Summary: over the last months I have been confronted with almost the same question in various cases: “People don’t read what we publish. What can we do?” Unfortunately I have only come to one – not always embraced – recommendation that I keep repeating: “Make relevance more visible and accept that some information means nothing to some you might like to see as your target group.”.
The major challenge: relevance to operational work.
In many articles I have emphasised that the key to a valuable digital workplace lies in its clear and tangible support of the work that information and knowledge workers do every day. Thinking about the “communication intranet”, so the part of a digital workplace that is meant to provide important information to employees, I might have to specify my thoughts a little but more.
In one of my last workshops I came up with a little sketch:
It’s read like this: there are three connections of information to the work of an individual.
- Support: it makes it easier to do my work
- Enablement: without it I cannot really deliver correct results
- Execution: it is a direct part if it or could derive from my work as e.g. best practice
Information that supports or enables has a certain “distance” to the individual. The more it directly affects the personal environment (work critical) the more relevant (close) it is to the person – the more likely it is to be perceived and the more critical it is that the person is made aware of it. The next level (relevance to the larger work context – business critical) is slightly more distant from the person but still close enough to understand the effects. The outer part (not even touching “My Work” anymore) is the communication that is most likely to be ignored. The majority of people will not be able to make a connection to the content and the effect on the personal employment/work situation. Here’s the tangible example for each category:
Supporting ME: best practice for the work I am conducting.
Supporting US: a new range of product marketing that the sales team I work in uses.
Supporting the COMPANY: the CEO message on the quarterly results.
Enabling ME: a new purchasing guidelines for parts that are key to my deliveries
Enabling US: a new mandatory travel policy that affects expense processes for us as a sales team
Enabling the COMPANY: a new HR guideline on the personal use of the internet at work
Here’s the essence of the challenge: if the flood of information that touches all of the categories mentioned above is in no form or way targeted or indicated in relevance the recipients will simply turn numb. The will start to ignore all information and miss out on the essential and critical parts as well.
How to address the challenge?
Introduce targeting and indicate relevance.
It might be something that sounds like a tremendous effort. To create an editorial model that is able to specify and deliver information to pre-determined target groups. To provide intranets that are geared towards users and resonate on their role, geography, position and other relevant factors. To maybe even tailor the same message to different target group.
Rest assured. THAT is where the ROI on internal communications comes from. Not if you make it social, a stream or add pretty pictures to everything that is published – or (even worse) a strict “must read” rule that puts people even more work on their table through the required analysis & research efforts.
Introduce the indicators for a “call to action” (if there is one).
If you want people to react: tell them. Introduce the option to distinguish if a certain action is required (e.g. read, read & confirm, read & implement etc.). Make it easy for the user to classify information as urgent, critical or important. Allow them to invest only a little to follow what you want them to follow. For everyone’s sake…