Treat your employees, like you would treat your customers.
This idea which is referred to as the internal customer principle has been viewed as a key part of a successful internal communication strategy. Employees who are happy, are more likely to be more motivated and overall better work performance.
However, this simple guiding principle needs to be adjusted by companies in the face of technological change. The ways in which information is perceived and consumed has changed and internal communication strategies should also be adjusted to reflect these changes.
Companies today are faced with the challenge that 70% of employees don’t feel connected and engaged with their workplace.
“The percentage of U.S. workers in 2015 who Gallup considered engaged in their jobs averaged 32%. The majority (50.8%) of employees were “not engaged,” while another 17.2% were “actively disengaged.” (Gallup)
Given these sobering statistics, how can companies counteract this worrying trend?
We will highlight six promising approaches to help improve internal communication and show your employees the love they deserve.
1. Show Transparency
Today’s employees have a desire to be informed, to learn and to help shape a company’s culture. This is particularly true for employees who are members of Generation Z.
Those who were born after 1995 have been impacted by a variety of economic changes, which have resulted in an increased entrepreneurial outlook in the workplace. Additionally, more than 60% of these younger employees indicate that they want to positively influence the world through their work.
“Honesty, transparency and authenticity. These are the three traits brands must implement at the core.” (Huffington Post)
Open communication is critical to ensuring that employees feel welcome in the workplace.
At the same time, management and leadership must ensure that they project an attitude of transparency to their employees. For example, a Harvard employee survey found that 70% of employees feel most engaged when senior management provides updates on the company performance on a regular basis.
Thus rather than treating the latest corporate strategy session results as a secret, companies should use this as an opportunity to engage with their employees. To really be effective this idea of transparency should be internalized and practiced throughout all levels of the company.
One strategy that can help improve company transparency is Digital Signage.
2. By Employees for Employees
Over the past few years, there has been an increase the amount and quality of user-generated content. What effects, if any, has this growth had?
One of the biggest effects has been the ever-growing importance being given to online ratings.
According to a Nielsen study, 66% of survey respondents indicated that they trust consumer opinions which are posted online. Additionally, 68% of buyers of a product, read reviews when they are determining which product to buy. (Capterra).
This trust and use of online reviews can also be used when approaching internal communication. Viewing workers as internal customers helps to build a network of mutual trust within the company.
When employees are included in the overall firm communication policy, they feel as though they have a stake in the firm. When these employees then provide information to outsiders, their impressions will appear more authentic than if the information was shared in the form of company-wide issued press release.
A good example of this concept in action is the employee-guided Inside Unbounce Blog. The platform provides company-related information that is fresh, relevant and credible.
Another advantage of employee-to-employee communication is that not only are current employees connected to the company, but potential employees are also able to view the content and use it to make decisions about the firm.
3. Visualization Rather Than Words
Everyone is familiar with the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.
Psychology, helps us understand the true meaning behind this phrase. This is because the human brain works largely like an image processor. Thus the part of our brain that is responsible for processing words is considerably smaller than the part responsible for visual processing.
Additionally, over time words become more and more difficult for the brain to retain (Psychology Today).
However, when most firms which share important information with employees, they do so in an email. So how can you change this and become more visually-oriented?
One way is through the strategic placement of screens throughout the office. These screens should be placed in locations that are easily accessible to employees, such as, hallways, team conference rooms, and entrance areas.
On the screens, the company is able to present visual content which fits into their overall communication strategy. Some examples of great material to display are milestones, graphics, photos of team activities, and news. This allows important information to be shared in ways that will be remembered and absorbed by all members of the team.
The human brain tends to make decisions based upon two different systems. On the one hand is the rational part of the brain, which tends to focus on facts. On the other hand, is the more emotional part of the brain.
While the emotional system tends to make decisions automatically, the fact-based side tends to focus on following a logical process to reach a decision. Given how much quicker we make decisions by using our emotional side, it’s no surprise that when pressed for time, we tend to make more emotional decisions.
This brings us to the role of storytelling.
For as long as there have been humans, we have shared information with each other in the form of stories. Stories place knowledge into a context, that the listener is easily able to identify with.
The way that stories provide information makes them extremely effective at appealing to the emotional brain decision-making center. This same principle should also be used in a firm’s internal communication strategy.
By sharing information, such as product releases, milestones and events in a story-form, it helps to link the rational and the emotional sides of the brain.
For example, members of the product development team share their experiences, successes, and difficulties with the other departments. The listener (the other employees at the company) engages with the story on both an emotional level but gets information about the vision behind the product.
If you are not fully sold, think about the impact that one of the best storytellers of the last generation had on product launches, Steve Jobs.
“Steve Jobs understood the “stuff of drama,” and it’s one of the key reasons his product launches were the stuff of legend. The brain is wired for story; it doesn’t handle abstractions well. Story is the stuff of drama, the stuff of award-winning screenplays, and the stuff of great presentations.” (Forbes)
Most of us started playing games when we were children and whether we want to admit it or not continue to play them well into adulthood. Just take a look at the apps on your phone some time.
Most games tend to follow a certain pattern, which allows for them to be easy to understand and accessible for everyone to participate in.
Games rely on mechanisms, such as levels, point systems, and awards to get individuals engaged and to keep them playing the game in the future.
Gamification takes these mechanisms and applies them to non-traditional areas, such as internal company communication strategies. The idea behind gamification is that it helps to simplify complex tasks, while also increasing the motivation of those participating in the “game”.
A good example of gamification in action is Codecademy, which is a website that aims to teach computer programming. To get beginners involved and excited about learning to code, the user is awarded points and awards as they successfully complete tasks. Additionally, the website incorporates playful elements throughout the learning process to keep the user engaged.
A great example of a company that is taking these same ideas and applying them to the corporate sector is Evaluagent. They design software that takes the relatively mundane job of a call center agent to a different level. They do this by introducing user-friendly dashboards, game mechanics, social interaction and material rewards to interject some fun and competition into an otherwise routine day.
6. Create a social work environment
Most companies use social media to share the news with their external customers. This approach tends to focus on the product, as opposed to the individuals who are responsible for designing and making the product.
In contrast, a look at a modern office environment will show that employees are engaged in social media throughout the day. Over one-third of employees use their break time to check on their social media accounts. (Pew Internet)
One way to bridge this divide is through the use of social media walls to improve internal communication. A social media wall allows employees to capture their entertaining, interesting or funny images while they are working. Employees simply add the company name to the photos and they are then displayed on the company’s internal social media wall throughout the office.
The digital photography walls help to build cohesion among team members and allow the company to show an attractive and authentic image of itself to their internal customers.
Additionally, 52% of consumers have shown that they trust an “average” employee more than the CEO. As recently as 2009, only 30% believed an employee over the CEO. (Social Media Today) If this trend continues, it provides an opportunity for companies to get the voices of their employees out into the public marketplace.
Social media walls can be implemented relatively easily if you use the right Digital Signage software.