Remaking the Association Workplace
Staff Well-Being

Want to Improve Your Workplace’s Culture? Focus on Your Internal Content Strategy

In this article:
Your association may know how to send strong messages to the public, but how strong is its internal messaging?

By Melissa Bouma

It’s a sensitive time for workplace culture, with many organizations going hybrid. And when things seem like they’re diverging, it can lead to an organizational exodus that can be hard to correct for.

For nonprofits and associations, their mission is often enough to get employees in the door—but is it enough to encourage them to stay? Let’s take a look at the role a strong content strategy can play in staff retention.

What Do We Mean by Strong Internal Communication?

There’s a concept known as psychological safety, or the shared belief within a team that it is safe to take risks and be your true self at work, without fear of negative personal or professional consequences. Content can go a long way toward creating psychological safety because, if you think about it, content is just another form of communication. And what makes people feel more safe than to be included in the conversation?

Interestingly, when organizations do employee surveys, respondents almost always report a lack of communication within the group. Part of the reason for this may rest in the fact that communication in a workplace often takes a lot of forms—from individual emails to team messaging—which means that unless you use all these channels wisely and clearly, some people are always at risk of being left in the dark.

The bottom line is that organizations that do communication well often stand a better chance of keeping their employees happy.

Content can go a long way toward creating psychological safety because, if you think about it, content is just another form of communication. And what makes people feel more safe than to be included in the conversation?

Treat Internal Channels Like Social Networks

So, how can you maximize your internal communication? One place to start is on your internal networks, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, which can be used like public-facing social networks in many ways.

Running a fun Slack channel where people are encouraged to interact, for example, can bring out creativity in your team that can prove fruitful elsewhere within the organization.

(The challenge, of course, is in finding the right spark of inspiration to build from.)

However, to my earlier point about multiple channels of communication potentially leading to exclusion, the key is to use your messaging channels with care. Be sure your employees know when and for what purpose to use Slack and email, who needs to be included in various communications, and what the expected response times are. The more specific you can be, the better for everyone.

Create Camaraderie Through Internal Events

Another way to boost your workplace culture is through events. Associations are often pros at putting on events for the outside world, but there’s something to be said about creating events targeted to your internal teams. Consider it a culture play. At Manifest, we have emphasized programming diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) content throughout the year, with speakers who help make employees aware of different kinds of experiences. Offering programming that reinforces what your organization cares about helps to encourage the culture you want to build.

And what is a meeting if not an event? To that end, you might also consider other ways to share information in your meetings beyond just making an agenda and ticking off each item. In a hybrid world, the goal should be engagement, not recitation, even if that means that basic information-sharing happens some other way—for example, on an employee-only microsite. Here’s one idea for sprucing up your meetings: Start it with a quiz, poll, or contest that gets—and keeps—people engaged.

Adjust Your Content Strategy to Your Organization

Now, not every organization will have the same content needs. For example, small organizations might find that emails or digital newsletters are enough. Whereas larger organizations (think Dell or Microsoft) may instead turn a staff meeting into an interactive video experience. Ultimately, the goal should be to highlight your organization’s authentic self in a transparent way—so that your employees can see themselves reflected in the group.

One reason that’s so important is that when big changes happen within the organization, employees won’t be quite so surprised by them, and will be better able to pivot.

A good content strategy may not solve every problem you have—but it certainly doesn’t have to focus on external benefits alone. Who knows? It could just be what brings your team together.

Melissa Bouma, CEO of Manifest, has more than 15 years of experience building insight-driven branding and content strategy, with a client base representing large companies, major universities, and prominent associations.

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