Leave the past behind and develop internal communication that meets employees’ needs now.

I was interviewing the head of IT to ask her advice on how to improve employee communication as part of an audit my team was conducting for the organization.

And while the head of IT was appreciative of the progress that had been made so far, she was also critical that communication was . . . well, stuck in the past. 

“We’re still operating as if we’re in the 20th Century,” she said. “Our methods are too one-way, too slow and too dependent on email. The big question for me is: How do we develop communication that meets the needs of employees today and in the future?”

Good question. Of course, the answer is . . . complicated, especially because we can’t just blow up our current internal communication programs. (An example: people have been talking about killing email for decades, but at nearly every organization email is still the core communication channel.)

Despite the obstacles, how can we plan for the future state of employee communication? A few principles:

  • Less formal. I realize I keep saying this, but it’s so essential: “Corporate Communications” is so last year. Employees want informal, authentic, simple.
  • Faster. While you’re slogging through seven rounds of approvals, your employees have moved on to the next thing. It’s so much better to share something quickly than have it be perfect. (General counsel, I’m talking to you.)
  • Collaborative. Employees want to participate. A town hall with no interaction is a bad town hall.
  • Nimble. One of the fun things about employee communication (at least for me) is that it changes all the time. So we get to introduce new things.
  • Surprising. Employees are weary of the same old intranet content, town hall presentations and (especially) organizational announcements. Let’s try something fresh and unexpected.
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