Go digital: How companies should communicate with employees
And dawn breaks – a half stretch, half yawn and sticky eyes – My 6 year old German Shepherd is keen for a walk (well, he's been up for a while already) and even as I attempt to keep things quiet, my hands crawl and reach for my phone. Alas, whatever happened in the world since the phone was last sighted - only 6 hours earlier? Has the Twitter conversation built up momentum or is there a message pile up on WhatsApp? And finally, what about those work emails that have surfaced from various destinations – global employees, aren’t we all?
At a conference earlier this year, consensus was that 2016 will be a digital rocket ride! Kindle at the bedside, lunch delivered to our workstation (thanks to the food app on my phone), live updates on cricket or Uber to bring us home, almost every aspect of existence is digital.
While ‘being mobile’ has now been embraced, organizations were in a quandary when this first started. Importantly, companies were puzzled if this embrace of the digital world was purely due to convergence of the personal and professional world. More so, there were no previous trends or patterns on how to engage employees in this changed world.
It is critical to appreciate that communicating in a digitized ecosystem is very different from the traditional Internal Communications (IC) function. The younger demographic entering the workforce today is alien to a life absent of the internet or a cell-phone.
Simple. Transparent. Personal. Dialogue.
Oxfam, a global NGO with a mandate to rid poverty the world over, has 5,000 employees and 30,000 volunteers across 50 countries. While the work they perform is commendable and their employees love what they do, there’s a sense of disengagement with senior leadership. Unlike other companies where working on business solutions and deploying is ensured, Oxfam faces multiple challenges as they have a common business problem with many solutions. They also operate in different languages and do not have a common culture since many employees are field-based.
To tackle such issues, the communications team brainstormed and surfaced a solution in quick-time. It was a digital platform called ‘Ask Me Anything’, where anyone from Oxfam could ask senior leadership a question, personal or professional. In three weeks, 600 people participated from across 33 countries. The Chinese wall between the employee and senior management had been breached. In reality, this unscripted campaign worked as it gave employees a sense of transparency, feel and touch of its leadership.
Lesson 1: Digital Internal Communications (IC): It builds trust amongst your employees
Another aspect that helped this campaign is recorded videos by senior leadership answering specific questions posed by employees – The popularity of this effort can be gauged by the fact that these videos continue to be viewed to this day, long after the campaign ended.
Lesson 2: Videos help personalize communication – management is benefitted by a platform to employ storytelling that helps nudge employees in a particular direction
All leading corporates, including Infosys, have employed videos for various leadership messages – ensure broadcast of Employee Town Halls, share personalized messages for employees during festive seasons and so on. This results in a visually connected and engaged workforce.
On Social Enterprise Networking (SEN) platforms, a lot has been written on the reasons for the failure of internal SEN platforms the world over. Those that have succeeded have done so by being patient.
For example, ABB is a power and automation technology company with 140,000 employees across the globe. In 2009, they had 20,000 users on their SEN (Yammer) with a goal to get at least 50% of their employees engaged on it. Today, they have roughly 90,000 employees on the network.
Here’s how they did it: ABB tapped into the power of a community. The company’s IC team led a Yammer initiative called ‘Myth Buster’ and employed community managers and teams to answer any question. This assisted in bringing Yammer in line with the company’s conscience and ABB has seen a rise in collaboration, productivity and innovation. This has been evident at Infosys too. When the power of influencers is harnessed within the organization, they can help drive conversations, increase adoption and become brand ambassadors.
Digitization can increase the ‘brand assets’ of a company. It ensures that the organization can break news to their employees faster. Using simple language via the Intranet, Mobile or SMS, employees can be alerted on anything important in quick-time. And so, one can live that saying that reads as follows: ‘what gets measured gets managed’.
At Infosys, various digital channels track feedback and digital IC allows for immediate interventions and timely changes based on inputs. Having seen a raise in the number of participants has encouraged employees to provide feedback because they know they are heard. Being nimble to go digital is largely undiscovered, but there are a few brands that have really made it work.