The cutting edge of employee engagement - A study in internal communications excellence
By Chris Leonard
Internal communications can be a tough nut to crack. Even with all the advice, tips and tools available, many organizations struggle with putting the theory into practice.
That’s why I wanted to share a real-world example from one of the fantastic SnapComms customers I’ve worked with. From identifying the issues, through weighing up options, to strategy and implementation, this is a study in internal communications excellence that everyone can benefit from.
Meet Archcare – leading US healthcare provider
It’s no secret that one of the toughest challenges in the healthcare sector is effective employee communications. The topics can be so vast: from hospital alerts and changes in procedures or regulations, to more passive content around building culture and employee news. In certain cases, a missed or late communication could literally mean the difference between life and death.
Other factors, like shift patterns and employee diversity – such as age, education and location – all add further considerations when trying to get an important message through at the right time.
New York-based healthcare provider Archcare know this only too well. They operate a range of in-home and community-based healthcare programs, nursing homes and hospitals in New York and the wider region.
The 18-member IT team are responsible for infrastructure and cyber security at Archcare. But for the Chief Information Officer (CIO), it’s equally as important to oversee how the 3,000 employees across ArchCare’s 24 sites are communicated with and kept highly engaged.
Diagnosing the issues
Employee communication plays a critical role in achieving ArchCare’s strategic plan. The leadership team recognized that fresh thinking was urgently needed to foster an engaged workforce.
Staff were facing information overload – too many emails, too little relevance and too little time to read them all. Consequently, staff response rates were poor, and managers were concerned about important information being missed and staff being actively disengaged.
The challenge was to get information in front of employees quickly and improve response rates, despite a dispersed workforce many of whom operated on shifts and without adding to the ‘communication noise’.
The solution they needed would allow them to improve message cut-through so that important news reached the right people at the right time. They also needed to track what was being read to learn which types of content improve employee engagement.
With a clear view of the situation, Archcare set about exploring alternative ways to communicate.
What’s the prescription?
To deliver information direct to employees in a much better, faster and quiet way, Archcare introduced the SnapComms platform. A range of channels were selected to handle every communication need, from high-priority to longer-term behavioral.
Desktop Alerts deliver high-priority messages or announcements directly to desktop and mobile devices. Messages can override all other applications depending on the severity of the situation.
Desktop Tickers are newsfeed-style scrolling text across the bottom of employees’ computer screens, providing high visibility but low intrusion. Hyperlinks can be included to direct staff to their intranet for more details.
Screensavers are passive yet powerful tools, with strong visuals and high repetition for promoting organization values, events or reminders.
RSVP alerts improve the efficacy of training programs by encouraging high staff response rates and attendance.
Rolling out a course of internal comms treatment
Each of the SnapComms channels were customized with ArchCare’s branding and used almost daily. Using the new tools, ArchCare could now match specific communication objectives with an appropriate channel designed to suit purpose.
For example, in any unplanned event, such as a network outage or an emergency, desktop alerts prove ideal, as these pop up directly onto the employee’s screen and get read straight away.
For future events, including a deadline to complete an important task, ArchCare now uses tickers. These scroll across the bottom of the employee’s screen and act as effective prompts.
For ongoing communication tasks, such as operational reminders regarding hand hygiene and infection control, or general news items – such as photos from celebrations, CEO announcements or staff recognition awards – screensavers are ideal. Human resource messages can create a culture of long term professional development.
The CIO explained, “Screensavers are a popular format because they’re so visual and always present, albeit in the background; I often hear colleagues commenting on these, obviously engaged with what they’re seeing."
She also uses screensavers to remind her own team of the key projects they’re working on. “It avoids any misunderstanding or excuse for not knowing where their focus is; our priorities are clearly outlined on a screensaver that’s right in front of them.”
For specific themes, particularly those which require behavioral change, ArchCare combines all its channels and creates a campaign to really drive a message home.
This proved highly effective when new information such as the updated medical classification list of diseases and illnesses from the World Health Organization ICD-10 went live. ArchCare created a countdown campaign, with messages like “Five days until ICD-10!”, using a series of scrolling tickers and screensavers. These were delivered direct to employees’ screens and updated daily in readiness for a smooth transition.
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Another example is ArchCare's communication program to increase security awareness and promote a culture of safe online behavior. The CIO emphasizes, “Staff play such an important part in preventing a cyber security breach. They are the first line of defense. This requires a sustained internal communications program.
"We’ve established an effective way to lift staff awareness levels across important cyber security topics using a variety of communication formats, such as video, screensavers and alerts via SnapComms tools. Taking a campaign approach has delivered great results for us – undoubtedly our staff are better informed and we’ve minimized our risk."
Getting the results
“We’re finally getting the message cut through that’s so essential for our employees, and ultimately for the patients we care for.” - Chief Information Officer, Archcare
Since introducing SnapComms into Archcare, the CIO admits that it’s evolved more than she originally anticipated. “We’re using SnapComms tools for all our communications now – not just for census and IT outages – but for everyday items too.”
Being able to track and measure employee open and click-through rates, particularly surrounding the important areas of compliance, has enabled ArchCare to discover what works and what doesn’t, to identify gaps, and to validate employee training.
One of the most surprising benefits of the SnapComms platform is the drastic drop in calls to the IT Helpdesk. “We recently had an unexpected outage at one of our sites. Straight away we sent an alert to those affected and followed this with regular status updates.”
This proactive approach eliminated the usual deluge of concerned callers and allowed the team to focus on the problem in hand and fix it much sooner. A win/win for everyone – and surely that’s the holy grail of internal communications.
For me, internal communications is the catalyst for organizational evolution. That’s why it’s so important to learn from the experiences of others and to partner with specialists in the field. SnapComms would love to be that partner for you. Check us out online or, even better, get in touch with us. Let’s build better internal communications together.
He’s built a successful, fast-growing business based on three principles: unwavering commitment to customer service excellence; a genuine desire to push technology to the limit; and leading an industry in product innovation for effective employee communications.
A rare breed of financier, entrepreneur and people-person, Chris loves to be involved in all facets of the business. But his true happy place is solving customers’ internal communications challenges.