10 internal communication ideas that cut through

Illustration of office worker asking to be engagedInternal communication is a tricky game. Often under resourced (and valued), it is prone to being considered an afterthought or a box that only needs to be checked.

When you think about it, engaging staff can often be more challenging than engaging external audiences – this is because you have nowhere to hide. Like an intimate, long-term relationship, your employees have already seen you both falter and be fabulous. Your employees’ experience the workplace culture you create on a daily basis. Their assessment is based on what they feel when they come into work each day – not the words you use to describe it. Because of this, convincing them to play (and stay) with you requires some innovative thinking.

The usual internal communication toolkit includes things like ‘all staff emails’, ‘staff newsletters’, ‘information packs for managers’, ‘briefings by the leadership team’, ‘intranet news stories’ and ‘knowledge sharing’. If you are anything like me, met with an increasingly complex environment full of things clamouring for my attention, your eyes will also be glazing over at this point. Luckily there is a better way. Here are 10 ideas for creating internal communication activities that cut through:

  1. Run a competition

A competition is a great way to support ideas and innovation and drive engagement. Competitions, when run well, are also fun. Use a competition to name something, to come up with the best suggestion to make things better or to reward demonstration of your corporate values. Be open to the crazy and hair-brained ideas (this is part of the fun) and make sure the prize is something worthwhile – an iPad, a day off from work, dinner with the Chief Executive (see also Point 3 – Play a game).

  1. Give your employees a voice

Most employees want to hear from their leadership team, just not all the time. Instead of scripted speeches delivered by your executive, why not recruit staff to help tell the story? If you’re introducing new commitments around customer service, film your frontline staff talking about why it matters. If you have run a pilot program that is now being rolled out organisation wide, get those who took part to speak about their experience and the benefits they saw. At a micro level make sure you create space for different teams to talk to each other and share ideas.

  1. Play a game

Gamification is a bit of a buzzword at the moment. Really, it is just referring to the use of gameplay and game mechanics to engage people – think reward and recognition on steroids. Some examples of where you could use gamification include driving performance amongst sales team or motivating staff to undertake their own self-directed learning by awarding badges and tokens for knowledge obtained. Want more? Here’s a fantastic list of more than 90 gamification case studies.

  1. Use plain English and have a bit of fun

Long prose is old school. That two-page all-staff email that you want to write will probably be skimmed at best and deleted at worst. The solution? Use words simply. Review all writing for plain English. Reduce sentence size, remove the gobbledygook and the jargon, use an active voice. Write bite-sized and be conversational. Consider the use of infographics to convey difficult concepts and inject a bit of humour along the way. Apply this to presentations, posters, newsletters and e-Learning to keep staff engaged.

  1. Surprise staff when they don’t expect it

Launching something big and want staff to take notice? Give them a gift when they least expect it. It doesn’t have to be huge – just make it relevant. Ideas include a USB stick to launch a new website, a seed-stick to celebrate company growth or a new brand, a mini-football to promote Workplace Health and Safety week.

  1. Get staff talking about each other (in a positive way)

A great way to promote your corporate values, customer service commitments or innovation programs is to get employees recognising each other. This can be done in a number of ways from the traditional ‘employee of the month’ nominated by their peers through to opportunities to create space for random acts of kindness like giving staff a star-card to place on someone’s desk.

  1. Ban PowerPoint

Unless your organisation is really really good at PowerPoint – don’t let them do it. Or at least control it. There is nothing less engaging than being made to sit through bad PowerPoint. You can ban it altogether (this can produce some really creative results – however you should provide ideas for alternatives otherwise it can be overwhelming), or adopt a limited PowerPoint format. I like the Ignite format and Pecha Kucha as a start.

  1. Co-create something

Co-creation is another buzzword – however there is real value in its practice. Co-creation really just means getting people to work together to create something or solve a problem. It’s useful because it facilitates an even playing field and, when done well, creates value from the ownership it delivers to everyone involved in the process. Co-creation can be used to design products, services, programs, strategies, values and brands.

  1. Create a space for other skills to be presented

Workplaces too often focus on the skills that are required to keep them ticking over. The humans that work in them are much more interesting than this. Your employees have a range of skills that you don’t even know about – they play music, they cook, they play sports, they do art. You can engage them by creating space for them to bring these passions, and this expertise, into the workplace. Run a competition (see Point 1) to design your new logo and get your artists involved. Promote a healthy work/life balance through sports demonstrations in lunchtime or invite your musicians to form a band to play at one of your events.

  1. Get staff out of the office

Sometimes just spending time with staff off-site is enough to make them sit up and take notice. Take them out for coffee, run a training session outdoors, visit another office or an external site.

My one disclaimer on all of these is: don’t make them novelty events. Gimmicks don’t buy long-term engagement or loyalty – nor do they build a culture. Use these techniques as part of an integrated approach and make sure you follow through. More than anything though, have some fun with it and create something you would enjoy engaging with yourself.

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