SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO LOOK WITHIN
Posted by Robbyn Brooks
Don’t forget about employees when it comes to the communication process
When professionals talk about communication, its common to focus on branding an image in public or sparking conversation with clients and customers. However, one of the most important groups of people organizations should consider during communication plans is employees.
Employees are often times the first representatives of a company or organization that the public comes in contact with. Family members become familiar with a company because a loved one works there. The same goes for friends and acquantances. Employees can act as wonderful spokespeople, or in some cases where they don’t feel their opinions and skills are valuable to a company, employee opinions can be damaging to a company’s image.
Building loyalty on the inside translates to a positive message being spread along an external grapevine. Employees are looked at as credible representations of a business.
David Brown writes for The Business Review and suggests, “Without a dedicated, effective internal communications program, an organization allows others to determine what information (or disinformation is communicated to employees about their organization.”
So how should companies go about fostering open and successful communication with employees? The Globe and Mail has these suggestions.
- Create a common company language. Every type of business has lingo they use. It’s important for all employees to understand the language so that messages can be clearly deciphered and understood. When I worked as a public relations professional for a non-profit in Washington, D.C., I was thrown in the mix without knowing what a NRRF (news release request form), MC (media calendar), and EOD (end of day) were. Don’t just assume people know what you are talking about. Teach them.
- Understand your company culture. If communication isn’t considered important in your company, change that. Make the business open and promote two-way conversations. Just because you don’t have a policy of transparancy now, doesn’t mean you can’t make a shift.
- Create internal social networks. (We’ll come back to this a little later in this post.) Understand that both formal and informal communication is important. Tasks and serious communication should be done formally through email and memos, but social communication fosters understanding and relationshps between the company’s subordinates and higher ups. Getting to know people on a personal level is important to the environment of a business or organization.
- Understand information sharing. While the non-profit I mentioned above didn’t do so well when it came to personally sharing what abbreviations and acronyms meant, they did have a solid plan in place for cross-training and helping employees understand step-by-step procedures. There was a whole databank of SOPs (standard operating procedures) that listed detailed directions for doing most tasks, from submitting requests, to reading up on how other departments worked. Consider creating a forum or space on your network to set employees up for success by providing information.
- Encourage employee participation. Speaking up is hard. It can be difficult whether you are a veteran or a rookie at a company. The key is for management to make it clear opinions are wanted, and needed, for the companies success. Help employees understand there is nothing wrong with speaking their mind. That technique ensures a full communication of both good and bad things without fear of repurcusion.
- Have a solid social media policy. A summer intern who worked with my newspaper last year made a big mistake, dispite having “listened” to instructions about inappropriate ways to represent a company. During a recreation league baseball game he was assigned to cover, he tweeted something like, “Shoot me. Having to cover little kid baseball for the newspaper.” Later he followed it up with a, “These kids can’t even score a run. F*** you, Troy.” Obviously, that is not a great representation of the employees who work hard on a daily basis to cover the community. Make sure there is a social media policy in place and instruct employees about the proper ways to talk about the company, if at all, online. Social media policy is also a disccusion when it comes to appropriate ways for employees to communicate with each other and with their bosses. Lines need to be drawn to protect both the company and employees.
Now, back to the internal social network bulletpoint listed above. Of course companies use email, but now that’s a forum best used for more formal communication or one-on-one communication. Some organizations have created forums with different topics for different discussions. Still, other businesses promote the use of LinkedIn as a way to get to know and communicate with other employees. But then there are groups who have jumped on the social media train with Twitter-like communication efforts, such as BizTweet, a corporate Twitter decisioning software.
BizTweet has worked externally for companies such as Delta, but internally for businesses like LG CNS Co. who use the product to communicate between employees. At first, the company admitted it was worried the process would become to much like a social media water cooler, but employees usually stuck to work-related topics – including setting up lunch meetings with collegues. Let’s face it, most employees don’t have push notifications for emails on their phones, but most Twitter users have smartphones set to show new tweets come across from selected accounts. It’s an easy and timely way to get information to employees and for them to communicate back. There’s even a BizTweet Daily newsletter to get even more ideas about how to use the platform to promote companies both internally and externally. While it doesn’t look as if BizTweet has taken off with the success of Twitter, the original product may be even a better platform for organizations to use, afterall, many employees already have a Twitter account. Companies can simply set up a private Twitter account that is only open to employees. Easy breezy!
Last, but not least, to remember if you are a management employee communicating to the masses. Forget the leadership and manager jargon. Talk to employees as people, not as subordinates. Use inclusive terms such as we and our instead of me and I. Helping employees feel part of a team goes a long way down the road to communication success!