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"Companies are investing substantial resources to create great corporate cultures and employee experiences, yet they are using outdated and ineffective methods to communicate with their employees," Keith Kitani, cofounder and CEO of workplace communications platform GuideSpark, said in a press release about the study.
Employees expect communications from their employers regarding a wide variety of subjects, including healthcare enrollment details and Department of Labor regulations. Most companies deliver these communications via postal mail or mass emails, both of which are easily missed or ignored by employees. Some organizations disseminate the information through managers who do not specialize in human resources and are therefore ill-equipped to convey the information or answer employee questions.
"It's important to remember that one size does not fit all," Kitani says. "Companies need multiple types of content to reach all of their employees in ways that work for them. For example, not all employees are sitting in front of their computers, so having content delivered via mobile is important. Employees want a personalized, interactive, multi-content, multi-device experience."
Employer-employee communication was very much a one-way street in the past. Today, however, employers can use technology to gather meaningful data on topics such as how content is consumed, which devices employees use, and which media types are most effective.
"I think it's important to look at how employees consume content in their daily lives," says Kitani. "The consumer market has already given us a great blueprint for this, and what we've learned there can be applied to today's workforce. With all the digital noise, companies should understand that employees can't consume information in huge chunks; it must be digestible over time and on demand."
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In the survey, 54 percent of employees said they learned about company announcements through their colleagues around the proverbial water cooler. This type of communication can be unreliable and inconsistent, and it is not guaranteed to reach everyone.
Many employees also indicated that they received company announcements through managers. With today's increasingly distributed workforce, however, it's not a good idea to rely on face-to-face interactions to receive important news in a timely fashion.
Furthermore, many employees – especially millennials and Gen. Z-ers – use visually engaging social tools to communicate, but their employers are still using traditional text-based and word-of-mouth methods.
Maintaining effective communication with employees at every point in their tenure – from the earliest stages of the hiring process all the way through to retirement – is critical for company success, but organizations face big challenges to doing so. One of the biggest challenges is the disparate communication methods used by the various groups involved in the employee life cycle. When the recruiting team, the compensation and benefits team, and the learning and development team all use different methods, communication can become fragmented.
"By delivering a consistent digital experience throughout, not only is it easier for employees to follow along and digest information that is both timely and relevant for them, but also it reinforces a company's culture, tone, and style – something that's missing from static, text-based materials," Kitani says.
Here are GuideSpark's five best practices for employee communication that deliver the biggest impacts:
1. Use Multiple Content Types
Today's workforce is multigenerational and diverse. Companies can no longer rely on traditional communication methods, such as manuals or in-person seminars. Videos, campaigns, and SMS texts need to be added to the mix.
2. Create Interactive, Mobile-Accessible Experiences
Not all employees sit in front of a computer or can get their info from a breakroom or water cooler. A mobile-first approach has broader reach, and embedding interactive components helps keep employees engaged.
3. Deliver User-Guided, Personalized Content
In the consumer digital world, employees are used to navigating how and when they access content, so the corporate environment needs to model that practice. Taking this one step further, the most engaging apps, e-tailers, and social networking sites all offer a personalized experience. HR teams that recognize these trends and adapt accordingly have the highest engagement stats.
4. Break Contenting Into Short, Digestible Segments Over Time
The oversaturation of data, content, and media types has created a lot of digital noise. The consumer-trained employee no longer has the time to read long emails, sit through a presentation, or even watch a long video to get the information they need. Employers that break up content into "snackable" pieces and deliver those segments through time-based narratives see the most positive results.
5. Don't Just Measure – Analyze the Data
Now that employers have the tools to measure how employees are receiving and interacting with the content/information provided, it's important to analyze the data. Which media type resonates the most? At what time of day are employees engaging with the content? Which devices are being used? What changes in behavior happened or actions were taken because of these communications? Understanding the data leads to better communication and improved ROI.