People have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, according to a study on
Canadian media consumption by Microsoft Corporation. That means in the time you took to
read this sentence, you're probably thinking of something else.
But if you can stay focused for a few minutes, let's talk about the world
of communications. More importantly, the channels we use and levers we pull to tell our
With the constant evolution of technology, social media and other
communication channels, along with the varied preferences of all the
generations currently in the workforce, communications professionals have their work cut out for them when engaging employees effectively.
you flesh out your communications strategy for the year, keep a few things in mind:
1. Email isn't going away.
Like it or not, email is here to stay. It's an established medium people
use daily, and it's
one of the top methods
of communication in the workplace. Americans spend
a week on email, with millennials checking their email more than any other group, according to a
Our organization, SAP, did its own survey on our communications practices
and discovered that nearly 60 percent of our employees in North America report that executive email is their primary
source of news and information about the business.
[WHITE PAPER: Do employees delete your emails unread? Use email more effectively internally.]
The problem: The volume of email is overwhelming, which means businesses
must focus on the quality of the message. Questions every communications professional should
ask their internal "client":
Which employee audience are you trying to reach? Is the content relevant to
that audience? Concise?
What's the call to action? And most importantly, why does this need to go
out and what are you trying to achieve?
These questions are a surefire way to distinguish between the
emails that are part of a "Check the box" effort and the ones that actually matter. Remember, if employees see a deluge of messages that seem unimportant or a
waste of time, they'll ignore them.
That's the risk. Communications teams are the gatekeepers. Sometimes we
need to say no.
2. Video is a great alternative.
With Americans receiving
122 emails a day, it's no wonder so many of us are tuning into
to catch a break.
Cat clips aside, video is a powerful medium for communication. Research
shows employees are able to process video content 60,000 times faster than text, while retaining
of the message.
Your organization doesn't have to break the bank with a perfectly-produced
professional video as long as your message is on point. Consumers—who are also our employees—are used to
seeing homemade videos online, so why not use your iPhone for an organizational video? It adds a
layer of authenticity to the message, and employees will find your executive that much more relatable.
3. Social is golden.
Engage, engage, engage. Did I say engage? Yes, engage your employees! Most
Americans get their
news from social media channels, and they're
checking social media 17 times per day
on average. As a business, you should be talking to your employees—and prospective employees—there too.
And we're not talking just about your organization's intranet.
There seems to be a perception among communicators that certain social
channels rule out certain demographics. The truth is, there is significant overlap in the social
channels preferred by each generation.
Consider Facebook, the granddaddy of modern social networking. Nearly 80
percent of online U.S. adults are on Facebook. It is checked more regularly than other social accounts. And
it's not just the 40+ crowd we're talking about;
88 percent of adults age 18-29
use Facebook, too, regardless of whether they admit it or not.
And don't dismiss the new kids on the block like Snapchat. Snapchat is the
second most popular social network, with more users than Twitter or LinkedIn in the United States. Sure, it's geared toward the younger generation, but Snapchat is quickly gaining
ground with older users, especially as it prepares for its public launch. It's a great tool for
sending (snappy) messages related to your business in a fun and unexpected way. (Our North America president is
using it to reach our employees.)
Many of our traditional channels for storytelling and communicating remain
constant. It's the responsibility of communications teams to strive for new, creative ways to
tell those stories.
Atle Erlingsson is head of North America Communications at SAP.