So you’ve crafted the perfect message to send to employees. Now comes the hard part — delivering it in a way that ensures it gets read and receives a response. Businesses need internal communication now more than ever, yet it’s become harder to actually reach employees.
The volume of messaging has increased with the ease of sending. Messages are sent via channels unsuited to their content. Constant streams of low-relevance messages distract and frustrate staff. Information overload is crippling productivity.
Factor in multiple departments broadcasting messages through the same channels, and you have a recipe for communication clutter and employee confusion.
Understanding the psychology of how employees consume messages can help us construct more effective communications, but it’s only half the solution. We also need to deliver messages in a way that guarantees success. That’s where the Communications Spectrum framework comes in.
Charting a Course for Communications Success
Fewer than half of all internal communicators use a formal framework to direct their activities. That’s why the results are often disappointing and why a new approach is necessary.
The Communications Spectrum is a framework for ensuring your messaging outputs align with your business objectives. It does this by defining the critical pathways linking objectives, channels, messages and results. By combining best practice in communication, psychology and management, it’s a framework that fully integrates into your greater communication plan.
The tiered format of the Communications Spectrum reflects the steps involved in business decision-making and communication. Business objectives are defined (top layer), which are translated into communication needs (middle layer), before being communicated to staff (bottom layer), who then respond accordingly.
Let’s walk through the steps of how this framework is used.
Step One: Business Objectives
First, find where your top-layer objective sits. How critical is it? This layer ranges from high criticality on the left to non-critical (or social) on the right. Each communication objective includes a definition of its relevance to the business and the desired employee response.
For example, “critical” refers to emergency or urgent communications which staff need to immediately read and act upon. “Priority” refers to time-sensitive communications which employees must read as soon as they’re able.
Step Two: Communication Needs
Next, identify your communication needs in the middle layer. This layer links objectives with channels through use cases, or specific communication needs common to different functional areas.
These include, for example, crisis communication from the leadership team, system outages from the IT department, training and development initiatives from human resources and more.
These use cases may be different for certain industries (such as healthcare, where patient care will be a focus) or types of business (such as manufacturing, where staff predominantly work in large shared spaces).
Step Three: Channel Selection
Finally, find the optimal communication channels recommended in the bottom layer. More intrusive channels have high-impact formats that deliver immediate widespread attention. Less intrusive channels use subtle formats that achieve sustained behavioral change.
This provides a higher guarantee of message success, because communications are sent in the format best suited to what they need to achieve. Messages that require staff to take immediate action are delivered in a format they cannot miss. Conversely, messages intended to improve employee knowledge or behavior are delivered in formats that provide regular reinforcement.
Creating Messages That Staff Want to Read
Following the Communications Spectrum framework makes messaging work because it removes the guesswork. It gives communicators the power to deliver the right message, in the right way, through the right channel — without conflicting with messages sent from other departments.
Now it’s time to bring it bring it all together with the content you’ve created using your understanding of psychology and how employees consume information.
Let’s put this into practice with some common workplace examples.
Example 1: Workplace Safety
In a threat to employee safety, we need to get all employees to evacuate immediately. This is a critical message staff must read now, so channels selected must achieve high visibility and readership. Messages should be created to convey seriousness and urgency of response.
Example 2: Employee Compliance
When a new software tool is introduced, we need all staff to comply with the related workplace policy. This is an important message staff need to read today, so channels selected must achieve 100% employee acknowledgement. Messages should use dedicated corporate communication styling and include mandatory employee acceptance.
Example 3: New Employee
As a new employee is joining the team, we need to make all staff aware and generate a welcoming environment. This is an engaging message staff should read when they’re able, so channels selected must encourage employee engagement. Messages should feature a prominent photo and include interactive, social media-style reactions.
Any business objective can be handled using the same procedure. A cyber security attack or data breach is a priority message (orange column). Urgent leadership communications are relevant messages (dark blue column). Soliciting staff feedback on workplace culture are engaging messages (light blue column).
The distractions and competing demands of modern workplaces are a threat to business. Ineffective communications frustrate employees, impair productivity and reduce overall performance.
The Communications Spectrum is a strategic framework for today’s successful internal communication managers. In practically aligning business objectives with messaging outputs, it provides a powerful tool for driving your communications success.