There are many ways to communicate information to employees. Some are more successful than others, when you know your employees’ communications preferences and what works in your organization. If you haven’t tried it already, research tells us the value of video and audio. Content distributed through video and audio (like podcasts) is one of the most powerful ways to ensure your message sticks with your audience.
In fact, research says people process visuals 60,000 times faster than plain text. The value of video and audio for employee communications is endless; some ways include interaction, repetitiveness, and savings.
Value of Interactivity
Have you ever noticed people can become distracted while you’re giving a regular PowerPoint presentation? They check their phones, stare out the window or worse yet, nod off a bit. That’s a sign there may be better ways to get your message across. It starts with a robust mix of communications tactics, like print, presentations, and especially, audio and video. In the digital world we live in, more and more people recognize the value of audio and video to get their information.
At Trion, we use the cloud-based technology, Brainshark, to create narrated and often animated video presentations in PowerPoint. These engage our clients’ employees around benefits and allow Human Resources teams to create compelling and interesting presentations. This approach has been extremely successful because of the robust functionality and interactivity of the platform.
Interactive videos keep employees engaged and alert, which helps to effectively communicate important information.
Value of Repetition
When you communicate important information to employees, you can do more than just hope that they’ll remember and comprehend it. You can repeat it – over and over again. Research shows repetition is one of the keys of effective communications.
Stats also show people comprehend illustrated text (or text with design) 83% more effectively than text alone. Sharing content through audio and video supports not only retention, but increases the likelihood information will be shared. Digital content can be passed along easily and quickly, again proving the value of video and audio for employee communications.
Value of Savings
By sending audio and video content to our clients, we help them save time and money. They don’t have to travel to different parts of the company to hold face-to-face meetings with employees. Instead, they can send that information through the computer, using cloud-based technology that doesn’t require any back-end technology on their part. Spouses and dependents outside of the company’s firewalls can access this information. Clients get analytics and other information about how employees consume the information.
Video and audio shows its value in employee communications because it gets straight to the point. This content helps you communicate clear, concise, and valuable information to your employees. Employees can re-watch digital presentations, like Brainshark, which eliminate confusion over core information.
Video and audio is a great add to your marketing/communications mix. It’s a necessary tool that can help your company engage and inform employees, while being mindful of the bottom line.
When you think of business communications, what comes to mind? A series of webinars? A communications strategy? Several pieces of marketing collateral? That’s fair, but more often than not, it’s something we all do several times a day without even thinking much about it: Writing an email.
Does an effective business email need as much time and attention as these other, more comprehensive projects? Good question!
Recently, my best friend, who would be first to declare that she’s “not a communicator,” asked me if 20 minutes is too long to spend writing an email. I’ll tell you what I told her: It depends on what you’re trying to achieve.
If your email confirms you’ve received somebody else’s message, yep, 20 minutes is too long. If you want to convey an important message that requires the recipient to open it from a full inbox, and give it the appropriate attention and action? Then, no way! Twenty minutes feels about the right time to write an effective business email.
Most people get about 122 emails a day. On average, we spend only 11.1 seconds reading each before we move on or hit delete. Your goal is to figure out how to compete in those crowded in-boxes. No easy feat, but these tips can help reduce the time you need to write effective business emails.
- Start with a meaningful subject line. Don’t call your email “Need by Thursday.” Instead, try something more descriptive like “Transition Project Timeline – Review by Thursday.” This highlights key content, the action the recipient needs to take, and the deadline. All this the recipient even opens your now, more effective business email.
- Strike the right balance in tone, content, and simplicity. Write simply (and politely, of course) and include just enough information so your recipient understands what’s needed. Otherwise, you may find yourself answering follow-up questions in subsequent emails. It’s tempting to wax poetic and/or include everything there is to know about a project or subject. But, remember this is an email, not the next great American novel. The purpose of an effective business email is to deliver a specific, action-oriented message. (Use the telephone if a subject requires a lengthy conversation.)
- Use paragraphs or lists There is nothing duller than opening up an email and seeing one big wall of text. Remember, we live in the digital age, where people scan information on line. 55 percent of emails are now read on mobile devices. Reading emails on those small screens can be tricky. So make it easy for folks: Break your text up into short paragraphs or lists. Use numbers instead of bullet points if you think there will be a need to refer to a specific item later.
- State a clear call to action. Does the recipient need to give feedback or just their approval to move forward? Be specific. Ambiguous requests may result in unnecessary work and/or delays.
- Skip the humor and be professional. Along those same lines, use proper punctuation and language. Save the emoticons, acronyms, and excessive punctuation for casual communications. The elements that make jokes work, such as good timing, delivery, and tone, do not carry through in an email. While you may be funny in person, your joke may be misconstrued in an email. Humor and effective business emails do not mix.
- Check before you send. Before you hit send, reread your email and check for any typos, grammar errors, and misspelling. You might even want to print it out as editing on paper can often reveal things missed on screen. Double check the names and dates. See if anything needs more clarity to make your business email more effective. Depending on the stakes involved (e.g., going to a senior leader, a sensitive message, etc.), consider having someone else take a look at it before you hit send. A fresh pair of eyes often catches mistakes that someone too close to the work may overlook.
