CONNECTIONS

An Edelman perspective on making meaningful employee
connections that deepen engagement, build trust
and accelerate business performance

NEW YEAR, NEW APPROACH

Three Internal Communications Resolutions for 2016
By Amy Kot, Senior Vice President, Employee Engagement

The start of a new year is the perfect time to evaluate how well you’re connecting with your own employees
and consider new approaches for continued success. Based on our work with best-in-class organizations and
feedback from countless employee surveys, focus groups and listening sessions, here are three best practice
resolutions to strengthen your employee communications and engagement programs in 2016:

RESOLUTION #1:
Deliver Content Employees Crave

RESOLUTION #2:
Reduce Email Overload

Are employees merely reading your content, or are
they actively responding, engaging and taking action
as a result? In today’s fast-paced and over-saturated
communications environment, you need sharp, fresh,
to-the-point content to capture – and hold –
employees’ increasingly limited attention:

The average U.S. worker spends roughly 25 percent of
their day managing email, and some studies find that
reading and addressing a single email can take up to
20 minutes. Clearly, employees receive far more
updates, messages and alerts via email than they have
time to open (let alone digest), increasing the risk of
missing critical information. While email certainly has its
place, forward-thinking communication functions are
taking these steps to deliver messages in a structured
and prioritized way:

Think short, snackable, visual. Short-form articles,
videos, infographics, listicles and Buzzfeed-style
quizzes are more engaging than traditional intranet
articles. Our clients also host contests and
challenges asking employees to take a specific
action (such as completing an online quiz or
snapping a photo) and share their results via
Yammer and other social platforms.
Reach employees where they are. Today’s
employees unlock their personal smartphones with
a thumbprint and have 24x7 access to endless
social and news feeds. Leading companies are
capitalizing on this trend with internal news portals
and apps that work on employees’ personal
devices, with content curated newsfeed style so it’s
easy to access, digest and share with peers and
external social networks.
Empower employees as content creators. Best-inclass employee communication functions no longer
create the bulk of content themselves. Instead, they
involve employees as “citizen journalists” who
create and publish content. Consider a contest to
select employees as “real-time reporters” at your
next tradeshow or event: have them interview
leaders, blog, tweet, photograph and film their
experience to bring it to life for their colleagues.

Establish a centralized internal communications
advisory group. Recognizing that email overload is
often a symptom of too many one-off missives from
disparate teams, leading companies create crossfunctional internal communications advisory groups
to align disconnected functions around consistent
processes and core messaging. This group develops
protocols to bundle similar messages from multiple
senders and funnel them through a roster of fewer,
more effective channels (e.g., all HR messages are
included in a monthly e-newsletter).

Build a master calendar of company-wide
communications. One of the biggest challenges an
internal communicator faces is aligning the many
stakeholders needing to reach employees at any
given time. Leaders and business units each have
communication agendas and initiatives that
compete for employee mindshare. One way to
reign everyone in is by maintaining an editorial
calendar throughout the year. Ask content owners
for ongoing input and partner with your advisory
group to develop a holistic communications
schedule using streamlined channels.

© 2016 Edelman

Filter and prioritize content to make it relevant for
employees across your organization. Create
guidelines and checklists for content creators
before they hit send on one-off emails, and
prioritize messages so employees understand at-aglance which require immediate attention and
action.

Scale back for success. Limit meetings to under two
hours. This may require hosting multiple sessions by
time zone or region, which also forces you to be
sensitive to a geographically dispersed workforce.

Provide multiple ways to participate. Beyond live
Q&A, invite attendees to pose questions throughout
the meeting via internal social channels, specific
hashtags or a virtual real-time queue such as Social
Q&A. Capturing questions can also serve as a
metric for tracking engagement over time,
including the number and type of questions asked.

Shift the spotlight away from the CEO. Encourage
leaders at all levels to have a voice. If you’re talking
about product strategy, arrange a panel discussion
with the product development team.

Talk less, listen more. Use the 70/30 rule: devote no
more than 70 percent of a meeting to presentation
and reserve the remaining 30 percent for dialogue.
Try to pepper in discussion time throughout the
agenda instead of saving it for the end.

Keep it going after the meeting. Make presentation
materials available to employees and share along
with a recap of key takeaways and top questions
discussed.

Assess and adjust: Quick feedback surveys and/or
mobile polls during or after a town hall provide
insight for planning future meetings, as well as
tracking engagement over time.

We recently conducted an internal channel audit
for a client and developed a four-tier message
prioritization system:

Tier I: Highest-priority corporate initiatives and
CEO communications
Tier II: Breaking external news, such as
earnings releases and crisis communications
and urgent messages for impacted
employees, such as critical IT updates and
weather closures

Tier III: Other corporate initiatives and priority
divisional programs

Tier IV: Routine communications (staffing
announcements, IT updates, local site
communications, etc.)

We developed consensus around this approach,
outlining the appropriate channels for each tier:
Only Tier I messages warrant all-employee emails,
Tier II news goes only to affected employees on
specific distribution lists, and the rest are
communicated via the intranet and in weekly
digests of stories from across various channels.

RESOLUTION #3:
Rejuvenate Your All-Hands Meetings
While it’s rare for companies to gather all employees
together in one place at one time, it is possible to
convene your workforce virtually or via smaller inperson sessions in a way that encourages dialogue
about your strategy and direction. Some tips:

Ask for input before the meeting. Instead of
dictating the agenda in a vacuum, use a virtual
voting tool to ask employees which topics should
be part of the program. Crowdsourcing the
agenda enables leaders to focus on priority topics
and engages employees from the start.

Provide some content in advance. Share brief
teaser communications, such as a video with the
CEO and subject-matter experts introducing the
meeting’s themes and posing a handful of
questions for employees to weigh in on
beforehand. Then, devote a section of the
agenda to sharing key themes from the premeeting discussion.

Taken together, these best practice resolutions can
help transform internal communications from a topdown, one-way model to an employee-centric
approach that inspires dialogue across traditional,
social and in-person communications. The end result is
a framework that not only informs, involves and inspires,
but builds a community of high-performing and
engaged employees.

About Us
Edelman Employee Engagement helps organizations
accelerate business performance, delivered by highly
engaged and trusted employees. For more
information, visit us at ee.edelman.com or follow us on
Twitter at @EdelmanEE.

© 2016 Edelman