The Employee Experience: Understand Your Internal Communications Audience (Part 2 of 6)

December 14, 2015by Gregg ApirianEmployee Engagement

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In Part 1, Architecting the Employee Experience (Part 1 of 6), we introduced and defined the concept of the employee experience. We made the point that if companies want to accomplish their business objectives, recruit the best-fit talent, and effectively deliver a seamless customer experience; then they must place as much attention into developing the employee experience as they do towards the customer experience. But to do this, HR and Communications professionals must first accurately understand their audience: their wants, needs, motivational drivers, frustrations, and use the most effective strategies, tactics, channels and vehicles to communicate, train and engage employees.

The Era of the Memo Is Dead

The days where a company could send a single memo from leadership to all staff and expect their employees to read, understand, and comply with, are over. We live in a media-rich and fragmented world where your employees think and behave like consumers. Employees can choose to engage with or ignore any and all forms of content and communications you send them. They have preferences of when and how to engage with a communications and you should know these preferences so you can meet them where they are at. The average employee is very busy trying to keep up with the speed of the business, which continues to move faster making keeping up more complex.

Consumers have also evolved, but the best of consumer marketers operate with an understanding that there is an opportunity to use data-driven approaches to make communications personal. By doing this, marketers are able to connect with consumers in meaningful ways while also gaining insights about their behaviors as engagement continues.

HR and Internal Communications professionals should take a similar approach to marketers to effectively communicate with and engage their workforce. This starts with a data-driven mindset and operation to support a data-driven practice. There is no secret that the business of HR and Communications has not matured at the same pace as consumer marketing, keeping most professionals in a comfortable place with limited use of data to make informed decisions and limited methods to measure the effectiveness of internal communications and employee engagement. This has to change.     

The Power of Data and Insights

There are a number of ways to obtain a better understanding of your employee audiences. The most common methods are surveys, interviews, and workshops. The status quo has been to do a once a year survey to measure employee engagement. While this does produce some insights, surveys alone are misleading and if you only do a survey once a year you can only learn so much as the business continues to grow and evolve.

Let’s say you survey employees and ask a question like: “Do you want to be promoted?” The answer will be ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ This objective data is useful, but interviewing a sample of ‘yes’ and ‘no’s’ in addition to surveying will reveal the reasons behind their answers. The ‘no’s’ might be hiding from promotion for a number of reasons. The ‘yes’s’ might want to be promoted, but perhaps there are issues related to the promotions process, or how that promotion might affect them both professionally and personally.

HR and Communication teams must be able to balance objective and subjective data to reach more meaningful conclusions to shape their communications. This approach will help both the employees and the company to align more closely to deliver the performance the business is after.

Sugar content in different sweet creams: hazelnut chocolate cream, peanut butter, dulce de leche and strawberry jam
Sugar content in different sweet creams: hazelnut chocolate cream, peanut butter, dulce de leche and strawberry jam

Segmenting Your Internal Audiences

Like anything else in business, having a strategy first guides the data you collect and informs how to use the data to achieve your business objectives. The first step to delivering more targeted and personalized communications is to recognize that you don’t have a single audience, but rather many. Segment your audience into a set of groups that can be classified by role, age/generation, gender, geographic location, or a number of other personas. Understand and embrace the nuances inherent to all groups, which will enable you to tailor your communications to resonate more effectively with your employees.

Measuring the Effectiveness of Your Internal Communications

There are many HR and Communications professionals who know if their communications were effective or not and then there are the rest who have no idea. How does having no idea accomplish your business objectives or advance your business? There is no good reason not to measure the effectiveness of your communications.

In some cases this is easy to do, but it is dependent on having the right mix of strategy, skills, and tools. For example, if you are not using an email platform with analytical tools then how do you know who received, opened and read your emails? Maybe you know who opened it, but if you segmented your audience and delivered targeted messages, how do you know which message worked and didn’t work?

When you are starting a new project or initiative define KPIs that are aligned to the company’s KPIs and business objectives

The way to solve for this is to make sure that when you are starting a new project or initiative, you first define Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are aligned to the company’s KPIs and business objectives. This will ensure a clear understand of what defines success. Then once you define the channels, tactics and vehicles used, apply a method to measure to each. For example, if you are using your Intranet as a channel to publish a new video from leadership, you should be able to measure:

  • Who opened the email that informed employees about the video and where to find it
  • Who went to the Intranet landing page with the video
  • Who watched the video
  • Who didn’t watch the video
  • Who started but didn’t finish the video
  • Who took action on what the video was communicating

Time to Consider a Data-Driven Approach for Internal Communications

Whether you are data driven or not, understanding your audience is key to fueling the employee experience at your company. It is our responsibility as HR and Communications professionals to advance our knowledge, experience, and skills so we can continue to pilot and use strategies; channels, tactics and vehicles that people care about and deliver value back to the business.

Stay tuned for the 3rd part of this series: Developing Messaging & Content Strategy For Employee Communications

Gregg Apirian

As the Managing Director of Vignette, Gregg is responsible for agency-wide vision and strategy, operations and finance, business development and engagement management. With nearly 20 years in entrepreneurial and executive-level roles, Gregg has been an instrumental leader at many distinguished agencies. Prior to Vignette Gregg was EVP, Digital Marketing at Trailer Park, EVP at Schematic (now POSSIBLE), and began his agency career as co-founder and CEO of BLITZ. Over the years Gregg’s leadership and combined experience drove growth, profitability and delivery of innovative and effective solutions for brands like GE, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Target, Verizon, OWN, Sony Pictures, NBCUniversal, Johnson & Johnson, HSN, Ann Taylor & LOFT, Nike, and Reebok.