I love football. But sometimes having my ear talked off about football can cause my eyes to glaze over (mentioning no names – Dad). It’s not that I am not interested in the general topic it’s just that the same message (Nottingham Forest are rubbish) delivered over and again, in slightly different format (chat, rant, rave) becomes a little boring. I tend to switch off and let my mind wander.
This scenario is not isolated to me visiting my parents on a Sunday. It’s in the world around us, and it’s also in our very own businesses.
In a recent piece of research I found that the most common communication topic for a business is ‘itself’. ‘This is what we’re doing’, ‘Here’s our strategy’, ‘Our monthly results’, etc. When compared to all of the other communication topics (such as market news, employee news, development news, social news) business-focussed communications accounted for more than 50% of the annual total.
Employees were being hit with 1 in 2 messages being about the business!
There are many academics and practitioners that highlight the fact that the goals of the business and employee are not always the same. Using myself as an example I want to learn French, travel the world and spend more time watching (not hearing about) football. These aren’t the goals of my employer. And it’s not a problem that they don’t match however it is sometimes easy to assume that personal objectives are left at home and we adopt the business mission the minute we ‘clock-on’.
Assuming (consciously or unconsciously) that personal objectives are ‘checked at the door’ can lead to the imbalance in communications seen in my research – we just continue to talk about the business until our people start to switch off (like me on a Sunday afternoon).
There is a way to address this balance – and it’s not about talking more about other topics or talking less about the business (talking about the business is fundamental). The same piece of research actually found that frequency had little bearing over employee engagement with the message. Instead we have to be smarter with what we talk about and how we do this.
The key to doing this is finding ‘common ground’. Whilst my objectives don’t fully align with those of my business – we do have shared interests. For example, we both want to see Internal Communications flourish, so immediately anything ‘Internal Commsy’ is going to capture me.
It’s really straight forward but getting a good understanding of what our people are interested in and using this to contextualise business messages is an underused skill.
Next time you review your Internal Communications, try asking:
Is there a good balance between the interests of both the business and the employee?
Have we found the areas of common ground we need to engage our people?