It’s a familiar but frustrating scene for internal communicators: We invest countless hours researching, writing, revising and posting content, but employees don’t seem to be receiving the message.
So what’s going on? Why isn’t the content getting through?
To find the answer, I gathered input from more than 3,000 employees spanning multiple industries, job types and geographic regions using focus groups, in-depth interviews and surveys.
According to employees in the study, the secret is simple: Tell them about the topics they’re interested in and protect their time.
While that sounded easy at first, you and I know it’s a little more complicated than that. So I kept digging until we found out exactly what they were interested in and how we could help with their concern about time.
Topics that get employees’ attention
The employees in the study indicated that they’re most interested in hearing about topics from these four categories:
1. Future plans: This helps them understand where the company is heading and how their function fits into those plans. It creates feelings of confidence and stability.
2. Company updates: This includes news on how the company is making progress against stated goals and what the other areas of the company are doing to move the business forward. Employees told us this helps them feel inspired and reassured that the organization is healthy and performing well.
3. Other employees: This type of content highlights the shared experience employees have together. It often includes employee profiles, photos of group activities, awards and recognition, job anniversaries and lists of new hires. It elicits a sense of belonging, connection and familiarity.
4. Employee needs: This includes the information employees expect from an employer like news related to pay, benefits, wellness, new company procedures, training opportunities and career advancement. This helps them feel a sense of fairness and that they’re being compensated well in exchange for the work they do. It also contributes to feeling reassured that the company is looking out for them and is thankful to have them on the team.
Time required to consume: the root cause of ignored messages
With the topics question answered, we tackled the feedback around the time required to consume internal communication.
Employees told us they often ignored communication from the company because they couldn’t justify spending time on it.
Many of the respondents expressed frustration with “information overload.” They described a constant barrage of incoming alerts, calls, IMs, texts, emails and other notifications related to the core function of their jobs.
Making time to read an email newsletter, attend a virtual Town Hall, watch a video or listen to a podcast was unreasonable, they said. There simply wasn’t enough time to do that and keep up with the rest of the incoming job-related messages.
One employee in the study explained it like this: “We need to decide what we’re going to look at and what we’re going to move on from.”
However, they also provided helpful insight into making content easier and faster to consume:
- Replace text with graphics, images or photos as often as possible.
- Use visuals to reinforce key points or simplify complex concepts.
- Add bold headings to text-based communication to make it easier to skim.
- Use bullet points instead of sentences.
- Keep eNews messages short so they only take 1-2 minutes to read.
- Make links easy to access. (If it requires an additional step like signing in, they’re more likely to skip it.)
- Keep wording clear, simple and succinct.
Relevance and simplicity make a winning combination
When internal communication teams approach planning and messaging with employees’ needs and interests in mind, they produce highly relevant and compelling content.
Plus, when the communication is crafted in a way that makes it easy for them to consume, employees not only notice and connect with it, but they’re also grateful to receive it.
A version of this article originally appeared in PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics in April 2021.
About the Author
Jessica Walter, MS, APR, is a Communication Strategist and Certified Leadership Coach with a passion for inspiring individuals and companies to live into their full potential.
Jessica has been a strategist and consultant for a communication firm, a marketing executive for a regional bank, a communications director for a health system, a public affairs officer for a Dept. of Defense command, and the assignment editor for a TV newsroom.
She has recently been quoted in PRSA’s Strategies & Tactics, Training Magazine, Becker’s Hospital Review and the Central Penn Business Journal on accelerating business growth through culture and employee communication.
She holds a master’s degree in Leadership & Business Ethics from Duquesne University, a bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Towson University, and the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board.
She is also certified as a Lean Systems Leader and as a Professional Leadership Coach.
© 2021 Jessica Walter, MS, APR
All content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization with which the author is involved. Although the author makes an extensive effort to provide a complete representation of facts, it is recommended to gather information from many sources. The author sincerely hopes that you find this information helpful and urges you to be inspired, to inspire others, and to be gentle with yourself as you continue on your path.