Sonia Fiorenza: Employees Want Better Company Communications
A communications professional for more than 20 years, Sonia Fiorenza is passionate about engaging every employee, from the frontline worker to the most senior executive. She describes her career as striving to “win the battle for employee attention and give them the news and information they need to thrive.” Her previous experience spans industries and Fortune 500 companies. She's now the vice president of communications and engagement strategies at SocialChorus, makers of the workplace communication platform, FirstUp.
At SocialChorus and beyond, Fiorenza is excited about the prospect of targeting messages to specific employees. "Digital platforms like SocialChorus give communicators the opportunity to target information, ensuring employees receive the information they need and avoid getting ‘spammed’ with information that’s not relevant to them."
SocialChorus is a sponsor of Simpler Media Group's Digital Workplace Experience Spring Event, taking place online on May 13. Fiorenza and her colleague, Brittany Barhite, will be co-presenting a session during the event titled, "Connecting a Global Workforce." We spoke with Fiorenza about the most underrated trend in digital experiences, how to avoid information overload while still communicating necessary information, and how to keep communication easy and seamless even as your company adopts new technology.
How Do You Measure the ROI of Communications?
Simpler Media Group: Where do you see the biggest gaps between the optimal digital employee experience and the reality? Why are companies missing the mark, and how can they do better?
Sonia Fiorenza: One of the biggest challenges is reaching every worker with the information they need, whether they work at their desk or on the frontline. Many intranets have a substantial amount of information for employees, but navigating and accessing the most relevant information remains a challenge in our fast-paced, mobile world.
To help better connect employees with relevant information, internal communicators need to find ways to reach employees. That means utilizing a platform to connect employees and targeting communications through the digital experience to help break through the noise.
[Another gap is that] communicators are often asked about the ROI and impact of their communications. Did employees receive the messages and act upon them? This has always been difficult to judge. Communication platforms, like SocialChorus, provide detailed analytics that can help solve the gap and provide real-time data — measuring outcomes and strategic initiatives — and allowing communicators to ensure they are reaching the right employees on the right channel at the right time.
SMG: What is the most underrated trend in digital employee experience? The most overrated trend? Why?
Fiorenza: The most underrated trend continues to be the employee mobile experience. Outside of work, people engage with their mobile phones substantially. There are over 3 billion smartphone users in the world right now. On average globally, people spend 3 hours and 15 minutes on their phones a day, and Americans spend more than 5 hours on their phones. That being said, companies are not utilizing the mobile phone enough to reach their workers, especially the frontline. Companies need to take advantage of mobile apps and opportunities.
As for an overrated trend, I keep hearing 'email is dead.' However, email is not dead; it’s just a bit broken. Data shows that desk employees still prefer email for communication. We as communicators could improve that experience by making the emails more relevant, engaging and targeted.
SMG: How do you see digital employee experience evolving in light of the pandemic? What does this accelerate for you? What does it hinder?
Fiorenza: COVID-19 has undoubtedly accelerated the need to connect employees digitally. Gallup reported in February that in the U.S. alone, 56% of workers are working remotely or part-time. Microsoft recently found that 70% of workers want flexible remote work options. Communication that used to be shared with desk employees via in-person team meetings, word of mouth or office signage needs to find new digital channels and outlets.
While the pandemic has been a challenging time for many people, it has helped companies realize the need to connect all employees. There was already a gap with frontline workers receiving relevant information. Now with more employees disconnected from the corporate office, it is essential to rapidly elevate and improve digital connections. In some ways, it’s democratized communications for office and frontline employees.
Cross-Team Collaboration Is Key to Digital Transformation Success
SMG: How can you balance communication overload with letting your people know everything they need to know, potentially on multiple platforms? How can digital solutions make it more simple to receive and organize information?
Fiorenza: As much as possible, utilizing a single communications platform is critical to help communicators organize information. And to help employees avoid communication overload, timely and targeted information is key. If you can give employees the information they need to know, when and where they need it, it can help employees engage with critical information.
Digital platforms like SocialChorus give communicators the opportunity to target information ensuring employees receive the information they need and avoid getting spammed with information that’s not relevant to them. Our orchestration engine uses both demographic and behavioral data, as well as campaign logic, to break through the noise and follow up with employees when they need to take action on specific initiatives.
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SMG: How can you make sure a digital transformation is a success? How do you make sure everyone involved is on board?
Fiorenza: Digital transformation is achieved through the collaboration across functions, including Communications, IT and HR. These change leaders help ensure the right platform, infrastructure, policies and change management is in place for the transformation.
While enabling the right communication platform is key, there are also other cultural and safety transformations that need to occur. To connect frontline workers, many need an improved connection to Wi-Fi or safe locations to access their mobile phones. Leaders need to adapt their management and communication styles to connect their virtual and global employees. Companies should think beyond implementing a communication platform and toward the cultural changes that need to evolve within their company.
Communication opportunities also need to be targeted and personalized. Employees want relevant and targeted information. Technology that can deliver targeted communication is essential. And local leaders — not necessarily, communication professionals — need to help with those messages. Employees pay the most attention to their direct leaders who are in the trenches with them daily.
SMG: How do you keep communication easy and seamless while also incorporating new technology and digital approaches in your platform? What is the most promising new technology for your business?
Fiorenza: It is an exciting time for communicators. Utilizing one platform to disseminate messages through a multi-channel approach can help communicators be more efficient and reach the right audiences. However, the real goal is to help employees work smarter — giving them the critical information they need to make their work lives easier.
A promising new technology at SocialChorus is what we call our Assistant. An employee’s assistant is available both on the browser and mobile phone, and it highlights critical information that an employee needs to see. This can be a leadership video that needs to be watched, a training to complete, or a new policy that requires review. This added feature to our platform further highlights critical information and to-dos to help employees, especially with communication overload.
SMG: What are the most important lessons you've learned about digital strategy and digital experiences throughout your career? What do you find especially important as a leader now?
Fiorenza: The most important lesson I have learned is that employees want company communications to be similar to consumer communications. Employees enjoy authentic, relevant and timely information. Communicators need to find a way to provide those opportunities to employees.
Communication is essential to employee engagement and productivity. Utilizing digital platforms, updating our communication philosophy to match the consumer world and leveraging our leaders to engage employees are all key to communication success. Furthermore, just like companies measure consumer engagement with communications, internal communicators need to review employee communications data to take the pulse of the organization.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another huge benefit of digital communications — connecting coworkers throughout the globe. This connection helps showcase employee diversity and promotes inclusivity. By connecting employees throughout the organization, it allows coworkers to share diverse thoughts and experiences with each other while ensuring all voices are heard. I’m hearing more and more customers say that digital transformation is a key component of their Diversity, Equity & Inclusion strategies — this is exciting to me to see yet another area for communications to have an impact.