Would you let your IT department loose on your customer comms? Didn’t think so. Then why are they writing employee comms?
Willis Towers Watson estimates that a business of 100 employees wastes on average 17 hours every week just clarifying internal comms. That’s £400,000 a year. Enough to make a grown CFO weep.
Compare this to companies with highly effective IC who report shareholder returns 47% higher than those with the least effective.
Companies with effective internal communication report positive impacts across the range of employee engagement KPIs. Turnover, retention, absenteeism all have direct correlations to the quality of IC.
It’s tough on the inside
Having worked in both external (consumer) and internal (employee) communications, I’ve a rare insight into both worlds.
Personally, I think the latter’s the harder job. A critical audience right up close and personal, no slick ad agency on tap making you look good. Multiple creators from multiple departments ‘banging out’ comms, too much to do, not enough people to do it. Feel familiar?
While understanding the different dynamics and constraints on both sides of the fence, there are undoubtedly lessons the IC and HR community can learn from consumer marketers – taking the best and most effective techniques from adland and making them our own.
Let’s get emotional
Consumer marketers got the memo way back. Neuroscience tells us the brain uses four filters when receiving communication.
• Emotional: People pay attention and respond to communications based on their emotions, values, and experience.
• Historical: Based on past experiences and memories.
• Future: Based on expectations, goals and hopes for the future.
• Social: Based on their situation, including economic status, family, trends, and traditions.
People are still the same people when they walk into their workplaces. Our brains don’t switch to rational robot mode the second we step over the threshold.
Think about the John Lewis Christmas ads in this context; they’re the masters. You don’t have to go as far as Buster the Boxer bouncing off your office walls, but we do need to plug the emotional benefits into the thought process for internal comms too. Make it personal, make it reciprocal, make it simple. Make it memorable. It’s not rocket science but it’s all too easy to forget day-in, day-out.
“I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead“ (Mark Twain)
Good comms are punchy, precise and benefit-led. You’re not going to cut through by including everything and the kitchen sink – your audience won’t get past the first three lines.
Our brains are wired to only remember three or four things anyway.
Less is always more.
Ditch the corporate dictionary
Back to our rational robots.
Resist the urge to hide behind the employee comms default – the toneless, the cold, the rational. I’ve often sat across the table from clients who admit that as soon as they put fingers to keyboard out marches the cold, rational, corporate robot in need of a good oil.
OK so your audience is at close range, sitting there at the lunch table, standing behind you in the queue for coffee, but that doesn’t mean you have to write employee comms like you’ve swallowed the corporate dictionary.
A well-developed tone of voice used consistently not only engages through its personality, it also drives trust in the brand. With organisational trust at an all-time low, internal communicators have an obligation to play their part to rebuild it.
Too many cooks
Multiple departments with multiple creators inevitably mean pockets of quality but a whole bag of meh. Maybe you’ve internal comms experts to write the big pieces – the CEO’s keynote, the employee mag – but they’re just the tip of the comms iceberg.
It’s all the other stuff that’s being churned out every day that’s the problem.
Everyone’s an expert in their own field, they’re not experts in writing effective comms. Why should they be? Yet they’re expected to write them.
The IT department generating comms about an organisation’s transformation programme, finance telling employees about changes to pensions, facilities writing notices about the car park, and so on.
The cumulative impact of the varying quality of the day-to-day and the mix of different voices drowning out your true brand voice is leaving the biggest impression on your employee audience…
… unless, that is, they’ve stopped reading them altogether!
My company Woodreed decided to do something about this and our solution is Muse. Accredited for learning by the Institute of Internal Communication and used by Engage for Success to help their own comms shine, Muse has been described by author and industry influencer Mike Klein as “A game changer for internal comms”.
Muse is a combination of three services designed to solve the business challenges HR, engagement and internal communications professionals tell us they face.
1 Quality, effective internal communication writing and editing in your own corporate tone of voice. Plus full coaching notes for continuous improvement, helping share the load, ensure consistency and upskill in-house teams.
2 A rich learning and development resource – a library of ever growing and evolving L&D content. We scour the internet, read the white papers, watch the TED talks. Then, because no-one has any time we edit them into bite-sized digests.
The L&D is organised around the 4 enablers: Leadership and strategic narrative (1) Line managers (2) Employee voice (3) And what we call Culture but is around organisational integrity or the ‘say do gap’ (4)
Includes Employee Engagement, HR, Culture, Comms, Change, Neuroscience, Digital and more. And because I love radio, you’ll not be surprised to hear we also have audio podcasts for L&D on the move.
3 A community of likeminded professionals on the Muse hub for sharing ideas and best practice.
Together the three services work to improve the quality and effectiveness of internal communication improving levels of employee engagement and increasing productivity. Muse includes an employee pulse tool to track and measure these improvements.
Get in touch if you’d like to find out more.
Author: Jo Moffatt, Managing Director and Founder of Woodreed. Engage for Success Core Team member and radio show co-host.