At La Trobe University we recently surveyed our staff about internal comms and how they felt it was working. We asked people how they perceived the quality, frequency and delivery of information. We asked them if they felt they had ample opportunity to have their say and how they’d like to be able to participate in the creation and implementation of new ‘stuff’ that was important to the University’s future. They told us that they were happy with the intranet, that all-staff emails were widely read and that the online newsletter was useful but could do with some improvement. I love that 55% of staff said they read every all-staff email that lands in their inbox and a further 34% read one to three of the four they receive per fortnight. This is all pleasing to the internal communicator; it means our channels are working. You know what they told us though? They want face-to-face small meetings so that they can talk to management and be heard. That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for other channels. The next most popular response was online forums so don’t quit on your e-channels just yet. After online forums, staff selected face-to-face large meetings as their next preference for having their say.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to us at all. One of the first texts I ever picked up as an internal comms person was by the gurus Larkin and Larkin. The take-home message from that was loud and clear, face-to-face has no peer when it comes to meaningful exchanges in the workplace. I think everything I’ve ever read since has come to the same conclusion.
So how do we do this? No problem in a smallish company residing in one building or even one with several offices in the one city. In our case though, the University exists across six campuses so if a conversation with all staff is to be had at the same time we just have to rely on video conferencing and webcasting. These are not a bad second best option as long as the opportunity to contribute at remote locations is equitable and effective Having the connection drop out just as Mildura is about to ask its second question is not a good look! The ‘bad will’ generated by dodgy technology is likely to undermine the collegiality you were trying to demonstrate.
If you’re really going to involve everyone in your launch or your consultation then people need to know that they count. Roadshows are difficult and expensive and, let’s face it, a drain on resources but staff are telling us in no uncertain terms that they want to be genuinely present, not just bods on a screen. Team members, crew, employees… whatever you call your people… want to be a part of the organisation, they need to have that human interaction, that metaphorical hug.
Here’s my advice; get your leadership team to the metaphorical airport to meet staff in the flesh as often as they can and people will feel he love. They might even engage with the organisational agenda. In short, aphysical embrace is worth a thousand tweets.
About the author
Warrick Glynn is Internal Communications Manager at La Trobe University in Melbourne. He will present at Ark Group’s Internal Communications conference in Sydney on October 30. Click here for further information on Ark Group's upcoming events.