Five Internal-Communication Strategies That Work

It’s a week after open enrollment has ended, and five employees have already told you they forgot to sign up for benefits. No matter that you sent three reminder emails before enrollment ended—nobody seems to have gotten around to reading them. This isn’t the first time communications you’ve worked hard on have been ignored, either. It doesn’t seem to matter how important the message is or how many times you remind people, your employees just aren’t paying attention. It doesn’t have to be this way. These tips will help you help your employees remember the information and dates they need to know.

1. Don’t send too many emails.

The human brain can prioritize only so much. When faced with conflicting deadlines, agendas, and messages, we all decide, consciously or unconsciously, where to direct our attention. If you’re sending a lot of long emails on a lot of topics, it’s time to cut back a little. Before you send a communication of any form, consider who needs the applicable information and who won’t be affected by it. If an email affects only a certain department or group, make sure to send it only to them, so people don’t start checking out when they see your name in their inbox.

2. Have open hours.

Office hours: They’re not just for professors anymore. Benefits, policies, guidelines, and packages can be overwhelming, and despite rapid changes in technology and communication, many people understand and remember information better when they hear it in person, no matter how well-written your emails may be. Set aside an hour or so each week or month for anyone to come by your desk or office with questions. That might sound like a lot to add to a busy schedule, but by giving people time to come by with concerns, you can avoid a lot of mishaps and missed deadlines in the future.

3. Have food at your meetings.

Nothing draws people’s attention the way free food does. If you’re having trouble getting important information to those who need it, hosting lunch-and-learn (or snack-and-learn or breakfast-and-learn) sessions might do the trick. People will come for the bagels and cream cheese and stay for the updates on their 401(k) plans.

4. Be candid and sincere.

If you’re communicating difficult news, be straightforward about it. If people feel that you’re merely a megaphone for higher-ups, they’ll either stop reading your communications or stop trusting them. You don’t need to be abrupt, but do be honest about changes and how they will affect your audience.

5. Emphasize the good stuff, too.

You don’t always have to be the bearer of bad news, however. Avoid becoming the company grim reaper by sending monthly or bimonthly newsletters that highlight the accomplishments of employees and the company in general. This way, you’ll attract employees’ eyeballs and keep up morale.

With these tips, you won’t have to spend your professional life telling people that open enrollment ended three weeks ago.

What else has helped you create effective communications?