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Grab employees’ attention with internal comms

3rd March, 2022.

How to grab employees’ attention with your internal comms

People are a tough audience to crack.  Today you have to work even harder to grab your employee’s attention. Twenty years ago, research found that we have an attention span of 12 seconds. Today, this has reduced to 8 seconds!

But why are we seeing this decrease?

Distraction. We have distractions everywhere. I bet just by inserting the emojis below you looked at those before reading this sentence!

😍 🐪 🍓 ⚽ 🏝️ 🏍️ ⌚ 🔑 ✔️ 🐬👀 🍉 🥄 🔔 🎈 💡 😛 🧲 😺 👌

Today we are always connected. Smartphones, hyperlinks, pop-ups; they all grapple for our attention making it far harder for us to focus on one thing at a time.

So, if we don’t capture the attention of our employees in that 8 second window, there’s really little point in sending the communication in the first place.

This snippet of our Operations Director speaking at a conference explains our challenge perfectly.

 

10 tips for capturing employees’ attention

1) Consider the words you use

The 101 of internal communications: using the right language to capture attention.

Headers and subject lines need particular attention because these in themselves could use half of those precious 8 seconds. Draw upon your creative juices and really put yourself in the shoes of your employees to find a headline that will make them want to read on. Below are some of the best subject lines we’ve seen our customers use when covering some of the ‘drier’ topics.

The best internal comms subject lines

  • “Upcoming changes: action required” (used for a policy update)
  • “Your input is needed today” (used for a staff survey)
  • “Breaking news” (used for a COVID update)
  • “[name], thank you” (used for a financial update)
  • “The recipe for success” (used for a financial update)
  • “We did it again” (used to notify people of a health and safety standard)

8 best practices for writing internal communications

In addition to the initial hook of the subject line or title, keep these best practices in mind with everything you write:

  • Write for people, from people
  • Use the vernacular your employees use
  • Be succinct
  • Use headlines to break copy up
  • Ensure the purpose of the communication is upfront and clear
  • Be consistent
  • Always proof read!

2) Use visual elements

Use video, infographics and images wherever possible. A study found that 75% of employees are more likely to watch a video than read an email or text.

The majority of us are very visual. We’re able to digest more information if it is visual and this captures our attention for longer. Even if text is necessary in your communication, consider using something visual at the start to draw people in.

3) Balance consistency with valuable content

Sending specific communications at set times can help with engagement. It becomes familiar for your employees to pause what they are doing and digest your communication. BUT this will only be effective if your communications are informative.

Just because you’ve always sent a newsletter every month for the last 6 months, it doesn’t mean you should maintain that rhythm if you don’t have anything valuable to say. If you believe employees have tuned into the consistency of your updates, instead of sending the full-blown newsletter you could just send a shorter message or even push out a note to say, ‘everything is ticking over nicely but it’s been a quiet month so just tune in next month instead!’

Don’t be afraid to break the mould. Employees will appreciate this level of honestly and it’ll help you keep their attention for longer.

4) Segment employees

In a commercial world we witness segmentation all the time (though it is often called ‘personalisation’ in this context). The messages we receive are addressed to us, the recommendations we receive via our online supermarket shop relate to what we’ve bought before, the adverts that pop up on web pages are items we’ve looked at but not yet bought. We live in a consumer-led world in which we are presented with information that is relevant to us.

If I repeatedly receive information that is not relevant to me, I will ignore it from the moment the message arrives. We’ve all been there. Think about the times you’ve ended up on a mailing list for something you have no interest in. Now, as soon as you see who the email is from, you do a quick swipe on your phone and it goes straight into your deleted folder.

Just as in our personal lives, relevance is key. Only send internal communications to the people it is relevant for, or of interest to. These segments need to be mapped against the type of communications you send and you will probably have multiple segments for each employee. For example, geographical segmentation, job role segmentation and project segmentation.

There’s no right or wrong answer. Just segment against your communication plan.

