Space to breathe


employee engagement / Tuesday, May 8th, 2018

Inspired by a recent article in the Gatehouse Journal of Internal Communications (‘Spring clean your internal communications’), I’ve been thinking about the internal communications ‘sweet spot’… Doing enough communication and engagement without bombarding our people with too much stuff… 

I think we have a responsibility to make our organisation’s messages as easy as possible for people to understand. Some of this can be achieved through the clear language, plain English, and honest approach I’ve discussed in a previous post, but lots of it, as Jenny Nabben argues in her article, depends on reducing ‘noise pollution’. We need to give our people the space to engage with the organisation and our messages. 

This is also about focus. We’re told so many ‘important’ and ‘critical’ things that they cease to be meaningful. We need to focus on the message and why it matters. Our people need to trust (there’s that word again!) us to flag the vital stuff, and to not bombard them with the non-vital in the meantime.  

I can sometimes get caught in the writing vortex, where you feel you must pump out more and more content. But, the trick is to take a step back and, instead of feeling the need to cram another seven articles into your newsletter, to look at their effectiveness. What is the article for? Do we want our people to do something on the back of this? Or is it for information only? What’s the consequence of people not reading or engaging with our article? We need to retain a sense of perspective about what is important – to our organisations and our employees.  

By giving our people, our teams, and ourselves, space to breathe, we give them time to engage in a meaningful way with the organisation and its management. We allow a moment to focus on why we do what we do. To think strategically about the information we’re giving our staff, and to approach some of these challenges creatively – which is one thing you can’t do if you’re churning out a never-ending stream of newsletter articles.  

One challenge of this approach is that it can mean saying ‘no’ (or ‘not now’) to senior leaders. However, by combining messages and ensuring a consistent approach, those messages are strengthened. Instead of running separate articles about teams’ successful sales targets (for example), wouldn’t a stronger article look at the company as a whole and how all these targets that are being exceeded are benefiting the organisation’s strategy? This approach increases how many people the article is relevant to, as well as promoting local successes. We give our people an opportunity to engage with the wider organisation and its strategic aims by showing why this matters to us all.  

But, having said all of this, it really is a balancing act. The last thing we want to do is create a vacuum where nobody is being told anything – that would be more harmful than too much information. 

How do you hit the communications ‘sweet spot’? 

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