Moving Your Employee Print Newsletter Online? 6 Tips To Make An Impact


If you currently run an employee print newsletter and want to move to an electronic version consider the following tips to make your publication more relevant, improve readership and champion change.

While employee newsletters are still considered an important channel, print publications are gradually falling out of favor. Paucity of time, evolving demographics, changing reader habits and the growth of mobile are a few of the factors influencing the need to move to a web based platform.

Will employees miss the print version? Is the online version more effective? What do employees expect of an e-zine? How can you sustain interest in your organization’s e-zine? These and many other questions may cross your mind while considering a transition.

  • Seek feedback and gather insights: Ask your employees if they prefer an electronic version and what they expect to be different from the print edition. If you don’t already have insights which you can delve into, run a survey or do focus groups to gain perspectives on content, relevance and value employees derive currently. Reflect on what will work best depending on your employees’ profiles, distribution across locations and geographies and diversity.
  • Build a strong business case: It does seem intuitive that an online version will be beneficial for employees and the organization. However, unless you share the rationale to back your thinking such decisions can soon be undone. Spot the tangible and intangible benefits. Among the former are reduction in print costs, wider reach, quicker access to information and ability to measure the value of communication while the latter can include contribution to the feeling of pride, belongingness and personal branding. Look at the newsletter as a way to unify your organization – by increasing cross-business learning and appreciation, exchanging ideas and building a ‘boundaryless’ entity.

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  • Refresh the model: A print version needs a different approach to sourcing content, publishing and measuring impact. With an online version you will need to make it simpler and easier for the team to produce the editions and creating reusable templates – unless of course, you are outsourcing your newsletter to an agency. Word of caution: what works in print won’t work online – shorter headlines, crisp messages, images that tell stories and greater opportunities to offer feedback are expected from an online version. What can however work is a model where the content resides on a central platform and the e-zine links to the content either via e-mail or a mobile application which pushes information on-demand. Online content is easier to search in case employees miss the e-mail or the mobile notification. Measuring views and downloads are simple ways to ascertain with an analytics tool and it is easier to report insights from data you gather.
  • Communicate the change: Explain the ‘why’ behind the move. Give employees time to accept the change and partner on the transformation. Demonstrate how the change will improve communication, enhance information accessibility and help employees feel more connected with your business. Be mindful of older employees – who may prefer to read a print version. Create a PDF version for those who still prefer to print and read.
  • Co-create content: Involve passionate employees as content contributors. The success of an employee newsletter hinges on how involved employees are. Form an extended team of content writers, editors and ‘internal’ journalists. Give them ownership for sections on your e-zine. This will mean ‘letting go’ of control – often tough for communicators to accept. For example, have them curate content, interview leaders and teams and come back with stories from the trenches. Remember to recognize their contributions – by giving bylines, adding them as part of your editorial board or informing their managers when they make progress with initiatives that impact the newsletter.
  • Define your measures of success: The litmus test for the newsletter is to gauge your employees’ participation levels in contributing content and their engagement with the organization. Apart from measuring the newsletter’s ability to reach essential information and business perspectives in a timely manner you can also evaluate if employees feel connected to and committed with the organization’s goals.

Have other ideas which worked for you? Do share them here.

4 Ways To Get Your Millennials on the Same Page


Have a large millennial population in your organization and keen to understand and engage the group better?

Consider this. According to a recent global study among millennials 42% believe that the quality of education will be a key change driver for the world. Protecting the environment and reducing poverty come next. This may sound surprising coming from a group often viewed as aloof and self-centered. Millennials want to make a local and a global difference, are interested in contributing to the community, are keen to be entrepreneurs and are very comfortable with technology, says this research report.

Opportunities to innovate, be innovative and be ‘intrepreneurs’ will go a long in engaging this group based on the Deloitte Millennial Survey . The study shares that 78% millennials made their decision to join a workforce based on how innovative the firm was and if the organization truly encouraged employees to be creative. Likewise, 70% of millennials looked at their future as entrepreneurs rather than working with the confines of a formal structure.

In a NASSCOM study – Managing In A Multigenerational Workplace what comes out strongly is the wide perception gap among employees of this generation and their managers.  The millennials attitudes are shaped by their experiences at home and at the workplace – mostly developed by self-learning. Loyalty and striving for perfection aren’t attributes that bother them a lot. While managers believe employees expect instant recognition it isn’t always the case – instead they seek a friend in a manager who is approachable and respected. However, work-life balance is crucial to the millennial’s life. This group prefers empowerment, engagement and flexibility.

