Published on Forbes: Insight-Driven Communication Is How You Can Better Engage Your Employees

June 19, 2017by Mike LepisEmployee EngagementInternal Communications

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Let’s assume your company is updating its “remote worker” policy and requiring employees to spend a majority of their time in the office. IBM did it recently, Yahoo made the switch a few years ago, and I’m sure others will follow. Your leadership team has tasked you with communicating this message.

Most HR and communications folks jump right in and start thinking about crafting an email and linking to more detailed policy changes in some remote corner of your company intranet. But you draft a message to let everyone know that this decision was based on data and a desire to encourage face-to-face interactions which are shown to increase productivity. Your message goes through revisions and you get feedback before finally launching your email and a new page on the intranet.

Now the message is out there; you are happy to get if off your plate, your leader is happy, your team is happy. All good? Not really.

How do you know if your message was effective? Did it connect with anyone? What were people’s reactions? Did it raise more questions than it answered? There is a possibility that people missed your message entirely. Or even worse, they heard it from an outside source that was critical of the change.

 You might have some good intuition about what is a good message, but it is still guesswork. Your responsibility as a communicator is to create, plan and execute your message using insights. These two meaningful insights and two results show how communications driven by insights can engage employees.

Insight 1: Define Success

When a request comes in from leadership or anyone else, have two questions ready to get some clarity before you start:

 What do you want people to take away? How would you define success?

Consider the responses to these as the top priority of your communication effort. These insights to what leadership wants to accomplish and how they define success give you a solid start to an effective communication effort. You are effectively starting with the end result.

And if leadership does not have an answer, it is your responsibility to give them an answer. Be prepared to interpret the intent of their request and put it in the context of the audience (question 1) and the function of employee communications (question 2).

Insight 2: Know Your Audience

In our remote workers policy change example, the policy does not apply to all types of employees. Retail employees, facilities support, operations and other functions cannot take advantage of this perk, so you may think to just exclude them from any communications. However, a change to how your organization works impacts everyone, so do not simply exclude them.

If you have not taken the time to segment your audience, now is the time. Insights into who your people are and how they consume messaging need to be a top priority and an ongoing practice. Surveys, analytics and employee data are just a starting point to understanding your audience. Interviews, focus groups and employee feedback help round out a picture of your employees’ preferences. Moving away from a “one size fits all” approach to communications is a huge leap forward.

Once you have clear profiles of who makes up your audience and how they consume information, you can use these insights and develop a strategic approach that uses different tactics to engage each audience segment.

Result 1: Engaging Messaging And Calls To Action

With goals and audience segments defined, you can begin to craft a message strategy that is insight driven. In the remote worker policy example, we want to communicate the change, the reason why, and the overall benefit this will have. Here are a few ideas of how valuable insights will influence your message development:

  • Engage your audience. As a communicator, you have a lot of competition for the attention of employees. With valuable insights, you can engage your audience in ways that get their attention and motivate them to action.
  • Give them good information. When you know what you want your audience to retain and understand how they consume it, you can focus on the quality and value of the information.
  • Be clear what is expected. Knowing how you are defining success drives your messaging. If there is no call to action, that’s fine. Just make sure that is clear as well.

Result 2: Connecting Through Creative

Creative is about solving problems and the deeper you understand the problem, the more focused you can be on finding the right solution. When your team of creatives is provided with meaningful insights about business objectives, measures of success and audiences, they will surprise and delight you with the multiple creative ways to approach the problem.

Once the team is on board, keep an open mind to ideas you didn’t think of. When reviewing and collaborating, make sure insights contained in the brief are being revisited, discussed and addressed in the work. Make sure that:

  • The key takeaway is always clear.
  • Concepts and tactics can be measured.
  • All audiences are appropriately targeted and engaged.
  • Messaging and calls to action drive retention and participation.

Investing In Knowledge

This entire communication approach may seem like a lot of effort for everyday employee communications but it becomes easier over time. Reflect on these advantages:

  • Your peers will come prepared with answers to your takeaway and success metrics questions with each request so you won’t even have to ask.
  • The investment in defining your audience, their preferences, learning styles and preferred methods of communications pays off many times over the course of a year.
  • Those who are hands on creating the materials will be armed with the best possible information to create employee communications that engage and motivate your audience to understanding and action.

With an insight-driven approach to employee communications, we are elevating what employee communications can be in organizations of any size. Some organizations say they are “employee first” while others say they are “customer first;” both philosophies are “people first.” When you take time to be thoughtful, understand your goals and people, and give them what they want and how they want it, you’ll see engagement, trust and the overall employee experience shine.

Insight-Driven Communication Is How You Can Better Engage Your Employees” was originally published on Forbes.com

Mike Lepis

As a Creative Director, Mike is responsible for developing insights and mapping them to the creative solutions that drive employee engagement for Vignette’s clients.

Early in his career Mike worked for both consumer marketing and internal communication divisions at Nike. In event marketing, Mike saw how a strong brand can bring people together. In consumer marketing, Mike learned how modern practices and measurement shape effective messaging. In Latin American marketing, Mike was immersed in video and digital communications channels. And with internal communication, Mike saw how—when employees are challenged, encouraged, and supported—they will get behind a brand and its mission.