If one of your objectives for 2017 is to improve internal communication at your organization, then start by committing to significant change. Small tweaks aren’t going to increase employees’ waning interest in communication; what’s needed is a gut renovation.

 Here are 7 things to change right now:

  1. Employee town halls. Most such meetings are simply boring, with too much content, droning speakers, little interaction–and they’re the same every time. There’s no rule that dictates that you have to manage town halls the way you’ve always done them. Start by trying a new technique (like breakout sessions) and telling everyone involved that this is a pilot. If it works, great; if not, you’ll try something else next time.
  2. Leader visibility. You’re probably investing most of leaders’ time in large-group, structured meetings (like town halls) and in packaged content (like professionally recorded videos or Q&A articles). That makes your leaders seem stiff, constrained and unapproachable. Seek more authenticity through small-group encounters and off-the-cuff remarks in microblogs or on internal social media.
  3. Letting leaders dictate how communication occurs. Senior executives don’t have much in common with most employees–leaders are older, richer, more educated and less hands-on. While it’s true that leaders are the clients, communication should be designed to meet the needs of the true customers–yes, that’s right, employees. So learn as much as you can about employees’ preferences, and use that knowledge to counsel leaders to communicate differently.
  4. Intranet/newsletter content. Be honest: Do you read this dreck? Far too many of the articles that get posted are no better than repackaged press releases, full of Corporate Speak and old news. To create content that employees will care about, answer their essential questions: What does this mean to me? What do I need to do differently?
  5. Emails. You knew I had to get here eventually because employees have a love-hate relationship with emails. They appreciate the ease of getting messages sent right to them, but despise the volume. So ask yourself how you can make emails more convenient and useful. (One hint: reduce the length of every email by at least 50%.)
  6. Writing. You’ll notice the irony right away: I’m writing a column telling you to write less, and to write differently. But I’ve learned the hard way that employees don’t have the time to read. They’ve become skilled skimmers. They want to look at visuals, catch the key words, take in the action steps, then move on. So, even if you were an English major (like me), stop writing so much. By chunking your content and making it scannable, you’ll be more successful at getting your message across.
  7. Lack of participation. Employees have to sit still during town halls, just listening to senior leaders speak. They read intranet content but can’t post their own. They watch videos but can’t rate or comment. What is this, a 21st Century company or eighth-grade detention? Stop fearing that if you let employees take part, they’ll misbehave. They’re adult professionals, for goodness sake. It’s time to realize that “communicate” is a verb, which means everyone should be able to participate.

Ready to make internal communication much, much better? Start now to meet employees’ needs.