Employers oftentimes worry about how to tailor employee communication for those who are digitally disconnected — meaning they don’t have access to email or the internet — but this concern is largely blown out of proportion.
According to Pew Research, only 11 percent of Americans aren’t using the internet. Research also suggests that “non-adoption [of the internet] is correlated to a number of demographic variables, including age, educational attainment, household income and community type.”
As the numbers suggest, internet adoption is picking up steam, leaving fewer and fewer people disconnected every day — especially among older Americans and those with less education. The research center points out that 86 percent of senior citizens didn’t use the internet in the year 2000, but that the current data shows a dramatic increase in older adults’ online activity (only 34 percent don’t use the internet now). Among those who didn’t finish high school, non-adopters dropped a similar amount during the same time period, going from 81 percent to 35 percent.
Regardless, it’s wise for employers who want to ensure no one in the workforce is overlooked to deploy both digital and more traditional methods of employee communication. In addition, because digital access spans multiple device types (computers, smartphones, tablets) and various ways to attain connectivity (home internet, public internet, cellular data), it’s important to take the following into account when connecting to these audiences:
Employee Communication for the Connection-Challenged
Some employees may be connected, but face some challenges in doing so. They aren’t totally cut off from the internet because they have library access or use the web browser on their smartphone, but they’re not particularly internet-savvy either. Here are some suggestions for making sure these employees can read the communications you’re sending:
For some, access to the web is relegated to smartphones because they can’t afford a personal computer. For others (especially Millennials and Gen Z), it’s by choice. With that in mind, make sure your employee communications and online enrollment tools are designed using responsive web design (RWD), which means they’re optimized for an easier viewing experience. This includes simple principles, such as making sure the reader doesn’t have to resize text, move the page side-to-side (because the text doesn’t fit on the screen), or scroll endlessly to get to the bottom of the page. Of course, this optimization should occur across multiple platforms, from smartphones and tablets to laptops and other computer monitors.
Research from Google suggests that people will bail on a slow-loading mobile web page within the first three seconds, so it’s important for your employee communications (especially if they’re graphic-intensive) to utilize accelerated mobile pages (AMPs) to help speed up content delivery for mobile consumption.
Graphics and HTML-rich designs should also be created with a “thumbnail view” in mind, meaning that you need to make sure it’s readable on super small screens. Action buttons, drop-down menus and form fields need to be designed with both keypad-mouse interaction, as well as touchscreen users in mind. Make sure to coordinate with your IT department if you need help, but know that this strategy will help you reach employees with bandwidth constraints.
Note that if most of your employee communication is primarily done through email, you probably won’t have to worry too much about all of the above. Most email clients will automatically format for mobile on the employees’ end — as long as they’re using an app to access their email. But even if they’re going through a web browser, the email host probably would’ve taken care of this anyway.
What you’ll need to worry most about are landing pages you’re linking to that you need your employees to read. Those web pages need to be mobile-friendly in order for people to easily read them on their phones or tablets.
Be Mindful of Slow Internet Connections
While people might have an internet connection at home, the speed might be sub-par. Or, their computer might be older and therefore, slow as molasses. Including a lot of high resolution images or videos may slow things down, and with as limited as our attention spans are these days, you can’t afford to have your important employee communications ignored because they took too long to load.
Try to keep the layout clean and simple. That doesn’t mean you can’t use any demonstrative images, but you’ll need to make sure they’re on the smaller side (both in physical size and file size). If you include videos, make sure they don’t auto-play and it may be best to host them on a larger video service (like YouTube) and embed them into your communications.
- Printer-Friendly Pages: Format your content so it prints nicely. Those with limited connectivity may look to print things out so they can be read it at their leisure. Of course, they might also just prefer to read things in print or they may need to share information with other dependents and key household decision makers.
- Save Functionality: With limited connectivity, offering auto-save and ‘save & return’ functionality can be a nice assurance with this audience, especially when the user needs to fill out forms.
- Password Remembrance: Here too, with limited connectivity, offering a ‘remember me’ or ‘keep me logged into this machine for X days’ feature can help people encounter fewer pain points when filling out online forms or applications.
- Self-Serve Password Reset: Try your hardest to allow for self-serve password resets. Most of the time you can achieve this by simply adding a series of security questions to the password reset or username reminder protocol.
- Auto-Populate: If possible, carry-over as much personal information as possible from previous enrollments or previous pages in the enrollment path. This will not only accelerate the enrollment process but it will also reduce error rates.
Employee Communication for the Totally Disconnected
While rare, there may be some employees who are truly and completely disconnected from any forms of digital or online communication — even email. And to reach these employees, employers just need to revert back to those offline communication mediums that served us pretty darn well prior to the mid-90’s, such as:
- On-Site Communications: Ideally placed in high-traffic areas or anywhere you’re likely to have a captive audience, on-site communications can be a very effective way to reach your workforce (albeit with short-form messages). These communications include breakroom posters, cafeteria table tents, bathroom flyers, and elevator slicks, among others. These are excellent communication tools to achieve high-level frequency of message.
- Print Communications: Primarily distributed to each individual in-office or via mail into the home, this method can be very effective in reaching the disconnected members of your workforce and are particularly well-suited for long-form messages. These employee communications include; print memos, 4-color brochures, detailed enrollment guides, and direct mail postcards.
- Person-to-Person Communications: And finally, especially for those who value face-to-face communication: group presentations, team huddles, one-on-one meetings, (even phone conversations and pre-recorded voicemail messages) are all excellent ways to reach those hard-to-reach employees.
Customized Employee Communications
Because the internet is becoming more and more accessible, employers are less likely to encounter the issue of disconnected employees for that much longer (although you’ll probably always have a few). In the meantime though, you need to make sure your employee communications are tailored to each subset of your workforce — from the overly connected to the completely disconnected.
Ultimately, the effectiveness of your engagement strategy will be contingent on your ability to reach all of your employees, thus ensuring total alignment with your corporate communication strategies and initiatives.
How are you making sure your employee communications reach your entire workforce? Leave us a comment below or contact us. We’d love to hear from you!