Use these tips and you’ll reduce the time needed to write effective business emails.
Ask any professional to tell you a key to his /her success, and you’re likely to get an answer like this: “I had a mentor earlier in my career who taught me a lot.” Mentors can provide professional and personal benefits to their mentees. There are serious benefits for themselves as well.
Mentoring is a positive experience. Mentors feel a sense of personal fulfillment by paying it forward. They contribute to the company by helping to keep talented employees.
Trion has a corporate mentorship program through its GROW initiative—Growth and Relationship Opportunities for Women. While women are encouraged to participate, it is by no means limited to women. The mentorship program is now in its second year. It’s a complete success, partly because of the effective communications the mentorship committee uses to get the word out.
Of course, it’s a challenge to coordinate such a program. All the participants are busy professionals, so it presents logistical difficulties. In the case of the GROW program, the committee solicits applications from those who want to take part, then holds a meet-and-greet. At this event, the prospective mentors and mentees each get eight minutes to get to know one another. Then, the mentees each submit a list of their top three choices for a mentor. The committee matches up pairs and holds a short training session. The mentors and mentees take it from there.
One key to the program’s success is the large awareness the committee created through communications. It uses a three-channel approach, which has proven effective.
Channel 1: Email
As the program’s launch approaches, the committee sends out many emails to inform the whole company the launch is coming soon. There is an application attached to the first email. The emails talk about past participants’ positive experiences, the timeline, and what new participants can expect. They have a sense of urgency but a positive tone to try to get potential participants excited to sign up.
Channel 2: Print/Newsletter
Each quarter, the overall GROW initiative publishes a print newsletter for the entire company. The newsletter describes the different, upcoming events and program. In the issue before the launch of the Mentorship program, the committee publishes one or more articles about the program. Topics include interviews with prior participants, benefits that mentors or mentees might enjoy, or program details.
Channel 3: Word of Mouth
The committee encourages participants in the corporate mentorship program to talk about their experiences—good or bad. Honest feedback can help the committee make changes, although the feedback for this program has been very positive. Word of mouth creates a buzz for the program and can reach colleagues that may have missed the other communications channels.
With this approach, Trion’s mentorship program looks to continue its success far into the future in large part thanks to effective communications tactics.
Earlier this spring, I spent a morning as a volunteer at the non-profit Cradles to Crayons. Along with seven of my co-workers, I assembled bags of clothes, shoes and books for children in need from our community. The event was part of Trion Cares, our company’s corporate volunteer program. We can build houses for Habitat for Humanity, cook and serve meals at the Ronald McDonald House and contribute our time and talents in other ways.
A corporate volunteer program shows our company cares about its employees’ well-being, too. Volunteering reduces stress and depression. Regular volunteers even live longer than their peers.
If your organization has a company volunteer program, that’s great! But are employees receptive to it? To maximize success and take advantage of the benefits to your business, spread the word about volunteering early and often.
Plant the Seeds
I first learned about Trion’s corporate volunteer program when I was offered my job. Human Resources explained it to me as part of the total PTO package. The program gives employees eight paid hours per year to volunteer at a certified charity. We can either join a company-organized event or find our own opportunity.
On-boarding communication is a logical place to describe your volunteer program. Include it in the employee handbook. To engage employees, include colleagues’ personal stories of their community service experiences.
But there could be an even better place to introduce this benefit. Describe the program in your recruitment communications. We are currently in a buyers’ market for jobs. Companies need to be creative when courting new and talented workers. A 2016 survey by Cone Communications shows 51% of employees won’t work for a company that doesn’t have social justice commitments.
Engage job seekers and talk about your corporate volunteer program before they send in their resumes. List it as a benefit on job postings. Mention it on public-facing websites and social media pages. Include photos of the most recent event to emphasize the sense of togetherness volunteering provides.
Water the Garden
To encourage continued participation, you need consistent communications about the corporate volunteer program. Promote upcoming volunteer opportunities in email blasts, the intranet and employee newsletters. Reach out to partner community service organizations for their feedback. Quotes from them make for powerful testimonials to punch up your copy.
Vary the dates, places and missions of service opportunities to make the program as attractive as possible. This allows employees with different schedules, office locations and talents to pick what suits them the best. Corporate volunteer opportunities are a great way to promote camaraderie. At my recent event, I got to know co-workers from other locations.
Sign up should be quick and simple. Send periodic reminders and include directions to the service site and other useful information.
Watch it Grow
A corporate volunteer program has many benefits to your business. It positions your organization as a civic leader. As the famous comic book saying goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There could be unmet needs within the community that your employees’ skills can address. Connect with area non-profits to ask how you can best serve them. Continue the conversation and check in periodically to look for updated opportunities.
Engage your employees with regular communications about corporate volunteering and reap the benefits. Community service programs are a powerful retention tool.
Eighty-nine percent of respondents to the 2017 Deloitte Volunteerism Survey believe a company that sponsors volunteer opportunities offers a better working environment. Such opportunities foster loyalty and help employees advance in their careers. Another survey shows 80% of participants find active volunteers move more easily into leadership roles.
