5 steps to engage hard to reach staff

hard to reach staff
Finding ways to engage hard to reach staff is a common challenge for internal communicators. But for communicators in the NHS it is even harder because of the sheer quantity of people employed by the NHS.

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5 steps to better engage your hard to reach staff

Due to the diverse nature of roles and work patterns, the NHS has a big pool of people that are classified as ‘hard to reach’. From those in the facilities team without access to a computer to those working at home due to COVID restrictions – communicating with everyone is an enormous challenge. 

It therefore comes as no surprise that in a recent survey we conducted with internal communication professionals, 27% said an inability to engage their hard-to-reach staff is their greatest challenge right now. So, let’s explore what you can do to better engage these people.

1. Select your channels and get buy-in

How you are going to communicate is the first hurdle to overcome. If you are reading this blog, it suggests the channels you currently use are not effective. But before you discard them and start from scratch, first consider why they aren’t effective. It may be that your existing channels are the right mode of communication, but the culture surrounding them needs to shift.

Manager and senior leadership buy-in is absolutely critical. They need to set an example to your staff. They need to be seen using the communication channels and they need to spread the message that it is acceptable to take time to participate in those channels. They also need to spread the wider purpose; the reasons for the communications. Nail this and you are already well on your way to improving your reach.

So what about the channels? There are many to consider:

  • Team briefings
  • Newsletters
  • Emails
  • Posters and signage
  • Screen savers
  • An Internal communication software app
  • Letters
  • An intranet
  • Social media channels
  • Text messages
  • Company Events
  • Employee Staff surveys

It is highly likely you will select a few different channels. In fact, in the study we carried out, most organisations have at least 3 channels to communication with their staff. As the provider of an internal communication solution, we are obviously advocates of using technology but, ultimately, you need to consider what is right for your staff.

If you’re unsure, carry out a survey to find out more about your hard-to-reach staff. That way you will be confident in your decisions.

2. Harness your advocates

Humans are like sheep. We are more likely to join in and get involved when we see others doing so. Therefore advocates could really help you. Identify who is engaged within your hard-to-reach communities and use their enthusiasm to spread your messages wider. Encourage them to promote the channels you are using and work closely with them to gauge feedback.

3. Engage rather than broadcast

The moment you start broadcasting information through your channels is the moment you risk disengaging your staff. Where possible, segment your staff so that the communications they receive are only relevant to them. If everything they receive is interesting, they’ll keep reading.

As you put a communication together always consider what’s in it for the reader. How is that information going to help them and what do you want them to do. By keeping these basics in mind, you will write communications for your staff rather than for your leadership team.

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4. Consider your timings

When you communicate could make a real difference to your engagement levels so consider your audience carefully. Are there particularly busy times during the week/month that you should avoid for example?

You may also want to consider creating a communication schedule so that your staff become familiar with when they are going to receive set communications. Routine is a large part of our lives, both at work and at home. Having a familiar schedule will really help with engagement, encouraging staff to take a few moments at the same time each week/month.

5. Measure and take action

You now have your channels in place, buy-in from those that can influence engagement, and a solid strategy for how and when to communicate. The final string in your bow is to know how successful your communications are. Without this insight you are working blind and will never truly know how engaged your staff are.

Our internal communications software tracks the interactions with every communication you send. You can compare them side-by-side so that you can see what your staff have engaged with and what they haven’t.

How you collate and analyse data on the effectiveness of your communications is up to you. Just make sure you have a way to measure your success. And when you have the data, ensure the insight is used otherwise you will be back to square one.

Good luck on your journey to engage with more of your staff. It won’t be quick, but if you incorporate all five of these steps, you will see the results.

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darren hepburn

Darren Hepburn

Operations Director

Passionate about using my 30 yearsof owning my own businesses to help create better workplace environments.  A Bon Jovi loving TikTok junkie. I spend most of my time thinking about the impact technology is having on our society. And my pug Winston…

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