Internal communication: the battle for 5 minutes of free time
Human beings have never had so many means of communication and access to information. Paradoxically, employees are less and less informed about their company, despite the debauchery of resources committed. Having well-informed employees is the basis for having committed employees, who invest themselves because their work is part of a whole that they understand and which makes sense. The causes are quite simple, the solutions a little less, but there are some.
People don’t get paid to learn about their business
It is of course provocative, but nevertheless a reality. In the subconscious of the employee, but also of his manager, getting information is not one of the priorities. Having well-informed employees is essential for the company, understood by all, but when it is necessary to project this on the measurable, the clear return on investment, at the level of a business unit, of a team, of an individual is more difficult, and necessarily put in low priority. The further down to the individual level, the less tangible is the value of being informed. Yet the figures are unequivocal; performance depends on well-informed employees: 85% of employees say they are more motivated when they regularly receive news from their company (JobsInMe); companies that communicate well with their employees generate 47% more value for their shareholders (Communication ROI Study Report) and are 3.5 times more likely to do better than their competitors (Towers Watson). In short, I’ll stop there with the statistics.
A Darwinian struggle for the 5 minutes of free time
Because being informed is not a priority, we will therefore have to be content with the employee’s “5 minutes of free time”. In transport, at the cigarette break, in the toilets. And yes, it’s not very glamorous, but it is the reality. Perhaps it is in the bathroom that you have a chance to inform your employees. The problem for businesses today is that there are plenty of people in those five minutes of free time. Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Snapchat, SMS… A Darwinian struggle to be present during the 5 minutes of free time. However, in this battle, the company often lines up a mammoth on the starting grid alongside the racing cars of its competitors. A losing battle …
Newsletters, Intranets, corporate social networks… the right weapons for the battle?
This does not, of course, prevent companies from striving to find the miracle solution. How many billions wasted on intranets? According to Prescient Digital Media, only 13% of employees regularly visit their company’s intranet, probably to go to critical applications whose link is accessible from this central point. 31% never go there.
Newsletters are not a bad idea in themselves, but their realization is so painful that communication comes down to a monthly, non-personalized newsletter, supposed to inform all categories of employees. An email lost in the thousands. A pebble thrown into the sea that we hope will make visible waves. And of course not suitable for mobile.
Corporate social networks are also a good idea. Yet my conviction is that their natural ground is that of collaboration more than communication. Corporate social networks, whether conversational (like Slack) or rather news walls (like Yammer), meet the needs of dialogue and collaborative work around specific projects, initiatives, communities. Their “bottom-up” character, which is their strength, is also their Achilles heel in internal communication. All information is at the same level, the announcement of the merger of the company as the announcement of the next pot of the marketing team to celebrate the victory in football. However, the company also needs to ensure that “key” information is seen.
Last but not least, whether it is intranet, newsletters or corporate social networks, all these tools often suffer from a weakness on the mobile, and are struggling to win the battle of the 5 minutes of free time.
Are disconnected employees talking about it?
The tragedy of this story is that all of these efforts are made primarily for people sitting in front of their PCs, often at headquarters or in decision-making centers. It is not useless of course, but we cannot say that it is the least informed. What if we were talking about employees in the field, on construction sites, in factories, in stores? In short, the main body? Most don’t have a business cell phone or even a business email address. What if we took a little interest in them? They don’t have the right to be informed? We constantly ask them to be engaged but we take refuge behind the technical impossibility to tell them to connect to the facebook page of the company (like the customers) to find out what is going on …
What does a well-informed employee mean?
We are talking about informing our employees, but naturally there is no chance of winning the battle for 5 minutes of free time by wisely getting down to the group’s corporate news. The same “Green Sun” for everyone, can you believe it?
Informing your employees means creating a good mix of content: certainly a little top-down information, but also information created by employees and which has value for others – a good way to engage by showing that they are an integral part of corporate communication. Fun content about life in the company. Not (only) the social events at the head office but the wonderful moments of life in the shops, in the factories. Last but not least, outside information, linked to their ecosystem, to what the competition is doing (they look at it anyway), and why not information on what is happening in the world.
But, because there is one but of course, above all information that is adapted to each employee segment. The needs and desires of a head office employee in marketing have nothing to do with the expectations of a factory employee. We deploy treasures of intelligence to target the customer, the consumer, and try to do the minimum for the employee.
