Note: Please see our latest post on internal communications trends for 2018 written after this post.
A successful communications strategy is more challenging than ever. In the United States alone, working remotely has grown 103 percent since 2005. Whether they are working from home, on the road, on a factory floor or simply at another branch, employees need to feel connected and engaged. Internal communicators face the task of removing barriers and developing strategies that bring together employees from different locations, generations and job levels. Include these internal communication trends for 2016 in your communications strategy.
Quizzes and Surveys
Have you ever wondered whether or not your employees really got anything out of their last training session? Do you find yourself wondering what employees think about the latest piece of technology or the newest procedure? Instead of wondering, why not find out for sure? You can design quizzes and surveys within your intranet. Gather information confidentially or ask employees to provide their name. There are plenty of things that you can learn through surveys, especially those that are given anonymously.
- How well do employees understand the latest training method? Is it working for them?
- What new technology or other enhancement would make it easier for employees to do their jobs?
- What do employees think would help them do their jobs better?
- What does employee satisfaction really look like at your company? Are levels increasing or decreasing?
By gathering employee feedback, you take advantage of one of the most vital internal communications trends of 2016: giving employees a voice. Employees want to feel as though their opinion matters. When you give them a voice, you help them feel as though they can make a difference in their company, their current work situation, or even for their clients.
You can also design quizzes that ask specific questions. You can create quizzes that test how much attention your employees paid at a recent meeting, check out how many employees actually absorbed the information they needed from their latest training session, or see how many employees actually read the company blog or newsletter. If you’re struggling with safety processes, write a quiz to see how many employees are actually familiar with them.
For an extra incentive to pay attention, make it fun! For example, you might randomly insert a slide with a funny image into the middle of a presentation. No comment is made about it during the presentation; you’ll simply linger for a moment on that slide without saying anything, then move on. You can include a random line in the middle of an existing slide or handout or use a particular background color on a given slide after warning employees to watch out for it at the beginning of your presentation, or wear a unique accessory and see how many people noticed it.
The Employee Calendar
Your employee calendar doesn’t just have to be a great place to keep up with critical dates like the upcoming company picnic or a huge upcoming deadline. It’s also an excellent way for you to help keep up with critical scheduling issues: when is John going to be back from vacation, again? How many employees are going to be off the second week in June? Your employee calendar can help track upcoming appointments, make sure everyone is aware of critical deadlines, and let employees know about changes to payroll around the holidays. Make sure that you update it as soon as announcements go out about important events. If it’s in the newsletter, it should already be on the calendar! The calendar is the easiest place for employees to access any date-related information that’s relevant to both their work and their time off.
Blogs and Newsletters
You already know the benefits of an external blog. It brings important attention to your company: adding keywords that can bring in traffic, establish your authority within your field, and provide key information to people seeking out your business or services. Your internal intranet blog, however, can be even more useful. It’s the perfect forum to share critical information with all of your employees. For example:
- Issue reminders about upcoming events and use your blog to share everything employees might need to know about them. For example, when open enrollment comes around, take the time to detail important facets of coverage that employees throughout the company might not know about.
- Call attention to things that may have been forgotten. This might include a reminder of safety protocols, a reminder of the correct way to handle a sick day or information about how to manage clients.
- Use catchy visuals to attract attention and trigger memory. An amusing infographic or easy-to-follow chart is often an easier way to convey information and help employees remember it later than pages of plain text.
- Feature information that is important or of use to your employees to help bring them back to read it more often. Schedule posts in advance: employees are looking for consistency to let them know when a new post is coming.
Consistency is key when it comes to an internal blog. Don’t start out with an aggressive posting schedule only to discover that you can’t keep up with it; instead, schedule posts well in advance to make sure that you aren’t going to get caught by an upcoming deadline. It’s also important to occasionally go back over old information: if it’s no longer accurate, consider removing the post so that it doesn’t come up in a search and confuse employees.
While text communication still has a number of advantages, many business are discovering the advantages of video for conveying critical information. It’s more than just a creative marketing strategy. It’s also the perfect way to show how to complete important processes, especially those with finicky steps that must be performed in a specific way, and an excellent way to help make information more memorable for your employees.
Use videos strategically. They might load a little bit slower on mobile devices, and they take more time to watch than a quick glimpse at a text-based piece of data. Using them appropriately, however, is a great way to enhance employee engagement. Catchy, funny, or otherwise interesting videos will attract attention, draw in viewers, and help increase retention of important data.
Feedback comes from a variety of sources. While getting employee feedback may be as simple as opening up the forums or creating a quiz or survey, customer feedback is more complicated. Customers need the feedback process to be as easy as possible. Providing incentive for feedback–for example, a discount on a future product or service–may also improve the odds that customers will provide vital feedback. Making that feedback visible to employees throughout the company lets them know how they’re doing. Do customers appreciate their efforts? Is there something they need to do differently? The more feedback employees receive, the better they can tailor their behaviors and services to meet the needs of each customer.
Offer a Multi-Channel Experience
“Omni-channel” is a popular buzzword in the external marketing community. However, the principles behind it are just as important in the internal communications arena. “Omni-channel” simply means providing a seamless experience, regardless of whether employees are physically in your building, working remotely, accessing your website through a desktop computer, using a mobile app, engaging through social media on their phone or using any other platform to engage with the company.
