Commercial Media

Experienced Communications Strategist and Legal Research Expert.

5 things you should know about employees today

Understanding your audience can help you become a better communicator. 

Employees today are a different and unique species, when compared to employees of the past. 

Once upon a time, companies offered employees job security and stability; and employees in turn gave their loyalty and attention. These days given the GFC, mergers, downsizing, outsourcing and other workplace changes, the employer-employee relationship is far more fragile.

Employees today are sceptical and they question what companies have to communicate. Most importantly, they question why.

Here are five things you should know about employees in the workplace today:

  1. Employees are media-savvy: They are not waiting expectantly for the next message from senior management. The emergence of the internet and smartphones have increased employee access to various forms of media. This has given them the ability to search for information, discuss topics openly through social media, and obtain multiple viewpoints about a subject. So what does this mean for today’s corporate communicator? Well, for a start, you can’t assume that you are an employee’s sole source for company information. However, as a communicator, you have the unique opportunity to share perspectives that will help employees understand what all the public data really means. You can provide context in a way the media simply cannot match. And when employees believe they are getting more relevant information and a deeper meaning through internal channels than they can get anywhere else – congratulations – you’ve successfully engaged your employees.
  2.  Employees are sceptical: Today‘s employees don’t believe everything the company tells them. In some cases, they don’t believe anything they hear. For example, a company that promotes its stance on gender diversity might experience an employee reaction of distaste and disengagement if the company has a widely observed phallocentric culture. So what does this mean for today’s corporate communicator? Well, the key is to communicate with candour. Be open, honest and as transparent as possible about the company’s culture and communicate candidly. Save the spin for press releases. Treating employees with candour is also a sign of respect, and if you’re lucky, it will be shared both ways.
  3. Employees are too busy to browse the intranet:  The intranet is a ‘pull’ medium, meaning that employees pull information from it at their own discretion, rather than having information ‘pushed’ onto them (as an email would achieve). Keep in mind this important fact, particularly when posting important or urgent company information. Employees are busy and would be lucky to check the intranet once or twice a day, if that. If you have an important communication, use a ‘push’ medium at first instance (such as an email or text),  and communicate the message on the intranet by way of reinforcement only. When posting information on the intranet, keep it short and as brief as possible. Think like an employee and ask yourself: ‘What does this mean to me?’ and ‘What are they asking me to do?’ And always use headings that will appeal to their interest.
  4. Employees expect to learn immediately what the message means to them: Employees are busy and their free time is short. Do not expect employees to wade through long emails to find a buried call to action. Write like a journalist – use the pyramid story structure: key points up front, details in the middle, background/context and the end. If you need to add headings or put a call to action or deadline in bold text to stand out, then do so. Think ‘scanability’ rather than ‘readability’ and you’ll achieve having engaged and responsive employees.
  5. Employees control the information they receive and absorb, you don’t: Today’s employees feel free to ‘tune out’ by deleting unread emails, tossing a company newsletter into the waste bin, skipping over the intranet homepage, or multi-tasking while listening to the MD’s webcast. When communicating with employees, keep in mind that they want to control their communication experience. A way to achieve this on the intranet is through multimedia journalism, ie: telling a non-linear story through a variety of multimedia including interviews, downloads, blogs, photo galleries, statistical maps, tweets and so on. Make sure important messages come through a variety of channels so that employees get the message you’re trying to communicate.

By having a better understanding of today’s employees you will be able to more effectively reach them with your corporate communications.

The bottom line is that there will always be a relationship between employers and employees, and while that relationship may be changing, communication can support and even strengthen the bond.

Take comfort in the fact that employees want to feel proud for the company they work for, and want to feel that their work is contributing to the company’s success. Make it easy for them: share good news, highlight and celebrate success stories, and talk about positive aspects of the company as often as you can.

Would I ever leave this company? Look, I’m all about loyalty. In fact, I feel like part of what I’m being paid for here is my loyalty. But if there were somewhere else that valued loyalty more highly, I’m going wherever they value loyalty the most.


– Dwight Schrute, The Office 

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This entry was posted on 07/04/2012 by and tagged , , , , , , , .
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