June 16, 2009

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What’s the Best Way to Send My Message? With so many communication tools to choose from, internal marketers are faced with the ongoing challenge of knowing the best way to communicate to the employees. It can be hard to wade through the choices, which sometimes leaves the communicator using the same tools repeatedly – with limited success. The biggest challenge is taking what you know about your audience – how they best receive information and what communications get the best response from them – and using it to help select what vehicles to use. Here are some suggestions to get you thinking about what might be the best choice of tools for your next communication: Traditional tools and paper-based communication tools are beginning to take a back seat to electronic media because of both cost and green initiatives. There still may be a need for a more traditional approach for some audiences. For example, some employees may have less access to computers, or be more traditional in the way they communicate. Other employees may just need the comfort of having the communication in hard copy. · For longer, more detailed correspondence: - Traditional letter or memo - Payroll stuffer - Newsletter · For larger or longer campaign reminders, or where a response is crucial: - Posters, signage - Cost-effective promotional item Technology-based tools come in many forms for a variety of audiences. Some require use of a computer, while others can be seen around an office or worksite. Technology tools also offer a wide array of offerings from global to one-on-one communications. · For deadline reminders or new program announcements: - Voice mail delivered to their office or home phone · For reaching large numbers of people cost-effectively: - E-Newsletter - Intranet can be linked from an email or mentioned in a letter - Video kiosks · For adding visual impact. Visuals are a great way to get people to take notice to a topic they sometimes ignore: - Interactive displays - Loop videos - “Ticker tape” displays · For reaching large or small groups: - Email – if used well and in moderation. - Yammer. If you’re not familiar with it, Yammer is a new internal communication tool that’s part of the social media wave. It can be effective for shorter, reminder messages to a tech-savvy audience. (www.yammer.com) Events are another approach to reach groups of people. Because these are time-intensive and can sometimes be costly, you may want to reserve these tools for campaigns that justify the time and expense. · For big rollouts, such as introducing a new program, or to raise attention to ensure appropriate follow-up, try: - All-employee meetings - Staff meetings are great for getting feedback on specific programs · For getting the details of a new program out to your audience: - Brown bag lunches - Webinars/webcasting (either scheduled, or on-demand) - Podcasting - Training programs · For an initial introduction to new employees, try these tools. But make sure these aren’t the only place new employees are getting their information....
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Using Social Media to Improve Employee Engagement Last week, The Inside Voice focused on how to introduce social media to your employees. A few years ago, using social media to communicate with employees was new and unproven. Even today, in my conversations with HR teams, many still feel that social media is something that is used for consumers, and rarely for internal communications. Recently, Talent Management did an article that disputes this mindset. It shows that social media is becoming an increasingly important tool that HR departments use to keep employees engaged. This is based on a recent Employee Engagement Survey completed by the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and Buck Consultants. The results surprised me. The number one communication method that companies in the survey used to engage employees and increase productivity was social media, with 79% of the respondents using this tactic. Other, more traditional internal communications were less popular on the survey rankings: email (75%), intranet (72%), face-to-face meetings (50%), website (36%), and employee newsletters (28%). Blogs are the social media of choice for companies, with 47% of companies currently using blogs. Which social media are companies planning to use in the future? Discussion boards (33%), Wikis (31%), Yammer (29%) and podcasts (28%) top the list. What are some ways your company can leverage social media to communicate with employees? Here are some ideas to get you started: - Internal blogs. A regular blog posting from the president or management team providing insight into new product launches, sales trends, and new market opportunities can help employees feel more a part of the company, and help them understand how their role affects the company. This communication is not a PR piece, but provides an appropriate level of information can be especially valuable in times when sales are down, or when there may be bad news on the forefront. - Wikis and Yammer. Both of these are great tools to boost productivity, especially for project teams. Wikis allow multiple employees to make changes on one master document, so employees don’t spend time looking for the most recent version of a document – they make changes online that go live immediately. Yammer allows project teams to touch base internally in a Twitter-like communication, just to the people that need to receive the updates, or who have the answers to pressing project question. - Podcasts. Training and education are the perfect opportunities to use podcasting. Simply record the training program, and employees can listen online, or download longer programs to their MP3 player so they can listen at their convenience. This is a great medium for product training, sales tips, new benefit introductions, and topics that people may want to hear multiple times. What social media does your company use to boost employee engagement? What successes have you had? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Jane Vanderhorst

Vanderhorst Consulting works with organizations to develop and deliver on-target, results driven communications that engage employees, build sales and retain customers.

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