Category All, Best Practices How to Improve the Readability of Internal Communications Messaging Even the most sophisticated Internal Communications messages will fall short of their reach unless the content is tailored to the intended internal audience. Read on for tips on improving the readability of your internal communications messages and boosting your organization’s internal audience marketing. September 9, 2022 By Ravijojla Novakovic Introduction Internal communications do the same for an organization as the bloodstream does for a human body. They deliver essential nutrients and information so separate organs can continue to work in unison with one another. Departments need alignment with company goals, and someone has to deliver the messages that connect the workforce. Grammarly’s survey identified that 96% of business leaders agree that “effective communication is essential for delivering the business results expected of their team in the coming year.” The essence of collaboration is connection – regardless of where or how the employees work. Gallagher’s 2021-2022 report found that only 5% of surveyed organizations will keep their internal communication practices the same as in 2020. Aided by the niched HR tech improvements, the focus on internal marketing began taking hold. Companies are investing in new tools and setting new internal communications strategies. Internal communications play a significant role in building business agility, delivering information and trust among employees, and serving employee experience that builds resilience. Read on to find out what tips and tricks you can use to increase the readability of internal marketing messages and thus contribute to the overall success of an organization. ➵ What does Internal Communication do? Know what’s what with helpful stats and insights here. The risks of poor internal communication Poor communication practices are harmful on so many levels. Grammarly’s report reveals that ineffective communication costs companies $1.2 trillion annually. Further on, the report stresses that communication (including internal) is a significant source of risk for leaked costs and adverse business impacts. It doesn’t matter if your internal marketing messages are meticulously crafted or not. If most of the intended audience does not read them – the communication did not happen. This is a waste of the company’s resources and a troubling sign of the disconnect between the leadership and employees. These are just some of the risks associated with poor internal communications messaging: Lower employee engagement Forbes reported a strong correlation between an organization’s purpose and an employee’s sense of purpose at work. Employees are left in the dark when companies fail to communicate important milestones, changes or goals. As a result, the employees experience a lack of connection to companies’ goals, and their faith in contributing to companies’ success is weakened. Lower productivity and trust Research by Alight Solutions published in September 2022 found that purpose and value are direct drivers of employee productivity. Communicating purpose and value requires effective internal communications and high readability of internal marketing messages. The road to an engaged workforce is paved with transparency. Transparent cultures nourish trust, and employees who trust their employers are more engaged. According to the SHRM research, employees are 23% more likely to offer ideas and solutions when there is more trust in a workplace. Additionally, a Gallup report revealed a correlation between trust and being productive at work: 96% of engaged employees trust their management. In return, they identify with and are more likely to promote their companies’ objectives. Higher turnover rates The correlation between turnover and communication has been documented in a series of repeated Watson Wyatt studies that started in 2003. The studies revealed that: “communication is a leading indicator of an organization’s financial performance.” Further on, turnover is directly impacted by job satisfaction. Another study (Jacobs, Yu, Chavez) reveals that “internal communication has a significant positive effect on employee satisfaction”. Higher costs Replacing an employee can cost a company 1.5-2 times the employee’s salary. Replacing an employee in a technical role increases the cost to 100-150 percent of their salary. Working preemptively on bettering internal communications will influence factors such as employee engagement, productivity, and job satisfaction and ultimately save companies’ money. Poorer customer experience Customer experience is linked to employee experience and internal communications. If employees aren’t aware of company objectives or are not in the know with the current policies in place, they communicate poorly to the customers, which translates into a direct loss of profits. Employee stress Stress derails a person’s wellbeing in many ways. One example of that is during times of change such as mergers and acquisitions; companies should communicate their strategy and goals clearly so as to avoid employees wondering about the safety of their jobs. Stress-related consequences such as accidents, absenteeism, turnover, quiet quitting, and various medical, legal, and insurance cost the US $300 billion every year. To sum up, poor internal communication creates a domino effect of dire consequences for companies. A few simple but important tips will help you tackle this issue preemptively. 8 tips to make your internal communications readable 1. Personalize This may be obvious, but: “Dear colleague’. Who? Put yourself in the employees’ shoes: Doesn’t the organization with whom I spend a third of my day know my name? Sending out personalized company communication is the base level. Various internal communications tools offer the function of email placeholders. Usually, it takes the form of a First name in curvy brackets – but there are more forms, depending on the level of personalization you wish to achieve—the more personalized – the better. 2. Segment and target Know thy audience and use what you know to be more effective. Marketers use personas, and you might want to consider doing the same. A salesperson thinks differently from an administrator. Receiving generic emails intended for every single person in the company does little for the overall readability of email messages. Large organizations need to segment employees by job type, place of residence, type of contract (for example, a student or someone close to retirement), role, level of seniority (it is not good practice to send the same content to the C-level employees and the juniors for example), and so on. Segmenting employees sends the message that you anticipate the employees’ needs, understand their unique position, and by doing so, improve their employee experience. 