So many American businesses were breathing on life support between 2008 and 2010 that their attention became focused nearly exclusively on customers and prospects. The practice of employee relations often took a back seat—way in the back of the bus—or was booted off the agenda entirely.
Now operating with much smaller staffs and employing technology rather than line workers or administrators to boost productivity, companies are running lean. So lean, in fact, that they can ill afford to lose the key employees who survived the employment “downheaval” and who now become the prime targets for recruitment by competitors. The potential for losing crucial personnel is exacerbated by the fact that the massive Baby Boomer workforce is reaching retirement age, requiring companies to replace their most experienced people with talent from other companies.
This confluence of circumstances demands that business leaders redirect their attention to their employee base and develop purposeful, effective communications with their own personnel. The message must move beyond discussion of monetary and healthcare benefits (which competitors may choose to trump) to incorporate the psychological, career and familial benefits of the worker’s current employment.
For example, do your employees have the opportunity to use advanced or specialized technology that can help them accelerate their careers and that might not be available at competing companies? Does your team or corporate-family work environment supply a broad foundation of support in an industry where the employee might otherwise find herself on her own in attempting to achieve success? Does your company offer a faster track to advancement than that of competitors?
In other words, it’s important to find the distinctive advantages that your company can offer your employees and others cannot. Then you need to find a distinctive way to communicate those advantages so they are understood and evaluated by your employees. A memo may be incomplete and short-lived, and a company meeting—while valuable for discovering and resolving employee concerns—may seem self-serving.
The most impactful way of communicating the company’s value to the employee may be to use the media that the employee values most. These often include social networks, blogs, videos and other non-traditional communication methods. Here are half a dozen ways that your internal communications can reach your employees with messages that are more likely to be heard and considered:
- Create a Twitter handle and/or Facebook page that commend the accomplishments of your employees, noting their special achievements, support given or received, advancement in the company and community work. Supplementing your company’s externally focused social media efforts, these social sites would concentrate solely on your employees. They would be designed to build a heightened sense of community among current staff and to entice potential new hires with the company’s recognition of the role its staff members play.
- Create a blog on the company’s intranet that is targeted to employees. The president of the organization—or other high-ranking members of the leadership team—should use the blog as an opportunity to tell stories about the good work employees are doing, both inside and outside the organization. Often companies issue employee awards at quarterly or annual meetings, but weekly blog posts can provide continual reinforcement of best practices and can acknowledge the work of more people.
- Create an online video site for your employees. Encourage them to document the work they are doing (short of recording proprietary or confidential information) and their thoughts about the value of their actions. Ask your staff to use their videos as an opportunity to demonstrate the company’s values and mission.
- Set up your own internal news bureau with employees as journalists. Their assignments are to report and write stories on ways that their colleagues are living the company’s values, helping each other and helping the community. These reports can serve as a foundation for the social networking and blog posts and can supplement the videos.
- Create a virtual employee-run company on your intranet. Let employees set its direction and plan its activities with the policies and focus they would like to try if they were running their own company. Lessons learned from the virtual world may translate well to the real corporation and may help increase employee loyalty.
- Establish a Customer Council, composed of a few long-time, friendly clients/customers, to honor the work of your employees in the company or the community, with stories and brief video statements that will be posted on social media sites.
To keep your employees, keep your employees involved, capitalizing on the media they value most to make them fans of the organization and to make your internal company brand a standout within your industry.