Employee communication rapidly jumped back on the agenda of many companies in March 2020. Lockdowns, remote work, and a super-dynamic situation —caused by COVID-19— forced companies to dig deeper into the topic. And even the search phrase “what is employee communication” climbed rapidly in Google Statistics.
Many Answers To The Question “What Is Employee Communication” Are A Relict Of The Last Century
The problem is that most of the definitions and explanations are a relict of the last century. I know that is a bold statement. But feel free to do the exercise and go through websites that try to answer the question. I’m 100% convinced you’ll find the following aspects:
- The ultimate goal of employee communication is to inform employees.
- Employee communication is about sharing information between the management of an organization and the staff (top-down).
- The usage of many different channels is essential.
The thing is all three aspects are complete nonsense. They fit neither today’s business world nor employees’ needs.
But let’s go through the three statements, dismantle them, and provide you with clarity.
What Is Employee Communication — A Reframed Definition
Informing Your Staff Is Only One Small Part Of Employee Communication
The first statement isn’t wrong. Keeping your staff informed is definitely one part of effective employee communication. But it is just one part of this universe!
In today’s world, you do not just throw some pieces of information to your employees. And actually, there’s a much more significant potential contained in employee communication. Therefore, I would add the following parts to modern employee communication:
Employee communication shouldn’t solely inform but also motivate your entire staff. Therefore, different and additional content is required. It is not just about circulating the CEO’s quarterly message but about daily and constant content pieces. More importantly, content pieces that catch the attention of your staff and create motivation.
If you want to know more about potential content that is relevant for employee communication head over to this blog post: Employee Communication App — 9 Types Of Content You Need!
For too long, emotions have been extremely underrated in the business context. Facts, figures, and numbers ruled the business world. No doubt, hard facts are essential. However, emotions should play a vital role in your employee communication strategy. As always, it is about the right mixture. You should distribute content that provides facts but also content that drives and creates emotions. In that context, it is worth mentioning that content isn’t only about the written word. Especially when trying to create feelings, you should focus on visuals and videos!
Employee communication isn’t a one-way road. Ensure to create possibilities for your employees to interact and to provide feedback. From my experience, this —most often— is an enormous source for new thoughts and understanding the needs of your employees.
For me, awareness describes the situation that EVERYONE at your company is perfectly informed about what is going right now — at this very moment. Therefore, employee communication has to be very up-to-date and provide everything necessary to create a superior level of awareness across the enterprise.
Finally, if someone asks me, “what is employee communication about” I tell him: Building knowledge. That means you have to share insights and valuable pieces of information that drives your employees’ knowledge.
Accordingly, a perfect employee communication combines the different goals and derives the required content.
Employee Communication Is Sharing Information Top-Down — And Ronald Reagan Is Still US President.
I still have to rub my eyes when I read that employee communication is about distributing management information to lower hierarchies. If you believe this, you probably also think that Ronald Reagan still is US president.
A Time Trip To Employee Communication When Ronald Reagan Was President
So let’s take a quick trip back to the ’80s of the 20th century. That was the time where “employee communication” had a considerable peak. However, if you are a bit into business history, you know how companies were at that time. The pyramid principle was the dominant organizational form. Hierarchy ruled!
Accordingly, it was about distributing information from top to bottom — from the CEO to the worker.
Now, things have changed. Ronald Reagan is history — although many people would love to exchange the current US president with Ronald Reagan. But more importantly, the business world has changed. Subsequently, employee communication has to adapt to the new world.
Instead of relying on top-down communication, you should consider the following aspects.
Communication, in today’s world, is diverse. Vertical, horizontal, top-down, bottom-up, direct, indirect, etc. You have to make sure that the solutions and tools you are using are up to this.
Moreover, you have to establish possibilities and functions that drive multi-directional communication. Think about Q&A sessions, forums, cross-departmental knowledge groups, etc.
Why are social networks that successful? Ok, there are many different reasons. However, one essential aspect lies in the possibility to quickly react to content. Like, share, comment — it takes just a few seconds, but it reflects a super powerful function. Those functions display an immense driver for knowledge sharing, emotions, and motivation.
But long story short: Make sure to offer the possibility of social interactions.
Forget About Omni-Channel Concepts. Mobile-Only Is The Only Truth.
Many answers to the questions “what is employee communication” tell you that it is essential to utilize all possible channels:
- Face-2-Face Meetings
- Social Media
- Phone Conferences
- Video Conferences
- Formal Letters
The answer to go for an omnichannel (omni=all) concept is comparable to “the world is flat” when someone asks you about the form of our planet. In other words: It is bullshit and closes the eyes to reality.
The problem with an omnichannel concept is neither efficient nor applicable or required. So what to do instead?
First, focus on smartphones. Mobile-only is the only strategy to go for! Of course, you need a perfect app that works as employee communication central—an app where you can push content and where everybody can comment, etc.
I always like to compare it with Facebook. Every employee should have that app on their smartphone. There are constant information and communication flows and the distribution of a humungous amount of content.
Employee Communication Is A Battle For Attention!
Ensure that your employees can access your solution and the provided content wherever they are and whenever they want. While working remotely, commuting, or exercising at the gym — your employees define when and where to communicate.
From my perspective, employee communication is in a constant battle of attention with other information sources. To make this point very clear and frank: Employees continually decide if they spend the next 5 minutes with Facebook, or Instagram, or mail, or Slack, or anything else. This is called the battle for attention.
Therefore, you have to make sure that your solution is a) perfectly tailored to smartphones and b) catches the attention of your employees. And do me a favor and get rid of all other channels — it is simply a waste of time.
By the way, with this blog post we put together the most essential tips when it comes to employee communication: 12 Secret Tips For Effective Employee Communication