Communicating in—and about—the social enterprise

Employee expectations have changed, new research tells us. Your approach to communicating with employees should change, too.

Posted by Melissa Yim on November 2, 2018.

In the social enterprise, the voice of the individual is more profound than ever. In turn, the employer–employee contract must involve two-way communication. Employees define what is important to them, both at work and in society, and the employee expectation is that employers will meet their ideals. Without a strategic approach of communicating the organization’s intentions, priorities, and stance on business, workplace, and social issues, even if they reflect workers’ expectations, companies might as well have no position at all. If your people don’t know your mission, then your mission doesn’t exist. Communication is king.

The rise of the social enterprise means that more power is in the hands of the worker—your employees and extended workforce of contractors, freelancers, and other contingents. Organizations that are not meeting or exceeding the expectations of their workforce risk much. They could lose their most skilled talent to competitors, face lower productivity rates, and may jeopardize their brand and reputation, as employees raise their voices for the world to hear.

Organizations spend time and money to educate consumers about their brand, but they often neglect to do the same with their own workforce. Strategic communications are key to driving mission and purpose. Through effective communications, culture is shaped, enterprise value comes alive, and the right messaging and channels promote a culture of deep understanding and foster employee engagement.

To communicate with impact in order to reach workers effectively and in the ways that can resonate with this changing workforce:

Set your strategy: There is a maturity model when it comes to strategic communications, and to reach full maturity, leaders must go through the entire model. There is no skipping ahead when communicating with purpose. Strategy comes before branding, which comes before messaging.

Determine where you stand: Brand awareness isn’t only about the external market, but within your own workforce as well. What do workers know and believe about your organization? What are their expectations for how your organization lives its brand? Workers have both spoken and unspoken views and expectations of the organization, but if you aren’t communicating with them about their views, the message is that their views aren’t important.

Know your goal: Communicating with purpose requires organization and strategy. Take a step back to assess the bigger picture and determine the goal of your communication. What message do you want to convey?

Know your audience: In an era where consumers receive sophisticated, targeted communications everywhere they turn, know that workers will expect the same from their employer. Professional, branded, multimedia-driven, personalized communications should be the norm. Think about the relationship that you want to build with your workers. If you communicate your messages in a way that is personal and meaningful, you can enhance their perspective of the organization.

Be consistent: Communications should have a clear voice and one point of view across all messages. All materials, regardless of delivery channel, should maintain a recognizable and consistent look and feel. The messaging within the materials should be purposeful and meaningful, with a clear intent and a desired outcome.

Appoint a champion: Every choir needs a director. To communicate with a clear and uniform voice, organizations need a communications expert who is elevated and empowered within the organization to create and maintain a clear internal brand and voice, and to ensure the messages are intentional, engaging, and holistic.

Above all, acknowledge their value: Individuals have newfound power in the social enterprise. To be able to tap into that power, you’ll need to gain their trust and earn their loyalty. Consistently communicating—and demonstrating—why your organization is worthy of their time and talents is a critical way trust is born and loyalty is nurtured.

Melissa YimMelissa Yim is a senior manager in the Strategic Communications practice of Deloitte Consulting LLP, currently leading the Strategic Communications Market Offering within Human Capital.

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