Here’s a scary scenario: Late one afternoon, employees get so sick of the current state of internal communication—too much information overload, corporate speak and irrelevant content—that they stage an insurrection. Armed with pitchforks and singing, “We Shall Overcome,” an angry band of employees marches down to the IC department and takes over the function.
Now that employees are in charge, what will they change?
While an insurrection like this is very unlikely, many employees are quietly dissatisfied with the current state of most IC programs.
We communicators design our systems to meet the needs of our “clients” (mostly executives). But what if we created communication that is truly “customer” (employee) centric? The answer is clear: communication that’s more compelling and effective.
How would we start? By gathering employees’ ideas about the best ways to improve IC. My firm has done just that—asking more than 19,000 employees at a number of companies this question:
“If you could change one thing about employee communication, what would it be?”
This question is so valuable because employees have great suggestions for what we should improve. Here are five key things they would change:
1. Create more relevant and useful content
Employees feel that the balance of information IC provides is out of whack—too much is general and doesn’t answer these essential questions: “What does this mean to me?” and “What do I need to do with this?” Employees say:
“Provide more details about changes that affect me directly.”
“More local information.”
“I get too much corporate information, but we don’t know what’s going on in our own building.”
“Have more frequent updates on things affecting my position and my group.”
Sure, your organization is complex, but employees know that doesn’t mean communication has to be. They want IC to manage leaders and subject matter experts who feel the need to explain everything in painful detail. And employees want you to be much more of a curator than an aggregator—instead of tossing everything at employees, select which information is important. Employees say:
“Much less! There is so much that I can’t read most of it. I’m concerned I miss things that are actually important.”
“Make communications concise, so I can read them quickly.”
“Simpler, more digestible.”
3. Make communication more convenient
IC is really good at providing a banquet of channels and content to employees. But these days, what busy employees really want is the communication equivalent of a to-go cup: something that’s small, portable, snackable and doesn’t take too much time. Employees say:
“Make it easier to find links and information on the intranet. I waste a lot of time looking for things.”
“Reduce the number of communication vehicles. Gets to be information overload. Main messages become lost or blurred.”
“Organize all communications in one place so people know where to look for an event or subject.”
4. Bring tools up to date
The good news is that communicators have an increasing number of ways to reach employees. But the bad news is that we’re still communicating like it’s 1999, with densely written articles, long (15 minutes!) videos and not enough visual solutions. Employees say:
“The majority of emails I receive are written poorly. I don’t know if they’re asking me to do something or if it’s just an information share. Use subject lines, summarize succinctly what you’re asking for or why it’s important.”
“Search is horrendous.”
“I would read it if I could access it on my phone.”
5. Give employees more opportunities to participate
Outside work, employees are active participants, connecting and sharing content on social media and other platforms. That’s why employees are frustrated when they come to work. They don’t want to be spectators; employees want to be part of the process. They say:
“More live conversation meetings. Talk to us; don’t just send emails.”
“More meetings to exchange opinions and to define ways to work.”
“I’d like to be able to share more—from questions to ideas to photos.”
We have the insights we need to make IC more employee-centric; all we need to do is act on that knowledge.
Alison Davis is founder and CEO of Davis & Company, the award-winning employee communication firm that for more than 30 years has helped leading companies—such as Johnson & Johnson, Motorola Solutions, Nestlé and Roche —reach, engage and motivate their employees. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.