Does this scenario sound familiar? You recently shared the results of your employee engagement survey, and it is clear that your employees don’t feel connected to leadership, want more transparency on the state of the business, and don’t see leaders walking the talk when it comes to the vision and values of the organization. The response from the executive team is, “We need more and better communication!” And then they look to you.
Good news is you now have leadership support for and understanding of the importance of employee communications, but you also have the seemingly overwhelming task of figuring out where to begin building out a leadership communication strategy.
This was my experience in my previous life in corporate America. These five tips will help you elevate the effectiveness and impact of leadership communications:
1. Listen to your employees and tell leaders what employees want. Communications pros are uniquely positioned to have a direct line to employees across the organization. Use this insider status to talk to employees, both formally (surveys and focus groups) and informally (sit down in the break room or attend a pre-shift meeting), to understand what it is they want to hear from leadership. Don’t assume everyone wants to listen to the earnings call or a high level recap, but ask different segments of your employee population what they need and want to know about company performance. This will help you talk to leadership about the importance of tailoring their message to specific audiences, making it more meaningful.
2. Create employee personas. Have you ever created personas for your employees? It’s common practice in marketing and PR, but should be part of every internal comms teams toolbox as well. By creating personas, you begin to understand who your employees are, what they value, how they contribute to the success of the organization, how they currently receive communication, and what content they have access to. Personas should be created for all levels of employees and across different departments. See the example below for ideas on how to create employee personas.
3. Conduct a communications channel evaluation. Now that you know who your employees are and what they want to hear from leadership, the next step is to evaluate what channels employees currently have access to and whether or not leadership can communicate effectively through those channels. One of the most effective communication channels for leaders is video. It creates transparency, and it allows a leader to express themselves more clearly and to convey the right tone, yet many employees don’t have access to traditional channels such as an intranet to view these types of messages. A channel evaluation will help you determine if you need to open up access to existing tools that are deemed effective or if you need to identify new ones.
4. Be intentional with leadership communication. When you understand what messages employees want to hear and how they want to hear it, you are now ready to deploy a strategy so leadership communication carries the weight and priority that you want it to. The CEO can’t and shouldn’t be the only one talking. Your strategy should include guidelines for what types of messages come from each of your leaders and ensures you reserve leadership communication for high level strategic or inspirational messages, not tasks.
5. Measure your results. You’ve spent a lot of time learning what your employees want and need from their leaders, so how can you measure the success of them and whether they’re meeting their expectations? If your communications channels allow you to measure engagement, analyze the data to see if more employees are engaging with your content. If you can’t see open and read/watch rates, conduct pulse surveys to understand if your employees have noticed the change in leadership communication and if the messages are making an impact.
Leadership communication is more impactful than ever as national surveys show that employees put high importance on leadership communication and transparency. According to Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer “People hold more trust in “My Employer” than in any single institution, with trust levels at 75% globally—19 points more than business in general and 27 points more than government.” The pressure is therefore on for leaders to connect with their employees. Use these tips to create a communication strategy that encourages leaders to engage and employees to listen and be heard.
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