9 Tips for Effective IT Communication
— December 6th, 2017
It’s difficult to make employees pay attention to or care about news from their IT department. For most workers, the IT department only becomes important when something doesn’t work. But the reality is, the IT teams of today do more than just keep the lights on; they are an integral part of the overall business and are working to deliver real value to the business.
So, how does an IT team change the way in which employees view and deal with it? The key: an effective communication strategy.
Business acumen in internal communications – Why it matters and how to build it
Here are 9 tips for more effective IT communication that will strengthen engagement with IT.
Less tech speak, more real-world language
Most workers will have been on the receiving end of tech speak, where even the simplest of instructions sounds complex. When faced with complicated directions, workers can switch off, or dismiss the instructions.
But what if IT notifications were in a language everybody understood? It may take time, and some re-learning on the part of the IT team, but using everyday language in communications could have a huge impact on take-up and engagement. Workers will be less intimidated by the communications and more likely to pay attention. The goal is to change the employee experience with IT to a positive one.
Top tip: Announce the switch to ‘every day language’ at a company-wide meeting, and follow that up with a message (consider video) outlining their plans to make IT communications more accessible.
Deliver status updates company-wide via desktop alerts
Unplanned outages or time-critical updates that require a period of downtime can have a negative effect on any business. In these instances, the IT team are working hard to restore full functionality and in most cases will be unable to answer calls, leading to many frustrated workers.
By sending out a desktop alert in the event of an email or systems outage the IT team can cover the entire organization with a single message. Keeping the status of the message updated for the duration of the outage is a good way to ease frustrations and make sure workers know the IT department is working on the issue.
Using desktop alerts bypasses systems that may be affected by an outage such as email or the intranet. When updating the desktop message, consider changing the background color or introduce an action that will alert workers to the new information.
Grab attention with visual cues
Workers of today are time poor and lack the attention span to read through long documents. For many organizations, visuals such as images, infographics or video have become their go-to method for grabbing attention.
Pop-up visuals can be an effective way of breaking through the deluge of information most workers deal with on a daily basis. For critical messages IT departments should move the pop-up’s position on the screen regularly; if workers get used to seeing a pop-up alert in a certain place on their screen, they could become immune to the message and simply disregard it.
Evaluate IT changes in outcome surveys
Every now and then, an organization will implement wholesale IT changes: whether it’s the introduction of new critical applications, or updating older systems. Often these technological changes can make staff anxious, as they will be used to a certain way of doing things.
Stay on top of how these changes are being received with a series of outcome surveys. Send a survey to staff before and after the change. This will allow you to compare the results and assess the change in attitude, awareness, knowledge or behavior among employees. In-depth analytics will also help you to build an effective before and after picture, which will guide you in future projects or widespread change campaigns.
Encourage workers to tell you how you’re doing with feedback forms
If you’re making widespread changes to the way you communicate with your organization, it’s a good idea to get some feedback to see how you’re doing.
Why not send out a series of Pulse surveys to garner employees’ thoughts on your communications. Keep the surveys short and simple – perhaps 2 or 3 questions. Send them out regularly so you can get an accurate picture of how engaged the workforce is with IT. Make sure to listen to the feedback and make changes to your processes or methods in response. The more people see that you’re trying to make positive changes; the more likely they are to engage with you.
Send targeted emails for more relevant communications
Not every worker will need to read every piece of IT communications. But if you send everyone all the messages each time you run the risk of them becoming blind to critical messages.
Certain updates or systems news will only apply to specific departments or teams. It’s a good idea to segment your messages to target only the people who need to see these messages. That way, workers can be sure they are only reading communications from you that are relevant to their job.
Reduce email fatigue with regular email newsletters
It can be a challenge to find the right balance in email frequency: too many emails and busy workers can start to ignore your message, and too few emails may mean you’re not communicating with your organization.
A regular email newsletter can solve the issue of email overload. Send a monthly or even quarterly newsletter which sums up all the important news and updates for that period. Mix it up with different media
- short videos for any important news
- infographics detailing survey results
- quick-fire quizzes to test workers knowledge of new IT changes or procedures
- photos of new team members and details of what they do
Business acumen in internal communications - Why it matters and how to build it
Make use of alternate communications channels
Emails can be easy to dismiss, and in the flood of emails a typical worker receives daily, important messages can go unnoticed.
Be creative with how you communicate: think about setting up a social media account specifically for the IT department, which sends out regular notifications including visuals like infographics, video, or even GIFs. Or communicate via text messages or push notifications for critically important messages.
An interesting case study of how to use alternate communication channels to get a message out is the HSE, which responded effectively to the Wannacry ransomware attack in May 2017. Because the organization had shut down external and internal email in order to deal with the threat, it was forced to use other channels: it turned to text alerts via mobile and social media to communicate successfully with its disparate workforce and its Major Incident team.
Make training more interactive, more engaged
Most people will forget about 80-90% of what they’ve learned in a matter of days. This is called the forgetting curve. And if you’re dealing with a subject that people already find difficult to understand, this figure could be even higher. This is the challenge most IT departments face when trying to educate users.
If people are more involved with the training from the outset they are more likely to retain certain elements. IT teams should consider making any training more interactive and engaging through the use of visuals, videos and user enactment where certain processes or tasks are acted out by volunteers.
By ramping up the engagement levels, staff will find themselves enjoying the training and paying more attention. The goal then is to capitalize on this by reinforcing the key messages. Consider sending out Pulse surveys, short quizzes or games to test attendees of what they learned at the training.