CEOs are frustrated staff don't read their emails -- here's how companies need to change for today's workforce

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We’ve been hearing from CEOs across all types of organisations in Australia and New Zealand that nobody reads the communications they send to employees by traditional methods like email.

They are rightly concerned. They have incredibly important messages that they need to share with employees, whether it’s about performance or changes in the organisations or strategic decisions, and they are frustrated at their inability to connect with employees.

The lack of engagement is an issue, but also a symptom of a generational change.

There is a new generation coming into the workplace that has grown up using so many different ways to communicate other than email; there is texting, social media and instant messaging for starters.

I fall into the Gen X bracket and the communication method I’m used to using is email, as this was the predominant method as I started my career and up until around 2005.

By 2020 Millennials will make up around 50% of the workforce. They are used to very different methods for communication like WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook; they want to receive information in a readily consumable way, they want it to be really relevant to them and it has to be on a mobile device.

Mobile first is a strategy that we’re now used to in our personal lives and it’s currently being encouraged across the enterprise space as well. Some unis and schools nowadays don’t even suggest students need to purchase laptops, but instead use their existing mobile devices. This is another technological shift that will have far-reaching effects.

CEOs are starting to understand that there are a lot of people in the workforce now who want to receive their information in a timely and relevant manner. Traditionally communications departments would spend significant time with CEOs to craft key messages across different mediums like distribution lists, intranets and newsletters.

But what we’re finding is CEOs that are adopting this new world of work are becoming more engaged with their employees – a simple response to an all company announcement such as a ‘like’ or a small comment saying ‘great share, really authentic! is a wonderful way to measure employee engagement.

In the initial months of rolling out Workplace by Facebook, The Campbell Soup Company in the US receive twice as many people reading internal communications messages than they’d ever received before. In terms of connectivity their increase was 243% better connected to their employees than before they had strategies connected to Workplace by Facebook.

It comes down to the fact that technology isn’t the answer to solve business problems. It’s simply the enabler. It always comes back to people making the impact on your culture and people driving change. It has to come back to asking what problem are we actually trying to solve? If we want to better connect people and have a better communications strategy to allow us to be more productive and better engaged it has to come from the bottom up.

Traditional email communications from the executive are top-down. This is not as engaging for younger generations in the workplace, which is why these social tools like Workplace by Facebook are creating a more democratic and connected workplace. But it’s not just about Millennials and Gen Z.

A really good example we have in Oceania is AirAsia, who has an extensive network across Asia and Australia with 22,000 employees across 9 airline affiliates. They have been able to join disparate workers together across airports and continents to enable them to share information – bottom up – across the group. Workplace helps them make interdependent people and teams more effective and have a noticeable impact on improving KPIs such as on-time performance.

AirAsia found the launch of Workplace to have been ‘revolutionary’ for AirAsia pilots. They use Groups to get accurate information about changes to flights. This enables pilots to react more quickly, helps operations teams to solve problems in real-time, and is more efficient than using email distribution lists.

This is an awesome example of how bottom-up communication can change the way organisations can work together. It’s not just the technology, it’s a way of saying we are comfortable with an open and transparent environment. It’s a huge shift in thinking and it’s only early days, we’re only 1% there. It’s a game-changer for organisations in every industry, to embrace their entire workforce no matter what their generation or place in the company.

Ben Gould is Growth Lead at Workplace by Facebook and will be speaking at the NextGen in Business event series in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in May, to help businesses prepare for the multigenerational workforce of the future. To see more details and save $150 on tickets click here.

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