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Interview with Danijela Lalić
University of Paris Nanterre, France
Dr. Danijela Lalić is a full professor at the Department of Industrial Engineering and Management, Faculty of Technical Sciences, at the University of Novi Sad. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses, including academic and professional subjects such as the Master of Business Administration (MBA). Her research interests encompass public relations, corporate communications, and business communication, with a specific focus on social media, digital communications, and internal communication. She has authored over 80 scientific and professional publications. Her PR handbook, titled “Examples of Good Practices in Public Relations” (volumes 1–3), is widely regarded as an outstanding resource for professionals and students with an interest in communication. Additionally, she has authored the book “Corporate Communication as a Prime Example.” Dr. Lalić also served as the editor and lead translator of the textbook “Business Communication Today,” published by Pearson Education.
Prof. Lalic, internal communication is a primary field of research for you. You have studied the relationship between internal communication satisfaction (ICS), employee engagement, and, ultimately, employee happiness. Can you give us some details? What are the most effective strategies of internal communication that organizations can employ in order to enhance employee engagement?
Internal communication serves as a critical foundation for information exchange, collaboration, and alignment within organizations. The intricate relationship between internal communication satisfaction, employee engagement, and employee happiness underscores the importance of creating a positive communication environment. Such an environment cultivates trust, transparency, and collaboration, ultimately leading to higher employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall happiness. Our research highlights two key findings in this regard.
First, satisfaction with communication with superiors strongly correlates with employee vigor and dedication. This emphasizes the significance of establishing an internal communication strategy where managers are accessible to their subordinates, demonstrating understanding and support. Such an approach fosters an energetic and dedicated workforce with a strong sense of self-worth. Second, successful communication between colleagues immerses employees in their work, resulting in increased subjective happiness.
While internal communication satisfaction plays a vital role, other factors can influence the relationship between communication, engagement, and happiness. Organizational culture, leadership style, recognition, empowerment, career development opportunities, as well as individual motivation, personality traits, and work-life integration, all contribute to the outcomes of this relationship.
Understanding and nurturing the connection between internal communication satisfaction, employee engagement, and employee happiness holds immense implications for organizations. By prioritizing effective internal communication practices, organizations can enhance employee engagement and foster a positive work environment that promotes happiness. In turn, this can lead to improved job performance, reduced turnover, and overall organizational success.
To enhance employee engagement through internal communication, organizations can implement several effective strategies. These strategies revolve around transparent, timely, and two-way communication that encourages active participation from employees. Here are some of the most effective strategies:
Leaders play a crucial role in driving employee engagement through effective communication. They should proactively communicate organizational goals, vision, and strategies to inspire and align employees. Regularly sharing updates, recognizing employee contributions, and providing constructive feedback can significantly impact engagement levels.
Open and Transparent Communication
Organizations should strive for openness and transparency in their communication practices. This involves sharing relevant information about company goals, strategies, and performance openly with employees. Transparent communication helps employees feel valued, informed, and included in decision-making processes, leading to increased engagement.
Facilitating two-way communication channels is essential for employee engagement. It allows employees to provide feedback, share ideas, and voice concerns. Employers can employ various tools such as surveys, suggestion boxes, online portals, town hall meetings, and regular one-on-one discussions to encourage open dialogue and active participation.
Utilization of Various Communication Channels
Employing a variety of communication channels caters to different employee preferences and needs. These can include emails, intranet platforms, instant messaging tools, video conferences, social media groups, and internal blogs. Diverse channels enable employees to choose their preferred method of communication, promoting engagement and accessibility.
Regular and Timely Communication
Consistent and timely communication is essential to keep employees informed about organizational updates, changes, and initiatives. Establishing regular communication channels, such as weekly newsletters, team meetings, or email updates, ensures employees receive relevant information in a timely manner, reducing uncertainty and enhancing engagement.
Employee Recognition and Appreciation
Recognizing and appreciating employee efforts and achievements through internal communication channels can boost engagement. This can include highlighting success stories, acknowledging milestones, and publicly expressing gratitude for exceptional work. Recognized employees feel valued and motivated, leading to increased engagement and satisfaction.
Clear and Aligned Communication of Expectations
Providing clear and concise communication about job expectations, performance goals, and career development opportunities is crucial for engaging employees. When employees understand what is expected of them, they can align their efforts and contributions accordingly, resulting in increased engagement and productivity.
Training and Development
Promoting training and development opportunities within the organization demonstrates an investment in employee growth. Sharing information about workshops, seminars, online courses, and mentoring programs contributes to higher engagement levels.
