Successful organisations recognise that staff turnover, internal communication and engagement are closely connected.
Employee engagement goes to the heart of the employer-employee relationship. At its best, it enables people to be as good as they can be as involved, respected and valued contributors to their organisation. Research indicates that differences between the best and worst-engaged organisations include 40% lower employee turnover.
A major part of engagement is when employees know what’s expected of them and why, and feel connected with other staff and parts of the organisation.
It’s easy to see why communication – from simply talking to and listening to people, to newsletters and intranets – has been described as the glue of engagement.
While social media and digital communication may hog the headlines, whatever the means of transmission, the time-honoured basics of effective communication never change. It must be timely, truthful and tailored to its audience.
Engagement is also about communicating both ways; not only shaping messages to the receiver, but actively listening to and taking on board responses. Traditional top-down internal communication consisted of telling employees about management plans and events, and informing them about the organisation and their role in it. Today, internal communication is a way of promoting dialogue and engagement in the workplace.
Social media, 24-hour news channels and the like can leave people feeling they are being communicated to all the time. A natural response is to put up barriers and filter out information not seen as interesting or relevant. The challenge for internal communicators is to be interesting and relevant, and the key to this is that messages must satisfy the receiver, not the sender. This means understanding the audience – the people who need to know – and addressing their concerns. Primarily addressing, “How does this affect me?”
For example, younger employees who have never known a non-digital world are used to shorter, punchier messages rather than lengthy top-down memos or the company newsletter.
Communication has its own specialties and is increasingly divided into strategy and channels. Strategists will ask questions about relevance to establish who needs to know what and which channels are best to use, looking at the timing of the messages, and the systems and procedures needed. This may involve audience segmentation, which can be as simple as differentiating between customer-facing and back-office staff, or as complex as identifying more than 50 different audiences that all require different communications.
Nothing beats personal, face-to-face communication, and most organisations have some form of team briefing system where messages are cascaded down from the top. Depending on the organisation’s complexity, there will usually be core messages with business unit/departmental/team messages added, and the opportunity to ask questions.
Research indicates employees like to hear overarching vision and strategy messages from company leaders, and day-to-day communication from their team leader, backed up by information from written sources, either print or digital.
The briefing groups are indicators of a more open management style designed to engage employees, promote effective communication, motivate people, and offset rumour and gossip.
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