How to Keep Workers Engaged With Effective Employee Communication

CULTURE | Aug 30, 2019

How long do you have to get an employee’s attention with emails, texts or other employee communication? (Hint: It took longer to write this sentence.)

Hope we still have your attention. Maybe we do. Because not everyone agrees on the answer.

According to an oft-cited Microsoft study, adults generally lose concentration after eight seconds, thanks to distractions such as … ooh, Twitter notification! … er, social media and other digital apps.

That’s shorter than the attention span of a goldfish Although now we’re resisting the urge to Google how someone got a goldfish to scroll through Facebook to come up with that number. (Seriously. Search “goldfish generation” and you might go down a rabbit hole — or a goldfish bowl.)

Other sources say you have as few as three seconds to get attention with an email or other employee communication. There’s even research that says a single-second delay in load time  will cause about 7% of users to bail on a website.

Not everyone agrees that this is a bad thing. Najya Ghausi, vice president of marketing for presentation software company Prezi, wrote that attention spans aren’t declining — they’re evolving.

And attention spans appear to adjust based on the situation: “While many of us struggle to pay attention during a one-hour business meeting, we have no trouble binge-watching a series on Netflix for six hours at a stretch,” Ghausi wrote. “Why is that?”

We don’t know about Ghausi, but it’s tough for us to even get through a three-hour viewing binge without scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, taking the dog outside, putting dishes in the sink and maybe even doing a crossword puzzle while the TV’s on. Even with all that going on, we can usually follow the plot of whatever we’re watching.

But maybe that’s part of her point.

“Turns out that the firehose of content we face each day is forcing us to become more selective about what we devote our attention to,” Ghausi writes.

Effective internal communication requires a consistent message, but by combining tactics and motivators you can capture and engage your audience. We like to call it two-factor engagement. Here are some tips:

  1. Videos can simplify complicated subject matter, with an engaging and even fun, humorous approach. Combine it with authenticity by having employees tell stories in their own words. Keeping videos to 60 seconds or less will help you keep your audience.
  2. If your workplace has TV screens, put your message on them. People look at TV monitors when they’re walking to or from their workstations. Make sure they’re creative and eye-catching.
  3. Make it fun. Combining with gamification can boost engagement and help employees grasp your communication in an interactive way. Adding a competitive element to reward the first employees to post to a website or reply to a text also can help capture attention. Offering prizes and incentives also are alluring.
  4. Email blasts can get attention — but text messages sent to workers’ phones are more likely to get immediate attention. Some employee communication research shows text open rates can reach as high as 98%. Use metrics to help you target the best time of day to send your texts and emails.
  5. Look — shiny! Vivid colors, strong typography, lively photos and other bold design touches are attention-grabbers on print and digital materials.
  6. Simplify. Make it easy on your reader with skimmable content explaining complex content like employee benefits. Got a paragraph overloaded with information? Break it down into bullet points. (See what we did there?)

Let’s Be Partners

If you’re ready to change how your people use their benefits, experience company culture and take actions that drive success at work and in life, we’re ready to help. Together, we can raise the bar on your employee communication and produce measurable results so that you can grow and thrive.

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