Improving employee communications has become the holy grail for not only the internal communications function within the organization but, increasingly, also HR, operations and senior leadership.
A firm connection has been established between employee communications and ROI, but that is most often linked to improved employee communications leading to higher levels of employee engagement which, in turn, bolsters the likelihood that employees stay longer, resources recruitment costs and increases the view of the company in the eyes of potential recruits, and almost always leads to better service to customers.
However, the benefits of communication don’t end there and many Speakap customers have noticed some surprising and valuable secondary benefits to dialling up the quality and quantity of employee communications within their companies.
1. Creating the self-service company
How much time do certain departments within your company—we’re thinking about you, HR, merchandising and IT—spend answering the same questions from employees? That’s the reason why it’s important to have a shared location for files such as employee manuals, IT processes and pricing updates. But many companies find that by implementing successful employee communications tools and strategies that enable peer-to-peer sharing, they create an organizational hive mind, where employees answer each others’ questions and issues. These answers are not only “cheaper” (i.e. they require fewer internal support functions) but are often faster, better and more trusted.
2. Real-time customer research
How do you predict what customers may want to buy? How about listening to them? Cosmetics giant Rituals, for example, found that introducing Speakap allowed their product development teams to have more access and communication with their in-store employees, tapping into the thoughts, requests and opinions of the customers in their stores. When large numbers of customers around the world were enquiring about a discontinued range, for example, sales assistants could pass that information back to head office where plans were hatched to create a replacement line.
3. Increased earned media
Creating a culture of increased employee communications doesn’t start and end in the walled garden of the workplace. Provide employees with real-time and compelling news of the organization’s growth, successes, and even employment opportunities, and the engaged workforce will be quick to share that through their personal channels. This creates a potentially huge, organic reach and often impacts on the perception of the company more than official messaging as people trust people over businesses and CEOs.
With a suitable platform in place, you might also create a group where frontline employees can share their images of store renovations, product displays or hospitality experiences which the marketing team can use across owned platforms. A number of experts believe that more authentic user-generated content like this delivers better results than traditional brand photography
4. Draw on local knowledge
At the recent Global Retailing Conference in Tucson, the CEO of home improvement chain Lowe’s, Marvin Ellison, told the audience about a time he visited a Lowe’s store in downtown New York to find an opulent standalone bathtub displayed in the window. The directive had come down from merchandising at HQ that this bathtub was the hero product to feature this month and the store manager had followed orders. So far so good. “But most New York City apartments don’t have space for any bathtub”, explained Ellison, “let alone that giant one!”
Boosting employee communications can also create a feedback loop between the head office and local teams to make sure all efforts are adapted to the specific requirements of the local market. Otherwise, you end up delivering too many ice creams to stores experiencing a late winter cold snap, you put a bacon special on the menu in a restaurant located in a traditionally Muslim area of the city, or you display giant ornate bathtubs in downtown NYC.
5. Innovating and creating experiences
In recent years, US wholesaler Costco has added skylights and solar panels to its considerably-sized store roofs to reduce electricity needs, it’s introduced an internal recycling program for all the boxes that its suppliers use to deliver products, and it’s introduced new ranges, from its own wine brand to coffins. And all of these profitable moves came from suggestions by either employees or suppliers.
By providing support from senior management and the right communication platform, organizations can capture feedback and ideas from the people who know their companies’ strengths and weaknesses best of all: their employees. And, by the way, Costco has one of the lowest employee turnover rates in the whole of US retail.