5) Personalise communications

Closely linked to the above point.

Ensure your communications are addressed to the individual. “Dear Team” doesn’t cut it when we are used to the level of personalisation described above. Our employees need to feel as though you are speaking directly to them.

Addressing your messages to a named person is a start but personalisation can go much further. With relevant segments in place, you can tailor messages much more precisely. Some technologies also enable you to respond to previous actions taken and tailor web pages against data and behaviours.

Ultimately, the more you can personalise your internal comms messages, the more engaged your employees will be.

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6) Connect people

On top of segmentation and personalisation consider the connections employees have with each other. People are interested in people. Utilising the connections that already exist will grab attention.

The sender

Your communications don’t have to be sent from the same person. And they certainly shouldn’t be sent from an ‘empty’ email address or account. For example, “The internal comms team” or worse still “do-no-reply@company-name”!

Think about the messages you are trying to get across and consider which ‘sender’ would capture the attention of your recipients the best. Would a financial update be better if it was passed down the chain and interpreted by each manager? Would the Christmas party announcement be better coming from someone at the centre of most social occasions?

Combining communications

Whilst necessary, ‘dry’ topics can make it extremely difficult to capture attention. If you aren’t seeing the engagement levels you want, consider wrapping your more mundane topics up with other people-focused updates. For example, while the financial update is important, your employees are more likely to be drawn to an update about their colleague. Using this as your hook could get their attention enough for them to then go on and read the financial update.

7) Consider the user experience

Within a few seconds an employee will decide if a communication deserves their attention purely based on how it looks. Take this blog as an example. If I had written this as it comes out of my mind without any paragraphs, breaks or headlines you probably wouldn’t have got this far.

Structure and layout

We need to make communications as digestible as possible. Consider the layout of your communication, the use of colour, images and bold text. Even the font you use will influence opinion.

Accessibility

Access to your communications also need to be as easy as possible. If employees need to navigate software to reach your communications what is that journey like? Multiple clicks that are perceived to be unnecessary will become a blocker. As would an ineffective search facility. Go on the journey you are expecting your employees to take and ensure it is as efficient and intuitive as possible.

Preference

If you are in a position to ask your employees what their preferred channel is for receiving information do so. By giving them control of how they digest information they will instantly be more engaged.

Piggy backing

Consider if your communications can sit alongside your employee’s day-to-day job. If there is a central access point for data or documentation could your communications also be located there? It’s no coincidence that intranets host HR documentation and employee communication platforms include employee directories. These sources of information act as a ‘pull’ to bring employees to a central point. With communications in the same place, you are making the process easier for your employees.

8) Utilise alerts

If you have something really important to tell staff, shout about it. You are just one communication amongst many distractions so use attention-grabbing techniques: push notification via text message, pop-ups on the intranet, urgent notifications on emails.

Whatever tools you have available, don’t be shy about utilising them. But don’t do it often. If you do, the perception of ‘urgent’ will fade.

9) Get the right timing

Be the source of information

Every internal communication needs to be informative, accurate and timely.

If I’ve heard news via the grapevine, I’m unlikely to read a post about it two days later. Even if the information I received initially went through a process of Chinese whispers and isn’t actually accurate, the arrival of the official update two days later will feel like old news and not grab my attention.

Wherever possible, internal communications need to be the first source of information, not an afterthought.

Accommodate working life

Whilst internal communications must be the informant of news, they must also consider the working patterns of employees. If there is always a ridiculously busy period at the end of the month, important communications should be reserved until there is greater capacity to digest the information.

10) Use data to learn

While all the above points are nuggets of best practice, ultimately it is your employees that will tell you what grabs their attention. Use all the stats available to you to build a picture of what works well. 

