Prioritize Employee Comms and Relationships

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When my firm develops a strategic communications plan, we include a target publics section that lists employees. In marketing terms, “publics” equals “audience.” In PR terms, we should consider employees as key stakeholders. 

Clients often seem surprised that employees are included as a targeted audience. Communication should always be distributed from the inside, out. No organizational brand or initiative comes to life without employees. For example, if store employees aren’t aware of a new product launch, their customers aren’t served, and the purchase may not happen. 

Recently, my family was looking for a Monster Jam event coupon that commercials stated would be available at our nearest Great Clips. Four locations later, we still had not found one. On each store visit, the Great Clips employees said they weren’t familiar with the promotion. They looked frustrated or even embarrassed during our visits. 

Employees who don’t know what’s happening feel left out, disconnected or worse — disenfranchised. This lack of communication was a missed opportunity for both internal and external relationship building. 

I talked with Amanda Todd, director of internal communication at the cybersecurity company Expel, to learn more about employee communication, culture and engagement. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How do we best foster employee engagement in today’s environment?

Building engagement is more challenging than ever, especially with employee engagement rates on a steady decline since 2021, per Gallup research. Investing in employee communications is a key strategy to foster engagement. In today’s environment, the intentionality and frequency of our communication matter. Too much, and employees tune out; too little, and concerns about a lack of information arise.

To reignite engagement, focus on writing meaningful words, keep it concise, maintain authenticity and ensure clarity. Train others who communicate with employees to adopt this approach.

How are employees adjusting to post-pandemic changes? 

It depends on the industry and the jobs. Many frontline workers didn’t have the luxury of working from home during an incredibly tenuous few years, and that’s created a burnout unlike anything we’ve ever seen. This is prevalent in teachers and nurses. 

The sentiment and behaviors matter, because the effects of 2020 on workers in such industries have yet to be realized. It’s our job to recognize and plan for care and compassion for those who kept our world turning when many of us were able to stay home. 

The sentiment from a comms perspective should be to keep paying attention and driving leaders to consider what’s best for workforces. Once those decisions and plans are decided, communicate them clearly and with compassion. 

There can be five generations of employees in the workforce. How should we approach that as communicators?

Our success hinges on two key strategies: Identify the universal thread that connects us all on a human level, irrespective of age. Recognize the importance of leveraging various communication channels. 

While common threads unite us, it’s crucial to acknowledge that different generations often gravitate toward distinct storytelling platforms. By strategically uncovering shared experiences and utilizing a blend of channels, we can effectively reach our audiences with precision and intent.

What seems to matter most to employees regarding company culture?

One of my favorite business authors, Ashley Goodall, wrote a book with Marcus Buckingham called “Nine Lies About Work.” The first “lie” they outline in their book is, “People care about the companies they work for.” Research suggests that’s categorically false. 

People don’t care about the company they work for. People care about which team they’re on, because that’s where work, and culture, happens. 

Employees don’t cite leaving companies because the culture is bad. They cite that their manager or team doesn’t embody the culture, and that matters most. The day-to-day experiences employees have are where culture takes root. 

As communicators, we must ensure leaders understand what behaviors we expect and drive greater accountability to demonstrate that, because it matters. 

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Amanda Todd cultural

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