Despite having more channels, more ways to reach out to each other and more content, communication is breaking down in organizations.
With more virtual team members and decentralized models of working, communication involves brief interactions on messaging platforms or emails. So too much of what workers do is based on assumptions rather than specific dialog with managers or team members. Let’s change that.
Internal communications breakdown
Harvard Business Review shared some of the key issues that employees have with how their managers communicate with them, including a lack of clear direction, no face-to-face or phone time and no interest in workers as individuals. There’s a distance that need to be bridged.
To encourage a two-way flow of communication in an organization, with more talking and less assuming, external communication tools and tactics could be turned inward, like social media.
What makes social media work
MediaPost shared the results of a survey from Ikea supporting this. In asking 12,000 people in 12 cities, the Swedish furniture maker found that 68 percent of respondents preferred communications online, including those in their own home—which is pretty wild to stop and think about.
But this preference clearly makes social an ideal tactic for internal communications (and happy families, apparently).
The dawn of internal social media
There’s even an official term for it now, according to APCO, a company that works with organizations on employee engagement: internal social media. The focus of successful ISM programs includes quality content, engagement and dialog and optimization. And it helps employees feel included, just like customers or prospects feel when they interact with a brand on social media.
As APCO shared, “Our research indicates that ISM has the potential to ease collaboration, make employees feel closer to their employers, aid in employee recruitment and retention and engage employees who can become brand ambassadors. We see positive correlation between effective use of ISM and employee confidence, employee connection to their employer and a feeling that their employer cares about them.”
Other research finds similar results. For example, Nokia has BlogHub, where employees can create their own communities. This internal communication system uses posts and videos to make employees feel connected to each other and the organization.
Tools and platforms for ISM tactics
Besides Nokia’s approach, there are many other ways to integrate ISM into your workplace:
- Facebook pages are great for use with human resources and remote employees. It’s a way to share information about benefits, open enrollment and new policies. The pages can be used by departments and teams to collaborate and encourage. This involves getting together or just uploading information and pictures that help develop relationships and teamwork.
- Tweets don’t have to always be public. Instead, you can do this privately so that managers can share little bits of information with the team. This can also be a way to share inspiring messages tied to the culture to reinforce those ideas. And then employees can comment about how they feel about the posts. This is also an ideal tool to use when there is not much time available to spend on internal communication.
- Company blogs also provide a significant amount of information that helps workers stay updated. It helps them feel more involved in company strategy, vision and direction, policy changes and events. Content can include results from surveys, company research and interviews with managers so that the team better understands where the company is headed and the role they play in the big picture.
- LinkedIn Groups are similar to an intranet that an organization uses to share event information, announcements, promotions and updates on specific issues or projects.
- Chat services seem to be becoming more popular as a way to encourage online group discussions. This format is familiar because it’s become so much a part of personal communication that employees can quickly get on board with it for work discussions.
- Interactive video and live feeds through social media are also great tools. These can be used to include remote workers as well as for training purposes.
- YouTube can also be used to maintain an archive of previous videos. Plus, it can be used to create a channel that employees subscribe to and upload their own videos. The content can also include community events and social gatherings. Depending on how it goes, you can even make this a public channel so that your target audience sees the company culture and brand attributes in action.
Chat bots facilitate communication
There are also relatively new options that can help facilitate a comprehensive ISM program, like chat bots.
Wipro is a digital evangelist brand that provides chat bots for companies to use in their internal communications. Chief marketing officer Naveen Rajdev, a disruptive thought leader in the global information technology space, noted, “Implementing artificial intelligence can improve workflow and facilitate communication among team members. If someone runs late to a meeting, for instance, his or her digital assistant can ping other participants, telling them to push back the start time.”
Chat bots have the ability to reduce the meaningless interactions between employees that cut in on the time they have to engage in meaningful conversations. This way, a team can focus on more personal interactions while chat bots handle tasks that don’t require human communication skills—win-win.
Maybe we’ll have chat bots for rote conversations at home one day, like that whole, “What do you want to eat?” nonsense that happens in every household every day. It can randomly generate informed answers and make that decision, leaving us with more time to discuss South Park or other important whatevers.
Scripted videos to manage change and build community
Another relatively new internal communication tool is video marketing solutions like those developed by Lemonlight Media, a national video production company that produces branded video content at scale. These solutions provide ways to recruit, train, motivate and inspire employees. And the company provides everything for an organization, including the script.
Videos can cover a range of situations and communication styles that can be a huge help when managing delicate situations, like shifts in policy or overall mission. Having videos ready to present an overarching change allows leaders to better “read the room” and respond to concerns and nonverbal cues that they may otherwise miss when preoccupied with delivering the message. And the videos can be created in a variety of styles to accommodate the desired mood.
As Lemonlight CEO Hope Horner explained, “Once we determine the purpose of the video, we explore the different styles of video: mini-doc, lifestyle (includes actors and locations), or animation.” Because wouldn’t it be better to have an animation tell you about that policy change and give an immediate sense of the “not so very serious” announcement, instead of having Kim from HR worrying over her precise words while the room misinterprets her discomfort and fears everyone is about to be fired?
Start getting social behind the scenes
Companies can immediately enact these ISM tactics. Just take the same analytical approach to internal social media deployment as you would with an external social media marketing program. From there, you can change tactics, content and format so that employees engage in more effective communication and you do, too.