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Employee CommsLeadership

Treating Employees Like Customers Demands an Omnichannel Communications Strategy, Not Multichannel.


 — September 13th, 2021

Treating Employees Like Customers Demands an Omnichannel Communications Strategy, Not Multichannel.

Here’s a question for employee communicators: Since companies with a laser focus on customer experience outperform those who don’t, shouldn’t you focus your comms strictly through the experience lens of your customers, your employees?

Where your communication strategy is built around their needs first and foremost, reaching them on their preferred channels, wherever they work, with personalized information that’s relevant for them. Creating purpose and meaning, nurturing culture and belonging.

By now, there shouldn’t be any need to “sell” the importance of employee experience (EX). Just take one quote and one fact:

• McKinsey says employee experience is “essential for companies to compete effectively,” and

IBM-WorkHuman research shows that even a small improvement in EX can lead to an increase in millions of dollars in operating income.

That’s from the company’s perspective. Employees? A global talent shortage has shifted the power balance: employees today don’t stick around if their work experience doesn’t match what they want.

Culture and values are priorities, and how a company communicates, listens to, and connects with its people goes a long way towards defining the employee experience.

Poppulo Insights: How to Reach All Your Employees With The Content They Need

In fact, how organizations communicate with their people is one of the key influencers of employee experience, which Gallup defines as “all the interactions an employee has with your organization before, during and after their tenure”.

What employee communicators can learn from customer experience

It’s worth exploring how organizations can replicate long-established marketing approaches to successful customer experience (CX) and apply them to shape that all-important superior employee experience, particularly through their workplace communications.

It doesn’t take much digging before one word leaps out: omnichannel.

This is how John Bowden, former senior vice president of customer care at Time Warner Cable, describes it:

“Omni-channel ... is viewing the experience through the eyes of your customer, orchestrating the customer experience across all channels so that it is seamless, integrated, and consistent.”

This omnichannel strategic approach has been key to successful customer experience for decades. Consumers expect a seamless and complementary experience every time they interact with a company or product, whether in physical stores, online, on an app or by phone.

With employees enjoying this experience as consumers in their private lives, why should anybody be surprised when they expect and demand the same quality experience at work, particularly in relation to their workplace communications?

What does all this mean in the context of employee experience through the lens of employee communication?

Let’s do a comms take on the Bowden definition above. It’s:

“Viewing your internal communications through the eyes of your employees, orchestrating their comms experience across all channels (email, mobile, digital signage, intranet and social) so that it is seamless, integrated and consistent.”

This all sounds very reasonable and desirable, but how do you do it?

Regrettably, many organizations may not be able to achieve this as long as they’re using a multichannel strategy (which tends to involve siloed, individual, and unconnected channels and technologies) instead of a fully integrated omnichannel approach to communication using a single, unified platform.

What sets omnichannel comms apart from multichannel?

McKinsey says employee experience “requires a human-centric approach,” and this gets to the heart of one of the most fundamental differences between omnichannel and multichannel communications.

When you adopt an omnichannel communication strategy, you view your employees as your customers — and you put them front and center at all stages of your internal comms process and thinking.

And you do it strategically in a seamlessly integrated way for a consistent experience on a platform like Poppulo that has been purpose-built for omnichannel communications.

“Seamless, integrated and consistent”: that’s what puts an omnichannel approach on a different level than siloed multichannel communications where — as far as the employee is concerned — frequently irrelevant information can be pushed to them on multiple channels in disconnected incoherence, creating distracting noise and comms overload.

Omnichannel comms are employee-centric: Content is personalized and employees can move between different channels that are specifically built to work together across email, mobile, digital signage, video, and other mediums.

There is one content platform for all channels, and communications is adapted automatically and appropriately for each channel.

When companies do this, employees enjoy a more seamless, consistent, and integrated experience in whatever channel they interact with.

Multichannel communications, on the other hand, are channel-centric rather than employee-focused. They typically use siloed channels that are not built to integrate or work together. This can result in a disjointed experience for employees when they move from one channel to another.

To create and implement an omnichannel communications strategy, you should:

• Audit your existing channels. Use a combination of quantitative (statistical analysis) and qualitative data (focus groups, interviews, and observations) to find out what’s working and what’s not. Work with other departments, such as HR, to assess cross-organizational comms.

• Survey employees to determine their channel preferences (email, mobile, digital signage, and team and social networks) and when they like to receive their comms.

• Create employee personas as a first step toward facilitating what I believe is the single most important focus of workplace communication today: information that is specifically targeted toward individuals or groups of people and is personalized for relevance. You should make sure your comms are aimed at a specific “somebody” rather than a generic “everybody.” This can encourage people to tune in to workplace communications instead of tuning out.

• Measure your comms performance engagement and effectiveness across all channels through unified omnichannel analytics.

Because of the employee-centric mindset that underpins an omnichannel strategy — and the fully integrated technical infrastructure required to support it — the focus on personalizing communication can help increase content relevance for employees, reducing distracting noise and information overload.

In contrast, one-size-fits-all multichannel comms in which the same content is published in the same way on all channels lack personal relevance and tunes people out.

When you follow the steps above, you can not only facilitate an employee-centric approach to what you do but also encourage your people to engage with your comms when it best suits them on their preferred channel — which can ultimately help support the superior employee experience that contributes to a company’s success.

A version of this article originally appeared in Forbes Communication Council.

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