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Is the “White Noise” Effect Killing Your Internal Communications?


In a typical company, employees are bombarded with messaging and directives from their managers, executives, HR, marketing, training and development, health and safety team, events committee… the list seems endless. With so many different sources of information, each with their own voice sending messages with indiscernible urgency, it’s difficult for employees to prioritize what truly needs their attention and action. The net result: they tune it all out, assuming that if it’s a true priority for them in their role someone will speak to them about it directly. This is what’s known as the “white noise” effect, and it’s one of the most challenging obstacles to effective internal communications.

The white noise effect is a problem that’s been exacerbated by the information age. There’s simply too much messaging coming at us on a daily basis, so we’ve all developed a sort of messaging filter to preserve our sanity. Unfortunately, these filters—which carry over into our working lives—tend to ditch the baby with the bathwater, failing to separate the important information from the chaff.

From an internal communications perspective, the consequences of white noise can be extremely costly: corporate priorities aren’t heard or understood by those responsible for carrying them out, and employees become disconnected from the mission and core values of the company. This in turn contributes to a lack of engagement—or willingness among employees to put in the extra effort to see the company succeed—largely because they aren’t clear on how they can contribute to that success (or why they should care to).

How can an organization eliminate the white noise effect from its internal communications?

First, you’ll need a thorough understanding of your company’s internal communication landscape. If you have half a dozen (or more) different sources of messaging, it’s time to slay that communications hydra. With so many voices, it’s unlikely that all of the information that’s being pushed out is resonating with your people. Instead, seek to create alignment among your different channels of communication. Put a gatekeeper in place to coordinate the delivery of outbound communications, and to ensure that all messaging is developed consistently and is true to your brand voice.

It’s also important to make sure the right message is being delivered to the right people. We all recognize the importance of thinking and working as a unified team, but your employees are individuals and roles within each department can vary significantly. There’s rarely a “one size fits all” message; to fully engage your employees it’s necessary to target the different communities of relevance within your organization and communicate with them in a way that creates a line-of-sight between their roles and how they contribute to the success of the company.

Eliminating the white noise effect means taking a more strategic approach to internal communications. Dedicate care and resources to developing your internal messaging the same way you do with your external messaging, because it’s just as important.

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