(First published on LinkedIn)
I recently read an internal email from a client company explaining how to comply with a certain regulation.
The email was sent to the whole department and immediately launched into the specifics of complying with the regulation. A link for more information led to a repository of documents, each 10-20 pages long.
I wondered what the regulation is, why it is important, and what happens if employees didn’t comply. Perhaps it would make more sense if I were an employee of that department, but given the recent high turnover in the group, I had my doubts.
The email was clearly a check-the-box activity, something to be filed away to show the regulator when they come back for an inspection. But if other employees thought the way I did, the email probably ended up in the trash folder pretty quickly and did little to promote the desired behavior.
Despite widespread consensus that check-the-box doesn’t work, it is still being done. The communication should have:
- Explained why the recipient is receiving the information;
- Explained in layman terms what the regulation is and why it is important. This should have some emotional resonance – tie in with company values and purpose, for example – and not just to comply with the regulation;
- Explained what happens if employees don’t comply;
- Listed the specific actions required; and
- Provided examples of situations where employees need to take these actions.
Then there is the delivery method. An email is quick and cost-free but rarely the best way make a message stick. In fact, it could prove costly if ineffective communication led to non-compliance.
To make the communication more “sticky”:
- Make the communication as visually pleasing and engaging as you can, given available resources. Some ideas: develop a custom “micro” training course; create a PPT video with graphics and animation; create a “brand” logo, look and feel for all related compliance communications to set them apart.
- Include a printable (and well designed) 1-pager that employees can pin at their desks to remind them of the desired behavior;
- Utilize as many delivery channels as available and as appropriate to reinforce the message, for example: Intranet site, company or department newsletters, managers’ staff meetings, screensaver, posters, TV screens.
- Repeat with a reasonable cadence; and
- Make the additional information more accessible. Instead of a repository of lengthy documents, provide a summary of key points that can be easily understood.
Doing what’s needed for effective communication is not difficult, but does require more forethought and effort than simply blasting an email. The alternative, however, is non-compliance.
Feel free to put your own price tag on that.