In the age of the hot-desking, ‘always on’, mobile device clutching workforce multiple electronic channels are de rigeur. Warrick Glynn questions whether this is the best way to communicate, particularly when the message is sensitive or unpalatable.
When was the last time you waited at the arrivals lounge at the airport for an old friend to return home from a long trip? How did you feel when the gates opened and there he or she was, pushing that trolley load of luggage, hopeful eyes darting around to see if you were there? You spot one other and a rush of emotion takes over as you push through the crowd to make contact, to touch, both bursting with stories to share.
What if you couldn’t be there to welcome your bestie home? You could text. You could leave a voice message. You could email or Skype. Perhaps you could post a message on their Facebook wall. It’s not the same though is it? That’s not the work situation though. The reality is that managers just can’t be everywhere doling out hugs. They can’t be in every office or every factory at the same time. There’s just no way they can eyeball employees when there are so many of them or they’re so far away. How do we stay in touch? We send emails to all staff. We put articles in the staff newsletter. If we’re really tech savvy we might even webcast live or at least record a video message and post it on the intranet.
I do all that. I have to. I need to. This is 2012 for crying out loud. In the age of the hot-desking, ‘always on’, mobile device clutching workforce multiple electronic channels are de rigeur. Is it the best way to communicate though, particularly when the message is sensitive or unpalatable? Probably not. These days we ‘design’ our communications; we create beautiful communication plans with lovely schedules of activities to launch strategic plans, announce downsizings, ‘socialise’ major new policies or create unity during mergers. OK, if we’re now in the design business are we adopting best practice principles? In the worlds of consumer electronics, architecture and web development ‘user-centred design’ is all the rage. Basically, it’s all about putting the user at the centre of development, finding out what THEY want; what THEY need.
As internal communication practitioners we’ve always got a barrow to push haven’t we? We’ve got a heap of really important ‘key’ messages to distribute to the punters, whether they like it or not. We get it though, not everyone wants to hear what we’ve got to say. But the message is king; it’s GOT to go out. So what if everyone has to use SAP to access their HR info from the first of November. Who cares if they have to switch over to a new finance system? They should though, they should care. We told them so in the all-staff email last week. In fact we’re working on an information kit to put on the intranet!
Where am I going with all this? I’m suggesting that many of us are in the habit of ‘knowing’ what’s best for employees and dishing out the directives like so many pearls before swine. How about we take a leaf out of the book of our webby friends and we user-test before we launch? Can you design a comms campaign around the users of the product? I think so. Let’s see what people want, what their preferences are, how THEY prefer to engage with their employer, how THEY feel about the company values, and how or if THEY want to contribute to the next five year strategic plan.