Shut up and kiss me

Digital Strategy

Every year, businesses in the US are squandering a staggering $450 to $500 billion as a result of actively disengaged employees. That’s 41 times the estimated cost of Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico or 2% of US GDP. More tellingly it’s 694 times the yearly spend on employee engagement. It’s not just a US problem either – impacts on developed economies across Europe are equally jaw-dropping.

As increasing complexities and decreasing attention spans progressively shape the western world, how and what every business communicates to its people matters more than ever before. So how can we do better?

More means less

With new technologies, lifestyles and ways of working increasingly turning workplaces on their heads, it would be easy to think business communication and engagement efforts have improved. Wrong! Globally, less than one third of employees feel engaged at work. Yet while the rest continues to not give a sh*t, the total volume of communication is rising.

And here lies part of the problem: rather than offering a neat solution to better employee engagement, new digitally enabled ways of working often make things worse.

While the average attention span has decreased to eight seconds, the quantity of corporate communication is higher than ever before. A whopping 64% of internal comms experts surveyed by Newsweaver cited the quantity and quality of internal channels as one of their biggest headaches. Yet at the same time, staff engagement remains low and unmoved.

Part of the problem is stiff resistance to replacing the existing bricks and mortar solutions (email, intranets, formal presentations etc).

More than 90% of businesses still rely on email or face-to-face employee communication, despite most of these (91%) acknowledging that the way they currently communicate with their employees has a negative impact on engagement. It’s a strange dichotomy.

Unwillingness to replace ineffective solutions, and instead simply add more and more channels has made things steadily worse. The result is messages failing to punch through and a struggle to communicate what matters most.

So what’s the answer? While we transition from old to new, how can we better engage and communicate with employees, inspire stronger relationships and keep things interesting?

Six hot tips for better communication and engagement

1 Get the core right
If you aren’t 100% clear about who you are, what you are trying to do and why that matters, any form of employee engagement is going to be a struggle. Fix this and you’ve got something to build on.

2 Don't skimp
Quality counts not length. A lot can be conveyed in just a few minutes across any medium, but don’t skimp on quality – your employees will notice and ignore it. A really good 30 second animation people like and share will have much more impact than pages of naval gazing.

3 Go where people already are
Portable devices rule the world, their usage now surpassing desktop computers. Tailor your offer accordingly but think about making use of what’s already there rather than spending £££s on building everything from the ground up. The tools listed below could be a good starting place.

4 Keep your finger on the pulse
Collecting feedback via lengthy annual surveys is so 2000. Today, it’s an on-going exercise, allowing you to react quickly and keep your finger on the pulse. Everybody has feedback: know how, when and where to ask for it.

5 Mix it up
We’re all different so a rich mix of different channels (old school posters to cutting digital tools) makes sense – just be really selective, focus on quality and keep checking what’s working.

6 Kiss incessantly
Complexity kills engagement, so ‘Keep It Super Simple’ whatever the message or the channel. In the end employee engagement is all about creating a clear and effective dialogue not bombarding people with a lot of noise they don’t like or need.

Final thought
Research underlines that it pays to effectively engage and communicate with your workforce.

Ineffective communication continues to cost businesses as much as £21,000 or $26,000 per worker, almost matching the average yearly UK salary.

In contrast, a 5% increase in engagement is estimated to affect revenue by as much as 3%. That’s not only about improving the way a business communicates with its people but how people communicate between themselves: camaraderie is the number one reason employees would go the extra mile – and its value to any brand can be dramatic.

Five tools to shake things up

Used in the right way the tools below can all be effective – just remember the six steps above!

Periscope — Twitter’s live video streaming platform. Use it to share live updates on what’s happening inside (events, awards, achievements, company updates, etc.) and outside the business (conferences, field days, ‘a day in the life’ etc.). An inbuilt messenger element facilitates reactions and conversations. Periscope content can live across both mobile app and web browsers, making sharing and accessing content via existing platforms (intranets, newsletters etc) easier. Note: content is deleted after 24 hours.

When it comes to video live streaming, it’s impossible to omit Facebook LIVE. Part of a familiar, powerful and secure platform, its easy sharing and embedding options make it universally useful and effective at delivering live video content and facilitate conversations through its comment function. No need for extensive training, because who doesn’t know Facebook?

clip is all about audio. No account or app needed, it’s all browser based making it uniquely versatile. Use it to record and easily share sound bites ranging from thought pieces to market developments, trends, opportunities, or ‘a day in the life’ from across the business akin to BBC’s ‘From our own correspondent’. Why not package it into a regular short and punchy podcast?

It won’t be right for every business but for some Snapchat offers a chance do something new and different. Encourage employees to get organised into groups, snap away, and share stories. Remember: better camaraderie leads to better performance.

Commaful makes sharing pithy yet engaging and interactive stories using pictures, videos, gifs and copy simple. Your stories are both created and told through your web browser. As they are responsive, they work across any screen size. Use it to share the company’s story and values, to brand engagement pieces to sharing trends or key takeaways from field trips.

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