Communicating effectively with customers, vendors, end-users, potential hires and job-seeking candidates is critical to your continued success. But don't overlook your current employees; your internal communications strategy is just as important.
"The advent of the mobile device and its ubiquity in every aspect of our personal and professional lives cannot be underestimated. Now, companies have an intimate and immediate way to engage with their employees, and that drives employee engagement and morale without a lot of heavy lifting or exorbitant IT investment," says Jeff Corbin, CEO of APPrise Mobile, a mobile application development platform company focused on developing solutions for the communications, marketing and PR industries.
Engagement is an increasingly important performance metric for businesses, but as of 2015, only about 32 percent of U.S. workers were actively engaged at work, while approximately 51 percent say they weren't engaged and 17 percent were actively disengaged, according to Gallup research.
The 2015 employee engagement average is based on Gallup Daily tracking interviews conducted with 80,844 adults working for an employer. Gallup categorizes workers as "engaged" based on their ratings of key workplace elements -- such as having an opportunity to do what they do best each day, having someone at work who encourages their development and believing their opinions count at work -- that predict important organizational performance outcomes.
Engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. Gallup's extensive research shows that employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization's financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Engaged employees support the innovation, growth and revenue that their companies need, while disengaged employees are estimated to cost the U.S. between $450 billion to $550 billion, according to a Gallup poll.
"Companies are realizing the value of communication and the impact on engagement, and how much revenue they lose when their workers are disengaged. So, if they can save a fraction of that with minimal effort, why wouldn't they?" Corbin says.
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In a recent survey conducted with the Public Relations Society of America, 48 percent of the 250 communications professionals polled between March and May 2016 say their workplaces need to improve their internal communication strategy to better effect engagement. Thanks to technology, doing so is easier than ever, Corbin says. Here are six recommendations for implementing a much-needed signal boost.
1. Giving employees a voice
Rethinking how you are communicating with your employees starts with giving your employees a voice, and then listening to and acting on what those voices are telling you, Corbin says.
"Whether it's creating your strategy, soliciting feedback, evaluating a campaign's effectiveness or just getting a general 'pulse check' from your employee audience, surveys provide valuable information to make critical decisions. Technology enables you to create surveys quickly online and push those to mobile devices so employees can respond whenever and however they choose," Corbin says.
2. Create an omnichannel experience
Just like in traditional marketing and communications, using just one channel to communicate does not necessarily fit all for your audiences, says Corbin. Internal communications pros should use an omnichannel approach to ensure that their messages are consistently aligned across platforms and are always available to their employees.
"Depending on what you're trying to achieve, you can use signage, newsletters, email, text messaging, surveys, podcasts, audio -- there's no one approach that works for everyone. You have to know your workforce and decide what is the best way to reach them," he says.
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3. Lights, camera, action
Whether for training purposes, education, culture reinforcement or company-wide announcements, companies are increasingly creating strategies around video, Corbin says. Video can be more engaging, dynamic and more specifically tailored to the needs of your audience. And given the nature of video analytics, ROI and reach are more measurable than traditional communication forms, he says.
"One CEO customer, for example, has his communications team sit down with him -- sometimes spontaneously -- and create 10-second videos to push to their workforce. A lot of times, people prefer watching a video to reading something, so it's definitely more engaging and gets great responses. Remember -- video doesn't have to be a slick, over-produced, cinema-quality film to be effective," Corbin says.
4. Go mobile
Not only does a mobile communications strategy make it more convenient for workers, but studies have also found that ease of access to information (especially via mobile devices) makes employees more satisfied in their jobs since it enables efficiency, Corbin says.
"Mobile has completely changed the game. The ease of use and speed, not to mention the fact that everyone has a mobile device in their pocket, means that I can create a written, audio or video message and then disseminate it, almost immediately," he says.
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5. Metrics matter
Increased accessibility to employee survey data and digital technology have made it easier than ever to measure read, response and effectiveness rates, Corbin says. It's especially effective in industries where the majority of the workforce aren't behind a desk, like in hospitality or healthcare, he says.
"The metrics are one of the most important parts of an effective internal communication strategy. Until now, the challenge has been to get messages in front of everyone. Sometimes print and even email aren't an option. But now, you can track and measure how the message is getting out and to whom - it changes the game," he says.
While rethinking your entire internal communications strategy can seem daunting, it's not as monumental a task as it sounds. And when the alternative is a disengaged, unproductive and revenue-losing workforce, there's really only one choice to make.
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