If you visit any office of Deloitte India, which is one of the Big Four professional services entities, you will find yourself facing a full-length mirror near the entrance. It serves a purpose.
“When the usual mailers failed to elicit the desired results, we launched the ‘ImpresseD’ program, where the capital D denotes the organization’s name. Full-length mirrors were installed near office entrances with a subtle message that read: The first thing people notice about you is your shoes,” says S V Nathan, partner and chief talent officer, Deloitte India. He adds that scruffy shoes are no longer spotted within the organization.
In an era where employees do not like to be “told”, where time is of the essence, attention spans are shorter and employees are on the go, versatile messaging is here to stay. It takes various forms—videos, digital platforms, apps, theatre or, when the situation demands it, larger town halls, small cluster meetings or even midnight sessions. Such modes of communication have relegated to the backburner the classic top-down model of internal communication which traditionally meant a long-winding email rolled out en masse
The email is not exactly dead. Recently, when faced with challenging situations, InfosysBSE 1.09 % CEO Vishal Sikka and Snapdeal founders are believed to have used this medium to address employees. However, it is more sparingly used with greater attention being paid to brevity and a catchy subject line.
“We understand that the days of one-way communication have long gone. We live in a volatile and complex world, where dynamics demand a constant change. Not communicating is definitely bad news,” says Prince Augustin, EVP, group human capital, at Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M), echoing the line of thinking across India Inc.
Companies are more experimental in their bid to disseminate information in an engaging manner, with video clips emerging as a hot favourite. “We use multiple modes for internal communication. However, the message is delivered in byte sizes. The visual mode (comic strips, story boarding and videos) is popular as it helps better in retaining the message conveyed,” says Yuvaraj Srivastava, chief human resources officer, MakeMyTrip.
InMobi has launched Kaleidoscope, a short and snappy video series, which covers a wide range of hot and happening topics within the company, including HR updates and product launches. Much like the Prime Minister’s Maan Ki Baat initiative, employees can suggest what they want covered next. “For employees on the go, communication should be snackable, thus we prefer a video over a written message any day,” says Kevin Freitas, HR director, InMobi.
Then, at RPG group, monthly videos branded Forum, which capture stories from across group companies, plus specific video messages from leaders, such as the chairperson’s New Year message, are in place. The video also proved to be an effective reach-out mechanism for both workermen as well as neighbourhood residents when a fire broke out in CEAT’s oldest plant in Mumbai a few years ago.
“While videos of good community work done by the Bhandup plant quelled negative news, workers were updated with multiple video messages from the management on the initiatives taken to restart the factory,” says S Venkatesh, president, group HR, RPG Enterprises.
Given that transparency is important, companies are no longer shy of sharing “bad” news. Last year, when MakeMyTrip faced a legal issue relating to service tax, including the arrest of a senior official, open communication channels, including regular emails from the founders, ensured accurate information reached employees. They were also the first to know of the favourable court order.
“Today, we assess communication tools on parameters such as interactivity and engagement, instant communication, anonymity as an available option, easy to access, mobile access and multiple engagement via the same tool,” says Freitas.
When it comes to upward internal communication, employees are given a voice largely via the digital medium. The ZenVerse app enables employees at Zensar to pose questions to their CEO. CEAT has a WhatsApp group called BolBindaas. Ask me Anything is a digital platform at MakeMyTrip. Soon after the merger with Ibibo, use was made of a Facebook platform to drive seamless communication and connect employees across the two companies. InMobi’s social platform Slack connects employees globally and also communicates information such as employee benefits and recognition. Hyphen provides anonymity and enables InMobians to give their feedback.
More traditional means such as townhalls, cluster meetings, coffee with leaders are effective as well. Midnight meetings are not ruled out at M&M for discussions on topics like cost rationalization. “This timing shows urgency and gains more commitment,” says Augustin. Lastly, if you hear a bell ring at InMobi, don’t panic, it’s just their way of announcing achievements.