How to use integrated communications to engage with employees

With businesses going through unprecedented change, the importance of integrated communications has never been as crucial as it is now. Leaders are making big decisions about the future that will have a profound effect on the workforce, as individuals and as a collective.  

The changing workplace is a great example. Over the past two and a half years, your business is likely to be one of many that has relaxed the rules around remote working, introduced more flexible hours, and even moved much of the daily activity to the digital sphere — social calls, pitches, interviews, staff appraisals and more.  

None of these changes are small or straightforward. They require care, patience, attention to detail, and a plan. Employees are used to doing things in a certain way, so communicating your decisions and the new expectations placed on them is crucial for success. The same goes for all kinds of change, whether it’s a new merger, an office move, department restructuring or a rebrand.

The value of integrated communications

Earlier this year, a Magenta poll of 2,000 employees underlined just how much employees value good communication with their employers. More than half said that it helps build relationships, promotes team spirit, and aids staff retention.

However, our survey also revealed that many people are dissatisfied with the communication channels in their organisations. More than half didn’t describe their employer as a good communicator, and 70% couldn’t agree that their employer was clear about its work policy now that Covid-19 restrictions have eased.

So, what are these organisations getting wrong? The biggest problem is that many business leaders are deploying dry, staid and outdated methods to engage with their people. Business-to-employee (B2E) communications has evolved. Sticking an office memo on the cork board or sending out a company-wide email is no longer enough. The ways people talk to one another and digest information have changed.

The solution is an integrated communications strategy that takes advantage of all the tools, technology platforms, and solutions now available, then combining these elements with the tried and tested principles of good communications.

Align vision and action

You must be crystal clear about the vision behind your business strategy, new or otherwise. This sounds obvious but it’s an all-too-common misstep. To turn the vision into action and ensure employees buy into it, there must be a universal understanding of how the change applies to people at every level of your organisation.

Be clear and concise

Clarity and brevity are fundamental to integrated communications. You don’t want to bore or confuse your employees. The use of jargon and obscure language can cause misunderstandings and even has the potential to breed resentment, anger and other ill-feelings – outcomes that will make your task even harder.

Assign influencers

It sounds cheesy but stay with us because there’s no better word for it. Influencers are effective because they help build trust and social proof outside of traditional hierarchical communication channels. They ensure consistency of messaging but can also feedback any concerns that others may have. As well as any centralised messaging, influencers play a vital role through the use of social media and other forms of messaging.

Exploit every channel

The hallmark of any effective integrated communications strategy is the use of multiple channels. There have never been more ways to communicate with employees. Here, the first step is to learn the size, demography and preferences of your people and then tailor your communication around their needs. Some people prefer videos or podcasts. Others may get on better with newsletters and intranets. A third group will feel more comfortable with social media and instant messaging.

Don’t forget to measure

It’s easy to get excited about the doing and forget about the tedious stuff like measuring. But an effective B2E plan requires you to measure its effectiveness. You need to ask people what they think of the messaging, both in its style and substance, and put levers in place to quantify the levels of engagement across digital media.

These are just some of the steps you need to take if you want to communicate your business strategy to employees and ensure their buy-in.

For more information about how to develop your B2E capability, download our recent research report Internal communications: The glue that holds everything together

Simon Iatrou