Ben Reynolds notes that employers have data to boost overall wellbeing, but they need to look beyond the surface for new data, craft communications using that information, then analyze the results to refine new communications.
Data is everywhere

‘Data’ tends to conjure up images of impenetrable numbers, statistics and spreadsheets. But as an objective resource, these facts and figures are so much more. They’re the stuff that gives employers rich insights into what their people think and feel — helping them personalise communications to positively influence hearts and minds. And that’s no small thing. Business depends on engaged employees.

Loyalty relies on building solid relationships and trust — with customers and employees alike. And similar to sales success in the marketplace, getting to know the needs of employees is essential to getting their buy-in. But this isn’t so simple in a typical workplace where expectations differ across demographics and situational factors that can and do change. These are the reasons why more companies are embracing transformative — or agile — strategies that are constantly informed by data, and driven by a thirst for learning and improvement.

When gathering, analysing and using data to help create and deliver personalised and customised employee communications, companies should keep this mantra in mind: ‘it’s never about you; it’s always about your employees’. Those that put this belief into practice won’t go far wrong.

Communications tend to succeed if they are based on a true understanding of what it’s like to be in employees’ shoes. So companies benefit when they tenaciously pursue that perspective — looking under the surface of employee feedback and behaviour to grasp the nuances of context and individual appetite. For a message to be effective, this should happen before the right ways to position, write and present it are even considered.

Tip #1

Practical Tip

Tune in to employees through enterprise social media — this tool is now used effectively to stay current on what matters most

Learn from your employees

First, it’s important to listen to employees. Second, it’s important to listen to employees. Third, well, the point has been made. Fortunately, there are many ways for employers to become more attuned.

Combining quantitative and qualitative methods is ideal, but there’s no need to be overly complicated or scientific. For example, a quarterly engagement survey and either focus groups or informal get-togethers could serve the purpose quite well.

Whatever means are used, looking beyond top-level data is key. Knowing the participation rate of an online survey is helpful, but analysing demographics and cohorts of respondents — including their input — is more powerful.

Hidden messages around leadership, culture, locations, engagement within certain teams, and other valuable insights are often unearthed through this process. Analysis of face-to-face communications should be handled in much the same way. The behaviour of those in the room can be used to judge character traits and engagement levels.

The next step is to compile all of the data collected with other currently relevant sources of people-related statistics within the business. And it’s essential to include information that might not be obvious — ranging from absence, benefits use, recruitment and exit interviews, to sales performance figures.

Learn from others

Whether through peer-to-peer networking opportunities, industry research, behavioural insights or just getting to know other professionals within their business, companies are surrounded by pretty much all the communication resources they need. Calling on the expertise and techniques of external marketing and branding colleagues could also prove very useful. The connection between external and internal communications is often misaligned, and there are lessons to be learnt from those who are charged with selling the brand to customers. That brand must be seamlessly managed to convey a consistent message both inside and outside of the company.

All of this information, combined with employee data, should impact the design and distribution of employee communications. They help form a unique profile, and the resultant look and feel will be distinct for every company.

Tip #2

Innovative Idea

Install a Chief Listening Officer — to show employees their voice is a top priority

Measure everything

The impact of every communication should be measured. Gaining value from this effort requires knowing what the message is trying to achieve, and setting out these objectives beforehand — including any intended behavioural changes. After communicating, it’s time to assess the level of success against these targets. If the right outcomes were not attained, find out why.

It’s this kind of information that gives an ultra-rich analysis, helping inform and shape the messages that follow — until the objectives are met. A webinar invitation provides an example. If measurement showed that engagement fell short of expectations, combining an invitation with an intranet article the next time around could yield improved results. An then, if engagement increased but still came in below target, repeating the effort with the addition of an Instragram post could be a sensible fix. And so on.

People are all unique and consume communications through different channels at different times. By testing a multi-channel approach, employers can find out what works best for their employees. These channel choices should be driven by the HR strategy, not what the IT department, compliance officer or facilities manager will allow. But with that in mind, it’s important to arrive at a cooperative approach that takes these colleagues along on the journey to greater progress.

Tip #3

Busted Myth

Resist the risky assumption that no news is good news — when employees don’t respond to communications, dig in to find out why and use those insights to drive better results


Aim for strategic behavioural change

A change in employee behaviour is the ultimate goal, but there’s nothing to be gained from plainly telling people they need to make it happen. The message has to be delivered in stages that compel and guide individuals to make their own gradual moves in the right direction. For instance, between sending a one-off message encouraging people to plan for retirement, and a series of communications offering financial education sessions — which is most likely to pan out?

In more detail, here’s how an effective approach can really work in a situation like this. It could start with the ‘plan for retirement’ message, followed by a communication about the value of advice to help with day-to-day finances. From this, messages might focus around wealth management to prompt the build-up of a pot of savings. Next would come messages around buying a house — and then everything on the route to retirement that will impact upon putting money aside for a secure future.

At each stage, messages should be personalised with specifically relevant data. Making it realistic — showing the actual difference if the employee makes the change — is the only way to really help alter behaviour.

Whilst every company will identify a workable approach that’s uniquely their own, the success of the journey for all relies on data-driven, multi-channel communications. And every step of the way, it must be underpinned by the knowledge and insight than can only be gained from measurement.

Ben leads a dedicated team of employee communication specialists, guiding their success in creating connections that help clients drive business objectives and employee engagement. Under his direction, the practice has grown to include over 65 people located within the UK and beyond, who express their talents in all aspects of internal communication.