Drive More Effective Internal Communication
Many people seem to have a spontaneous, knee jerk reaction to view digital signage as souped-up, high-tech posters on a wall – primarily designed to advertise and sell stuff. Almost simultaneously, however, they also know that it is more than that. Could be more than that. Should be more than that. However, these same people struggle to articulate exactly what the ‘more’ means.
Sensory Technologies asked people to describe what digital signage is. We do this from time to time to better understand the use cases and business applications for various types of technology solutions. These conversations also help us stay abreast of common communication challenges within organizations. In a couple sentences, what is digital signage and how can it be used? Interestingly, the answers came more laboriously for digital signage than for the other technologies we mentioned. And we didn’t necessarily expect that.
We’d like to help by suggesting that digital signage has incredible potential to become a best-in-class empowerment vehicle for improving internal communication and driving employee engagement. Digital signage is an under-utilized, under-appreciated method for distributing organizational messages to people whose habits and expectations would warmly embrace it!
When clients are considering a digital signage platform for the first time, we typically hear the same questions. What type of displays do I need? How many? Where should I hang them? Those are understandably fair questions. However, we need to begin to think more strategically if we’re really going to elevate the effectiveness of organizational communication.
All organizations have common ways of sharing information among teams, between colleagues and from leadership and research shows that organizations with measurably effective internal communication report higher levels of employee engagement. Why is employee engagement so important? The relationship between effective communication and employee engagement is important because engaged employees are emotionally committed to their organization. When someone is emotionally committed to something, they give it more attention, more time, more thought, more effort. Some call it ‘discretionary effort’ because it involves going above and beyond what’s required. If large numbers of employees are putting forth additional effort, is it any surprise that it results in many desirable business outcomes? Therefore, if we can strengthen employee engagement through more effective communication, why wouldn’t we?
Communication informs – it makes people aware of things. But from some organization’s perspective, being informed rarely is the ultimate goal. People need to appreciate the importance of the information – especially if the information is tied to critical business objectives. Effective communication must convey the value of the information so that people will be compelled to attend to it, consider it, think about it. Conveying value, however, really isn’t the goal either. Effective organizational communication must motivate people to engage – to put forth discretionary effort – because it is through the changed employee behaviors that business initiatives most often are advanced. In sum, effective communication fuels employee engagement when it informs, conveys and engages – when it helps to drive action toward outcomes that matter to the organization.
So how hard could that be? Admittedly, it’s hard to quantify variables like these, but even generous estimates suggest that maybe 30% of all organizations are able to communicate effectively enough to drive measurable change that leads to positive business outcomes. One reason it’s challenging is that organizations are limited in the options they have to inform, convey and engage. Take email, for example. There are estimates suggesting that 90% of the hundreds of billions of emails sent every day are spam or malicious. And although much is said about millennial distain for email, employees spanning all generations are becoming numb to traditional one-size-fits-all methods of communication. They increasingly are missing the mark.
When people talk about communication ‘missing the mark,’ there’s a tendency to blame the content because we’re taught that content is king. Therefore, we add more WOW-words, we embed some video content, we find more vivid imagery, we hire writers. None of that is bad, necessarily. The point, however, is that it’s quite common for us to attempt to be thoughtful and creative with content. It is considerably less common to be thoughtful and creative with the method of distribution for that content. We are slightly more inclined to do that – to be creative with the distribution of content – when it comes to communicating with customers. But internally? Much less so. That’s part of the challenge.
Engage With Digital Signage
Digital signage is a powerful way to:
- Encourage wayfinding interactions with sensors
- Gather feedback
- Incorporate social media
- Embrace perpetual videoconferencing
- Stream (virtual) executive town hall meetings
- Drive action to existing ‘metric-acquiring’ tools
When you embed various creative enhancements into a digital signage platform, you totally flip the paradigm for digital signage. More importantly, you open the door to what digital signage can do to fuel more effective organizational communication.
You probably noticed that we didn’t talk about technology very much in this article. Nobody loves technology more than we do; however, the power of digital signage to help organizations has very little to do with the displays and specific software platforms. The power of digital signage is its potential to broadly and transparently inform, convey, and engage an easily distracted workforce – a workforce that has become increasingly immune to traditional forms of business communication. To embrace that potential, we need to break the stereotypic view of digital signage as a tool for retail only. We must begin to view digital signage as a valuable component within a broader internal communication strategy and discipline ourselves not to ask “What type of displays do I need, how many, and where should I hang them?” Those are the wrong initial questions.
Sensory Technologies encourages a digital signage approach that includes a Discovery Process – guided conversations related to the organization’s communication strategy. That’s also why we are moving away from referring to it as ‘digital signage’ – and toward referring to networked displays as effective empowerment tools for DIGITAL EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT.
Stephanie R. Stilson, Ph.D., EMBRACE™ Strategist, Sensory Technologies®