Improving Employee Communications with Better Targeting and List Segmentation

Paige throws a paper airplane while email contacts get sortedIf you want a message to grab an employee’s attention, you must understand who you’re trying to reach and why the content matters to them. While the news might apply to a broad audience, a generic headline or subject line will not. Often this means rewriting or editing emails and tailoring subject lines, headlines, and calls to action to specific audiences.

Successful sales and marketing teams develop buyer personas, and communications teams can take this same approach to create personas for segments of employees. You may sort employees based on simple demographics like work role, department, or location; psychographics like shared values, work experience, and learning styles; organizational hierarchy like management level and business unit; and attitudinal differences (i.e., what individuals think and how they feel).

These are all valid segments that might apply to different types of communications. Internal audience segmentation aims to garner more attention, readership, and, ultimately, more effective communication.

Why segment internal audiences?

Targeted messaging builds trust, reduces email overload, and shows employee engagement is a priority. Data from over two billion internal emails prove that attention and readership decrease as distribution list size increases. Smaller lists translate into a focused audience, enabling you to create more relevant messaging targeting these audiences.

What employee segments do you need?
Here are eight generalized audience segments that most large organizations consider helpful:

    • Physical location: geographic region, province, state or city, buildings
    • Work location: in-office, WFH/remote, hybrid, or non-desk workers
    • Organizational hierarchy: management levels up to executive leadership, with staff
  • Divisions, departments, and brands: one for each organizational unit
  • Roles (cross-departmental): engineering, finance, customer service, etc.
  • Technology: Admins/users of specific systems (e.g., ServiceNow, Workday, Microsoft Office, etc.)
  • Benefits enrollment status: declined, not enrolled, enrolled, experiencing a qualifying life event (QLE)
  • Company tenure: onboarding, 1-2 years, 2-5 years, etc.

How to segment internal employee audiences
To effectively segment employee audiences, you need data regarding employee attributes. Often these employee attributes come from different data systems like HR, your active directory, and sometimes payroll.

Typically, communications teams must collaborate with HR or IT to request data on the specific groups they want to target. Or, if you are handy with a spreadsheet, you can play with employee attributes, create lists, and import those lists into your communications tool.

Moving from a broadcast to a narrowcast mindset
Broadcast email is relatively simple. You write the message, pick the all-employee distribution list, and send it. But when it doesn’t appeal to specific subgroups, it goes unread. This wastes effort and requires extra work to correct the missed communication.

Additionally, overuse of broadcast messaging — in email and other channels — often leads to employees feeling overwhelmed, neglected, or not engaged due to the perception that corporate messages are irrelevant.

While consolidating employee data and synchronizing distribution groups are not necessarily easy tasks (having an accurate, up-to-date all-employee list is often an undertaking in itself), it’s a worthwhile project — and tools can help.

To get IT and HR on board with a list accuracy and segmentation project, explain how you will ultimately save their time and employees’ time while boosting productivity.

Tailoring messages to your audience segments

Once you know the audiences you are trying to reach, it’s easy for most communicators to write a different headline and subject for each. Take it further and edit the content, sending outcome images and charts to more visual learners while providing other folks with more detailed text and fact lists.

The benefits of audience segmentation and targeting

Achieving objectives like increasing employee engagement and improving the employee experience isn’t always easy, but there are simple steps to connect better with your people. Learn about your employee population, identify key subgroups, gather data, create segmented email lists, and tailor your messages to those segments. When you send tailored messages to targeted groups, it’s a win-win: Your messages get read, and your people stay better informed and highly engaged.

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