Employee engagement is key – to keeping productivity high, attrition low and, essentially, to attract new talent. We’ve been looking at the positive power of internal communication in driving engagement, particularly with a remote workforce.
Results from a major 2019 LinkedIn survey and data analysis report show us that employees who feel empowered, respected and like they’re making a difference are more likely to stay at an organisation, and those who don’t are 75% more likely to move on.
It also found that 26% of employees feel being undervalued and underappreciated is the highest barrier to engagement.
Engaged employees perform better, make better relationships with your customers and make your organisation more attractive to talent.
Empowerment, respect, a sense of value and appreciation from others all rely on employees receiving clear, direct, relevant and accurate communications. And to sustain those feelings – and embed that engagement with your company – those communications need to be reliable, consistent and sustained.
So, as leaders, how best can we establish those streams of communication across a workforce, whether they be based in a central office, at home or remotely.
Sell your message
By thinking of your employees as customers of your business and by deploying marketing-style tactics to your internal comms, you will be well on your way to creating an engaging and empowering communication strategy.
Just as your external comms would be well-planned, with a clear message and compelling proposition, so should your internal engagements. You should plan to deliver your message across a range of platforms and media, considering how your audience will best receive and absorb the information you wish to convey. Above all – and this may be the most challenging of changes to implement – you need to be tracking and measuring the effectiveness of your comms.
Through Teams you can track how many people are using the platform, but even more valuably through Workplace Analytics you can see how they are using it, how they are collaborating, when and with what effectiveness.
Platforms and devices
Recognising that we all live, play and work in a multi-device world we need to ensure our communications are accessible wherever our employees choose to consume them. We also need to acknowledge that although an employee might start reading on one platform, they are just as likely to pick it up on another: from smart watch to smartphone, from mobile to desktop, and so on.
Facilitate this smooth transition across channels with centralised content management and single sign-on across your internal comms platforms. And please, make sure that all of your content is always, always mobile compatible!
M365 gives you multi-device compatible tools to run your communication plan and use all the rich content available through your SharePoint, served through Teams, Outlook or your intranet front-end.
Rich message, rich content
As an audience your employees are as diverse as your consumers, if not more so. They will all absorb information best in different ways. Use infographics, video, to-dos and checklists, as well as live ‘town hall’ style lives for mass or time sensitive communications.
Ensuring all your employees have the right technology is essential for this and all other internal comms. Having a company-wide platform for collaboration and communication means that not only can you be confident about when and how a message is being delivered to your employees, you can also have faith that they have the means to respond and react to that message.
With Microsoft Stream you can host and serve videos into your internal comms platforms. And you can choose to run live and interactive town hall broadcasts on Stream or Teams Live Events, giving viewers the chance to read subtitles or translations, and comment or post questions during the broadcast.
Repeat, repeat, repeat
Short, clear messages repeated (gently) over time benefit from something called the mere-exposure effect – which describes how hearing a message over and over reduces the loss of information and ‘makes it stick’. Harvard Business professor Tsedal Neeley carried out a study looking at how managers use this form of communication – in particular looking at those who needed to persuade team members to deliver on time and budget. Neeley found that ‘those managers who sent a message multiple times and through different media got their projects completed more smoothly and in a more timely fashion than those who did not.1’
Consider using both email and chat messaging, as well as any face-to-face opportunities to convey the message. But bear in mind that there is inevitably a saturation point after which the positive impact of the message is reversed. This can vary depending on the complexity of the message and the time between communications so, start small, and watch for positive responses!
As well as using Outlook for email newsletters, think about providing regular bitesize news and information via Teams chat and the Teams Mobile app to stay in touch with employees whether they are office based or on the move.
Open and honest feedback
Finally, you need to cement your companies values around internal communication and ensure it is reflected in the execution. Maintaining an open multi-way communication channel – between leaders, employees and their peers – being transparent, and taking and receiving genuine feedback is the linchpin of positive employee engagement.
Aside from having this baked into your culture, and detailed in your management processes, you need to have the platform and tools that promote this consistent, secure movement of information, that offers multiple routes to exchange feedback, and allows people to give and receive praise in a number of ways.
From quick feedback – such as ‘like’ or reaction emojis against people’s work or comments – to more structured advocacy of behaviour and personal recommendations, by delivering these responses across a range of channels and tools you can ensure that employees feel recognised and appreciated however they best receive feedback.
There are plenty of purpose-built recognition applications available in M365 if you are running Teams as a central hub for your employees’ collaboration and communication. But simply using the built-in functions of Yammer and Teams can give you a consistent, open channel for feedback and positive communication.