There's work to be done to improve employee communication. But where exactly do you start?
Before diving into the rest of this article, ask yourself the following questions to determine if your organization’s employee communication practices are conveying clear strategies that engage your employees:
1. Are your communications long-winded, and getting pushed aside in favor of competing priorities like customer meetings and project deadlines?
2. Are your internal communications channels suitable on a generational basis for your organization?
3. Does your leadership team broadcast emails with detailed information which can be better sourced elsewhere?
4. Are your most in-demand knowledge resources also the least engaged employees?
5. Do you hold too many meetings, and your teams have to update multiple project tracking applications and managers?
6. Have you scheduled employee engagement surveys for rookies and veterans?
7. For global organizations, is your content only available in English, and is it culturally diverse enough to connect on a regional basis?
8. Do female employees handle the bulk of internal communication and collaboration responsibilities?
How did you do? If any of the above sound familiar to you, continue reading for more information on how you can improve communications in your organization!
If you want to refresh your memory on what the 8 statistics were, take a look at the infographic that shows why employee communication matters to your organization now more than ever.
1. Digestible Communications Formats
According to a recent Microsoft ebook, “Unblock Workplace Collaboration” managers and employees are spending 20% more time collaborating than twenty years ago. A related article in Harvard Business Review states that their studies show time spent on internal communications like email, conference calls and webinars has increased by 50%, and takes up as much as 80% of the average employee’s day. In some cases, employees are so busy serving clients, delivering project work and completing other tasks that company-wide email messages can be overlooked.
Applications like Slack, Google Hangouts Chat and Microsoft Teams make collaborations easy to consume in the office, in a meeting or on the go. Many professionals are dropping their email accounts entirely, along with enterprise phone/messaging UCC (Unified Communications and Collaboration) applications, and working entirely from one of these lightweight chat applications.
Agile companies are enabling their teams to subscribe to group discussions topics that matter most to them, and provide them with the opportunity to provide feedback through named or anonymous surveys. For company-wide news and updates, messages can be sent with headlines, news summaries and links, offering employees the option to jump to the details as it pertains to them.
2. Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation
Take a look at these generational population statistics from Pew Research, based on US Census data. The population numbers represent millions of Americans.
For the first time, employee communication delivery channels and styles are highly influenced by those born after 1981. By 2020, millennials will represent half of the workforce. Millennials often take internet and mobile device access for granted. According to an article on Inc.com, millennials prioritize communications which:
• Are generally brief and concise, but detailed if they need to take action
• Are available on mobile devices, team portals or mobile apps like Teams, Slack or Hangouts Chat. As few face-to-face meetings or conference calls as possible
• Aren’t necessarily bound by 9 to 5 schedules
• Offer career growth and personal fulfillment opportunities
• Don’t make fun of millennials and their workstyles
Tailoring your communication channels and styles to you the majority of your employees’ generation in this digital age tends increases its impact.
3. Are company-wide broadcast emails being tuned out by busy employees?
Before you send another broadcast email, consider the following statistics:
• 269 billion emails are sent each day around the globe (2.4 million emails every second!)
• About 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices
• Personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14 percent and conversion rates by 10 percent.
• The average open rate of emails across all industries is only 24%.
• 70% of busy employees delete emails immediately if they are not optimized for
• On average, employees check their email 36 times an hour or 288 times a day for an eight-hour workday.
The bottom line is, emails are being tuned out by busy employees for the simple fact that the amount of emails they are receiving and the way that they are receiving them is so overwhelming.
Do you really need to send a detailed email to all your employees and add to this unfathomable amount of data, or could you publish the details on your website, and alert relevant employees to it who are subscribed to a specific news topic?
4. Are the employees that are in most demand for collaboration the least engaged due to overload?
According to a report in the Harvard Business Review, executives that are most in demand for meetings, mentoring and other collaborations have the lowest engagement and career satisfaction scores. A lot of this can be attributed to dysfunction on a leadership level. Are you implementing the basics of good leadership? If you’re not clearly and transparently delegating, how can you expect your employees to perform at their best?
Employers should identify subject area experts (possibly using an online poll or survey) that are considered the most reliable source of knowledge, and find ways of capturing their knowledge, like “Ask me Anything” events with company “gurus”.
Also, do not make the mistake of avoiding confrontation and letting low performers slide. High performers within an organization should be recognized and rewarded and low performers should be told how and why their work needs improvement.
5. Meetings, Meetings, and More Meetings
Corporate “All Hands” conferences, divisional meetings, departmental gatherings and team scrums or standups can really add up, and take a toll on productivity. According to an Atlassian infographic survey, employees attend an average of 61 meetings per month, but half of those meetings are considered wasted time. These meetings account for $37 billion of employee salaries.
