Best Practice

Employee communication blogs: your best of the best from 2019

Now that the first few weeks of 2020 are behind us, it’s a good time to look back on a selection of Poppulo blogs that topped the popularity list with readers last year.

Regular fans of the blog won’t be surprised that they cover a very diverse range of issues from some of the best people in the business.

(And I would also like to say a big Thank You to all the guest writers who took time out of their busy lives to contribute to our Poppulo.com/blog in 2019).

And if any of you out there would like to address an employee comms topic that you feel hasn’t been ventilated properly either by us or in general, I would be love to hear from you at tvaughan@poppulo.com.

So here goes: first up is a blog from Daniel Lambie that touched a chord in a big way with so many people:

  1. Focusing on what leaders want is one thing, but it’s what employees think and feel that matters

“During 2019, I’ve spoken to hundreds of people involved in internal communication.

I’ve attended at least a dozen conferences, seminars, and workshops. I’ve listened to podcasts and read innumerable white papers, blogs, and hints and tips sheets.

Reflecting on all of these, two insights strike me as most noteworthy – and both have similar characteristics. 

Firstly, there remains a stark dichotomy between the priorities of the leaders we work for and those ‘on the coalface’. While those in the boardroom obsess with vision and strategy, those on the shop floor are still most interested in their day-to-day reality…”

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If you google crisis communications you will get around 260 million results. Save yourself a lot of wasted time and check out John Alderman’s blog which was a huge hit. One of the best pieces you will read anywhere about crisis comms management:

  1. Three key communication lessons for managing a crisis

“If you are in the middle of a crisis, please stop reading this blog and come back to it later…but by all means, keep going through your current crisis although you may feel like doing otherwise.

Everyone else, please keep reading because it’s only a matter of time before you’re facing a major event that needs your direction, focus, and determination…especially if you are in employee communications.

Back in 2016, I joined an astoundingly successful, century-old Atlanta company that was approaching 40 quarters of beating Wall Street expectations. Less than a year later, that company was shaken nearly off its foundations by one of the worst business crises of this century.”

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Zora Artis is a deeply knowledgable and highly respected figure in strategic communications and we collaborated with her on a number of projects last year. In this article, she sets out what needs to happen to elevate the internal comms function to become a business driver:

  1. Why we need to reframe the value of internal communications

“I recently interviewed C-suite executives exploring the connection between employee engagement, alignment and the value of internal communications to business.

One of my interviewees, a CEO (former CCO), referenced Sir Humphrey Appleby in the classic British comedy series Yes Minister: “Politicians like to panic. They need activity: it’s their substitute for achievement.”

He highlights this quote when talking about the need for better internal communications. He’s interested in great not good communication, and in impact, not outputs. It aligns with the recent work from IC Kollectif, Gatehouse, and Mike Klein.

There’s a clear need to reframe what we do as communication professionals in terms of tangible value to business. As a senior corporate affairs expert emphasized “we’re not in communications, we’re in business” when talking about this exact point.”

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Given the rise in remote working and predictions that it’s going to increase significantly in the years ahead, it wasn’t surprising that a great blog on the subject by Joanna Hall was one of our most-read:

  1. How to keep remote workers connected, engaged and feeling valued

“Working flexibly and remotely is becoming more of the norm than an exception these days.

In fact, by 2020 it is predicted that half of the UK and US workforces will be working remotely.  Savvy businesses are already reaping the rewards it brings.

Employees see it as the most desired employee benefit.  And the advances in technology and focus on environmental issues and well-being mean that perhaps we should all be considering remote working.

Many types of employees are classed as remote workers, whether they get the chance and flexibility to work wherever or whenever they wish to, or not.”

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Stephen Welch is straight-talker who isn’t afraid to say it as he sees it. And he did exactly that in an article that put it up to internal communicators and HR professionals alike to prove their business value – something we’re going to hear a lot more about, for sure.

  1. Move outside your own sandbox or stop complaining, Internal Communicators

“Often, when I work with my clients in large organizations or speak at conferences, the concept of ‘business partner’ raises its ugly head.

Senior functional experts (such as HR, legal, communications, market research, etc.) often complain that they don’t get enough C-suite attention.

In short, they don’t feel they are a business partner to senior leaders; and would like to be.

The problem is, though, that most of the ‘complainers’ are expecting an asymmetrical partnership with the business leader: they want the senior leader to invest in time with them, but they don’t invest in the senior leader.

In my experience, very few HR people, very few communicators, and very few people in functions generally have developed a really strong sense of business acumen of how the organization creates value for customers and shareholders.”

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The disconnect between leadership communications and what employees want to hear or are interested in makes for an interesting discussion. Here, Ethan McCarty puts it under the microscope and sets out what to do about it:

  1. The Leadership Disconnect: Why your communications are not trickling down

“Wait, why are they trickling down anyways? Modern enterprises are decreasingly hierarchically-linear and increasingly digitally-matrixed. Our communications systems and programs must follow.

Sound familiar? In my previous blog post, I shared insight into how you can avoid the “frozen middle” by equipping managers in the middle of your organization with the right skills to be better communicators on behalf of the company.

Companies need sophisticated internal communications to create an experience for not just employees, but for managers to help them model behaviors of coaching, motivating and providing context to their teams.”

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That topic covered by Ethan is obviously something that now resonates widely, because another blog in a similar vein by Anuja Kale Agarwal also hit the spot with readers:

  1. Why is no one listening? That sometimes invisible world of internal communications

“Creating inspiring and impactful internal communication that connects with your audience does not happen by accident or chance.

Careful thought and strategy need to go into the creation of compelling communication that yields business results and desired outcomes.

Surely that is stating the obvious. But is that what really happens in most organizations? Are we designing impactful campaigns and creating communication strategies that work for the business and for the audiences as well?

What is needed is to evaluate all communication that is being created against three very basic questions:

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As we know too well, common sense is all to often quite uncommon, unfortunately. It’s an issue Agnes Zeiner tackled in a fine article where she also argued for the need to be more personal in our communications with colleagues:

  1. What do communication and common sense have to do with each other?

“In one of my last jobs, I was responsible for drafting the CEO’s regular letter to all employees.

One of the things that still sticks out in my mind from that time is something the Head of Communication once said to me: it wasn’t appropriate to use phrases like ‘I hope’ or ‘I am excited’ or ‘I am happy’ in communications from the CEO.

My reaction must have shown how incredulous I felt after hearing this because he added – patronizingly – “A CEO always has everything under control. Using expressions such as these undermines the trust of employees in management”.

Hmmm… ok… well…

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