Your company is about to launch an important new initiative, so you work hard to make sure messages are clear, simple and relevant. But, despite your best efforts, employees may still miss critical change content—until you create the right environment for communication.

What do I mean by “environment”? When it comes to communicating to employees, the environment is composed of three key elements: timing, channels and message reinforcement.

I started thinking about creating the right environment when I recently planted 24 new trees along my property line. I learned that choosing the best trees was not enough—it was essential to create the ideal environment to help them thrive.

The steps I followed are a great model for developing an effective employee communication environment. Here’s how:

1. Clear the space
I learned that my backyard was not getting enough sunlight to support tree growth, so first I needed to trim some very large branches over the area where the trees would be planted.

When communicating, you need to clear space as well. The best way?  Manage timing by communicating when employees aren’t overwhelmed by other initiatives. For example, if employees are currently submitting their strategic business plans, wait a few weeks before launching the new performance management process.

2. Lay the foundation
Once the space was clear, it was time to dig some holes and go!  Nope. Next, I needed to build a berm (a fancy word for dirt hill) so water would distribute evenly and not flood the trees. (This was especially valuable since my area had record rainfall this year.)

When communicating, the best foundation is the right mix of channels. Want to help employees understand the new strategy? Think beyond an intranet article or town hall. Try a mix that includes a short video series, small group Q&A sessions and a strategy-on-a-page infographic employees can print and keep at their desks.

3. Keep nurturing
The trees were planted in the best soil berm I had ever seen.  Now I sat back and watched them grow, right?  Not exactly.  Even with record rainfall, I was out there every single day with a misting hose, making sure that each leaf and branch were getting equal amounts of water.

Communication doesn’t end when you hit send on that email or post the article to the intranet; you need to reinforce key messages over time. One great way to build employees understanding is to provide tools to help managers communicate, such as robust FAQ documents.

You already know the importance of great content. Next time you need to communicate to employees, think of planting trees: create the best environment and watch your efforts take root. 

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