Feedback and Follow-Up
Encouraging regular feedback and following up on employee concerns and suggestions demonstrates value and leads to positive changes within the organization. Addressing feedback promptly and sharing outcomes fosters a culture of engagement and continuous improvement.
By implementing these strategies, organizations can create a communication-rich environment that nurtures employee engagement, fosters a sense of belonging, and ultimately contributes to a more productive and satisfied workforce.
You are also studying how new technologies can be successfully used in improving workers’ productivity, enhancing employee training, reducing costs and making worksites safer. What technologies will be must-haves for HR managers in the future?
As the world of work continues to evolve, HR managers are constantly seeking innovative solutions to improve productivity, enhance employee training, reduce costs, and create safer work environments. In this quest, the integration of new technologies plays a pivotal role.
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) technologies are at the forefront of digital support for HR managers. AR offers users the ability to view the real world with a digital overlay, while VR provides a fully immersive and closed experience, disconnecting users from the physical environment.
The transformative power of VR and AR in recent years cannot be overstated. These technologies have evolved from being solely used for entertainment purposes, such as in the gaming industry, to becoming modern and potentially effective tools in the business environment. HR managers can now leverage VR and AR for various purposes, including employee training, recruitment, marketing, branding, and other operational processes such as measurement, 3D visualization, and modeling. By utilizing VR and AR, HR managers can not only assess the skills and competencies of candidates or employees but also identify their strengths and weaknesses.
One significant application of VR and AR in HR is the implementation of gamification in talent attraction and hiring processes. By offering an immersive experience, companies can conduct recruiting and staff selection more efficiently while showcasing their brand to potential employees. Early studies indicate that VR makes learning and skill utilization easier, while also increasing employee engagement compared to traditional training methods. However, the wider adoption of VR and AR is hindered by the challenges posed by cost and technology implementation complexity.
In addition to VR and AR, several other new technologies are worth exploring for HR managers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning offer immense potential in streamlining HR processes, improving decision-making, and analyzing large amounts of data. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can automate repetitive tasks, freeing up HR professionals to focus on more strategic initiatives. Furthermore, employee wellness technologies, such as wearables, can play a crucial role in promoting a healthy and productive workforce.
As we step into the future, HR managers need to stay abreast of these emerging technologies and leverage their benefits to drive organizational success. While VR and AR present exciting opportunities, the integration of other technologies can elevate the employee experience. By embracing these must-have technologies, HR managers can proactively adapt to the changing landscape of work and empower their organizations for continued growth and success.
One of your further fields of interest is visual communication: in recent paper you go through a relevant literature review about redesigning and rebranding imposed by crises mainly focusing on how companies developed memorable, public-educational visual brand communication during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you share some key findings with us?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, large companies and global brands tried to communicate the important message of social distancing. The brand response to crisis such as pandemic most often involved encouraging people to act or adopt a state that reflects consideration and empathy, and social responsibility with social distancing was the focus. Visual communication was crucial, because it is the most effective on people.
Logos are sacrosanct for brands but during the pandemic these were increasingly becoming tools to promote social distancing amid the corona virus outbreak. Physical distancing helped limit the spread of COVID-19, and hopefully brands did the same by separating the visual elements within their logos. One of my favorites of visual communication during the pandemic is the case of The Olympic Games that have separated their circles which represents the union of the five continents of the world. Face mask was one of the most important items during this pandemic and everyone should wear on. One of my favorite coffee brand Starbucks has transformed this potential problem while drinking a coffee into a creative solution by putting the mask on their logo mermaid. The silhouette of Lakers great and Hall of Famer Jerry West has been standing and dribbling for over 50 years on NBA’s logo, but during the pandemic, this silhouette took a break and stayed home. How genius is that! Nike was also saying: “just don’t do it” and many other brands have followed this trend of redesigning their logos or tagline.
The communication brand strategy during the pandemic was threefold: taking advantage of the digital world, using resources efficiently and creatively and making an affirmative movement.
The crisis has imposed a new trend: the brand needs to be careful and offer a solution. My experience shows that during the crisis, every brand must be an empathetic brand. And a great number of global brands have focused their communication on “we’re all in this together” vibe. They have adopted a positive tone by highlighting gratitude, motivation and support through its visual content, and the main communication has moved to digital platforms and social media and become viral. Special efforts were noticed in building an emotional connection with consumers and strengthening social engagement, given that crisis situations like pandemic require a customized approach and placing marketing goals in a more socially responsible framework. Theory knows this stuff, but last three years show us that visual elements play a great role in brand communication and that this strategy has a great deal of potential to strengthen the brand’s reputation. As a professor, practitioner and a consumer I think that brand content and brand communication must take into account particularly the visual component in order to capture viewers’ attention and maintain customer loyalty.