Corporate volunteer programs have a range of benefits, from employee well-being to positive perception of your organization. Don’t forget the most important benefit of all: The satisfaction that only comes from selflessly lending your time and talents for the betterment of others.
“I’m more of a visual learner.”
How often have you heard people use this phrase to describe the way they learn? You may have even said it in reference to yourself. A popular definition of learning styles labels people as either Visual, Aural, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic (VARK) learners.
The idea that each person has a single “learning style” that ensures they retain the greatest amount of information is popular. It’s also a concept that researchers dispute and journalists pronounce dead (some might say gleefully).
It can be hard to turn back the tide of public opinion. The idea learning styles matter when you communicate has mass appeal. A 2014 survey of teachers found that 96 percent believed in learning styles. This creates a culture where school teachers, university professors, and corporate trainers try to cater to what they perceive as students’ dominant learning styles.
What people traditionally classify as learning styles are personal preferences to receive information. The truth is, we have the capacity to learn using any or all of our functional senses. After all, looking at a picture of a lemon does nothing to teach you what it smells like.
Difficult or detailed concepts, such as employee benefits, require a multi-faceted communications approach. This will increase comprehension and retention. Keep these three ideas in mind when you help people learn about their benefits.
1. Use the whole toolbox
A frequent criticism of the theory that learning styles matter is that it limits the way presenters share their materials. The popular assumption that most people are “visual learners” might explain the prevalence of PowerPoint presentations. Make an effort to diversify the way you communicate about benefits. Include tactics that connect with people who prefer to read or listen to content rather than passively watch a presentation or video.
2. Rely on repetition with variation
While you want consistency among your messages, look for ways to vary your content to keep people engaged. Take a set of PowerPoint slides and re-work the information into an eye-catching infographic or a script for a podcast. Don’t forget to let people know that these other forms of the information are available. This creates continuity and gives employees a choice for how they consume content.
3. Never neglect the message.
Perhaps the best thought on how to help people learn comes from Neil Fleming, the New Zealand researcher who developed the popular VARK learning styles questionnaire: “VARK tells you about how you like to communicate. It tells you nothing about the quality of that communication.”
To put it another way, the best starting point for any communication is a clear, strong and consistent message. Once you have that in place, concentrate on presenting the information in a variety of ways. That enables employees to choose their preferred way to receive your message.
We hear stories every day about the perils of identity theft. It can not only impact a person’s credit, but in some cases, their entire lives.
ID theft is not an isolated incident. In fact, identity theft was the number one complaint consumers made to the Federal Trade Commission for 15 consecutive years.
Do you offer your employees a robust identity theft protection plan as part of their benefits package? About 36% of companies offer some form of ID theft protection services as an employee benefit. This voluntary benefit is a great way to distinguish you as an employer who cares. Employees have a sense of security when they know they have a plan to protect their finances and future.
If enrollment in this benefit is not as robust as it could be, maybe it’s time to beef up your communications.
Promote the Need for Identity Theft Protection
Your employees may have questions about identity theft protection services. What exactly is ID theft? How is it different from credit card fraud? Why do I need ID theft protection? Communications should seek to solve these concerns.
Lay out the stakes. Credit card fraud is a quick and deliberate attack that’s solved with a phone call to the credit card company. Identify theft is more complicated since it’s designed to duplicate a person’s identity. The thief’s goal is to take as much as they can until they are caught. If employees are not protected by a solid ID theft plan, they could potentially lose everything
In today’s world, most hackers launch network attacks where they attempt to crack weak passwords. Add to the benefit and point employees in the direction of training to learn about safe data management practices. These include the use of strong passwords and the avoidance of suspicious email links and websites.
Communicate About ID Theft Protection During Open Enrollment
During open enrollment, your employees feel overwhelmed as they try to navigate through all the options. After learning about their other benefits, they might not have the bandwidth to process more information. Identity theft protection is usually an employee-paid benefit. So, use your communications to emphasize its worth.
Make it easy with targeted pieces of information about ID theft protection services. Lay out what the benefit entails and why it makes sense. Recovering from identity theft is a stressful process that takes time and money. A protection plan assists with some of the associated costs. These can include phone bills and postage, notary fees, costs of obtaining credit reports, and maybe legal fees. Of course, each carrier’s benefits will differ.
Carriers will have resources you can mine for data, so why make more work for yourself? Use those materials for source information and to answer common questions. Attach downloadable fact sheets to videos, place flyers in gathering spaces like lunchrooms and copy rooms and ask managers to distribute materials in meetings.
Engage with Real-Life Stories About the Value of ID Theft Protection
Engage employees with real-life scenarios that show the benefit in action. Stories add credibility behind the value of the ID theft protection benefit and create connections. Employees love to read about their co-workers and how the company’s benefits make a difference in their lives. Use stories throughout your various communications— newsletters, videos, even posters with pictures.
Helping employees stay safe and secure and protect their personal information is a great service. Thorough communications help employees appreciate the value of this benefit.