What does it take to create engaging employee communications?

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    The article is written by Tilak Chowdhury, Head Communications at Sharda Motors

    The last two years have been quite hard for most of us. The forced Work from Home, thanks to COVID made it compulsory for us to spend more time checking mails and using virtual tools to stay connected.

    You might say that I am exaggerating a bit, but sometimes, I was reminded of the scene from Harry Potter where uncle Vernon tries to stop the letters from reaching our dear Harry and is seen sinking in a sea of letters. So, when there is too much to say and too little time to digest, what do we do?

    I think we could try to explore the 7R approach.

    Respect:        

    Many of the employees might be still working from Home. They have their own struggles, like Wi-fi problems, sharing their rooms with children attending classes, live in partners sharing same couch while working, house help not come etc etc. So, when we visualize these in our minds while creating the communication, the tone and language automatically aligns in a way that is mindful of the feelings of the employees. Respect their efforts. Recognize their contribution. Rejoice their presence in the workforce.

    Refreshing:

    No one has time for lengthy messages with long copy. So, use words which are easy to understand and comprehend. Keep the copy short and crisp. Keep the design simple. Keep the text size legible and use frequency of the messages judiciously. Make the concept interesting and fun to look at. Treat it like an ad copy for a product we want to sell. It must be fun to read and generate enough curiosity to read on. Can the communication entertain? Can it make one smile? Can it make you feel good? 

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    Remembrance:    

    Whether we consciously acknowledge or not, we are used to our offices. They are a part of our lives in a way nothing can replace. The chats in the office corridors or tea breaks with colleagues or the lighter moments at work, all form an integral part of our office experience. Can we borrow a leaf from Facebook? And dig into our old images and find out a collage of pictures that show us in a happy and blissful moment and end the message with that picture with a caption like “Remember the date? Or Simply say We in 2016 or Raise your hand if you are missing these moments”. These images can provoke a lot of emotions in the employees and can help us connect with each other without knowing. Also, it gives us a feeling of the bond we share. The support system that we take for granted. It might also prompt people to connect with each other on their own and enjoy the invisible bond they share. 

    Rightly Timed & Themed:

    It is said that timing is everything in life. So, why should it not be important for employee communication? Can there be some kind of time table or time codes created that helps the receiver of the message gauge the kind of message. For example, happy messages in the morning with a colour Red. Messages that make you think or needs serious deliberations, can be sent in the evening with a colour blue that can help people sleep over the topic. Policy messages can be coloured green and timed in the afternoon post lunch etc.         

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    Response evoking and seeking:

    Everyone wants to be heard. In the age of the social media, it has only become more pronounced. Most of our messages are one sided. They just announce or tell but don’t hear. Can every message end with a we would love to hear your thoughts and concerns with a response button? And, the good responses can be acknowledged and thanked on a public forum so that people are happy to share. People see that their opinions are valued. They see that the company wants to hear their thoughts and appreciates the good suggestions. Imaging the CEO office sending you a thank you note for a good response or the head of HR nominates your message to be circulated in the company newsletter.

    Research & Relatability:

    Many a times, the amount of research that goes into product communication does not go into developing employee communication. If there is a difficult decision or adjustment, can there be some examples quoted and how they were able to cope with those challenges. For example, if the Company wishes to start a Creche partly paid for by the employees, can there be some examples of how other companies fared and the kind of benefits that eventually was reaped by the employees. This can help in giving some hope and relief to the employees that they are not alone and there are others who have faced a similar situation and have benefited from it. Even if it is not an actual case study, can some references be quoted from books or movies or experts in the field?

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    Resonate and Repeat:

    There are some ways of communication that resonates well within the organization. Some people, some leaders, some channels resonate well within the company. There are certain values and culture orientations that can be included in the communication. The resonance of the message within the leadership team. May be there could be some kind of follow-ups done to repeat and revise the message using different forms of communication, games, activities etc. A stand-alone communication may not reach deep within. We need to find ways to use more senses and help in experiencing the message rather than read or hear.

    Conclusion:

    As the world goes more digital and companies struggle with employee retention, employee communication will gain more and more importance for companies and managers. The shift is inside out rather than earlier ways of outside in, when it comes to corporate culture and influence. Today, the employees play a key role of being influencers, ambassadors and promoters of products and services. They form a strong circle of influence around the brands they work for. So, it is more important than ever that they understand where their company is coming from and where are they going. Otherwise, it may impact sustainability of any company in the long term.