Employee Communications

Winning Hearts & Minds

Here is a communications conundrum: an organization spends a significant amount of time and money on a change initiative, or a new business plan, or a new product. Everyone wants the word to go out, but the immediate focus is on customers, investors, and community. Hard to believe, but many organizations don't timely or effectively communicate with a key audience – employees.

Get everyone rowing in the same direction

The importance of your employees both understanding and buying into your company’s business and marketing goals is . . . well . . . immeasurable. And this isn’t just a warm and fuzzy idea. The business benefits are very real, as demonstrated repeatedly through research. After all, employees are often the first voice your customer hears.

Our objective is to get employees who are more than just informed about upcoming changes -- they need to understand and embrace what will happen and why, how it affects the company, what it means for customers, and how it relates to them.

Your employees become the real drivers for change, and by getting them on board, you’re increasing the odds that your initiative will gain traction, and that both external and internal audiences will “speak with one voice”. Bingo.

Internalizing: The 7 habits of effective internal communication

The outcome of an effective internal communications plan is to establish a company’s desired culture. A culture that is on-board for change sets the stage for the organization to achieve the highest levels of performance.

Based on three decades of helping businesses reach out and touch employees, Pennebaker has developed a 7 C’s of Communication template to produce comprehensive internal communication plans.

1. Considerations:

This is the back story research, which includes identifying the plan’s business and marketing objectives, segmenting the target employee audiences, and conducting a baseline audit of the effectiveness of current communications tools. This step gets us focused.

2. Context: 

It’s important to define how the goals of the new plan fit within the company’s vision, mission and values – putting it in context, so employees see how it fits. Building credibility for the plan (saving it from becoming just another “initiative du jour,” “flavor of the month,” “wild idea") means tying it to the corporate strategic goals and outlining the implementation roadmap and timeline.

3. Clarity: 

Messages should be clear and simple and specific to each segmented audience so that employees not only understand what needs to happen, but are committed to supporting the desired actions and behaviors. What do the employees need to think, feel and do to make the company goals a reality?

4. Creativity: 

(And this is where we really shine.) Motivating employees to pay attention, buy in, and model the desired behaviors and actions takes more than just defining the business case. It means producing compelling, creative materials that inspire them to act in ways that generate the desired outcomes.

Want employees to be more customer-oriented? This may involve telling stories that demonstrate and recognize employees modeling desired behaviors. It may involve special training to build the listening and interactive skills to improve customer service. It may involve empowering employees to find new and creative ways to blow your customers away.

5. Consistency: 

Attention! Attention! Employee communications are not a “one and done” kind of effort. Key messages should be delivered with regular frequency and in a consistent manner. Communications should go out on a regular schedule so employees can anticipate how and when information will be delivered. Again, we’re building trust and credibility.

6. Cascade:

Research shows that employees prefer to receive key messages from their direct supervisors. We’ve had great success with training / town hall meetings that are rolled out from upper management to middle management to supervisors to employees. Equally important is some kind of system that allows employees to be heard, so the communication is not just top-down, but bottom-up.

7. Contingencies:

Employee communications plans should always include on-course corrections for sudden change or crisis. The upset could be something external and unrelated, but it could also be modification of the plan if measurement surveys indicate that the communication is ineffective or not meeting goals.

Internal Communications Toolbox

Strategy: The tool behind effective employee communications

Employee segmentation and targeted communications tools and tactics are what lie behind a successful outcome in employee communications. Success means that people believe what you say, are willing to commit to change, and exhibit the behaviors your want to encourage. Likely there will be several layers of communications and multiple phases, but when the program is well orchestrated, the effects are immediate and lasting.

To get there, we say every communications tool must have a purpose, clear message and relevant timing. At Pennebaker, we utilize spreadsheets or CPM charts that clearly lay out the:

Vehicle – newsletter, intranet, email,meetings, poster, brochure, podcast

Target audience – segmented groups within the employee base

Message/Content – appropriate for each vehicle

Channel of distribution – intranet, mail, lunchroom, email, video

Timeline – prior to external communications

Internal “owner”  – the person ultimately responsible for the project

Measurement/KPIs – once the plan is set, we implement, measure, and adjust if necessary.


Internal Communications Toolbox