[Our Perspective by Michael Voss and Jennifer Rock]
We’re fast approaching the halfway point of the calendar year – a time when companies often scrutinize progress toward annual goals and tighten team budgets accordingly. Knowing full well that Internal Communications teams generally operate with limited resources to begin with, it’s important to make sure you’re getting the most of every dollar – or pound, yen or Bitcoin – in your budget. Here are five places you can boost your efficiency and maximize your resources in the back half of the year, while still serving your employees.
1. Peddle Your Print Pub.
At least once a year you probably hear someone suggest cutting your old-school, four-color magazine. But don’t be so quick with that ax. Do your employees find value in the articles? Is it your primary vehicle for company culture stories and in-depth strategic information? Have you already reduced production costs by moving to recycled paper, bringing the design or photography in-house and maximizing the print schedule? Then keep the magazine. Just stop paying for it.
Other businesses may be willing to pay to get in front of your employees through the purchase of ad space. To be clear, we’re not saying you should make your publication look a NASCAR driver’s jumpsuit. You need to make sure the ads are on-brand for your company and meaningful to your employees. For instance, if you are a retailer, allow manufacturers to run ads or advertorials highlighting new services or explaining product features. If you have a sizable employee population at one location, consider letting area restaurants provide lunch coupons. We’ve seen ad sales programs turn valuable-but-costly magazines into efficient, cost-neutral (or even profitable) publications.
2. Power Down the PowerPoint.
Corporate managers may be shocked how much time their employees spend honing and editing PowerPoint presentations. We’re not talking about developing those slides the CEO needs for her next public speech; we mean presentations employees create to convey their own work and ideas to their managers or colleagues. Don’t get us wrong – PowerPoint is brilliant when used to highlight key points in the context of a meeting where a projected presentation or detailed handout makes sense. But some companies treat PowerPoint like currency – and a 32-page deck is the expected payout at even the most casual coffee chats.
Change the expectation – and save labor hours and paper. Encourage employees to have conversations at staff meetings instead of presenting to each other. Allow the whiteboard to become an acceptable medium for communicating visually. (Bonus: Whiteboard usage also inspires group brainstorming and building on each other’s solutions.) Place a higher value on the quality of employee ideas than the weight of their decks. When employees spend less time explaining their work via fly-in bullet-points and animated charts, they have more hours to spend actually doing the work.
3. Kill the Million-Dollar Mousetrap.
Intranets and various other types of employee-facing portals often leave internal communicators chasing their tails. You spend half your time filling the site with content and the other half flogging your audience to go there to read it. Factor in the millions spent in development, security, upgrades and upkeep and you may wonder if your intranet is anything more than a digital sinkhole of time, money and effort.
We suggest freeing your content from the online holding tank – break it into bite-sized pieces and disseminate it through any number of enterprise social networking applications. While these tools may require some of the same investments cited above, they tend to be far more effective in engaging your audiences because they mirror the way people consume content in other aspects of their lives. You will likely need to pair your new tool with a simple site that archives the content you are pushing out, but this can be kept simple and low-cost. In short, invest in a vehicle that brings your message to the people, rather than a storage facility they are disinclined to visit.
4. Scrap the Branded Crap.
We’ve all seen egregious budget abuses in the name of creating awareness, but few tactics make our eyes roll like the branded trash and trinkets that have become a common part of the corporate experience. It seems every annual strategy or cross-functional project now requires some kind of branded giveaway – whether logoed lip balm or tag-lined toothbrushes.
The truth is, these items do little to inform employees and even less to engage them, so your budget is best spent elsewhere. After all, when’s the last time you changed your opinion or behavior because of a free chip clip, can koozy or stress ball? However, if you’re somehow unsure whether your employees value these items, we suggest scheduling a Clean Your Cubicle event. Then sit back and watch the trash bins fill with “We’re Betting on You” poker chips and “Make It Great in ‘08” oven mitts.
5. Avoid the Perma-lancer Dance
We would never recommend a one-size-fits-all approach, so this is not about cutting all consultants, contract employees and freelancers. Yes, some departments can become too reliant on outside help – hence the term “perma-lancer” – but you may indeed have legitimate reasons for augmenting your staff. The key is to have a good handle on your team’s strengths and needs, then plug the supplemental support into the right areas.
If your managers or directors are overloaded with tactical duties, a solid freelance writer or artist can be a godsend. If a months-long, cross-functional project is about to spool up and you don’t have a dedicated staffer to spare, a reasonably priced contract employee can help overcome the temporary spike in demand. And if your team is more comfortable working on the tactical end of the spectrum you may need help setting the higher-level goals and strategies – a situation in which any number of small, low-overhead consulting firms could be a wise short-term investment.
© rockdotvoss.com, 2015
Categories: Our Perspective