3. Analytics The only way to determine if your efforts as internal communicators are working is if you measure the impact of your messages. More than a quarter (27%) of internal communication professionals surveyed in Gallagher’s report stated their biggest challenge for internal communications in 2022 is a lack of analytics and measurement. Time to implement the data-informed internal communications strategy before competitors catch up. Thankfully, the situation is not hopeless if you act to include measuring the effects of your messages, and nowadays, we have tools that do exactly that. The most sophisticated tools for internal comms provide rich data such as: when and where the messages were opened, were the links clicked, how long it took for rich media to load and whether that influenced the readability, what type of titles work better for which purposes, and so on. Analytics can also provide skimmability data, showing the number and type of people who read vs. those who merely skimmed the messages. 4. User Experience Once you get your data from the analytics, you can form insights regarding the reception of your messages. If, for example, a segment of your workforce receives your messages on the road, in a non-office environment, this may influence the ability to open heavy files such as videos, images and/or gifs. This will provide guidelines on whether to use such email elements, use smaller sizes or links instead, or maybe change the design altogether. It is also important to consider the audience’s time. Your messages need to be timely. Imagine receiving internal communication about volunteering possibilities just when employees are involved in delivering a massive project on a deadline. You can easily expect that these messages will have lower readability. Clarity is key, and less is more. To send out huge walls of text is no longer considered good practice. Too much information in one email can cause the opposite effect and confuse the readers. Employees need structured and purposeful messages so as to be able to gather the most important information in the shortest amount of time possible. You may want to consider A/B testing to see what works best. A few simple rules are to use simple language, avoid verbose phrases and jargon, and stick to short messages. This will help to include all employees regardless of their background. Here are the benefits of integrating your internal communication solution with HRIS 5. Persistent fine-tuning Internal communicators can use analytics to inform their strategy and to be on the lookout for any signs of change in how their messages are received. We know that the change of generations in the workforce influences how employees consume content. One example is the introduction of social media in internal comms, whether companies have their social channel or use external ones. Nowadays, some communication can go beyond email, for example, social media, with varying formats such as polls, quizzes, competitions, and similar. What works one day may soon become an outdated concept. Digitalization moves fast, and the only right way is to change along with the times. Being on the lookout for new trends and tools can help to keep up with the tech improvements available. You might notice that a segment of your audience has disabilities – and including accessibility measures in your messages is something you should keep in mind. One example is to empower your readership with options to modify the font size according to their needs. 6. Branded content Just as your external marketing is defined by colors, logos, fonts, shapes, and specific tone and language – your internal marketing should follow the same branded look. The alignment of internal and external marketing serves several purposes: a unified purpose helps to avoid confusion of values the integrity of purpose and connection to the company’s positioning inspire and motivate your employees build an emotional connection to the company’s brand aligns employees’ goals with the companies’ goals 7. Feedback Remember that communication is a two-way street. You can not communicate effectively unless you’ve listened to the employee’s situation and needs. Employee listening refers to all-around surveys, feedback, and their direct responses to your internal communication messages – that instantly inform you of how they were received. There are great ways to include an option to quickly signify how happy the employees were with a message: for example, by having the possibility to click on an emoji within a message that best describes their feelings regarding the email. Bonus points come if your company arranges multiple channels for receiving internal communication and sending feedback – so mobile users can quickly get informed and respond without major interference in their workflow. 8. Provide value Internal communicators should think like marketers and find what value they provide to their audience. This is tightly connected with trust. If employees’ internal communication experience has been negative for a while, they will not trust that what they get in the future will be of any use at all. The final goal is to empower the employees. If you stick to personalized, customized, branded, and highly intentional, purposeful communication that is clear about what is required of employees – the level of trust will rise, and that will be reflected in employees’ productivity. Conclusion Internal communicators have an important task to herald the company culture and nourish a culture of transparency to increase a feeling of trust and belonging among the workforce. To bridge the gap between leaders and employees, internal comms connect people by communicating important topics by using common language and purposeful messaging. Change is the only constant, and the world of work is changing faster than ever. Employees must be included in companies’ purpose and strategy, as it directly influences their work and private lives. To them, being aware of what is happening is a question of stability. Since more and more companies understand that there is no alignment without purposeful communication, the most successful ones will carefully tailor how they communicate in order to keep the best talent from slipping away into other companies whose product or culture may not be better, but that manage to communicate and connect better. Companies who understand this will supercharge their internal communications efforts, and that will help to develop the agility to turn challenges into opportunities and see their business thrive.