As more millennials enter the workforce, the need for multi-channel access will continue to grow. Millennials represent the first generation of digital natives. They have been using technology to communicate from a very early age. Companies must acknowledge the needs of the largest generation in the workforce right now and engage them through multiple channels, including apps, SMS, push notification tools and social media. An omnichannel approach allows you to leverage the strengths of various forms of communication, joining strategies and behaviors with technology to improve the quality of internal communications.
Provide Quality Content
Content marketing is another external marketing trend that is creeping into internal communications. An effective content marketing strategy can be used to educate employees, help them solve problems, build the company’s brand, incite loyalty and increase engagement. Here are three tips to make your internal content marketing strategy successful.
- Have different types of content. We already discussed the challenge of meeting the communications needs of a diverse workforce. When creating an external content marketing strategy, the first step is to understand your audience. It’s no different when your audience is your employees. Do you offer a range of content? Text-based content is usually the first format that comes to mind, including blogs, articles, whitepapers, and reports. These are effective, but don’t forget other formats available, such as videos, podcasts, infographics, interviews with employees or industry leaders, or research. Getting creative and attracting attention does not have to be time-consuming. Use Meme Generator or Quick Meme to create hilarious meme messages for your staff. Employees are used to this type of content in their personal life. Integrate this entertaining platform to add humor to the office, while sending a message. Another idea is to make lists. The most popular magazines attract attention by promoting “100 Summer Make-Up Tips” or “5 Ways to Redecorate for under $100.” Use this attention-grabbing method to communicate with your employees. “5 Functions of the New Intranet that Save Hours of Time” or go with something light-hearted like “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Our President.” The point is to peak your employees’ attention and get them engaged.
- Encourage participation. You shouldn’t just provide content that is one-sided. Provide content that employees will want to comment on, pass along through social media or their intranet feed, or simply talk about in the lunchroom. Launch a poll to gather feedback and encourage employees to express themselves. Push content about employees. Celebrate milestones. Report on goals and share success stories. Employees will want to engage in content that is about themselves or their favorite peers. This goes hand-in-hand with our first tip. Providing different types of content will ensure there’s something that everyone wants to participate in.
- Go mobile. For an internal content marketing strategy to be successful, employees must have access from anywhere. Your platform must function just as well on a mobile device as it does from a desktop. Employees are often busy and will save less urgent reading for a later time, such as the commute home. If they can’t access your platform at a convenient time, you’ll lose much of your employee traffic. For example, launching an awesome video library will fall flat without mobile access. YouTube reports that mobile users now spend more than 40 minutes per session, an increase of 50 percent since 2014. As a result, 72 percent of internal communicators plan to increase the use of video, including an interactive approach that allows employees to search, comment on, share, tag, embed and upload their own videos. Make these new approaches successful with mobile access. Using a social, cloud-based intranet for your platform is a solution that meets all these needs. It provides one access point for all content marketing vehicles, as well as full access from any remote location.
Integrated Activity Streams
Facebook currently has 1.55 billion active users, and 63 percent of users say they get their news from Facebook or Twitter. What does these statistics have to do with your internal communication? The numbers speak volumes about how people want to receive information. Integrating activity streams, or news feeds, to employees, is the quickest way to engage them. Implement a social intranet with this functionality and watch employee engagement numbers rise.
Many organizations use the activity stream as the main homepage feature of their intranet. Instead of sending out an employee newsletter, internal communicators find it more effective to slowly release information, sharing news within the stream.
Activity streams also provide “real-time” news. The HR Trend Institute listed its “12 Emerging Internal Communication Trends” and first on the list was “Real-Time.” Activity streams provide a two-way conversation in real-time. Internal communicators can monitor the feeds to find out what issues are on the minds of employees, providing content that is current and relevant. Increase the perceived relevance of internal communications by providing content that answers questions, releases time sensitive information or asks for employee feedback. Think of your activity stream as a crystal ball into the minds of your employees. Make it relevant. Listen to and influence peer-to-peer communications. Be transparent by implementing a strategy that utilizes this critical tool.
Communicate to Engage
Communication is not a one-way street. For many years, however, top-down communication has made it feel that way. Today’s internal communicators know the importance of engaging their staff. Research supports the idea that good communication is at the heart of higher engagement levels. Higher engagement leads to many benefits, including increased productivity, less turnover, fewer product defects, high quality and greater profits. According to Harvard Business Review, highly engaged organizations have double the rate of success over lower engaged companies.
Whether you are writing an employee guide, creating a video, drafting an executive blog or designing a funny meme, always keep engagement as a primary goal. What can I do to get employees involved? What will motivate staff to comment on what they are reading? What will make this interesting enough to tag it in future blogs? Create content that makes employees feel like it was written just for them.
MyHub provides a cloud-based intranet solution designed to help companies improve internal communication. Develop activity feeds. Upload videos. Store files. Give employees access to engaging communications tools, all in one location that is accessible from anywhere, on any device. If you’re ready to start setting up your intranet, contact us today. We’ll help you discover how vital the company intranet can be to your internal communications strategies. Your intranet is the perfect tool for jumping on 2016’s most critical internal communications trends, and we’re here to help you make the most of it.