With this backdrop, most organizations with a sizable chunk of millennials at their workforce will struggle to connect with this group unless they approach their relationship differently. Internal communicators can play the perfect foil in enlisting the support of this young group and bridging the gap.

Here are a few recommendations to get started with your Gen Y engagement.

Curate a self-managed forum: Initiate a dialogue with this group with either a forum or an informal online community. Clarify business goals and tap this forum to sensitize the group on the organization’s plans, share insights and invite suggestions. Ensure you make concrete plans and allow the group to self-manage their outcomes. Help promote the group’s actions using internal communication. Probably, profile one member every month or have the group ‘reverse mentor’ their leaders on topics of mutual interest.

Tap millenials’ talent: Millenials are looking for ways to be a part of the organization’s initiatives and one crucial approach is by tapping their potential to the fullest. Apart from their work there are opportunities to leverage their discretionary effort to further the brand – inside and outside the firm. Build a repository of talent areas and map it internally with the need of the hour – for example, how to simplify a process that improves your employees’ lives can be something of interest for this group. You will find employees who have say a passion for design thinking or are great with application development. Putting them together can create something extraordinary.

Provide opportunities to give back: Challenge the group on a social need and have them think of solutions which will enhance the lives of communities you serve. With their interest to be a responsible corporate citizen you can be sure of the group coming up with answers that work for all. Allow the group to spot opportunities and link it with the organization’s business objectives. Have their managers encourage participation in such initiatives.

Demonstrate positive action: Get your leaders to attend the forum to listen and engage. Invite the group to creatively recommend solutions for everyday issues instead of looking to their leaders for direction. Seek their inputs on policies and approaches on employee practices. Show how their effort is translating into business outcomes. For example, how simple actions such as sharing company content with their social media network can improve reach and impact of business communication.

From my experience of starting such a forum sustaining the momentum is the most crucial. The culture within will also help determine if this forum will last beyond the initial enthusiasm.

If your organization is truly committed to engaging Gen Y and building trust there isn’t a better way than allowing your future leader to lead the way.

If you have other ideas do share them here. Keen to hear from you.

My IABC Webinar Recording Available Now: Tapping the Power of Your Employees as Brands


There are significant changes shaping the world’s workforces and workplaces – more and more Gen Y joining organizations, diverse job expectations, erosion of trust of leadership, the rise of the activist employee, the employees’ passion to build their personal brands, and interest to be the brand’s spokesperson and affinity towards teams rather than organizations as an entity. Such changes pose interesting challenges and offer opportunities for communicators. On April 30, I ran a webinar  – ‘Tapping the Power of Your Employees as Brands’ on IABC’s website sharing perspectives and pointers on evolving trends and approaches that communicators can adopt to stay ahead of the curve.

My submission is that every organization’s culture and brand is shaped by the actions and messages shared by employees (current or former) and therefore every employee is in some way responsible for corporate communications.  The explosion of social media only accentuates their power – to enhance or damage an organization’s brand. The reality is that in today’s context the communicator doesn’t control communication and needs to partner effectively with each employee to successfully build the brand from within. In that sense, employer branding isn’t as effective an approach in this new world order.

However, the role of the communicator is now more important than ever highlighting the need for revisiting skills to engage the new emerging workforce and changing expectations at the workplace.

Look up a framework that I shared to help communicators build and sustain their own program to engage employees.

Attend My IABC Webinar on April 30: Tapping The Power of Your Employees as Brands


The workforce and workplace dynamics have changed significantly. Most employees are inclined to self-identify and be their own personal brands. Communicators therefore need new skills for the future, a knack for tapping talent, and an interest to let go and step up their ownership.

Join this webinar on IABC’s website as I share insights and practical approaches to invest in branding your employees. Learn how such interventions can have a significantly higher value for the business than focusing on the employer brand.

5 Tips To Collectively Further Your Corporate Social Responsibility Impact


Corporate Social Responsibility is often viewed as a closed group exercise and most organizations prefer sticking to their agendas while championing initiatives to improve the communities around them. Little is done to partner effectively and combine forces to make a larger impact.

