Surfing the Tsunami: Helping Employees Avoid Information Overload

If you’re a communicator, you know that everyone wants everybody to know about something. A new menu item in the cafeteria. The CEO’s five-year strategic plan. An after-work Pilates class. The acquisition of your largest competitor.

And they want you to fervently pass it all along to employees every day. Trouble is, if you’re not thoughtful about your approach, your employees are left to sort and prioritize this tsunami of information on their own.

We once had the great fortune of working for a company that supported and encouraged leading-edge communication. It was a culture in which employees expected frequent and transparent communication from company leadership, and craved opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas. The trick was to keep it all timely, relevant and organized – balancing the needs of the company while helping employees keep their heads above water.

Ultimately, we developed two home-grown tools that were especially successful in helping employees get the information they needed and wanted, while avoiding information overload. These two online vehicles are great examples of how to tailor communication tools to an audience’s needs and a company’s culture.

Employee News
The company was a large, complex, ever-changing organization with multiple brands – and we needed to target information to employees based on their jobs, locations, titles and departments. We also had to consider that most of our employees did not spend their days on a computer terminal – they logged on periodically for only a few minutes at a time. But we couldn’t find an out-of-the-box news site that met all of our requirements for information targeting, organization and flexibility. So we developed our own.

The Employee News site allowed us to establish multiple news categories and owners, pushing the needed news to the right employees at the right time – via a targeted, summary email sent three times a week. Employees could easily scan the news they needed, then punch through to the site to find additional content and subscribe to areas of interest. We also built in the opportunity for employees to interact with every news story – rating the content, commenting and asking questions.

The Watercooler
As a way to encourage our employees to interact with company information and each other, we jumped on the early wave of social media and built an online discussion channel, which clicked immediately with our Millennial employees. The Watercooler had 10,000 unique visitors per week – more than 200 employees per hour.

Modeled after the first public discussion forums, the Watercooler wasn’t pretty from a UI standpoint – but it was highly functional. We created discussion boards for all U.S. employees with four levels of business-related conversation: My Company, My Location, My Department and My Groups.

Over time, we built into the tool a multitude of ways employees could collaborate. The CEO held Q&A sessions on the Watercooler, and subject matter experts hosted “virtual town halls” on specific topics. The marketing and operational teams posed questions and introduced pilot projects here to get employee feedback. At its height of usage, the Watercooler held 42,000 discussion topics and had over 10 million total views. The forum became the company’s main source of collective knowledge and – in many ways – its cultural center.


To see other examples of our work, go to Mini Case Studies.

Categories: Mini Case Studies

Tags: , , , , , , ,