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  • Katrine Zane

5 Questions Your Employees Wish You Asked (a.k.a. The Golden Rules of Internal Communications)

Updated: Sep 5, 2020

“How do I motivate employees to follow & engage with my company’s social media profiles?” Ever asked that question? Then this one is exactly for you.

How do I motivate employees to follow and engage with my company’s social media profiles?

A lot of great advice is already out there - examples of strategies, the best times to post on social media, the right size and color palette of your photos, etc. Perhaps you’ve even tried some (or many) of these tips and tricks, but without the groundbreaking results you were hoping for.

Trust me, I’ve seen it happen. I’ve witnessed communication managers hired and fired, new logo, web and email designs created, new format of internal communications implemented, better resolution, higher frequency, internal competitions with attractive prizes run across 3 continents, different social media strategies adopted (some more successful than others), and still not much change on a larger scale.

Why does that happen?

I want to help you, because a true community working together can move mountains.

Consider the math: if every employee has at least 200 connections on LinkedIn, with only 50 people working for you, your potential reach on LinkedIn alone is 10K!

So let me give you 5 questions your employees wish you asked, the things I’ve seen missed and underestimated again and again - the 5 building blocks that in my experience, WILL provide results and ensure long-term success to your communications and engagement strategies.

1. How happy are my employees with their work, their company, their managers? Do I have reliable tools to measure it?

Surprised to see this question first on the list in an article about internal communication? You shouldn’t be.

The level of employee engagement in company events, corporate communication and with its social media profiles is a direct reflection of how emotionally engaged and loyal they feel towards that company.

Think of your own experience. If every morning you cannot wait for the day to end, you’re sure as hell not going to follow, like and share any work updates more than you absolutely have to.

Similarly, if you feel that your salary is too low, management decisions neither understandable, nor reliable, performance criteria unrealistic, there is a constant fight and competition instead of collaboration among teams, or that your persona simply doesn’t really matter to anyone, no beautiful photo, team building or competition is going to change your attitude, is it?

This also covers the middle management kill zone as Bill Burnett wittingly called it in his excellent Stanford University speech on design thinking and change implementation (starts at 30:48 min although I do recommend listening to the entire thing).

One of the companies I worked for used to regularly send opinion polls - your basic questionnaire: how happy are you, how do you evaluate your direct manager, what changes would you suggest in the company and so on.

Three things came out of it every single time:

  • A myriad of reminders “Most of you still haven’t filled them in, please do it!” (which, by the way, should have been telling enough),

  • the summed up results and actions to be taken never felt convincing,

  • and the most burning issues and best suggestions usually weren’t shared anyway for fear of backlash (especially after a story got around that despite the poll being called anonymous, you had to log on to fill it in, therefore, the top management would have and use this info anyway and it would directly impact your career growth opportunities. It didn’t matter whether that was true or not. The damage was done.)

So take a hard look at the current reality, the HR policies in place, questions you ask, and make sure this building block is strong and healthy.

2. Am I present where my employees are most active?

If you want to catch that big shark of a client, you go to just the right social events, offices and golf club, where they hang out. The same applies to boosting employee engagement.

Do you know which social media outlets are the most popular among your employees? That’s where you need to be.

Your social profiles all need to provide the same answer to the questions “What is this company about?” and “What is it like working there?”

Most employees will not follow your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn pages all at once; they will choose 1, maybe 2 of them. That means that if there’s a new vacancy or you’ve supported a project you’re truly proud of, make sure all your followers hear about them.

3. Is your content share-worthy?

Do you know which company updates your employees most want to hear about? What topics interest them? What form of content is most appealing?

When we say “Know your client” – it seems obvious, but for some reason, the same truth is often forgotten when it comes to communicating with employees.

Engagement is essentially a relationship, and any relationship that lasts beyond a few months and 10 re-posts requires trust and common values.

Let them know yours. And make sure they’ve heard them. What do you and your company stand for and how does it manifest beyond the profile description, how does it manifest in your management style, decisions, social activities and events?

In addition, many employees will feel weary of sharing a directly promotional content, but won’t mind posting a company update, a job listing, an interesting industry insight or simply a beautiful photo because today is Friday and let’s not make every day into information overload.

The most shared updates will be either genuinely useful or truly entertaining.

Reading about the benefits of your products and services, the beautiful window views and coffees and cakes at the office gets old real fast.

Your employees want to know they matter, they want to be engaged and see exactly how their work has contributed. The quarterly statistics won’t suffice. Tell a story!

Give a shout-out for great performance, helpfulness or a particularly innovative idea, share testimonials from clients and other colleagues on how xyz has helped them.

Like with anything, you need to provide actual value in order to engage and retain.

4. Is your content quick to consume and easy to share?

Think of your regular working day. Your to-do list seems longer than life, you worry about making it to your kid’s recital, miraculously finding time for a date night with your spouse, finishing the project on time before you lose a client, and fitting in your evening run because your nerves are a wreck and those last 5 kg just won’t give up.

How much time are you ready to spare for the internal communications email with a bunch of announcements that may or may not apply to you personally?

Perhaps this is not your personal reality, but it is for many.

Research suggests that employees have an average of 8 min/day to spare on company updates.

What is more, we spend mere seconds per article, basically, the time it takes to read the title and maybe the first sentence, often not reading any further.

Want them to read your updates AND engage with them?

Ensure your content is well curated, visually telling, the titles - attention-grabbing and the chain of communication - fast and efficient.

Have an update you’d like to be shared?

Make this process as easy and organic as possible. Send it out already cut, edited and one click away to a successful share. After all, you need it more than they do.

5. What is their journey as they (attempt to) join the company?

Like company culture, this is a significant part of your brand communication and should not be taken lightly.

The recruitment process is your first direct communication with a potential brand ambassador.

The tasks set during a recruitment process, the questions asked at the interview, the pace of decision-making process and the tone of communication – they all provide an important insight into what it is truly like at your company, how cooperative your employees are and how aligned the social media content is with the reality.

It’s a small world. People talk. You want to be ahead of that conversation, you want to be steering it.

Once upon a time, I applied for a job at a rather well-known company. I was excited about the opportunity; I had a positive impression of the company from its public communication and was truly interested in the responsibilities outlined in the job add.

Two days after my application, I was invited to the second round and given different tasks, including writing a strategy to tackle a specific problem they had. I completed it all and sent in within the time-frame provided.

Guess what happened after that? Radio silence. One and a half month passed, the HR didn’t reply to my email inquiry, no communication either good or bad was provided, no update on the selection process.

I had enough experience with large corporations to know that there might be many reasons for a delay, from sick leaves and holidays, to slow decision-making problems, sudden policy changes and all other kinds of force majeure. And yet – I couldn’t help wondering if something much fishier might be going on. All those stories of producing a job add to get a 100 new ideas for a strategy... Had I fallen for it?

In the meantime, I kept receiving regular confirmations and status updates in a selection process for a another company of a similar size. Other employers have clearly described the selection process on their website outlining the steps when (not) to expect updates. And then of course there is Virgin and Richard Branson posting a personalized video to thank all the applicants and invite them to apply again.

What are the stories candidates will be telling about each of these employers?

Is your employee training adding to a solid ground of motivation and brand awareness or is it doing damage-control?

If you have these 5 questions successfully covered, you have a solid ground for a truly engaged communication and brand visibility!

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