Recently, on LinkedIn, I’ve had some interesting interactions. I mean, interactions are always interesting in social media, but these were surprising. One young woman new to internal communications (IC) wanted communication ideas. A CEO asked whether it was important to find different ways to communicate because sometimes there’s nothing to communicate.
Both led me to think, occasionally people need help deciding what to communicate and when. Here are a few ideas to help if you’re struggling to know what to communicate about or why. Maybe even if you’re a professional, you’ll get a few new ideas.
Let’s start with where employees should communicate.
Where to communicate? Many channels, including intranets
Messages have to be repeated to be understood. Whether you’re in MarCom or CorpComm, you’ve heard that messages should be repeated five to seven times. That’s true in internal communications, too. That’s why choosing more than one channel is most effective when communicating. In fact, it’s best is to use a mix of them in communicating up to seven times. One of those channels, especially for larger businesses, should include an intranet.
Intranets are easy to use. You can find people and information quickly and effortlessly. Intranets are places where information can be easily updated as well. You can link to intranets when using other methods, like email. Some intranets also enable you to specify messages to individual people, personalizing messages while making them targeted. Intranets are mobile, traveling wherever employees go. Also, company news is included in intranets, providing top information on home pages and other pages. More channels can leverage an intranet too — like storing videos and images. Many modern intranets also have places to collaborate, share information and engage. Risk managers and information managers love intranets because you can manage information. Modern intranets also enable integrations so you can be productive all in one tool.
Versatile, easy to use repositories where teams can collaborate are all good reasons to use intranets. If you can’t do all of these with your intranet, you’re using the wrong intranet.
When to communicate?
There’s no shortage of information that should live on your intranet. What you actively communicate and when should be considered on a case-by-case basis. Some information should be communicated right away because it requires employees to act fast. For example, you want to use many methods, including your intranet, to warn employees about severe weather in their location.
Some information may be good information to have, but not time dependent. For example, a reminder about a benefit that doesn’t have to be used right away can be helpful anytime.
There are also priorities. If you have five urgent things to communicate for the week, maybe you want to save the non-urgent ones for another week.
What to communicate?
We decided to focus, limiting to 11 ideas. This by no means is a complete list, but these may be some of the top things to focus on.
1. Benefits to perks
Of course, you’ll want to communicate when new benefits are available or about to roll out, including what’s changed and why. In the U.S. tax changes may impact pay with new requirements. New information should always be announced as it’s learned with information on what to do about it.
More than that, employees may lose track of benefits information, including how they can contribute to their 401(k). They may need reminders on using flex spending especially before it runs out. People may stop their exercise routines in April, after New Year’s resolutions are completed, and need prompting to use company-paid gym memberships.
That’s why it’s best to plan out a few reminders about benefits over the year as well as communicate urgent benefits information as-needed.
2. Reorgs and major new hires
Anytime there’s a major reorganization, there should be a communication to make it clear what happened and why. These announcements should be available to all employees, coming out through your company news.
Employees impacted will need more than intranet news. Employees in the reorg should hear about the change first, through a face-to-face (or as close to one as you can get) to meet with new teams and department heads. They should be able to ask questions during and after that meeting, and discuss new expectations and goals.
When it comes to announcing new hires using the intranet, some companies announce every new hire. Others only announce executives or officers. Which one you decide to do probably depends on your rate of hiring and your organizational values. If you’re a company that announces everyone, consider asking the new hire to write a two sentence bio to make it easier on staff.
3. Customers and your brand
When new customers pick your company, employees should know about it through your company news and also on your brand intranet site. Some customer stories may even make great information on your external website.
Some of the things that may be helpful include:
- What the customer does (how they bring value to the world)
- Why customers selected your company
- How your organization is helping them
- Who made the sale
- Who is assigned to them, which account executive or customer service personnel
- Any additional information that reinforces your brand
For healthcare, some of the best brand stories are how patients thrive after your organization treats them. What may be of particular interest is how they were treated, specific nurses and medical practitioners that made a difference and how they’re working to help the community after treatment.
For business-to-customer organizations, such as retail, spotlighting customers occasionally helps employees understand the products and services they’re bringing to individual people.
