10 things I’ve learned about employee communication


Boy, three decades goes by fast. It seems like only yesterday my co-founder and I were starting Davis & Company with not much more than an electronic typewriter and a fax machine. (Yes, really. It was 1984, after all!)

Although I'm certainly older than I was in 1984, luckily I'm also wiser. So here are 10 essential things I've learned about internal communication

  1. Employees know best. If you need help figuring out how to improve any aspect of communication, ask employees (using surveys, focus groups or interviews). They’ll tell you.
  2. Leaders have strong perspectives, but don’t necessarily know what works for employees. Your role as communicator is to counsel leaders how to focus on objectives (and stop micromanaging).

  3. In general, avoid the “if I like it, so will they” bias. People in functions (like HR and IT) and at headquarters often assume that their preferences apply to everyone. Not so.
  4. Every communication channel—from simple bulletin boards to fancy apps—has value. Although we’re attracting to shiny new methods, sometimes the simplest, low-tech vehicles work best. For example, posters can be extremely effective.

  5. Posters and other workplace communication only attract attention if they’re in the right place. That old real estate adage—location, location, location—applies to internal communication as well.
  6. Albert Einstein was right. As you recall, he said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The same rule applies to employee communication: If something isn’t working, change it.
  7. Richard Saul Wurman was right. Best known for being the founder of the TED conference, Mr. Wurman is also author of a fabulous book called Information Anxiety which introduces the LATCH structure to organize any kind of content: Location, Alphabet, Time, Category and Hierarchy.

  8. Your grandmother was right. Grandma knew what she was talking about when she repeated that old adage: “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Unfriendly, cranky communication simply does not appeal to employees.
  9. Even though “authentic” has become a buzzword, it’s still an essential concept. Employees are increasingly suspicious about packaged, spun, fake communication. They want the unvarnished truth.

  10. Two more key words: Fresh and unexpected. Communication becomes stale even faster than a baguette. You’ve got to constantly find ways to surprise your employee audience.


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