“Email Is the Best Way to Reach Employees” and Other Communications Myths

The world of Internal Communications is constantly advancing and developing to find the most effective way to reach employee audiences. That means the best technology and channels are always improving, but it also means a lot of things are being left behind or, funnily enough, miscommunicated.  Buying into these myths, either literally or figuratively, can be a detriment to you company, let’s tackle a few myths currently floating around.

Myth#1: “The best way to reach my audience is through an email blast to everyone.”

No matter the project, invariably a client or prospect with a failed program will say something to the effect of: “We communicated the program. An email blast was sent on the 24th. But somehow our employees still didn’t get the message.”

Don’t misunderstand me. Email can be a good way to communicate under the right circumstances. But just because an email was sent to an audience, it doesn’t mean that they a) read it, b) understood it or c) was moved to change a behavior or take action based on the message.

More importantly, if employees inboxes are filled will email blasts that don’t pertain to them, they’ll ignore the channel altogether. Use email sparingly. Be relevant and target messages to the appropriate audience whenever possible.

Myth #2: “We have a new intranet. All our problems are solved.”

First, kudos on the new intranet! An enterprise social network that allows for targeted communications and feedback loops can help solve many communications issues that your company faces. However, like all of the other channels we use, your intranet is a tool. If the tool isn’t used properly, it will be ignored.

The latest intranets platforms allow for segmented messaging, feedback loops, social work tools, rich media, etc. These applications can be very engaging and beneficial to delivering your company message – not to mention getting work done efficiently and effectively.

Eventually, you’re going to have so much content on your intranet that navigation could become an issue. An effective intranet has been designed with a hierarchy of messaging and search tools that allow users to easily find the appropriate information.

The issue is that it takes effort to develop and maintain relevant content for employees. You have to have people – either internal communications professionals or capable stand-ins/volunteers – who continue to keep the information updated with the latest news and happenings.

Myth #3: “Management says we need to communicate the vision, so we need a new campaign” 

Well, yes and no. You may need a new campaign to introduce your company’s vision. But the last thing busy employees need is yet another layer of emails, blogs and articles that they have to read.

Your company’s vision should be woven into all of your communications. Doing this effectively requires forethought and coordination among all of your communicators. For example, if there’s a big program that needs to be communicated to your employees, the reasoning for the initiative should be completely wrapped in the company vision. More than likely, the strategic reasoning for the major undertaking is already aligned with the vision. Shouldn’t be that hard to do.

Need help busting more internal communications myths? Give Tribe a call.

4 Tips for Communicating with Frontline Employees

How does your company communicate with employees on the frontline, the retail floor or the factory line? Many companies leave all internal communications with non-desk workers to their immediate supervisors. Tribe’s national study with the non-desk employee population* indicates this is a missed opportunity to build engagement. What’s more, those employees who never hear from top management interpret that as a lack of respect for them and their contributions to the company’s success.

But how do you reach employees who are in stores, distribution centers, restaurants and out driving trucks all day? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, as you must consider the physical realities of their days and think creatively to identify potential touch points. Generally, Tribe recommends a combination of high-tech and low-tech solutions to build channels from corporate to the front lines.

For starters, Tribe also recommends the following four approaches:

1.    LOOP THEM IN: Commit to at least one channel through which non-desk employees will hear from management. This could be a town-hall meeting via video for manufacturing employees, a recorded message accessed through an 800 number, or even a quarterly letter from the CEO mailed to employees’ homes.

2.    ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK: Having corporate management talk to this audience is a good step, but you also need to create opportunities for these employees to share their comments and views. Two-way communication methods — from the ability to comment on changes in the company, to soliciting ideas for improving systems and processes — demonstrate management’s respect and the desire to understand the realities of these employees’ jobs.

3.    MAKE THEM HEROES: Spotlight frontline and field workers and celebrate their contributions, through regular bio pieces in a company publication, recognition programs or contests that highlight employee performance.

4.    TAKE THE CEO TO THE PEOPLE: Again, there’s no substitute for giving employees a chance to meet face-to-face with top management, and it’s particularly meaningful to non-desk employees. Look for opportunities to have members of your leadership team visit stores, plants and other facilities so they can rub elbows with the people doing the most important work of your company.

For the white paper on  Tribe’s non-desk research, see “Communicating with Non-Desk Workers,” at www.tribeinc.com/bestpractices.

Collaboration and Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s law states that ”Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. In short, the more time you have to do something, the longer it takes you to do it. If you’re a procrastinator like myself, you might have disguised this law with flawed logic like “I do my best work at the last minute”.

Unfortunately, this tends to stress out those who are supervising my projects. It’s unfair to them and the rest of the team to be kept waiting. Even though I may have something completed “on time”, people are left waiting until the last moment and they worry the whole time. Conversely, though, it would not be beneficial for them to stress me out by giving me “fake” deadlines to trick me into finishing early or by constantly telling me to hurry up. To combat Parkinson’s law, there needs to be a balance, and that balance can only be found through communication.

Consider this:

The Pentagon took 16 months to build. What at the time was the largest building in the world  took a under a year and a half to construct. Why? America was in crisis mode having just entered World War II, and was in dire need of a central military office. FDR posed the challenge, and in a tremendous example of teamwork, Gen. Brehon “Bill” Somervell and his Army Corp of Engineers got it done in record time.

“How did they do it?” I hear you asking. Well, I don’t know exactly, mostly because they just glazed over that part in the History Channel special. But Tribe deals with collaboration on a huge scale with a number of clients. These companies often deal with tight deadlines on huge projects, with the added challenge of roadblocks in the form of corporate infrastructure. In our experience, we’ve found there are a few proven methods when it comes to successful collaboration.

1. Be clear with your timeline

As the leader of the team, it is not your responsibility to designate how long a task will take someone to complete, so don’t feel like you need to “build in time” for someone you consider to be a slow worker. Be realistic with your timeframes, be upfront with how long people actually have to complete a task, and then allow your team to manage their own time. If someone needs help, be available to help them find the right methods.

2. Define “finished” from the start. 

In the case of the Pentagon, that’s pretty easy to define. But for corporate projects, sometimes the finish line starts to become blurred. The nature of the project changes, there’s a shift in personnel, the budget shrinks, or any number of things happens, and the original goal becomes obscured. Some of this is unavoidable or out of your control, but when you can be sure to define the destination, otherwise, you’ll never know when you get there.

3. Create rewards for finishing early

A lot of the reason that people aren’t in any hurry to finish their portion of a project is because they fear this interaction:

“I finished early!”

“OK. Here is more work. Next time we’ll give you more to start with, since that seemed so easy.”

Find ways to reward yourself and your team for finishing early. It can be anything from a five-minute break for a “mini-milestone” or a recognition prize for coming through in the clutch. More work is not a reward.

4. Make sure everyone knows the Big Picture

With a defined goal, people know what they’re working toward, but it’s important that people also know how their job fits in with the big picture. Tribe’s research shows that employees are more engaged when they feel a part of something bigger than the dimensions of their office or cubicle. Let your team know how the work they’re doing is benefitting the company, and they’ll approach the project with a broader perspective.

 

How do you combat Parkinson’s Law? Let us know in the comments below.