A recent study (probably the only such report at this point) by the Indian Institute of Management, Udaipur, The Economic Times and Futurescape called ‘Is Corporate India Ready For CSR?’ reviewed the state of the 2% CSR funds available with corporates, the current level of engagement and the opportunities ahead to amplify the impact.  What comes out strongly are three aspects that corporates can take note of.

  • Collective commitment is the best way forward to make a larger impact. Instead of corporates spreading themselves thin, combining forces can lead to a more unified experience for the communities they serve. The aim is to arrive at common areas that matter most.
  • Organizations struggle for CSR talent and there are opportunities for corporate CSR leaders to share ideas, resources and people to cross-train, learn, gain from experiences and get better at what they do
  • Companies have limited understanding of what to do with their funds and resources at hand and often whittle away opportunities by waiting and watching. There is a need to be more targeted with the funds available. Among the top three areas from among the top 10 themes that the Companies Act recommends health, education and community development received the most attention.

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Opportunities exist for corporates to lead ‘grassroot’ initiatives which can unlock the value and impact of the resources and funds available.  According to me, the challenges in collaborating are the lack of consistent communication among stakeholders, reluctance to share plans and learning and the inertia to transcend organizational boundaries for the common good.  While the 2013 Companies Act specifies a list of activities that corporations can focus on, investing in areas such as sanitation, digital education, access to safe drinking water, health and safety and the environment can immensely benefit the communities.

Last week, Tesco HSC led an initiative called CSR Impact in partnership with Whitefield Export Promotion Parks Industrial Association (WEPPIA) that gathered corporates, NGOs and local administrative authorities to arrive at concrete plans for the betterment of the communities in Whitefield, Bangalore. Home to a large cluster of big and small global and Indian corporations from a diverse set of industries the forum provided a platform for all hands to come on deck as various needs were defined, discussed and debated.

The group identified key focus areas which needed effective partnership between the government authorities and the NGOs. Interesting ideas and initiatives were showcased – one related to effective waste management and yet another tapping technology to improve education. It is clear that trust, transparency and willingness to share ideas is key to CSR becoming central to achieving shared success.

What struck me as most is how much more can be done if various stakeholders can break the silos and collaborate more effectively.  Also, there is limited awareness of the existing state of government resources and infrastructure available already which can be leveraged. For example, one government body has a wide network of schools with robust equipment (classes, teachers, biometrics, internet, solar heating panels, online tracking mechanisms etc) but didn’t have many takers to educate the children.

If you are in a neighborhood with organizations with talent, resources and funds and want to get started with your local ‘grassroot’ initiative you may find these tips useful:

  1. Transparently share your plans – either online or in face to face forums. Seek feedback and invite other organizations to come on board. Avoid reinventing the wheel with projects. Join hands with other organizations. Send your volunteers to pitch in with others.
  2. Gather like-minded organizations, NGOs and government bodies to discuss the most pressing issues in your area. Pick the top three areas and focus your effort entirely on those for a year or two. Very often by taking our eyes of the ball and putting funds and effort into many different activities we end up diluting our impact.
  3. Pool your resources – very often it is more about the volunteers and less about the funding which can make the most impact. You will be surprised by how much you have and what more can be done if you see it in entirety.
  4. Communicate your impact often and effectively – you don’t need to create a completely new infrastructure but tap the power of your community champions to spread the word. Social media is an effective medium to get the word out easily.
  5. Recognize good work and outcomes – very often we move from one initiative to another without recognizing the value and impact we are making along the way. Take the time to thank stakeholders and volunteers alike on their hard work and commitment in making your initiatives a success.

The 2% CSR provision under the 2013 Companies Act opens up immense opportunities to create a large community impact.  CSR leaders and communicators need to break silos and overcome barriers to collectively raise the bar for the communities around us.

Show Up. Step Up


My earlier post on the topic of inclusiveness and diversity called ‘Does It Take Two Hands To Clap’ received interesting viewpoints from readers.  Themes that emerged were the need for greater acceptance, the expectations of a ‘holistic’ workplace, uncovering biases and going to the basics – getting it right at ‘home’. Incidentally, some readers preferred writing directly to me sharing how the scenarios I described related to their lives in many ways. I respect their privacy and decision to avoid posting their comments on my blog.

