What we’ve watched this week….Creating effective employee communication that will truly make an impact on your workforce
You’ve decided to open a restaurant. You’ve got the best chefs and front-of-house employees. The décor is fantastic. The menu is unparalleled and unique in your location. The price point is competitive. It’s all looking positive. So, with great anticipation, you turn over the Open sign and wait for the droves of customers. And wait. And wait…
This, according to Debra Corey, global head of employee engagement at US-based engagement company Reward Gateway and author of two books on the subject, is what regularly happens with HR and people programmes. The programme launches to great fanfare and then no one engages, no one comes in.
In a webinar for the Human Capital Institute, Corey said that when you spend time, money and energy on rolling out HR programmes, you need to get value. If you don’t communicate well you won’t get engagement and if you don’t have a shared meaning, your employees won’t understand their call to action.
She pulled up some statistics stating that 50% of people forget information communicated to them after one hour, 70% after 24 hours and 90% after one week. While there is some dispute over these figures (try Googling them and you will find little evidence to back exact figures), the overall theory is based on the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, which is widely accepted as a general theory for how we learn and retain information.
To deliver more effective communication and the subsequent engagement, Corey suggested using the IMPACT model. In a neat take on how to embed this, she asked viewers to think and act like various types of people and backed her theory with practical examples from her 30-year career. So, here’s a quick overview.
Investigation: Sherlock Holmes said never theorise before you have the facts, nor twist your facts to suit your theory but twist your theory to suit the facts. Corey admitted she was embarrassed to say she had done exactly what he said not to do in the past because of time or pressure from the business, and did not take time to gather her facts. More often than not that doesn’t work. So, she says, think and act like a detective.
1. Get the facts. Corey illustrated this with a tale of how she once worked at a company with global offices where the typical HR communication was via short, easy-to-digest videos. However, when she decided to sense test this by calling employees in different locations, she discovered some people didn’t have sound on their computers. If she hadn’t spent time on getting the facts she would have spent loads of money on something that didn’t work
2. Look, listen and smell the ‘crime scene’: ask questions, really get under what is happening
3. Be objective: have ideas but as a detective you don’t go in knowing who the murderer is. Start with the why (Corey recommended the Simon Sinek TedTalk on this subject )
Medium: Think and act like a designer. Select the medium that is going to be most effective for that particular piece of communication
1. Face to face is very effective but difficult in global organisations
2. Print can be helpful if your workforce is not all online and can be creative
3, Digital has made effective communication easier
How do you decide which to use? You need the Four Fits: ensure it fits your objectives, fits your company culture, fits your audience and fits your timelines.
For example, in Corey’s company of 360 employees in seven countries, 85% are millennial so social media is core for communication. But think of it as a box of chocolates – never use just one medium, ask employees what they like and select the appropriate ‘chocolate’.
Planning: Think and act like a project manager
1. Gain agreement on what you are going to do with your workforce and business colleagues.
2. Be clear, for example using the RACI planning tool
3, Address risks and always have a plan B and possibly plan C
4. Be flexible and change if not working
Allies: Think and act like a campaigner. These are the people who give you advice, information, backing and sometimes protection. They help you in terms of sharing workload (there are never enough people on a team), create a network of supporters, help manage the challenges and you can leverage their expertise. What is important here is to:
1. Pick the right allies. What do you need them for?
2. Develop relationships with your allies. If you don’t you may find you are working with people who have not fully engaged with the programme or don’t have the buy in you need
3. Be clear on roles and expectations, every ally knows what they are doing
4. Keep lines of communication open – they are the eyes and ears and can feed back on what is working or would work better
Content: People make judgements so quickly, so make sure you consider the following when looking at content:
1. Is it valuable: what’s in it for me?
2. Relevant: segment communication to make it more relevant for individual groups/people
3. Consistent: so that people can immediately understand what you are talking about. Ensure in particular that your branding is consistent
Citation Professional Solutions wanted to tie a new approach into its past branding, focused around a character called Dave, so kept him in the branding when introducing a new character, Miss Benefit
A helpful exercise is to imagine you are tweeting the message. Can you get it really short and concise? The most important message is at the top of a communication pyramid; as you go down the pyramid you can add broader messaging
Testing: Think and act like a pilot. Pilots continually monitor against the flight plan and make adjustments
1. Determine upfront what you are looking for in the testing
2. Use both quantitative and qualitative
3. Demonstrate your ROI
4. Use data for timely decision making
The IMPACT model is easy to understand and implement and Corey’s examples brought it to life. For more detail, you may like to read her books, Effective HR Communication: A Framework for Communicating HR Programs with Impact and Build it: A Rebel Playbook for Employee Engagement, while her latest book is being released in February 2018.
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