During these meetings, attendees that aren’t the focal point of discussions will do other work on their smartphone or laptop (73%), thought about other things, missed the meeting entirely or slept through the whole thing (a whopping 39%).
To make meetings more productive and impactful, companies are adopting agile meeting methodologies, including standups, pre-meeting surveys about agenda topics and what has been achieved since the last standup. Post-meeting feedback surveys can increase the focus and impact of future company-wide quarterly or annual events.
6. Employee Engagement Surveys
In economic times where there is near-zero unemployment, skilled talent is hard to find and utilization is high, retaining high-performing employees is critical. Surveying employees just after a ramp-up period, on a quarterly basis and on a departmental basis gathers reliable data your leadership team can make strategic HR decisions on.
Employee satisfaction surveys should be mobile friendly, with clear criteria about employees’ feelings on how they are valued in the organization. According to research by the Society for Human Resource Management, the most important job satisfaction factor is “Respectful treatment of all employees, at all levels”. 65% of those surveyed said it was the most important factor, but only 38% of those surveyed were satisfied their organization meets that objective.
7. Women are more collaborative, but don’t always get the credit that’s due
In the past couple of decades, collaboration in the workplace has increased, some studies say by up to 50%. What’s more interesting though (considering women make up 47% of the workforce) is that women are the ones who are managing the bulk of the tasks in these collaborations. Even more interesting still? They’re doing more, but benefitting less.
According to a 2013 Huffington Post poll, women (66% offer hands-on help) are more likely than men (36% offer knowledge and advice) to colleagues. Yet a New York Times article says that when women collaborate on a project with men, women don’t get the same credit for their efforts that men do. Even though gender equality has progressed, there is still disparity in salaries, and positions as it pertains to women.
Managers and executives need to keep in touch with their employees throughout the project to ensure both genders get equal credit, and employees need to keep management informed about their roles and responsibilities on projects.
8. Cultural and Linguistic Communications Considerations
If your organization has locations around the world, you should be careful to tailor your employee communications on a regional basis. For example, Asians don’t eat the same foods as those in western countries. If a company-wide email compares how a car needs tires like cereal needs milk, it could alienate a significant segment of employees. Even mentions of sports like American or European football could cause confusion. You need to bridge cultures and empower both English and non-English speakers.
Distance between remote employees can diminish trust when everyone isn’t in the office. There isn’t the rapport between colleagues if they never see each other eye to eye. Passing the baton or conch around the global workforce gives people a stronger feeling of having a say, being valued and trusting global colleagues. In multinational companies, employees outside of the “home country” can be actively disengaged due to language, diminished management oversight or cultural differences.
According to a 2017 Aon Hewitt study, the top engagement opportunities globally are:
• Rewards and recognition
• Employee value proposition
• Effectiveness of senior leadership
• Career opportunities
• Enabling Infrastructures like technology, internal communications, middle management and office/work environments
The Aon Hewitt survey returns showed that
• Global employee engagement - 63% - Biggest influence on engagement is rewards and recognition
• North American employee engagement 64% - Biggest influence on engagement is enabling infrastructure
• Latin American employee engagement 75% - Biggest influence on engagement is rewards and recognition
• Africa employee engagement 61% - Biggest influence on engagement is HR retention and skills development
• Europe employee engagement 58% - Biggest influence on engagement is rewards and recognition
• Asia Pacific employee engagement 62% - Biggest influence on engagement is rewards and recognition
North American and African companies, or subsidiaries of global countries in these continents should poll their employees to see what gaps exist in their enabling infrastructure. Wider use of chat applications like Slack, Teamwork or HipChat empower employees to collaborate more effectively, and generally be more productive. By polling employees in Europe, Asia and Latin America, local or multinational enterprises can discover emails or letters of recognition by top executives are most effective for engagement, or if financial or tangible prizes are what drives employees to strive to do their best.
The Aon Hewitt study discusses a "Say, Stay and Strive" model of measuring employee engagement:
Employees are asked:
• If they Say positive things about their organization and act as advocates
• If they intend to Stay at their organization for a long time
• If they are motivated to Strive to give their best efforts to help the organization succeed
There are many more channels for employees and executives to communicate with each other than ever before. Yet because of the volume of communication, the increase in the number of multinational companies, and “antiquated” forms of communication like meetings, emails and conference calls, many messages aren't received. In some cases, cultural differences dilute messages. Companies need to adapt their communications to be more interactive, engaging and more sensitive to generational differences in their organizations.
Large corporations looking to retain top talent, track their engagement and monitor their performance can get more value from unified communications applications like Google Hangouts Chat, Slack and Microsoft teams by enhancing them with surveys and templates from Polly.ai.
Written by Nhi Nguyen
Professional Netflix binge-watcher. Wants to see all of the world.