One of my favourite things on LinkedIn are the daily news roundups. The other day, I read something that set my Internal Communications alarm bells ringing:

“Your job may be scanning your email for clues. A growing roster of startups have begun to offer text analytics services that allow employers to scan email and instant messages to gauge how workers are feeling, The Atlantic reports. Such technology can scan several years’ worth of messages for keywords or language shifts that suggest morale has dipped or alert a company to potential violations. While many text analytics firms display their findings without singling out individuals, critics warn of the potential privacy risks of such tools.” – LinkedIn Daily Rundown, 10 August 2018

As someone who works with teams to develop and maintain their Internal Communications function, it made one thing clear to me.  There are large-scale cultural problems at play if you’re considering this route.

The problem

A couple of things come to mind:

  • You breed a culture of control – Many organisations track emails for security reasons. To be honest, to assume that they don’t check the content would be silly. However, to use this to get genuine feedback from your team could look like you’re sneaking around. It’s the quickest way to destroy, not cultivate, trust.
  • Your Internal Communications strategy is ineffective – the whole point of your IC team is to open the lines of communication for you. If you have a good one, they’ll tell you to back away from this solution and suggest alternative routes.
  • Your culture sucks – No Senior Leadership Team should be unaware of how your organisation feels because you should be checking in with the business regularly and in multiple ways.
  • You’re about to create a trust issue – How would you feel being on the receiving end of people monitoring your emails? What are the perimeters and governance around this process? How do you position this when you communicate with your staff? If you don’t tell your staff about the monitoring, it looks untoward. You do tell them, it looks untoward and they filter their emails. Either way, there’s no clear win for anyone in this situation.

The solutions

Do not adopt this method and talk to your Internal Communications or Employee Engagement and HR team.

Have yearly employee surveys with regular surveys every quarter

Have one in-depth survey a year asking your team critical questions like:

  • How informed do you feel?
  • How do you prefer to hear from us?
  • Do you understand the business values?
  • Do you believe you can feedback without reproach?

These surveys should be anonymous and include the opportunity for people to give you more in-depth written feedback. The quarterly ones should be brief and should focus on the areas that your main survey identifies as your problem areas. This is so you can monitor change.

Bear in mind the above only scratches the surface but it’s a good place to start.

Give people opportunities to feedback

This could be:

  • physical suggestion boxes (or digital ones),
  • intranets that allow comments,
  • invitations for people to email your Senior Management team,
  • asking managers to discuss key issues in team meetings and feedback,
  • have your Chief Executive meet with the business once a quarter either physically or, with today’s modern technology, virtually.

The point is people need to be clear that the business wants to hear from them. Promoting these channels and, even more importantly, feeding back is critical to building a positive culture.

Decide that you’re ready to hear the truth

Not every Senior Management team is ready to hear the truth from their team. This can mean they want to police the feedback process or even avoid certain topics altogether.

There can also be a tendency for organisations to treat their staff as children. Implying that they couldn’t handle certain information.

You work in an organisation filled with specialist skilled staff. Treat them as such.  People aren’t ignorant to the fact that there’s some information you can’t share immediately. Be honest about this and you’ll keep their trust.

Be prepared to invest time in this process

To make a valuable change, you need a planned, strategic approach to your internal communications. Changing a culture takes time and everyone needs to agree at every level of the business. Time is your biggest investment if you want a long-lasting change.

So what if you’re a small organisation without the in-house expertise figure out your next steps? You might choose to bring outside support like TGRG.

We’ll spend time with your business talking to colleagues – having a third party can lead to more honest answers. We’ll identify the successes and areas of work within your business and create a strategy that can be handled by your Communications team long term.

Want to talk about it? Give us a non-obligatory call and we can discuss how we can help.

Until next time


Juanita Rosenior is the Managing Director at TGRG.