Hidden Messages in Your Employee Publication

Hidden MessagesA few years ago, while waiting for a professional colleague in the lobby of her company’s headquarters, I leafed through a copy of the employee publication on display in the waiting area.

The company was at the center of an industry controversy, and I knew that much of colleague’s time – and her staff’s – over the past two months had been devoted to rebuilding the company’s reputation and employee morale.

So I was, admittedly, shocked when I saw that the “A” story on the front page was, “Laughing at Work.” 

Diving deeper into the publication, I noted that more than half the content was devoted to employee transaction issues (a new password policy, extended hours for the Benefits line, etc.) and the remaining content was what I classify as “happy people” stories. 

Not one sentence about the recent challenges, how management was addressing the issues, or the employee and teams who were working to rectify the problems. 

Just “Laughing at Work.”  And a “Guess Whose Baby Photo?” contest.

So what message does that send to employees?  That management was trying to cover up the problems?  That the employees shouldn’t worry their pretty little heads about the issue?

In fairness, I had no access to any of the prior publications or any other mass employee communications that the company might have issued during their crisis of confidence.  But I suspect that the disconnect I saw in that publication was not a stand-alone issue.

The content of your employee publication, whether it is a printed monthly magazine (and I’m sure those have been slashed in the current economic environment), a bi-weekly email compendium, or a daily intranet homepage, reflects the role you expect your employees to play in the company’s success.

By limiting the content of your publication to “happy people” anecdotes and announcements of new employee discount programs, you miss the opportunity to speak openly to your staff about the challenges the company faces every day…and the important role your employees play in overcoming those challenges and driving success.

Susan C. Rink is principal of Rink Strategic Communications, which helps clients take their employee communications to the next level.  Email her at rinkcomms@verizon.net.

About Susan Rink

Susan C. Rink is president and owner of Rink Strategic Communications, LLC (www.rinkcomms.com) and presenter of the "Take Note" podcast series (http://www.youtube.com/user/RinkComms).

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