Magazine article Communication World

Employee Communications - Fracture for Success and Security

Magazine article Communication World

Employee Communications - Fracture for Success and Security

Article excerpt

Employee communications have lost their way. Without the sobering reality of circulation figures and advertising dollars to guide them, employee communicators have become too engrossed with the 'look of the book' and too often neglect the specific needs of their readers for real, useful information that will increase their productivity. To get back on track, communicators should examine what's happening in consumer publications and adapt these exquisite techniques to communicating with employees.

Fracturing is what is happening with astonishing speed in publications for consumers. (It has always been the mode with trade publications.) Successful editors and publishers of consumer publications have been skillfully directing the content of their publications to appeal to smaller, more defined, homogeneous segments.

Today, there are magazines for the most finite populations. Some publishers can customize issues to each subscriber, even eliminating perfume samples from those issues sent to a few subscribers who object to the odor. Other magazines produce 15 to 20 different editions of each issue slanted to various regional and ethnic audiences.

Much of this fracturing has been encouraged by advertisers who are demanding a higher penetration of actual prospective buyers. Why, advertisers ask, waste dollars to reach 1,000,000 readers when only 10 percent are interested enough in the product to buy it? Advertisers want to be able to spend a lot less money and still reach that important 10 percent.

With this fracturing happening with such speed and fury, it is dismaying that more managers of employee communication departments of companies haven't heard it and joined in. Many companies still publish one magazine/newspaper for all their employees and retirees. (Some of these productions are beautifully and professionally designed, written and printed extravaganzas; others are embarrassingly amateurish.) Justification for this "one-size-fits-all" communication is that it creates a "family feeling" among employees.

Wake up, communicators!

Why should a group of people, just because they happen to work for one large company, be seen as a homogeneous mass with the same interests, goals, wants and desires? Why expect a company's employees to relate to just one type of communication? There are about 225,000,000 Americans, yet they don't all think or respond alike just because they are Americans. Witness their rancorous political elections on federal, state and local levels.

All-employee magazines/newspapers that portray employees as "family" may have had validity when comfortable, colossal business had no real competition in the world. But we all face competition, rising up from the West and the East. By continuing to cultivate the "family feeling," communicators are promoting an outdated, bankrupt myth. Business has to become more productive. Improving this vital statistic requires that communicators respond sharply to why employees work.

Wise up, communicators!

Employees work to earn money to provide a good living for themselves and their families. Employees may rank money third or fourth, when they are asked why they work, but I suspect they don't put money at the top because they think it's not proper, or are practicing a willful self-denial. I would bet that if employees were asked this question: Would you work at your present job if you had a private income and didn't need the salary? The response would be an overwhelming NO!

Helping employees to earn more money for themselves should be the prime goal of employee communication. And by achieving this, of course, the employer earns more, which in turn increases the pay and job security of employees. A meaningful employee communication program must furnish each defined employee audience with enough of the right kind of information at the right time in the proper form to increase productivity. Employee communication products should be directed to definite employee segments of the organizations and written and designed to engage those readers by selecting specific information that will have high interest for them in a pleasing, inviting package. …

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