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July 2017

Is Email Aging Out?

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The End of Employees 

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That is the title of a front-page article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal on Friday, February 3rd. The article outlines the transition that many industry segments have made
from an employee-based model to outsourced model. It points to operating efficiency,
lower overhead and the ability to scale rapidly in either direction as among the reasons for
​its success. It offers examples such as Walmart, Federal Express, Virgin America and Google where the model is currently being used.
It appears that this model will be comprised of two main groups: generation X, along with a smattering of millennials for whom loyalty and job security are not career objectives, and boomers who have aged out and will accept lower-paying, project oriented assignments because they have no choice.
While there are large issues to be discussed and debated, the challenge for communicators
is: How do you communicate effectively and motivate a contract workforce that lacks the intrinsic motivation to go the extra mile for their “home team” – because there isn’t one?
Inherently, most people want to do good work. And, they want to be recognized. The contract model doesn’t surgically remove these motivations, but it certainly makes it more difficult. Currently, approximately 50-60% of all internal communication is ignored. While
there are multiple reasons for this, it’s going to be even harder to reach contract employees who have little incentive to engage with their quasi-temporary employer. The contract model is going to require new thinking about how you communicate, engage and motivate contract workers. We’ve been working on the problem and suggest that our colleagues give the question some thought, as we believe it is going to be a larger issue in the future.  

2/3 of organizations now use new internal communications technologies

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A new study released at the Engage16 annual workforce communications conference last week revealed that 2 out of 3 corporations are investing in employee communications technology. What took them so long?

Every CIO and internal communications professional we speak with complain that getting employees to read internal communications has been extremely difficult for a number of years. Studies consistently report that over 50% of all internal communications aren’t read. While there are multiple reasons for this, (i.e. workload, competition for attention, decreased attention span, information overload, etc.) the answer can be divided into two basic categories: content and delivery system.

There are multiple technologies that offer more effective message delivery while simplifying the creation of content. We selected SnapComms 8 years ago because it was highly effective in reaching employees. It offered multiple channels that kept messaging fresh, is simple to use and it bypasses email completely. Importantly, it has continued to evolve and remains in sync with employee preferences.  There are other good systems available as well. From a content perspective, people have shorter attention spans and rarely read past the first five sentences of any article. Why then, do companies continue to send long-form communication and then wonder why they are rarely read?

In response Trident developed ShortBurst™, which delivers content using formats and channels that are in sync with employee/consumer preferences.  We live in a consumer-driven world and if you view employees as consumers who bring their media consumption preferences and habits to work, it can broaden your thinking about how you can communicate more effectively. It’s worked well for our clients.

The survey findings were based on responses from 367 North American companies. It’s also interesting to note that 96% of survey respondents stated that better employee communication tools are now essential in order to achieve company goals. The report suggested new ways to deliver information are in high demand, largely inspired by the availability of consumer  technologies in the workplace.  This has been our experience as well and have adjusted our approach to leverage this fundamental change in employee behavior.

The Rise of Behaviorism at Work

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Mike Klein posted an interesting article about a panel he hosted at the Eurocomm#16 conference which was held in Rotterdam last week.  The title was “Bury the Engagement Survey” but what struck me was that the article was really addressing the issue of behavior in the workplace. Historically, a company could set a policy and largely mandate employee behavior. Times have changed.

At the root of the issue is how to you influence behavior i.e. the choice to engage (or not) – with brute force by setting policies? Or, by influencing behavior in a positive way that motivates a person to opt in.  It is becoming clear that mandating behavior by policy is no longer effective. Today, employees live in a consumer-driven world that offers choices for just about everything. The expectation of choice not only impacts their behavior outside the office, but sets a similar expectation for the business environment as well. Many companies haven’t recognized this fundamental shift in expectations and then don’t understand why they can’t get employees to truly engage with their company. While there are multiple reasons why an employee may choose to not engage, a lack of understanding about the role behavior plays is a major factor.

Behaviorism is something that advertisers have always inherently understood.  If they want to sell their product, they need to change the buyer’s behavior and in order to do that, they have to make a case that motivates they buyer to opt-in. Their success is based upon their ability to change a person’s behavior.  Today, it’s no different for a company.  It’s our belief that a company’s ability to achieve a truly engaged workforce is directly connected to their ability to motivate employees to change their behavior and opt-in.

