Strategies: Spread the Word

Communication is an 
important key to successfully executing a performance improvement program

By Maura Rombalski
Photo by Chad Crowe
June 24, 2010

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Spread the Word

About the Author

Maura Rombalski is the manager of marketing communications at ITAGroup, a leading full-service performance improvement company. 
Visit www.itagroup.com or e-mail ideastoaction@itagroup.com and receive daily news at www.twitter.com/ITAGroup.
Implementing an internal performance improvement program and keeping your employees in the loop about it can be more difficult than you’d think. An integral part of a successful program is appealing to the specific communication needs of employees in your organization— and compelling them to take action.

It can be quite an undertaking to help them make the connection between their efforts and the rewards your company offers. Many times it’s a challenge to make your company’s message stand out and win employee buy-in, especially if participation in the program is more a personal choice than a mandatory one.

In an internal program, you’re trying to motivate employees while aligning them with your company’s vision, along with team and corporate goals and business objectives. What’s the best approach? Here are some tips to help you get started.

ROI: Make It More Than Numbers
Employers that are looking for return on investment data for their performance improvement programs often pin success solely on response rates or sales figures. Assessment of a program’s ROI should start with employee engagement.

Employee engagement often stems from a deliberate and thoughtful communication strategy. That strategy is centered on targeted, consistent messaging, which is delivered via various media in order to meet the unique communication preferences of employees and tie into the company culture.

Engagement is driven by communication that ensures that participants understand the program, know where they can find additional information, realize what’s in it for them, and discover how to be more 

Build a Program that Works
While no one can guarantee an exact return on a performance improvement program, there are several best practices to consider in order to give it the best chance of success—and help your employees achieve the results of which you know they are capable. Here are some of these practices.

Assign Ambassadors
In an internal program, one of your most effective communication strategies is enlisting management throughout the company as “brand champions” or “ambassadors.” After all, in many cases, it is the frontline supervisor who can put a face to the program and talk it up, and whose interactions with employees help personalize the program experience. This is especially helpful in a decentralized or diverse workforce. Ambassadors can serve as the persuasive and common communication links, who are able to reach targeted audiences and personally share program updates and results.

Count on Measurement
When you’ve made a significant investment by implementing a performance improvement program, you have to know whether the program’s communication is producing desired results. For example, is participation in the program increasing? Or have sales results been positively impacted? A fundamental element of your communication strategy should be the measurement of its results and ongoing program performance.

Effective measurement of your communication efforts involves analysis of quantitative results, such as determining how many people open the ongoing HTMLs you send. But gathering qualitative data is just as important, if not more, in determining how effective you are in compelling participants to take action.

Tools such as participant surveys (and the frank comments that often accompany them) can help answer the essential question, “Am I seeing changed behaviors or increased employee engagement as a result of the communication efforts?” These issues represent the essence of your communication campaign.

Move the Middle
In most companies, the middle majority of the program audience has the potential to make the biggest impact on organizational performance. Consider a productivity-based initiative that leverages the top performers while managing, motivating, and rewarding the critical middle audience. In most cases, when your middle moves forward, so does your firm.

Repetition Is Key
What does it take to get through to people? The message you communicate, as part of an internal performance improvement program, needs to be consistent and frequent in order to resonate with employees and compel them to take action. For example, ITAGroup designs communication strategies with the “3-5-10” frequency rule. This widely accepted method states that communicating three times will get a message heard, five times will get it understood, and 10 times will get it acted upon. If you do not communicate 10 times during a program, you underutilize the 
marketing opportunity.

Go Off-Brand
Since you already have established communication channels, your employees likely know where they can get their information, and are familiar with the company’s communication process. This familiarity should aid awareness of the program and bolster response rates. In addition, since your employees are already familiar with your brand, you have the opportunity to be 
creative and go off-brand with your program communication in order to excite employees with something different from the standard corporate look and feel. It’s your chance to inject some personality and fun into the program, which helps create employee buzz and builds engagement.

Mix Up Your Approach
Research reveals that we all respond differently to different methods of communication. So when you consider the needs of a workforce that is becoming more diverse, remote, and mobile by the day, your strategy should include tailored messages. Cover the entire spectrum of print, electronic, and dimensional media to resonate with all types of audiences. And for a fully integrated and effective communication campaign, it’s not an issue of which medium is best, but rather how all of these media complement each other.

Take Your Message Online
Today, the methods used to communicate with your employees extend way beyond a printed piece or an e-mail. In this new era of social media, companies are demanded to be transparent and personal. And social networking sites and blogs are requiring companies to rethink how they communicate with their existing and potential clients. Consider all the innovative communication vehicles and emerging social media that can help you quickly communicate with your employees, easily share information, and reach new audiences.

Create a Complete Program
All of the aforementioned elements are needed to give your company the best chance of successfully implementing an internal performance improvement program. Behind every effective program, you’ll find an underlying communication campaign that takes a big-picture approach of aligning employees with corporate initiatives, discovering what motivates them, finding ways to consistently reach them, and employing an ongoing approach to measure engagement.

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