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Creating a Consumer-Grade Employee Communications Experience

By Keith Kitani | 2-min read


Herb Kelleher, the former Chairman and CEO of Southwest Airlines, held a simple mantra: treat your employees like customers. Under his leadership, Southwest became one of the country’s top airlines while creating an enviable corporate culture. Other examples of this philosophy include Adobe’s combined Customer and Employee Experience team and Airbnb’s efforts to match internal and external experiences with their brand.

New technologies and digital experiences have heightened consumer expectations in recent decades. And the impact is now carrying over into the workplace. Employees increasingly see themselves as internal customers of their employer, and expect the company to provide experiences that parallel what they have as consumers. In a recent interview with Forbes, IBM CHRO Diane Gherson noted this shift in employee expectations and the demand for consumer-grade digital experiences in the workplace. In fact, she cited it as one of the biggest trends “upending” HR. Research by Deloitte has also shed light on changing employee expectations, with a recent publication noting that employees, like consumers, are demanding more innovation, flexibility, and opportunity.

In this competitive talent landscape, it’s risky to ignore the changing tide of employee expectations. Consumer-grade digital experiences for employees are no longer a nice-to-have. They’re prerequisites to attract and retain top talent. As Deloitte notes, “just like a consumer who has a bad experience and moves onto another brand, your employees may also seek new experiences if their expectations are not being met.” While a number of companies are driving towards consumer-grade employee experiences, many do not realize that employee communications are fundamental to this transformation               

Strong communication experiences and engaging content bring your culture and brand to life and ensure employees adopt key programs and initiatives. Without compelling and meaningful communication, employees often tune out. This makes it nearly impossible to attain ROI on programs and initiatives and ultimately achieve the employee satisfaction and retention that your business needs.

What do consumer-grade employee communication experiences look like? In today’s digital world, they are:

  1. Personalized

Consumer experiences have become more personalized in recent years, with customized online shopping experiences, targeted ads, and individualized interactions on social media (powered by software and AI). Employees are expecting a similar level of personalization in their work experiences. For example, they want development plans and support that are targeted and relevant to their specific role and situation. The same expectations hold true for communication. Consumer-grade employee communication experiences segment employees into groups and deliver relevant information—and only relevant information—to each segment at the time of need.

  1. Engaging

Providing personalized and relevant information isn’t enough—you need engaging content experiences, too. Employees expect information to be presented in ways that capture and hold their attention. Leading organizations are bringing together collections of short-form content in multiple formats within an experience that allows the employee to easily guide their own journey. Another effective tactic is to incorporate interactive elements that solicit employee feedback. Asking employees for feedback involves them in the experience and makes their opinions matter. And organizations that respond to that feedback in real-time, for example by providing personalized recommendations, make the experience more engaging and more personalized.

  1. Campaign-Oriented

Topical campaigns are the third element of consumer-grade employee communications. Marketers use campaigns to build a sustained relationship with customers. And they’re equally effective for connecting with employees. Campaigns drip out messages over time and integrate them with company and employee activities. The result: employee-centric journeys through critical HR programs and services. But a campaign involves more than simply sending out the same information over and over. Effective campaigns engage employees through a process of inspiring, informing, and reinforcing. They’re also iterative, like marketing campaigns, which leverage data and analytics to continually improve results.

Treat your employees like customers. And as you consumerize your overall employee experience, be sure to audit your employee communications. If it’s not an employee-first experience that’s personalized, engaging, and flexible, you may be missing the mark.