The Power Of Culture

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Southwest Airlines has not had a single layoff in 44 years. That’s astonishing. What’s also astonishing is the number of people that want to work there. Last year, the company received 178,299 resumes. That didn’t happen by accident. It’s a testament to the power of culture. The company has created a powerful culture that attracts and holds employees. Often, customers who fly Southwest then want to work for them. Here is a quote from Gary Kelly, the CEO in a recent article in Chief Executive Magazine: “If you take great care of your people, they’re going to take care of the customers and that should take care of everything else.” Kelly further commented, “our mantra is, we hire for attitude and train for skill. Since our early days we seek people who don’t just have the skill, but also have the passion and the attitude to take care of each other and to take great care of our customers.”
Every company has a culture, and it’s often undervalued and under supported. We’ve found that when you identify the drivers of culture, you can isolate the good and bad elements and begin the process of weaving together the positive aspects into a fabric that becomes the basis of a company’s culture.  It’s a process that takes intent, time, resources and yes, money but when it successful, it’s the most powerful asset a company can have.  Just ask a Southwest employee.

ALI Conference Wrap Up, December 2015

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I had the opportunity to present ShortBurst at an ALI conference in Chicago last week.

The workshop included communicators from around the country who were interested in exploring new ways to increase internal communications readership and effectiveness.

Over 50% of all internal communications simply aren’t read. While there are multiple reasons for this, ShortBurst offers an alternative approach, delivering information in formats that are in sync with current preferences and habits. As a result, ShortBurst readership typically increases by 25 to 35%.

​I enjoyed the exchange of information and ideas with participants as they added their own insights and perspective to the ShortBurst approach.

Re-imagining Employee Communications

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There’s an insightful and interesting article in Sunday, November 15th edition of the New York Times on how IBM is taking a new approach to their business by hiring designers to complement their internal teams. The objective is to impact how IBM approaches a range of issues and to bring the company into alignment with today’s workforce, rather than trying to mold employees to its existing culture. It also helps the company shed its reputation as a stodgy organization by bringing in people with a different perspective. The broader message is that IBM is exploring new ways to create relationships with the marketplace and its employees.  It’s a process well worth observing.

From the communications perspective, statistically, over 50% of all internal communications are ignored. This statistic, among others should be viewed as a caution to companies that they are at risk for losing clients due to poor communications. On the bright side, it’s an opportunity explore new tools, channels and messaging that can strengthen the company’s relationships with clients and it’s most important asset, its employees. IBM’s effort to inject new ideas and approaches into its internal processes and communications is in our view, an important step in preparing the company to prosper in turbulent times, and one which we encourage our clients to engage with as well.

Old is the New New Media

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We recently completed a project for healthcare company that wanted to communicate with their home healthcare workers about their own benefits. The workforce was geographically diverse and many did not have access computers or smart phones. While print was the obvious choice in this case, it was a bit more complicated because benefits communications are complicated and many of these workers don’t have full command of the English language. Further they come from cultures where insurance isn’t part of their experience and getting them to pay attention would not be a simple task.

We were tasked with coming up with an approach that would penetrate the clutter, attract and hold their interest and encourage them to call for more information or to enroll.  The result was that the company needed additional help to manage the volume of inbound calls.  Why was the response so strong? The answer had to do with several factors: a) We used a series of  post cards to ensure that our message was visible to everyone and consistently reinforced, b) Our communications were short and simple, c) We focused solely on the key issues that they would be concerned with, d)We included a call to action that was simple, e) It was made clear that they would have help enrolling f) It relied on tried and true direct marketing techniques that are used to communicate with consumers, every day.

The more we delve into employee behavior, the more convinced we are that the time has come to recognize that employees are consumers who show up to work and bring their media preferences with them. We have developed a specific approach called ShortBurst™, that incorporates seven key elements into a communications program that results in communications being delivered that are in sync with employee (i.e. consumers) media consumption preferences.  Many companies continue to deliver communications that are out of sync with employee preferences, and then struggle with why over 50% of all internal communications aren’t read.  Perhaps the time has come to rethink your communications model ?

When Employee Engagement Fails

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The Two Second Attention Span

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