I hesitate to use the ‘R’ word, but it’s clear that the economic climate could be better. When things are bleak economically we naturally look at costs we can reduce, and for many organisations internal communications are seen as a ‘nice to have’, so they are reduced or cut to a bare minimum. I would argue that an engaged workforce is a happy workforce, so by failing to engage employees with honest communications companies are in fact making the problem worse.
If your company or organisation has difficult issues, an honest and up-front attitude is more likely to get staff onto your side. If you tell them that everything is OK, or say nothing, they’ll see through it and think the worst. According to the British Association of Communicators in Business (CiB) “When the situation starts to improve, organisations that have not given sufficient attention to this issue may find that recovery is slower because of the lasting negative impact on staff loyalty and engagement.”
So what is the best way to communicate?
Messages should be delivered directly from the originator to all members staff with as little dilution and distortion of message as possible. The traditional tiered communications strategy where the CEO/MD talks to directors – who then talk to regional managers – who talk to line managers – who eventually talk to staff is generally a disaster. Each person in the chain will put their own interpretation onto the message and deliver their own version to the next person. We all know how disastrous ‘Chinese whispers’ can be!
A communication delivered by video makes sure that everyone receives exactly the same message. In addition to this a video has the benefit of being able to supplement the communication with strong images and other non-verbal attributes – adding power to the message.
A couple of years ago one of our clients had experienced a brilliant first three quarters of the year, and wanted to avoid the usual drop in sales in the final quarter. Their product is seen as an everyday item and wouldn’t normally be on anyone’s Christmas list. New Edge produced a video for them congratulating staff on the brilliant year to date and reminding them that ‘It ain’t over ‘til it’s over!’ This theme was emphasised by comparing their situation with a recent ‘miraculous’ recovery by Liverpool FC in a European football match. They were 3-0 down at half time and came through to win 4-3. I’m not a football fan, but couldn’t help being drawn in by the excitement of the story – and the goals. Adding emotive and powerful music served to enhance the positivity and hope of the message even further, along with the introduction of a staff incentive with great prizes.
The results were fantastic – an engaged and motivated workforce achieved increased sales in the final quarter giving the company a record year.
DIY with regular video podcasts
This example involved quite a complicated production, but if you want to communicate regularly with staff using video this needn’t be the case. Regular video podcasts to all staff from the CEO/MD, delivered in a friendly, conversational manner will have a similar effect. Keep it short and to the point, and involve your viewers by ensuring there is a way for them to reply, comment and ask questions. As well as making staff feel involved in the process, this will also give you ideas for future issues to address. A video consultant would help you to set up an area in the corner of an office where you can produce this type of message without having to bring in a production company every time. Make sure that the person who delivers the message is completely comfortable with talking to a camera. They will need training, and must have a process in place to construct their messages effectively. There are plenty examples where people believe they can do this and just turn on the camera and talk – a disaster!
So if you are faced with challenges in these uncertain times, you need to increase your emphasis on internal communications, get staff behind you and move forward as a cohesive team.