01936: Managing Employee Communications

Image lifted from "A taste of social business" by Gloria Lombardi
Recent events at work have led to me once again reflecting on internal communications at the company. When your employee count runs in the thousands, it's naturally tricky to ensure that everyone gets the complete message intended by any communication. And when majority of your employees are not given access to email in line with client security policies, effectively communicating down to the staff level can get really difficult.

To be fair, email isn't a great communication medium either. When it comes to the workplace, it's easy to get buried in various email exchanges that are a normal part of the work environment especially given the very many email distribution lists one is bound to be a part of and of course the almost instinctive need to "reply to all" for any correspondence. And so little announcements are easily lost in the swarm of messages that one receives on any given day.

Another field of interest in improving internal communications involve enterprise social media networks like SFDC's Chatter or Microsoft's Yammer. And I have to admit, I think when managed well, enterprise social media solutions can be pretty powerful. But the bigger challenge is user adoption and engagement - such networks aren't necessarily "fun" compared to Facebook, Twitter and other consumer networks. And most folks still default back to email in order to produce "documentation" as part of the usual CYOA mentality at work.

But for folks who aren't comfortable with relying on technology-based or cloud-based solutions, then it all falls back on the robustness of your internal information cascade chains that start from the top and need to trickle down to your front line staff. The communication point here is the team leader, or whichever role acts as first level supervisors over the staff level. Their ability to receive communications from their superiors and communicate that message clearly is very, very essential to making the communication process work. It's more than just reading the official email aloud or sticking solely to any established talking points and avoiding any and all questions.

But that requires consistent training and development for these leaders and appropriate follow-through to make sure the message was received. But you can't exactly conduct a pop quiz for every memo - the best you can do is conduct spot checks somehow or make sure there are regular focus groups to catch such instances. The human element almost ensures that there will be mistakes, but the point here has a lot more to do with how well the company bounces back after a communication mishap versus how pretty they manage to make those communications.

What is your take on ensuring employee communications go all the way down to the very last employee? How does your multinational company handle this subject? Or do you just get a lot of internal emails each and every day, hopelessly vying for your attention?