As a team of communicators, it’s vital we regularly consider, and question, our impact: how are we making a tangible difference to employees – and how can we build on what we already know to take this one step further?

At Ruder Finn, we are regularly given the opportunity to attend external training and networking events to expand our knowledge and inspire our approach; by staying curious, we can offer the best recommendations to clients.

Last month I attended the Internal Communications Conference. It was a day of reflection, celebration and inspiration. Here is a summary of the five key learnings that resonated with me.

“Don’t put the milk in first…”

My favourite presentation of the day was from Nick Daggett, Head of New Business at Oak Intranet, who talked us through his ‘Top Tips for Great Employee Engagement’. To kick off his presentation, Nick launched into a thirty-second preamble about his preferred method of making a cuppa. “Whatever you do, remove the teabag before you add the milk.”

Above the confused glances and nervous laughter, Nick made a pertinent point: don’t bombard people with communications that aren’t relevant to them. To engage employees, you need to deliver content that’s meaningful, not just a flurry of what you want to say.

My key takeaway: Always consider your audience as a starting point; from here, you can tailor your content and focus your messaging in the most meaningful way. (And always remove the teabag first.)

“We are not just fluffy bunnies”

A regular misconception of Internal Communications (IC) is that we are the “fluffy bunnies” of the organisation; that we not only sugar-coat messages but make them look nice, too. Vanessa Unwin, Group Head of IC at Hitachi Rail, presented on the value of positioning IC as a strategic function through measures, metrics and boardroom buy-in.

In short, measurement is not optional. To improve the value of IC, we need to link activities to the bottom line, planning campaigns around revenue objectives and not just employee engagement.

My key takeaway: Data and measurement are invaluable in proving the success of IC – and through demonstrating our tangible worth, we can become a strategic partner to leaders across the business.

“An emoji speaks a thousand words”

An insightful talk from Deborah Smith, Senior IC Manager at Skyscanner, touched upon the challenges of communicating across different locations and time zones – a challenge faced by many of our clients. With Skyscanner growing rapidly since its inception in 2003, the company now spans 11 offices, in 7 time zones, with more than 1,300 employees, speaking 40 different languages.

So how do Skyscanner include all employees in the same conversation? Through simple tools such as Zoom (video conferencing) and Slack (instant messaging). Building needs-specific channels on Slack has helped create (sometimes rather niche) communities to boost engagement and strengthen relationships. They have even created custom emojis to represent the Skyscanner leadership team – one way to make leaders more visible!

My key takeaway: Don’t let a disparate workforce limit your communications approach. So long as you’re aware of constraints, recognise the culture you want to maintain, listen and adapt, anything is possible.

“Corporates don’t speak; people do”

If you wouldn’t say it, why write it? For communications to land effectively, eliminate the corporate jargon and acronyms, and personalise your content so it offers relevance and utility. (There’s that word ‘relevance’ again.)

We face the ongoing, and seemingly increasing, challenge of capturing employees’ attention – and holding on to it. But in reality, attention spans aren’t shorter; people have just become more ruthless when assessing if content is worth their time. So, make the most of those first five seconds.

My key takeaway: Pull your audience in with rewarding content, not something treacle-like they have to wade through.

“The most important platform is trust”

An enlightening Q&A panel session closed the conference, in which we discussed ‘Future-proofing IC’. Throughout the day, we heard about many different communications platforms: video conferencing, instant messaging, intranets, social media, microsites… the list goes on.

One of the questions posed to the panel was “What is the most important platform for communicating with employees?” The answer, quite rightly, was: trust. Without the trust of our audience, it doesn’t matter how we communicate or what channels we use.

My key takeaway: We need to build trust with employees through transparency, consistency, honesty and, if needed, vulnerability.

If we can achieve the above and continue to verify our positive impact within the business, our role as communicators will go from strength to strength.

Do you have an Internal Communications challenge you’d like to discuss with us? Drop us a line at InternalComms@ruderfinn.co.uk – we’d love to hear from you.