“I didn’t get the email.”
Our clients tell us they hear this phrase from their employees—a lot. Maybe they’re referring to a launch email for a new intranet or benefits site or a communication about a change to a company policy. Whatever the message, some employees aren’t hearing it.
It’s not surprising. According to multiple sources, employees receive slightly over 120 emails per day. And we’re not just drowning in emails—our attention spans are being pulled between a mix of platforms and apps. In one LinkedIn poll, 28% of respondents claimed they participated in Zoom calls up to five to seven hours a day!
To say we’re at peak communication overload seems obvious, but how much internal communication is too much? At what point does the incessant pinging that announces a new email or Teams message interrupt our flow to the point that we’re less productive, not to mention frustrated and fatigued, and less likely to see, or remember, critical company information?
The competition for our eyeballs and the pressure to respond quickly to requests not only saps our energy and memory—it also negatively impacts our overall wellbeing, and ultimately the employee experience. A survey performed by Firstup in 2022 found:
“More than half of employees admitted to feeling overwhelmed when receiving too much communication through too many channels at work, and they admit to wasting 2.7 hours every working week dealing with the distractions of poorly executed corporate communications.”
So how do you strike a balance and send the right amount of communication? And how do you ensure that it’s well executed?
Start with a Strong Internal Communications Strategy
The purpose of internal communications is to keep employees informed about company goals, values, news, and initiatives. A solid internal communications strategy includes objectives for communications and the audiences, messages, channels, tactics and timing for them. A strong strategy can improve engagement and productivity and boost morale, while a weak strategy—or worse, no strategy at all—can lead to employees feeling confused and unmotivated.
The key to a good internal communications strategy is knowing what, why, when and to whom you want to communicate—you need to know the difference between must-have versus nice-to-have communication. Without a strategy that clearly identifies these types of communication, you’ll end up with competing priorities and campaign promotions, and those that are critical will lose their significance. All communication will be seen as equal to your employees, and you’ll risk them tuning out due to the noise.
But how do you determine these factors and get stakeholder buy-in for a smart, effective strategy?
- Make your case with data. Share some of the stats noted in this post or seek out your own. Showing how much of a time suck emails and Zoom meetings are with numbers is more powerful than just saying it. This will help stakeholders better understand how much time employees are getting pulled away from their work to read or view messages.
- Consider how the messages fit into the strategy. Review the proposed messages from different groups. What type of messages are they? Do they convey information only, or do they feature a call to action? For the latter, is the call to action time-sensitive? Asking yourself these questions will help you create clear objectives and help you determine what you need to communicate, and when. This will give your messages a greater chance of being heard.
Get—and Keep—Your Employees’ Attention
As part of your internal communications strategy, you need to figure out the appropriate amount of communication to send to your audiences based on your goals and decide which channels to use. Try these tips to better engage your employees.
- Target your communication. Is your communication relevant to your audience? Think about how the message will benefit readers and consider their profiles—for example, union member, frontline worker, remote employee, etc.
- Choose the right tactic. Consider whether digital or in-person communication makes sense. While email is a default tactic for a lot of internal communications teams, it’s easy to ignore them—and sometimes a face-to-face interaction is the right approach, for example, if you’re looking for feedback from your audience. Also, consider the message context and content. If you’re sharing celebratory news or promoting an event, you might opt for social media, where you can post pictures. If you’re informing employees about a policy change, you might choose an email announcing the change and link to the policy on your intranet.
- Keep it short. You’ve heard it, and you may have said it—no one reads. While not true, according to a State of Email Engagement Report by Litmus, the average time spent reading an email is 10 seconds. Knowing this and keeping in mind that employees like to scan content for the highlights, it’s crucial to be succinct and to the point.
- Create a dialogue. Providing channels for employees to provide input and feedback helps employees feel valued. Teams, Slack, social media, and town halls are just a few ways you can establish a dialogue with employees, which helps increase collaboration and foster a positive employee experience.
- Be authentic. To connect with your employees, your communication needs to be authentic. When communicators are as truthful and open as possible, they build trust, strengthening the bond between employees and the organization and the company culture as a whole.
Select the Right Internal Communications Tools
Once you’ve developed your internal communications strategy and have your goals, messages, and tactics in mind, consider the tools and technology you need to get the job done.
Here are some factors to think about when evaluating your communication methods.
- Audience: Do you have remote or hybrid employees, or a large frontline population? Texting may be a good option in this case, especially if you have employees who are on the move. Also, think about spouses and domestic partners—when it comes to benefits communication, a benefits website provides access to eligible family members in the home—many who make benefits decisions—who wouldn’t be able to view the content on your company intranet.
- Privacy: Is the content you’re sharing confidential? In this case, your intranet is a good place for it. While it’s easy to think of your intranet as outdated when compared to newer digital tools and platforms, it’s a solid solution for housing private company information, like policies and procedures or the company handbook.
- Posting and hosting: Do you need the ability to update content quickly? A website might be the right solution. Do you plan to post videos on it? If so, you’ll want to use a video hosting service. Why? Videos take up a LOT of bandwidth on your server. Chances are your videos may load slowly or freeze up—and then your messages will get lost. Use a video hosting service to avoid these issues.
- Two-way communication: We noted before that two-way communication helps engage employees and foster dialogue. Tools like Slack and Teams provide great ways to collaborate and get answers to quick questions, while surveys and polls enable you to ask for more thoughtful input and feedback on important topics.
Effective internal communications are a key component of employee engagement and a positive employee experience, which are both essential to your organization’s success in achieving its goals. As you develop or refine your internal communications strategy, follow these tips to catch—and keep—your employees’ attention.