Employee ambassadors go through well-informed employees
When almost five years ago we started Sociabble to help companies turn their employees into ambassadors, we were far from realizing that the Employee Advocacy tree was hiding the forest of Internal Communication. And not only in France. In the United States, the country of information, in Europe, in Asia Pacific, we have discovered a reality that we often try to hide from the CEO. Everywhere, the battle for employee information was lost. How do you get people to communicate on social media when they don’t even know what’s going on in the company? For two years we have, like other actors of the Employee Advocacy, decided to attack the subject head on. Ambassadors are first and foremost well-informed employees, that is our conviction.
Easy to criticize… what’s the right cocktail?
Not easy! For me, the first ingredient in the cocktail is energy and willpower. Most businesses don’t start from scratch, they start with a negative balance. The 5 minutes of free time are already well locked by other mobile applications. Employees have their habits. It takes patience, effort, the unwavering support of top management who must accept that the first performance measures are not going to be good. Nobody expects you to occupy their brain for a few minutes in the bathroom, in transport, at the break. It must be clear.
Second ingredient: the content mix we talked about. You don’t need good content. You need great content, which will attract people. So agree to start with a low proportion of corporate content. A distribution player with whom we work even decided to start with 0% corporate content, and to play everything on the card of fun, moments of life in the company, sports news, to reintegrate “the 5 minutes And only then start to inject content into the business. The valuation of the content created by users plays an essential role. The displayed content must be adapted to the employee’s profile. Its language, department, function, etc. Finally, you have to be able to orchestrate everything so that important content is visible first.
Third ingredient: the mobile experience. It’s simple: you have to do as well or even better than the mobile applications that take up 5 minutes. The app must be super simple, super visual (large photos, etc.). It must allow the employee to offer content (photos in particular) as simply as on Facebook or Instagram. Allow him to give his opinion in one click through surveys, quizzes, etc. so that their participation is not limited to sending photos. He must feel that he is an actor in his own right.
Fourth ingredient: stay “top of mind”. What does it mean? much more than newsletters in the form of emails. We must use push notifications on mobile to alert in real time. Information must be displayed on screen networks so that people have the reflex to return to see the detail on their mobile. You have to put the information in widgets on the intranet. In the United States, one of our clients told us: “my developers will never leave Slack”. Never mind, a bot pushes content to relevant Slack groups. We must abandon the idea that people will consume information by going to a single point. As in marketing, we must multiply the points of contact. It’s war, you have to use all your weapons to be visible!
Fifth ingredient: gamify. No, gamification does not infantilize people. Because we are all children. Who have grown up, of course, who have lost much of their illusions in the face of the harsh reality of the world of work, but we are still children. In all countries, in all sectors, we are seeing gamification explode the counters. Even in sectors where there was the most skepticism, such as audit firms. Especially around sporting events. In India, the device that we set up with HP around a cricket competition (HP was a sponsor of one of the teams) engaged thousands of employees on the mobile application, to get information, to share content , to bet on the matches… The battle of the 5 minutes passes by there, it is my conviction. And it’s up to the company to find the right rewards. In Belgium, Fortis rewards the commitment of its employees by planting trees on the planet. Inspiring no?
Last ingredient: reconnect disconnected employees. This is the major issue for me, what I find the most exciting. I often chat with the boss of the convenience store near me. An invisible point in the global map of the Retailer to which his store belongs. She does not have a pro mobile, she does not have a pro address. But she is passionate. She set up her facebook page, takes pictures of her fruit arrivals. The neighborhood has subscribed. Don’t these people deserve to be informed, to be rewarded for their tremendous commitment? Let them use their personal mobile. They have a payslip, so an ID. This is how they can connect and be authenticated, regardless of whether they have a pro email address or not. The war is a mobile war where email no longer really has a place.
The longer we wait, the more difficult the struggle to return to the 5 minutes. At work !
Jean-Louis Bénard is co-founder and CEO of Sociabble, a platform used in more than 80 countries, which allows companies to properly inform and engage employees, so that they become ambassadors. He is also Chairman of Brainsonic, an agency he founded in 2003. Author or co-author of several books including Extreme Programming (Eyrolles), he is also an investor in several French startups.