  • Open rates give you a good indication of the effectiveness of your subject line.
  • Click rates tell you if the content of the message is of interest.
  • Open times show you when your employees are reading your messages.
  • Heatmaps show you where your employees are looking.
  • Page visits show you what information people are most interested in.
  • Video views tell you if employees are paying attention all the way to the end.
  • Social media reactions show you what people feel about your messages.
  • Bounce rates tell you if the content is what your employees were expecting.
  • Surveys give you detailed insights on specific elements of your communications.
  • Device usage tells you how your employees digest your information. 

There is a plethora of data sources: the above is just a snapshot. Once you establish what data is available to you, build analysis into your schedule until you have enough insight to inform your decisions. 

This will make a huge difference. It will take away the guess work and give you evidence that you can build from. 

Round-up 

The purpose of internal communications is a good one. They exist to inform and create a community. But in the busyness of our lives this purpose can get lost. With these 10 best practices for engaging employees, you will bring your communications to the forefront and encourage employees to take notice. So go grab those 8 precious seconds with all your might!  

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author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

Categories
Blog Employee Wellbeing

Why we support apprenticeships

6th January, 2022.

Why we support apprenticeships

The second week of February is National Apprenticeships Week. To mark the occasion, we thought we’d take off our internal comms and employee hats for a bit and talk about our experience of apprenticeships and why they are so effective.

We are a growing business. In 2021 our workforce increased by 25% and that is set to continue in 2022. As a business we are very aware of the social and environmental impact we have. At the start of 2021 we knew that we needed to expand our marketing team and were also very aware of the challenge young people had in finding employment during the pandemic. This led us to the Kickstart Scheme. The Scheme looks to get people aged 16-24 years, who are at risk of long-term unemployment, into work.

This is the first time we had explored such a route and, if I’m honest, it was a rocky start. We had very few applications at the start and those we had were a poor match to the skills and background we needed. In hindsight, I think this was more due to teething problems with the process but at the time it made us feel dubious!

After a couple of months of searching we came across one CV that seemed a better fit. A few weeks later Dan started with us! The Kickstart Scheme lasts for 6 months and during this time Dan settled in brilliantly. At the end of the Kickstart Scheme we offered him a permanent role but we also explored routes to expand his qualifications because he has a big thirst for learning. 

 

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Cue apprenticeships!

We quickly found a course that worked well for both Dan and us as his employer. Dan now continues to carry out his day job but also takes a day out a week to study for his Marketing degree.

The journey for us has been great. The process moved quickly and Dan was officially an apprentice just a couple of months after we looked into the options. The apprenticeship not only gives Dan an opportunity to expand his knowledge, it also brings fresh ideas and knowledge into our business. It’s this double benefit that made it an obvious choice for us.

But less about us. Let’s hear from Dan himself! Here’s his summary of apprenticeships:

“An apprenticeship appealed to me because it lets me learn new concepts whilst also putting those concepts into practice. It’s this combination of academic and practical experience that works really well for me.

Before I started I was apprehensive about fitting everything in. I always want to give 100% so to do that in work and in my studies, whilst also carrying on with everything else outside of work was daunting. But once I had a clear schedule I soon got into the rhythm and now it just feels normal!”

For us apprenticeships weren’t a planned route. As a business, we knew we wanted to support a young person in their career but what that route looked like very much depended on them. While we knew the format of an apprenticeship would work well within our business, unless it suited Dan as well, there was no point pursuing it. But as it happens, Dan’s enthusiasm and way of learning fits brilliantly, hence the success we’ve had to date.

If there are any businesses or potential apprentices considering an apprenticeship (or the Kickstart Scheme) we’d be more than happy to discuss our experiences with you. #AskAnEmployer #AskAnApprentice

#NAW2022

author-rachel-stidworthy

Rachel Stidworthy

Marketing Manager

With over 15 years’ experience in communications I have seen first-hand the difference strong internal communications can make. I am passionate about helping organisations reap the rewards of an engaged workforce and feel privileged to work for an organisation that has this same passion. We can achieve so much more when we work together towards the same goals. 

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