Overcome information overload with effective internal communication
How busy are employees? Not only are they constantly bombarded with emails, but now — with most office workers being remote — the pressure is increasing to be constantly online. The typical employee receives around 120 emails a day. If that person spent four minutes reading each email, this activity alone would take a full eight hours.
So that creates a challenge: how to communicate everything employees need to know without providing too much.
Before you start taking action steps, you first need to determine what too much looks like in your organization. There are four areas to measure:
Start by counting the number of messages employees receive. There are two ways to do so:
1- The first method is to measure how many messages are sent via email and other channels that have the capability. This could be intranet, internal social media, chat app (like Zoom).
2- The second method is to shadow a few typical employees and see how much communication they receive in a given time period. In what ways — emails, meetings, text messages, posters, etc. — do employees receive company information?
- Time required
Once you have a handle on sheer volume, take a closer look to see how much time it would take to get through all that stuff. At an average reading speed of 250 words a minute, how long would an employee need to actually read all that communication?
Next, analyze the degree of difficulty. This is a critical issue affecting overload because the more complex communication is, the longer it takes for people to process it. One way to do so is to determine the reading grade level of your material.
Once you understand the volume of communication, consider also taking a close look at how relevant communication is to employees. One way to determine this is to analyze analytics to determine whether content is just being read versus how engaged employees are. Review intranet analytics to see how much time is spent on each page. The pages with the most time spent are more relevant than those that get just a few seconds of employees’ attention.
While not strictly a measure of quantity, relevancy has a big impact on the likelihood that employees will pay attention.
Once you have determined the main issue(s), there are five things you can do to make communication easier for employees to absorb.
1. Make content bite-sized
The longer the article, email or news item, the less time employees spend on it. That’s why your core content strategy should be to create succinct, boiled-down messages. Here are three ways to make your communication easy to consume:
· Keep it short. Allow just 50 words maximum to make your case.
· Use a single compelling image. Accompany your message with a single photo and brief caption that will grab your employees’ attention.
· Verbify it. Create action-oriented headlines. If the only thing an employee reads is the headline, they should still understand what needs to be completed.
Providing quick bites of information over a period of time is a great way to keep a topic fresh for employees. For example, you might only have performance management check-ins two or three times a year. To keep performance management a priority for employees and help them achieve their goals, you could:
- Send out short, timely email reminders with key dates to help employees stay on track
- Create visual posters that track progress throughout the year
- Share quick tips in a monthly newsletter
Employees already receive so many emails during a normal day. “Too much” is one of the top complaints employees have about internal communication today because they’re inundated with information.
As a result, employees want fewer channels with less repetition. Look at all the ways you communicate with employees, and then determine how to cut those in half. Instead of sending separate emails, aggregate relevant information into a weekly or bi-weekly newsletter that provides everything employees need to know in short bursts.
3. Include preference-based communications
A place where you discuss specific topics or questions — that’s a great way to get the information employees need to know. Create places for people to find information, on the intranet, in a newsletter and around the building (for those essential workers).
The best way to use a company’s online forum, like Yammer or Chatter, is to set up groups related to specific departments or key areas. Employees could have simple questions like, “When is open enrollment?” or “How do I apply for a job internally?” Answer these questions in an HR forum.
If you don’t have forums, provide employees with quick ways to find the information they need for one-off questions. Save employees time by adding or enhancing search on your intranet to allow employees to find information based on specific topics. Most engagement tools have search engines, allowing employees to find the information they need.
4. Highlight action items
There are typically two reasons to communicate:
· Provide information
· Call to action
Employees aren’t thoroughly reading emails anymore; they are only scanning. State clearly how employees need to take action or do something differently. Use visual cues such as bold text and bullets to help call to action steps jump off the page for employees.
5. Link to additional information
You may look at all of these tips and say to yourself, “but there is so much more that employees need to know.” Luckily, there’s an easy solution. Host the details on your intranet and provide a link at the end of any relevant communication to the additional information. Most employees will only read the pertinent content, but the link allows those curious employees to get more information without overloading the majority.
In some cases — like open enrollment — employees may want all the details to make sure they are making the right decisions. But providing all the details doesn’t mean you have to jam pack a 100-page guide with every single benefit. You can still create a concise, organized guide that provides the most important details about each benefit with links to more information. The goal is to inform your employees without overwhelming them.
Adding these strategies to your communication plan isn’t a short-term goal. If you keep improving, employees will be more engaged and therefore make the company better overall.