Why being inclusive works for everyone

To gain a deeper understanding of how and why showing up in heart and mind can overcome biases at the workplace and elsewhere we should refer to what research studies unearth. However, before you get there do look up this interesting case study on biases at the workplace.

So, what can communicators do to promote and support diversity and equality at the workplace? Here are a few recommendations that are simple and easy to get started on.

  • Be watchful about the language used: What we say and write officially can influence the culture at the organization. Usage of ‘he/she’ or stating ‘female’ or ‘girls’ instead of ‘women’ may sound like minor issues but are not. These reflect the way people are treated and becomes the ‘culture’.
  • Surface stories that reflect inclusive behavior: Identify employees who have stepped up to initiate dialogue on gender balance and inclusivity. Recognize those who built high performing teams with women in the workplace.
  • Report inconsistencies: Look for simple stuff that creates barriers to truly becoming inclusive. At one organization, the rest room for women was in a remote corner of the building while the men’s lavatory was built closer to the reception. What message did it send out?

Next time you are invited for an event or a discussion where you have the opportunity to demonstrate inclusiveness or spot deviations from the culture your organization wants to build and sustain – first, show up. Then step up.

2014 ‘State Of The Communications Function in GICs’ Survey Results


About the Study

This survey, the first such study in the region to gauge the current scope, relevance and understanding of the communications function within global in-house centers (GICs) invited corporate communicators and leaders to participate.

Global in-house centers refer to the service and delivery operations units that serve parent companies around the world to standardize processes, systems and programs and in turn save costs, improve efficacies and enhance centralized capabilities. They are often referred to as ‘captives’ or ‘shared services’. According to NASSCOM, there are over 825 GICs in India offering the entire spectrum of services – IT services, BPM, ER&D, and software products, employ over 530,000 people, and account for 17 per cent of the total export revenues in India. It is estimated that 50% of Fortune 500 firms to have GIC footprint in India by 2015. While hiring, engaging and retaining employees are important for GICs very little is understood or researched on the role of communication within these centers.

The survey aimed to understand how communication is conducted and appreciated within GICs. It sought insights on the types of communication that have the most impact and how should GICs approach communication to get ahead. This survey aims to bridge that gap in benchmarking the value and impact associated with communication within GICs and with the parent companies.  The output from this study can hopefully guide how GICs can invest in communication within their respective entities.

Every participant who completed the survey received a free high level summary report of the study.

Key Findings:

  • From the perspective of communicators within GICs, most such organizations focus on building efficiencies, optimizing costs and improving collaboration within their respective organization.
  • A majority of respondents (88%) claimed to have in-house communication teams and were mostly aligned to the Marketing function. Not surprisingly, a small percentage outsource work to consultants and agencies while a majority manage it themselves.
  • Employee engagement followed by employer branding and leadership communication are the key reasons for the communication team’s existence. However most focus on employee engagement and the leadership communication receives the least among the top three reasons.
  • The biggest challenges the communication team faces are low opportunities for growth and unclear direction of the GIC in terms of their plan and vision hindering their abilities to contribute strongly to the GIC’s advantage.
  • A majority of GICs focus on getting the senior post position filled first before building their team of communicators.
  • KPIs are mostly set among communication teams to measure performance and most team have between 3-5 members.
  • The primary focus of the team is to build pride among employees.
  • The communication team in GICs use e-mail, newsletters and internal social media platforms as ways to communicate mostly and the most effective mode is face to face interactions during Town Halls. E-mail as a channel comes a close second.
  • A majority claimed that their leadership team saw immense value from the function and the team’s budget would see an increase of 50% in the coming year.
  • Most agreed that the communication done locally is influenced heavily by the parent company.
  • A majority confirmed that they were invited early into conversations on communication planning.
  • Explaining the reasons for not involving or involving the communication team early in the planning process, here are a few statements from the respondents:
  • “Cause the team has a seat at the table and is involved strategically”
  • “They value our opinion and insights”
  • “The role is evolving and the management is yet to understand fully the need for involving communication”
  • Measurement of the team’s value and impact isn’t a strong area and those who did measure use engagement surveys as a method followed by channel audits and brand studies
  • Communicators as bridges between leadership and employees, investing in the team’s capabilities, knowing which effort gives the most impact, being sensitive to local language and culture were among inputs provided by practitioners to improve the value of communication within GICs.

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