Employees want internal communication to be punctual, short, and accessible


Whenever I visit Southern California, I try to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law.

My sister-in-law Joanne works for a large corporation in the area; her expertise is not internal communication.

So this revelation came not because we were analyzing the future of employee communication. No, we were having a conversation about shopping.

Because Joanne lives in the Los Angeles area, she has access to delivery options that people in say, Minnesota, can only dream about. For example, she has started using Amazon Fresh, which lets Prime members in select cities (like hers) “shop for groceries, everyday essentials, favorites from local shops and restaurants, and more.”

Last time I visited, I was due to arrive at my brother’s house in the afternoon. In the morning, Joanne ordered a bunch of groceries. And by late afternoon, it had all arrived—cheese and crackers, cleaning products, even yogurt and ice cream—delivered by a guy in a nondescript blue car. (Amazon Fresh by day, Uber by night? It’s entirely possible.)

Here are the three ways Amazon Fresh—and its sister service, Amazon Prime Now—have changed Joanne:

  1. She expects to be able to get every product she wants or needs (And not something equivalent. She likes Annie's Homegrown Sour Cream & Onion Bunnies Crackers, not some substitute.)
  2. Unless she feels like going shopping, she doesn’t want to waste time going to a physical store.
  3. She won't wait very long for anything.

(By the way, Joanne doesn’t only use Amazon services. She and my brother have experimented with meal delivery services like Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. And they’re open to any option that makes their lives easier, as long as the products are high-quality and the service experience is good.)

Obviously, if you’re a retailer, you’d better understand Joanne’s heightened expectations. But if you’re an internal communicator, you should pay attention, too.
Here’s why: Employees’ expectations about every characteristic of internal communication—timeliness, candor, convenience and participation—are shaped by their experiences outside of work. But those experiences don’t just have to be about communication—they can be about something seemingly unrelated.

Like, say, shopping.

Two-day delivery? My sister-in-law laughs at that glacial pace.

Overnight? “Yawn,” she says. If you can’t get that cream cheese, 50-lb. bag of dog food, desk chair or pearl earrings to her door in a few hours, don’t bother.

So I ask you: What does this mean to internal communication? To start with, we’d better move much, much faster.