Q&A: How to Build a Business Case for a New Workforce Communications Platform?
Written by Gregg Apirian, SocialChorus.com.
Your employees make or break your business. They’re at the front line, representing your brand, taking care of customers, and making your products. And yet as company leadership is trying to deal with disengaged employees and high attrition rates, HR and communications budgets are not keeping up with the pace. In a recent report, the average internal communications budget for a company with 500+ employees was a mere $185,000 per year, far less compared to other departments like marketing, which generally has a multi-million dollar annual budget.
With budgets this low, it will take a take a strong business case to get the funding for new technology, such as a workforce communications platform—one that can reach every worker, increase their engagement and retention, and enable publishing across multiple targeted channels.
How to Build Your Case for an Employee Communications Platform
My company, SocialChorus, recently partnered with Ragan Communications on a widely-attended webinar that I presented, How to Build Your Case for an Employee Communications Platform, helping communicators by sharing a proven business case roadmap — from start to finish. Its popularity and proven outcomes illustrate that communicators are looking for this type of strategic advice. This article, based on my responses to all the great questions attendees had, will help communicators and HR practitioners deliver a business case to improve how they reach and communicate with employees.
Here are the top seven questions (and answers) that communicators ask when building a business case to get final budget approval for a new workforce communications platform.
When enlisting others to lead groups and contribute content, how do you keep those folks engaged as the novelty wears off and their day-to-day jobs get in the way?
It’s best to break this question into two parts—one from the communicators’ point of view, and the other from the recipients’ point of view. Communicators have a responsibility to understand the preferences of their audiences, just like marketers need to understand their consumers/customers. You really have to study your employees’ preferences, wants, needs, frustrations, motivations, etc.
By doing this, you understand what they want, helping you and your team create and deliver targeted content to them (and you’ll find they’re not all the same in what they want and expect). When you deliver relevant content that employees want and expect, they’ll be more engaged (interacting with your content more often).
You’ll also find it’s much easier to retain them because, between the relevant content and the “on-the-go” nature of a mobile platform, they get in and out quickly, and have reason to come back 2-3x a week for your short form and informational content.
If you’re signing up random employees to create content and what you’re publishing doesn’t interest them, then you’ll get what you pay for. In other words, expand your team or find those internal employees who are highly engaged and champions of your brand. We find that these types of people don’t lose interest in creating content. In fact, they’ll be more likely to promote it and share it with their personal and professional networks.
Additionally, those who are on the receiving end of communications, employees who are highly engaged and also consider their company a great place to work, will actively read and interact with the content you deliver to them—if you understand their preferences and deliver the content they want and expect. If you’re just guessing, you might not be so lucky.
How much data does the employee mobile app use (in cases where employees are using their own device)?
In terms of data for mobile app usage, it does depend on personal usage. On average, the SocialChorus app uses 3-10 MB a day, which is approximately less data than streaming three songs.
If you’re concerned with personal data, employees just need their names and email addresses to get started on the platform. The application does not pull any personal data from their mobile device.
Additionally, our platform offers features that will help you learn more about your audience. Once your organization starts to use the platform, it will produce data to help you understand things like reach, retention, engagement, active users, effectiveness of notifications (push, email, etc.) and many other metrics that the modern communicator requires to be successful.
Most of our employees do not have company-provided phones. Any insights on what works for companies reaching employees on their own mobile devices?
Every company has different policies. Most have recognized that the world we now live in is mostly driven by mobile, so they have changed their policies to make it easier to connect with employees—especially desk-less or non-wired workers.
If communicators were to study their employees’ preferences, you would find that most employees would opt-in to mobile content and communications, since 85 percent of Americans access news from a smartphone (their personal device or company-provided).
Start by defining business use cases, which are designed to describe how a user (in this case, the employee) will use the workforce communications platform to receive relevant content and information via their mobile device. Between understanding the business use cases and studying employees’ preferences, you will be in a position to identify and select the right product that fulfills your requirements, and fuels your business case for adopting the platform.
Marketing and communications today is all about studying people and their behaviors/preferences, trying new things and measuring them, and either killing channels and vehicles that people don’t want to use, or optimizing them so they want more.
Additionally, company culture varies — most employees don’t know what they don’t know. But if you help them understand what the future of work might be like if they had a mobile communications app, where they could receive custom content and information that feels like it was designed specifically for them, you will likely find they want to opt-in. When you combine the power of relevant content with a channel they hold in their hand all day long, you begin to quickly understand the best ways to reach, engage and activate them, to learn about their behaviors, and the effectiveness of your content. It’s a win for everyone involved.
The fast-paced evolution of business communications systems has turned many CFOs off because it seems that companies have to continuously spend money to keep employees engaged, and the systems soon become obsolete or employees stop using them. What are your thoughts?
The problem here isn’t the technology. Communications need to be a continuous flow, forever. If you and your stakeholder team develop use cases and define business, functional, and technical requirements, you’ll be able to look at a phased approach with a roadmap spanning three to five years, which should help in selecting technology that not only fulfills your requirements, but also can scale and adapt to your business needs.
You should select a platform from a company that is committed to its technology roadmap now and to its vision for the future. Additionally, as you find a platform that works for you, your investment should grow, not slow down or stop. There will always be new features to add, new content to create, and potentially other valuable technologies to integrate with, to support the growth, utility, and value of the platform.
Do you know any cases where solutions like SocialChorus replaced an intranet completely?
In most cases, customers have used SocialChorus to replace the news and information stream on their intranet, but they still use their intranet or another document repository platform in some capacity. For example, an intranet may be used to store important HR policies or benefits information, but the timely news updates—such as, “It’s time for open enrollment”—is published through their SocialChorus platform.
In our daily lives, we’ve become accustomed to getting information in a newsfeed format, rather than going to websites to search for information that we need. The SocialChorus platform allows companies to reach all employees with relevant content in a way that they are used to receiving information outside of work.
- The IT department is currently in charge of our intranet. At what point do I need to get IT on board in evaluating a more modern communications platform?
Get them on board from the beginning. In most cases, it’s rare to find communicators who are technical or have experience with compliance and security requirements. While the communicators build the business case and run the programs, most of our customers partner with their IT departments to evaluate, implement and sustain/support the platforms.
- What have you seen as successful solutions for employees who are not often connected online, such as production or shift workers?
Every company and culture is different. You really need to study and learn what your employees prefer and expect in regards to the ways they receive the company information they seek or need to know. The sooner you unearth these audience insights, the sooner you can create and deliver what they want and expect, proving your case for how to connect with this segment of your workforce you have struggled to connect with in the past.
We would be willing to bet that most of them would prefer to be connected via their personal or company-provided smartphones, since 95 percent of Americans own cell phones. At a minimum, your unwired workers could be connected through break room computers or similar devices, so they can interact digitally just like everyone else in the company gets to do—one way or another. But from our recent user surveys across all our customer programs, we found that the majority of employees overwhelmingly choose the convenience of using their phones, and find company information two-thirds faster from their company app.
The business of internal communications is changing fast, and communicators finally have the opportunity to deploy the content and technology they need to reach, engage and retain every worker — no matter if they sit at a desk or not. Watch our webinar now, and reach out to ask for our help to craft your business plan. We are just a few conversations away from you and your new workforce communications platform.
Want to learn more? Attend the 5th Annual Strategic Internal Communications Conference in Boston on July 17 – 19, 2018.
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