For government agencies and nonprofits, you can highlight feedback from customers, including internal customers, as well information that relates to your “mission” — how you’re helping the community. Nonprofits live by the mission, but government agencies can, too. After all, you’re serving the community by providing needed services — libraries, law enforcement, etc.
Get storytelling ideas.
4. Employees and your brand
When employees are caught doing the right thing, announce it on your intranet and company news. Some intranets have a place to highlight employee recognition, so it can live there, too. If it matches brand values or demonstrates the brand, consider adding to your internal and external websites.
Highlight especially how their actions match behaviors and values you’re trying to reinforce across your company. For example, if a manufacturing employee had an innovative idea that saved millions, that may be news to celebrate.
5. Strategy, goals, and direction
Usually, internal communicators prefer to use all-employee meetings to discuss new strategy and direction. Face-to-face is always the best way to communicate, especially something new. Executives can address the direction and why change is needed.
However, often there’s little follow up after the meeting to determine how things are progressing. Is the organization meeting those goals announced? Do priorities need to be placed on the strategy and direction to meet it?
Make a commitment to keeping up with progress — what’s been achieved and what has yet to be achieved.
Also, it’s important for communicators to think: WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) How is each employee involved in the direction or goal? How are they contributing? Managers should be working to reinforce how goals and strategy relate to teams and individual employees. Department heads should also bring information about how the entire team is working together. HR business partners should be checking in as well.
Lastly, are employees’ performance metrics tied to goals? If so, that makes it more imperative they’re revisited regularly.
6. Metrics that demonstrate performance
Tied to strategy, goals and direction — organizations need a way to measure progress. If you have quarterly earnings, those are some metrics, but you’ll need more. Organizations should make those dashboards and metrics available on their intranet for employees to see.
7. Major projects and programs that are strategic
Projects tied to strategy, goals and direction need communication and probably an intranet site dedicated to it. For example, if your organization is restructuring technology systems — moving to the cloud to cut costs — employees should know at a high level about those projects, including whether they’ve been completed. While you’re at it, remind employees why the project was needed.
8. Training, especially regarding compliance
Use your intranet and company news to alert employees about needed training — sexual harassment, privacy, safety, etc. In 2018, in just about every survey provided, many IT executives include security as a top concern. Employees mishandling information demands training. That’s why training should be provided and communicated to all employees. Your company may even want an entire area devoted not just to the security department, but security in general. This may be especially important if you’re from a financial services company.
Beyond mere compliance, employees want to continue to have opportunities to improve and learn. Providing training, both in company news and on a section of the website, can make it easier for people to find the training they want to take.
9. Anything related to compliance
New tax forms, agreements you’ve taken training, etc. — these all rely on employees 1) knowing about what they should comply with 2) why they should comply with it and 3) how they can comply (by following various steps). For example, document and file acceptance employees have taken sexual harassment training as well as understand company policies.
10. Opportunities to engage
Worldwide, workers are largely disengaged. Your intranet can help improve that.
Employees need interactive places to share, collaborate, give and receive feedback and express ideas. Additionally, provide new job opportunities, chances to join community involvement efforts, etc. These opportunities to engage should be used across the intranet and in company news.
11. Business acumen, including industry and financial information
What’s happening to your competition? What’s happening to the industry? This is all relevant because it impacts daily decisions made at your company – whether to end products or services, spend more money on research, automate more, grow, etc.
Again, they need to understand why they’re receiving information. Executives and leaders can weigh in through blogs or regular meetings with employees to discuss what they see happening and how the company needs to shift.
The more prepared employees are to understand what’s happening around them, the better they’ll be able to accept change at the company.
Obviously, this list isn’t exhaustive. Add your favorite intranet content idea and maybe you’ll be featured next time. Hopefully, if you already have a ton of content, you got a few new ideas. If you’re a CEO who doesn’t think there’s much to communicate about, you got a few thoughts. And if you’re a new internal communications professional — you have the beginnings of an editorial calendar.Mobile, easy-to-use, simple to update intranets are possible. Spend 15-minutes seeing an intranet that will engage your workforce.