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Three Tips for Impactful Internal Communications

May 1, 2017

By Rachel Santella, Account Supervisor

*This article originally appeared in Pharmaceutical Executive and can be found here.

According to Gallup, 51% of employees in the US are not engaged at work, and 16% are actively disengaged, meaning they are dissatisfied in the workplace and seem to exist only to question or challenge what engaged employees are building. To combat this, one easily accessible and perhaps undervalued tool in the company toolbox—carefully planned internal communications—can help to make employees feel more valued, motivated, and informed—all of which will boost overall engagement.

From our agency’s experience in working with pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device companies, we know it’s not necessarily the case that our clients aren’t communicating with their employees. In some instances, they may be communicating too much, or not in the most meaningful way. This is due, in part, to feeling the corporate obligation of sharing continuous transparent updates with their workforce, ranging from research and development news, to mergers and acquisitions, to leadership changes, to data and product milestones, to “first-of-its-kind” programming. So as a communications professional in a pharma company, how do you create more meaningful, personal connections with employees that make them feel proud and enthused about the organization?

Below are the top three tips for maximizing internal communications:

  • Consider Multiple Formats: Emails are frequently a “go-to” option when it comes to disseminating information. However, a long, drawn-out written communication can often have little impact on an employee—especially since some don’t even get through the first paragraph before moving it to their “trash” folder. Why not try something new? Visual elements like photos, videos and infographics that are appealing to the eye increase engagement and interest. An infographic, for example, is a nice way to display milestones that have taken place over the course of a year.
    • How to do it: While there are a number of fun approaches to visuals that can excite employees, video is a great place to start. It doesn’t need to be a Hollywood production—in costs or in capabilities. Using your mobile device to capture footage can be just as effective. For added assistance, download one of the many apps that exist to enhance the video recording capabilities of your phone (though it isn’t necessary). FiLMiC Pro, for example, will help control recording elements like audio levels and lighting. Using your phone is an easy way to capture insights on the ground at launch events and medical meetings, which can then be shared with the broader company who wasn’t in attendance. The shorter the video, the better. We recommend nothing more than 90 seconds.
  • Be Planful and Selective: The frequency at which updates are provided to an organization or department is critical. If given too often, employees may get frustrated with the number they are receiving (you don’t ever want to be compared with email spam); but if you communicate too little, employees may feel disconnected from what’s going on throughout the organization. Over communicating can also strip away the value and purpose of providing updates (remember The Boy Who Cried Wolf?) and may cause employees to tune out.
    • How to do it: Create an editorial calendar outlining topics (e.g. major clinical milestones, product approvals, acquisitions, new hires, promotions), distribution timing (use specific dates when you can), mediums to be used (e.g. email, video, company intranet) and individuals to be involved in delivering the message. Identify areas of overlap and prioritize updates accordingly. Also, try bundling several updates into one. For example, send out a monthly or quarterly update with a round-up of new employees and promotions. If there are two upcoming announcements, send one email containing both. Research shows that people are more likely to open emails early in the morning (before 8am) or later in the afternoon/evening (after 4pm), so make sure to factor that into your calendar. It’s also important to note the types of updates that aren’t worthwhile to communicate for your company, such as information that only applies to a small group and isn’t applicable to the broader team.
  • Make it Personal: Success of a business is often built from smaller stepping stones, led by the people that drive each project, activity, and function. Sometimes, so much energy goes into thinking about the organization or product itself that the people behind each success, as well as each hurdle, can feel forgotten. Take time to recognize the parts that compose the whole and you’re likely to see positive outcomes. According to results from a survey conducted by OGO (O Great One!), 40% of employed Americans say they would put more energy into their work if they were recognized more often.
    • How to do it: Go beyond spotlighting programs to spotlighting team members involved in those programs, milestones or activities. Make employees feel valued and appreciated, encouraging them to participate in events or to provide insights for internal content. One way to do this is to establish a peer-nominated program where individuals can recommend a team member, based on their hard work and contributions, to be acknowledged at an upcoming team meeting or in a communication that is distributed to the broader team.

When planning for your next organizational communication, keep these tips in mind and reach out to us if you’d like to brainstorm more ideas. We’d love to help! Learn more about Tonic Life Communications here.