Face it, these days the news cycle is literally 24/7. What’s happening with Facebook? Google?
What happened today?
Some big stories don’t even make news because they’re overshadowed by even bigger stories. No one can keep up, despite how important some of these stories are.
It’s an overload. It’s difficult sometimes to understand the truth. And people feel overwhelmed.
Information overload is really a thing
It may seem like a buzzword for how you’re feeling, but information overload is really happening. How all-consuming is news these days? Time indicates, “One in 10 adults checks the news every hour, and fully 20% of Americans report ‘constantly’ monitoring their social media feeds — which often exposes them to the latest news headlines, whether they like it or not.”
It’s a lot to read, listen to, or watch as well as understand and act on. Also that information is conflicting and confusing.
- 58% say staying informed is difficult, according to Gallup.
- Americans are worried “fake news” is spreading and seem to blame the Internet, Gallup-Knight indicates.
- Nearly 7 in 10 Americans admit to being overloaded with news, according to the Pew Research Center.
- When it comes to disinformation, 1.4 million people have interacted with Russian Twitter trolls. Three million people spread disinformation on Twitter. 126 million people saw Russian propaganda on Facebook.
- 31% of Americans were exposed to something completely made up in the news last week.
Information overload has ramifications on our bodies
Feeling tired and stress out lately? It’s not just you!
Being overloaded with information has an actual impact on our mental and physical health. When we’re overwhelmed with confusing or conflicting information, Learning Mind indicates we feel tired, stressed, anxious, and moody.
It can also raise our blood pressure and impair cognitive ability.
Employees are facing information overload, too
Okay, we’re all living with this, but that means so are our employees. T-HQ indicates According to the survey of 2000 office employees in the UK by Insight, 60% of workers claim to ignore internal communications altogether until it’s brought to their attention because they’re overloaded.
Communications, HR, and IT professionals have messages to get through the organization. There’s a an IT project kicking off, parking fees have increased, changes are happening in your benefits, there’s a reorganization in accounting, and more.
Here are some ideas on how to stop overload and help employees trust your communications.
1. Prioritize information
This one is simple — ensure the big stories make it and are clearly heard and understood. If the information isn’t that important, it’s probably not worth spending as much time on.
How to prioritize
Don’t know how to prioritize the information? Here are a few suggestions of what may be priority 1:
- Is this information critical for understanding the business — what you sell or who you help, who you sell to, meeting company goals (increasing revenue and decreasing costs)?
- Does this impact employees’ (and their families) financial or physical health?
- Does this change impact employees’ job?
- Will knowing this information make employees safer?
- Will knowing this information protect the organization?
Even with the information above, not all employees will care equally about the information. For your Gen Z worker just entering the workforce, they may not care as much about their benefits as a Gen Xer with a large family.
Get leaders to agree and then activate them
Sit down with your stakeholders and work through priorities with them, collectively, you’re helping them understand what they’re competing against. Let them air grievances, concerns, and issues. Address them as best you can, including have people in the room who can better address them, like executives.
After everyone buys into the priorities, activate leaders by asking them to help communicate. Give them talking points. Encourage, and even help them set up, face-to-face meetings, especially when employees are dealing with change. They can work with front-line managers communicating, too.
Communicate more for priorities
If it’s a priority, find more ways to communicate, especially why and what’s changing. Know the impact, and the change in behavior you need. Spend time listening and determining whether the message is getting from leadership down to the front-line employees. Discover ways of getting your message through manager roadblocks.
2. Target audiences to reduce unnecessary information
Targeting employees, with what concerns them, helps gets the message through. Let’s take the parking fee increase, for example. Not everyone in your company will care about that — probably only the people that park.
By finding out who’s parking, you can target them and communicate to them directly. Because this impacts their finances, this deserves more communications specifically to them.
3. Consider who, what, when, why, how, and who
The what, how, and why is always important as well as the who. In fact, the why is so crucial, people should understand why your organization is making a change or has a new initiative.
- Communicate why there’s a change. In fact, the more you involve them in the decision as well as how to roll out information, the more buy-in you’ll have and the easier the change will be. There’s an old adage, no one wants to be changed, but everyone wants to participate in change.
- Spend time planning the how people find out. Discuss change in face-to-face meetings, and use more than one meeting. If you can’t, due to budget, use video conferencing software and add to your intranet. Use other methods — emails, posters, etc. — to reinforce it.
- Ensure people understand what’s changing, too, including how it may impact them. Give handouts and additional information so people know the needed change in behavior or what they’re expected to do. Also, for important changes, communicate them at least 5 – 7 times.
- Identify who will communicate. Employees trust their manager for important updates, like job changes or reorgs. But don’t leave managers out of the process — work with them on how to communicate, including asking for their feedback and participation.
- Let employees know when it’s happening. One idea might be to even add it to their calendars, such as benefits enrollment.
Don’t forget that open communication is more effective. It builds trust and reinforces your communications team is the one employees should trust … not the water cooler. (Although engaging the water cooler employees to help communicate effectively is always a good idea!)
4. Relate information, when it’s important
Not every project at your organization needs a logo, but you can make visible ties to related information. Link related information when it’s on the intranet, email, company social media, or intranet news. If it’s during a meeting, remind people where and when you talked about it. Of course, consider priority. If the connection isn’t important, don’t bother. An example may be, “We asked for your feedback on benefits. Your answers, what you needed, was part of the reason behind the benefits change.”
5. Highlight information for at-a-glance understanding
You can also highlight information, the things you really need employees to know. They can be a call-outs on your intranet news or a a list in your email. This can be the one slide left up during a meeting or the handout given to all employees. By making it easy-to-read and understand, you’re giving employees a leg up.
What should you cover?
- Expected behavior
6. Listen and gather feedback
Communication is a two-way street. You can’t just keep telling people information. You need to discuss it, see if they understand it, and ask if they have any questions. Revisit 1 – 4 based on the information you get back.
Maybe you didn’t think a $5 increase monthly was worth communicating about in depth, but on listening to those affected, they’re mad because they haven’t had a raise — yet are paying more in benefits and parking. Or perhaps you over-communicated about the parking, but they get it, knowing your organization isn’t the ones raising rates.
Checking in and soliciting feedback from employees is always a good barometer.
Every communication and comms vehicle should have an objective that relates back to organizational priorities. It’s important to measure before, during, and after after the project or change has taken place. (It’s why feedback is so important; you can pivot faster and ensure you meet your objective.)
Think about ways to measure your success. For example, if your objective for the change was that 90% of affected employees would know the new parking fees and make arrangements, then find a way to get those metrics. Survey employees or better still, determine how they’ve changed their behavior because of what you’ve communicated.
Information overload is a real thing and it’s happening now. By knowing it, we can all take a step back and do things to reduce the “noise” happening in our organizations. More than that, we can remind employees to unplug — at home and even at work — to focus and gain clarity. Make sure there are wellness programs available and that employees can take advantage of them.
And don’t forget about self-care. It’s hard to communicate with employees effectively if you’re overloaded yourself.