Earlier this week, we made the case for raising your internal PR game. Today, we’ll suggest some ways to do just that. The technological and social changes over the past few years have both made internal communications more important, and also opened up opportunities to revolutionize it. Still, companies are dragging their feet in this aspect of corporate communications. 60% of employers have no long term IC strategy or vision. The Conference Board reported that while 90% of executives understand the importance of employee engagement, fewer than 50% understand how to address this issue.
In 2017 McKinsey found that only 17% of companies report investing in some form internal communications technology. One of the reasons for the corporate reticence may be the overabundance of tech comms tool choices. Nobody wants to check intranets, social platforms, email, text and instant messaging apps to be engaged with their employer. Experts urge the use of a single employee communications platform to prevent fatigue. But take note, IC (and IT) managers: it’s imperative that the technology be optimized for mobile operating systems. According to the 2018 State of the Sector on Internal Communication report, 67% of employers plan to up the usage of mobile apps in the next year. Any internal communications program’s success will hinge first on employee participation; using apps that are painless to access on mobile devices will help ensure engagement.
The days of leadership announcing new policies with a memo or email are over. Employee engagement comes from the ability to speak and be heard. The open, free-flowing exchange of updates and ideas in the form of an employee suggestion platform tends to produce measurable results. But not only should communications flow up and down the hierarchy, it also should flow laterally. Installing a peer-to-peer recognition program can encourage engagement and boost morale, and if shareable, it can help with recruiting by demonstrating transparency and engagement. Employees can be top-flight brand ambassadors when interacting with external stakeholders using their own content.
Cisco found that employees’ social posts generate eight times more engagement than posts from their employers. Since employees are a more trusted source than executives, it’s best to create opportunities for them to lead discussion on owned and shared media. Encourage staff to post about topics they have interest or expertise in. Launch an employee advocacy program that fits the company culture. The program should make it fun to share stories about company personalities, new products, or CSR programs. There are even tech platforms solely for employee advocacy and content sharing, most notably EveryoneSocial. Platforms like this not only store employee-generated content, but they set goals and measure KPIs. However, allowing employees to share content about the brand comes with challenges. Not only does it take creative vision to motivate employees to want to generate and share content, but there are also dangers inherent in allowing employees to advocate for the brand online — the guidelines for which must be clearly outlined in a formal social media policy.
It will come as a shock to nobody that video is becoming an almost ubiquitous employee communications tool. Whether to convey business objectives, new initiatives, or company values, video beats the traditional lecture format. An elevated application of video technology is found in the not so new practice of gamification. Gamification, the use of gaming elements in non-game concepts to enrich content, is simply a tool designed to boost engagement by making education or instruction fun and interactive. Powered by engagement platforms like BunchBall, scorekeeping, stats, and quizzes are Trojan horses in which to painlessly impart important info or influence behavior.
All of these digital powered internal PR tools are so great that it might be easy to forget about the all critical face-to-face employee engagement programs. Offsite charity projects, company-wide summits, employee socials, and training workshops foster a sense of camaraderie that is key to engagement. Further, in organizations where remote work is the new normal, these in-person company interactions help preserve a company culture with real employee buy-in.
Today’s workforce wants to be engaged, to respect and be respected by their employers, and to have fun doing so. None of the above methods come easily or without significant investment of time and resources. Unquestionably, if these tactics are thrown together without creative forethought, they will likely miss their mark. Like any other PR program, an ambitious internal communications program requires strategy, planning, and measurement. The IC initiatives should be executed according to a detailed plan, and in full alignment with overarching PR objectives, company values, and branding.