When communicating with employees, there is a long list of channels and tools to choose from. As you seek to inform, influence, and engage your employees, which channel should you use for each message?
Based on PoliteMail’s research, these are the best uses for today’s primary employee communications channels:
- Face-to-face conversations are essential when providing training and instruction, delivering emotionally-difficult news, sharing difficult feedback, or discussing a nuanced topic. Direct manager to frontline employee communication can be helpful for non-desk workers.
- Email is most appropriate when a message requires undivided attention, is informative and/or links to additional content, covers technically complex information, or when you need to send and repeat key reminders and action items.
- Collaborative messaging platforms like Teams and Slack are great for addressing quick questions and group brainstorming sessions, and topic discussions that benefit from multiple inputs and points of view.
- Printed material is often the best method to reach non-desk workers.
Of course, there are other factors to consider, so let’s look at three of them.
How to select the right comms channel
When selecting a comms channel, there are three big factors to consider: accessibility and inclusivity, learning and retention, and timeliness.
Different employees have different needs. By considering both the known and unknown accessibility needs of your team, along with the information you need to communicate, you can more effectively choose the best channel.
It’s best to meet employees where they are. So consider the tools or screens each group utilizes daily. Also, consider how to better accommodate people who are neurodiverse, dyslexic, or visually impaired. It can be helpful to choose a channel that allows you to provide multiple formats including visuals (e.g., flowcharts, mind maps, etc.), icons, videos, audio, and hover/alt text on any images and closed captions on video.
- Learning and retention
It’s important to consider how people learn, and how they retain information. Different people have different primary learning modalities, so it’s best to prepare multiple formats (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, tactile) when possible. Researchers find in general:
- People learn more when they read text on paper than when they read on screen.
- Storytelling narratives make it easier for folks to remember information.
- Quality and relevant visuals shorten processing time and aid in better comprehension.
By considering the different formats of various channels, you can meet the diverse learning styles in the workplace. If you need to relay complex information that can be simplified with a visual. Use that information to select the best communications channel.
With dispersed, hybrid, and fully remote teams, when you select a communication channel or tool, timeliness plays a big role. Will every employee receive the information in a timely manner, and at an appropriate time? With email, Microsoft Teams, and Slack, you can account for different time zones and various shifts by scheduling messages to be delivered at a specific date and time.
Why the channel is important
The channel you use is nearly as important as the message itself. For instance, if you send a critical message on a collaborative messaging platform, within a minute, multiple people may comment and quickly bury the initial announcement. This can create a confusing thread for others to follow. Although employees can scroll back to the original post, they may be quickly overwhelmed.
When you choose a channel, consider your goals and subject matter, along with accessibility needs, learning styles, and timeliness. For certain messages, one message and one channel will be sufficient, for others, you will want the message to appear multiple times across various channels.
Ideally, your team will consolidate your channels to a select few with proven reach and engagement. You want to know that you can get your message across, while eliminating the extra production work required to send messaging via underutilized channels.