The most effective internal communications go beyond one-way information sharing. They inspire action — action that measurably moves key initiatives forward.
So how do you go about crafting communications that reliably engage employees and spark stakeholders to take action? The answer to that question is more complex and nuanced than you might think. That’s especially true if your organization, like most Fortune 500s, includes a mix of desk-facing and deskless workers.
If your internal communications are designed with only laptop-facing office workers in mind, you’re leaving key stakeholders out of the loop. Here’s what you need to know to develop an action-oriented internal communications strategy that’s perfectly tailored to meet all employees’ needs.
The hallmarks of effective, action-oriented internal communications
Your action-oriented communications need to be carefully structured to give stakeholders a crystal clear understanding of what they should (or shouldn’t) do next. And you need to convey why this action matters, both to your organization and to them.
Specifically, action-oriented internal communications need to be clear:
- Don’t bury the lede. Instead, get straight to the point and share what it means for each stakeholder audience. Just like a news story, action-oriented communications should lead off with the most important details and provide supplementary or contextual information in descending order of importance.
- Explain the why behind the change. Employees need to understand why a change is happening before they can wholeheartedly support an initiative and “vote” with their actions by following through on your requests.
- Emphasize what’s in it for the employee. Successful communications are always audience-focused, so you should make it clear how stakeholders will benefit from completing a requested action. Be sure to tailor the messaging about benefits as needed to each specific employee group.
- Include a clear and prominent call to action (CTA). Communications that inspire action are structured so the “ask” is the most prominent element. That’s true whether you’re creating an email, poster, digital sign, manager cascade or internal social post. Even the most distracted scanners or listeners should be able to quickly and easily identify what’s required of them next. If your communication is simply informational, state that explicitly, too. Doing so eliminates confusion and increases participation when an action is needed.
- Anticipate and proactively answer stakeholder questions. Put yourself in your employees’ shoes. Now imagine yourself completing the required action, step by step. What questions are team members likely to have as they go through the process? And what challenges or blockers might they face in executing your request? Proactively answer those questions in your communication. But don’t stop there. Point employees to a specific channel they can use to ask additional questions as they inevitably arise.
Drive action with internal communications that meet employees where they are
Deskless employees, such as factory workers or healthcare professionals, account for 80% of the world’s workforce today. (In the U.S., 37% of workers are deskless.) That means most large organizations must optimize their messaging for workers in a range of contexts.
With that in mind, how you package and deliver action-oriented communications is just as important as what you say in them. Considering these factors is one of the most crucial (yet frequently overlooked) ways to ensure all employees actually encounter and engage with your communications.
This is also where key differences between office-based and deskless employees start to come into play.
Office workers are accustomed to living in their inboxes and reading company updates on their computers. Email, Slack and the company intranet — all of these make sense as primary communications channels for your digital-first, laptop-facing employees.
But it’s a completely different story for your deskless workers. Not only are these employees typically not using a laptop as a significant part of their day, but some workers, like those on a manufacturing floor, may not even be allowed to have phones or other devices on their person while on the job.
To effectively reach deskless employees, you must start by understanding the context in which they work. That includes their working environment, the technologies they have access to on the job and how they prefer to receive information. You’ll likely find you need to explore a robust mix of high- and low-tech channels, from manager cascades and bulletin boards to digital signage and mobile-first apps.
The bottom line? Your internal communications must meet employees where they already are and with the technologies they actually use, not the other way around.
Engage and activate stakeholders with an audience, channel and impact analysis
Your ability to reliably spark action among employees starts with an internal communications strategy that seamlessly reaches, engages and activates each group of internal stakeholders within your organization.
To get started on the right track, begin with an audience, channel and impact analysis.
You’ve got to know your audience — and it can’t just be “employees.” Consider your team’s geographic locations, job functions, access to technology and languages. Are they administrative employees with laptops? Sales associates with tablets or smartphones? Deskless employees with no device? Do they all speak English? Do they all work in the same location? Even employees in two different plant locations in the same city constitute two different audiences.
Carefully define your employee buckets and use that information to appropriately tailor conversations to individual components of the larger employee group.
The mix of channels and formats you use to deliver communications should reflect the mix of internal stakeholders you need to engage. If you send an important update via a single email, many of your employees may miss it — even those who regularly check email outside of work.
That’s why a channel analysis is so important. It’s geared toward understanding how different audiences prefer to receive information at work.
For instance, it may surprise you to learn that most deskless employees prefer to get information directly from other people — particularly from their managers. In an era when companies are investing heavily in communication technologies, the average deskless worker still prefers that human connection. If that’s true of your deskless workers, you’ll want to think carefully about developing a well-structured manager cascade, which can then be reinforced with written communications.
Keep in mind that different channels are more or less effective in different contexts. For instance, rotating digital signage is great for entrances and break rooms where you’re sharing high-level notifications and key takeaways, but it could be distracting (or even unsafe) on a manufacturing floor. Likewise, printed posters are perfect for infographics, evergreen content and health and safety reminders, but more detailed printed information might be reserved for bathroom signage, or “stall street news” (where, after all, you have something of a captive audience). And for deskless workers who use smartphones on the job, a mobile-first app may be the perfect communications tool.
Finally, don’t forget to coordinate with other functions to see what channels employees are already being asked to use. Whenever possible, work together across departments to consolidate and simplify channels. Doing that will make your — and your employees’ — lives easier.
Finally, for each communication you prepare, assess the impact your message will have on each individual group of employees. What do you want each internal audience group to know, feel and do? The answer to these questions will help you prioritize and emphasize the right call to action per group, making it abundantly clear what you need each employee to do next.
Craft a holistic, action-oriented communications strategy for all employees
A truly effective, action-oriented communications strategy is holistic. It considers how best to cascade messaging across various channels and formats so critical information reaches the full spectrum of internal audiences as they need to know it, in a synchronized fashion.
By giving equal thought and attention to your laptop-facing and deskless workers, you can design a comprehensive internal communications strategy that meets employees where they are — and inspires them to do their part to actively move key initiatives forward.
Want help weaving together a smart internal communications strategy that engages and activates a diverse range of workers? Pivot Strategies can help.