Wouldn’t life as an IC practitioner be simpler if we could reveal the secret to the perfect channels mix, right here, right now?
We’d love to – but sadly, there’s no such thing.
Developing a channel strategy specific to your organisation, culture and employees is key in engaging employees, keeping people informed about what’s happening and giving everyone the opportunity to have a voice.
Independent communications practitioner Jane Revell said: “Don’t assume because you have always done something that way, it’s the only way to do it.
“Channel audits are an incredibly useful way to take stock of what you’re doing and why.
“Understanding what you’re trying to achieve should help you to decide which channel to use for the most effective outcome.
“However, first you need to have a clear understanding of the purpose of each of your channels.”
An audit will evaluate how effectively channels are performing against strategic communication objectives. It will inform your IC strategy and will also help streamline activities in line with overall business objectives.
“The best place to start is by listening to your people,” advises Jane. “Speak to them, ask them what they want – and be prepared for a few surprises.
“You need to understand exactly what employees are getting from each channel.”
A wide range of communications channels are available, from face-to-face sessions such as roadshows, town halls and team meetings to printed publications and digital tools.
It is important not to jump on the bandwagon to take on every new channel available.
Discovering your peoples’ different needs and preferences will help you decide which channels are appropriate for your organisation. Involving employees in shaping new channels is a great way to gain their buy-in and engagement with them.
Jane added: “Having a clear mix of both one-way and genuine opportunities for giving employees a voice is essential in every organisation.
“Channels that focus on listening and responding to feedback are a vital part of any channel mix, and can have a powerful effect on overall employee engagement and, ultimately, your organisation’s performance.”
Finding the channels that work for you
Premier Inn and Kier Group have both recently audited and reassessed their channel mix accordingly. We asked them about some of the new routes they’re taking to connect with their employees.
Gordon Dowall-Potter, Head of Internal Communication at Kier Group and his team, tells IC Mag which channels are currently working for their organisation.
Construction, services and property company Kier Group created its channels strategy following its bi-annual employee engagement survey. With 24,000 colleagues – a mix of online and offline – in around 100 locations, reaching everyone is tough.
“We wanted to allow all our colleagues to properly engage and interact, regardless of whether they’re office based or out in the elements. We have created our own channels formula which keeps our non-connected colleagues at the front of our minds: online + offline = one line. We will no longer consider our channels as independent ways of engaging with our people. We treat them as one. This is why we have launched some new vehicles to help us do just that, branded under Kier Connect,” said Gordon.
One of the five objectives within Kier’s IC strategy is to ‘embrace technology’ where appropriate, so the business launched its own IC app.
But to reach offline employees, the team also launched the Kier Connect Noticeboard, for which managers can print off key messaging that Gordon’s team manages centrally.
Clare Elevique, Channels Manager, said: “We want a red thread running through all our messages. Usually, in a sea of noise, noticeboard messages are missed. Our noticeboard has eight slots for posters; if one is missing, the text reads ‘Oops! If you can see this message, you are missing a poster’ and gives the URL where they can download the latest materials.
“The Kier Connect app also has a section showing what the noticeboard should look like each month and a function to download the posters and email them to yourself for printing.”
Another of Kier Group’s recent changes to help reach offline employees was to open up its annual employee roadshows to those outside of middle management and do exactly what they say on the tin.
“Regardless of grade, if you have Kier on your payslip, you are invited to come along,” said Gordon. In addition they also now take a comms tour roadshow bus to sites across the UK.
“Suddenly, we had people in hi-vis jackets and hard hats at our roadshows and the feedback and response has been impressive” said Clare.
“Those on sites come along and have the same opportunity to receive information first hand as everyone else.”
Cassandra Lord, Internal Communications Manager at Premier Inn, has recently seen a step-change in its internal comms thanks to an app created in partnership with Headlines.
Premier Inn is the UK’s biggest hotel chain, with 19,000 team members across 735 hotels in the UK, plus 12 overseas.
It focuses on generating pride and an understanding of the role played by employees in its success but, with such a widely spread, non-desk-based team, this has traditionally been a challenge.
“The housekeepers who spend the day keeping the rooms spotless are far more likely to glance at their iPhone between jobs than they are to sit down at a computer,” says Cassandra.
InTouch – an imaginative, strategic new comms channel is a one-stop IC app which was created in partnership with Headlines in 2015.
Its launch followed an audit in which only 41 per cent of employees said they receive enough information about opportunities to see or hear from Premier Inn’s Executive team and 68 per cent wanted more opportunities to connect digitally with Premier Inn’s leadership team.
InTouch is a bespoke, easy-to-use, cross-platform app that’s changed the way Premier Inn communicates with employees and vice versa. Content is shared instantly through push notifications and two-way conversation is powered through polls and user-generated content; it has news, a question of the week, in-depth features and a user-generated photo wall – with comment boxes.
“Anyone can get the app on their own device,” says Cassandra. “Previously, Ops Managers – the only hotel staff with email addresses – were responsible for cascading all messages to employees, which took up a lot of their time. Now, Ops Managers are no longer conduits for all the information we share, giving them more time to focus on our guests.”
InTouch was an instant success. Two weeks after launch, 1,111 individuals had downloaded the app with downloads still increasing by an average of 25 per cent each month. Four months into the launch, there had been 25,585 screen views – and a saving of 40% in the IC/print budget.
So far, more than 300 news items have been posted and there have been 1,800+ uploads to the photo wall. Since a comments box has been added to posts, execs have been commenting on employees’ photos, further driving engagement.
The poll feature is leading to business improvements. When head office was unsure whether to put telephone number cards – which had been removed to reduce costs – back into the hotel rooms, they ran a poll.
Cassandra said: “Our team members are closer to the guests than us and they overwhelmingly said ‘yes’. That’s one example of change as a result of InTouch.”
She added: “InTouch has really improved our internal communications and employee engagement. It’s helping us to share engaging stories that make people feel good about working for Premier Inn.
“It’s given time back to the Ops Managers, given senior leadership a direct line of contact with the workforce and it’s created more opportunities for two-way conversation. Plus, we have good measurement of how messages are landing.
“This is all down to our new digital channel! We’ve had great uptake so far and we’re really excited to see how it develops.”