have — not those that satisfy the company. Identify what those needs are, and if they are being met today. If not, make sure your communications attempt to bridge that gap. Always keep in mind that the first question employees will ask when encountering a message from their employer is: what’s in it for me?

While the specific needs of your employees may vary, most employees want:

  • To understand the big picture
  • A sense of purpose, belonging
  • To know where they fit
  • Specific expectations of them as employees
  • Appreciation, recognition
  • Affirmation in career, company choice
  • To be part of something significant, with opportunities for growth

3. Tell stories with a human voice

Whether it is a message from the CEO or story recognizing employee achievement, tell your stories through a human voice. While it is necessary to articulate the company direction and its values, do it by finding living, breathing examples of those messages. Finding those values in action and celebrating them helps employees relate to them in an emotional way. They will also gain a greater understanding of the values by seeing them embodied by people similar to them.

These three elements of a successful employee communications program can be utilized on any platform — a print newsletter, a company magazine, an intranet, email or social network. They can also help you better engage employees no matter how small your budget may be.