Cara Good

Article Summary:

A thoughtful HR employee communications program can increase employee retention, improve productivity and squelch damaging rumor mills.

Strategic Employee Communications

One of the most critical intersections of human resources and corporate marketing today is employee communications. A well-designed employee communications program infuses organizations with personality and conveys policies, philosophy and goals. During trying economic times, as many companies have experienced since 2000, it's natural to want to "duck and cover." Some executives figure that no communication with employees is better than a steady stream of bad news. However, a thoughtful corporate communications program can increase employee retention, improve productivity and squelch damaging rumor mills.

These days, especially, every word counts. Inconsistent or even contradictory employee communications breeds mistrust. As the economy steadily improves, companies that invest in employee communications programs will have an easier time recruiting and keeping employees. Here are five tips on building an employee communications program that will result in increased productivity and better informed employees:

Market to them.
Think of your employees as a target market. What do you know about them? Before communicating any piece of information to employees, ask the question, "What's in it for them?" Too many companies churn out information to employees without considering how it will be perceived or what value it holds. Just as you would write a customer newsletter article with your targets in mind, craft your internal communications program with your most-important assets in mind: your employees and their needs.

Communicate regularly
In these tumultuous times, employees want to receive clear and easy-to-understand information. Establish a regular communication schedule that is tailored to your company -- and stick with it. Let employees know how and when they will receive information. For example, large companies could commit to producing a weekly employee e-newsletter, a monthly conference call with management, and quarterly all-hands meetings with the CEO or other top executive. Small companies could commit to having weekly "hallway" updates in person and frequent e-mail updates on company progress.

Tell the truth
It's true: Employees today are more skeptical of management than ever before. Don't add fuel to the fire by using your employee communication program to spin half-truths or puff up expectations. Your employees deserve to hear the news, good or bad. Don't dodge tough issues or sugar-coat challenging business decisions. By communicating with your employees regularly, fairly and respectfully, you can squash rumors and foster trust.

Ask their opinions
Establish a mechanism for finding out what employees want to know and then giving it to them. The key is to cultivate an open environment in which employees feel like they can ask questions and probe for information. You can do this by training all of your managers to solicit employees' opinions regularly and answering their questions honestly.

Recognize often
Results-generating employee communication programs include well-defined employee recognition and reward elements. Call out employees for surpassing expectations. You can achieve this by including them in your publicity or advertising campaigns, recognizing them with awards or simply acknowledging a job well done publicly. Use your established communication vehicles to identify employees who deserve it.

Cara Good is the co-founder and president of WunderMarx Inc., a fast-growing international public relations, marketing and branding firm representing some of the world's most innovative technologies and ideas. She has been quoted and featured in numerous articles on entrepreneurialism, public relations and marketing, and speaks frequently on these topics. For more information visit www.wundermarx.com

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