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Employee Communication Threats & Trends


Did you know?

It’s estimated that 269 billion emails are sent each day around the globe and busy employees are only opening 24% of these.

In most organizations, there seems to be a disconnect in employee communication. There are many reasons for this. It could be an engagement issue, it could be a productivity issue, or it could even be an issue with the message itself and/or the method it’s delivered by. Whatever the reason may be, its clear organizations need to understand more about how to improve their employee communication.

Last month, we started an employee communication series to understand what factors improve employee communication. We interviewed workplace psychologist, Brandon Smith and he had much insight to share with us on this topic.

Employee Communication Hinderances & Solutions

What is the biggest threat to improving employee communication?

Make it snack size

On the one hand, you have organizations that will only use one method of communication and then they try to dump everything into it. Maybe it’s a really long newsletter email and because of technology, our capacity to take in a ton of content has shrunk. Everything has to be bite size. Everything should be snackable. You can’t give a big meal of communication. It’s got to be a snack. A common mistake I see folks making is they send big long emails and think we’ve communicated to everybody and yet they won’t leverage other resources and make their communication more snackable. For example, when there’s a big message, the leadership team should first pull their team to the side and make sure they understand it and communicate it. Make sure to break the communication down into different mediums. Maybe do a video or audio message as well as an email with an FAQ.

Don’t overdo it & keep it simple

On the other hand, I see a lot of organizations doing overkill. They are just swamping their organizations with too many forms of communication on a daily basis.

I had one organization I was working with who was a hospitality company and all the hotel GM’s said to their leaders “our job is to provide great service to our guests and focus on that experience but we’re getting bombarded with requests from corporate about filling out spreadsheets and other compliance things that all we’re doing all day long is just responding to all of the communication that’s coming from corporate vs. actually doing our job” Make sure you don’t tip so far that you’re actually preventing people from doing their job.

Try not to use too many channels to send your message. You see a lot of that happening in technology companies. They’ll have internal email and they’ll have Slack channels. Slack can be a great thing if you’re familiar with it but it can be horrible if you overuse it.

I’ve got one company I work with that has 1,000 employees and they must have 300 different Slack channels. They tried to create all of these special interest groups. They’re a millennial company so they want everyone to feel like they’ve got their own little inclusive group, but the result is there are 300 different channels. So, people inside the company told me, you could spend all day long on Slack channels and not even do your job. So, people just chat with each other about certain things that are going on with the company. So, it’s too much. So, there’s something in the middle. Think about what you want your channels to be. It should be more than one but not 300 of them. Also, be focused and intentional in how you use them.

Clearly define your means and methods of communication

If overcommunication is an issue at your organization, make sure you make the time to clearly define what each method of communication should be used for. For instance, on Slack, We recommend you spend no more than x percentage of time on Slack within a given week. Be a little more descriptive in setting your parameters. That’s important because for a younger generation they’re used to being on social media all of the time. At my organizations that are tech companies’ people can get lost in their internal social media and then not do their job and get fired. So, it would be helpful to be a little bit more descriptive in your expectations. For example, you could say, If you want to communicate with senior leadership, use this channel. And whenever we need to deliver some important communication, we’re going to deliver it to you this way. It’s going to be a town hall followed by an email or town hall followed by an email message or whatever it is. Think about your channels and associate each one. So then when someone gets a video message for example, they go oh ok this is a high priority. This is something I need to know about. Communicating your expectations will help people be able to prioritize the messages that come through.

What future technology or trends do you think will or currently do help the most in this are?

Technology with social media messaging

A trend right now is and for the next say, 5-10 years is anything that mirrors and models social media. This is more common for the millennial generation. Communication will be even more Instagram like. That’s the stuff people are going to want. Instagram and Memes will be prevalent because if you look at the teenagers today and college students today that’s what’s growing in popularity. And video will also be associated with that. So if you want to appeal to a younger generation these should be part of your communication strategy. Remember that the info you provide needs to be snackable and easy to absorb.

People crave real connection

Going down the path a little bit, the trend that will be the most important is going to be the old-fashioned conversation. We’re already losing it now and people are hungry for it. That’s going to become the driver of how people get information and they will want it first. They want a meeting. They want a personal connection. And I’m already seeing it today.

For example, I talked with my chief learning officers and they said we create all of this great content, we hire vendors, we create all of these videos for training and I can’t get my people to watch them. And if they watch them, they don’t learn anything. They need to actually talk to somebody about it to make it relevant for them.

And I think humans are smart and we will be able to figure out what is AI messaging and what is a real message from a person. We’re going to put all of the AI messaging in a box and say “that came from some computer thinking they’re smarter than me. I’m not really going to consider that as important” They want a person to actually tell them this is what I see, this is what I need and let’s talk about it. I think we’ve lost a lot of the one on one conversations between managers and employees. I think that’s going to come back in a more structured way. I feel it should be part of a managers performance review that you have one on one conversations with your people to go over things.

Stay tuned in the coming weeks to hear more from Brandon in this series we’ve put together on how to improve employee communication. In the meantime, signup to get our employee recognition updates.

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