With the effects of societal and corporate shifts continuing to ripple across the country, employee retention has become a rising issue for businesses. Re-hiring and re-training cost millions of dollars, but fostering an engaging workplace can help slow this churn and burn. While employee engagement initiatives historically fall within HR teams, internal communications has recently been playing a more meaningful role—from change management, to associate engagement, to overall workplace wellness—creating an opportunity for communications professionals to take a much larger seat at the table.
To effectively leverage internal communications and maximize their impact on associate retention, brands should follow three key steps.
Get to know your employees
It might sound straightforward, but it’s the foundation to an effective communications program – and retention strategy. From the onset, it’s important to understand associates’ communication channel preferences and their desired cadence for communication so content can be tailored to their needs. On an ongoing basis, create two-way connections to hear more about how associates are feeling and what feedback they may have, as well as opportunities for them to ask questions. Balance the tactics with planned surveys alongside more organic touchpoints that happen more frequently. The more familiar an organization is with how their people are feeling, the better they can anticipate their needs and address their perspectives head on.
As time passes, organizations may also shift generationally and associates may have new communication preferences. While there’s no one-size-fits-all method of communicating with your employees, generational cohorts tend to receive communication differently, so it can be advantageous to get ahead and ensure you’re adjusting content strategies alongside an evolving workforce.
Be real, and be ready to pivot
The insights you gain through regular check-ins with employees can help you communicate with both authenticity and relevance. Be honest with employees. Minimize the corporate speak and share what they need to hear. Proactively address their potential concerns head-on. Transparency helps employees understand business decisions, and the more line of sight they have into those decisions, the more likely they are to trust their employers.
Effective internal communications looks different for each company, and can even look different for various types of news. Businesses need to discover which channels are working best, which messages are resonating most, and how to adjust to break through. It’s a cyclical process, all rooted in listening to your teams. Like any communications strategy, brands should gather and utilize data to optimize efficacy of internal content. Consider measuring town hall attendance, survey completion rates, views on internal videos, and email open rates. Each data point will provide important associate insights, allowing you to further refine (or rethink) your approach.
Cascade to connect
To make meaningful connections with associates across the company and solidify message adoption, communications have to be relevant to each individual. That might sound like a tall order, but it’s possible by reinforcing content through relevant channels and relevant messengers. What might be announced at an organization-wide town hall may need to be customized to smaller groups, reinforcing how it specifically impacts them. As they recognize the significance of the news to themselves, associates will feel more engaged.
Communications within smaller organizations can be easier to control. But for larger companies, communications need to be reinforced through multiple touchpoints. The foundation you build by getting to know your associates will pay dividends; the more you learn about your team, the easier it will be to identify the channels, messengers and approaches that resonate with them.
With the unpredictability of the current economy, there’s no telling where the job market will go in the next few months, let alone the next few years. The cost to rehire and retrain is significant, so investing in creating a workplace environment that employees want to be—and stay—a part of will remain a top business priority in the near-term. Internal communications is another lever for companies to pull to grow their retention rates, and their overall business.