Internal Audio: Rethinking Internal Communication & Employee Engagement

18 Feb 2022 - 4 min read

It’s as if people feared using audio in the workplace… Until they didn’t.

Imagine you’re a field sales rep. It’s 2020, and your laptop is buzzing with news and chit-chat from colleagues, announcements from corporate, new methodologies from HR. Every work-related conversation is now text. Or email.

Aren reaches you on Teams to schedule an “sync call.” Eva wants to talk about company values on Yammer. But you’re in the car, driving to your next client. You jsut can’t read another text!! You don’t want to. But even if you did, you wouldn’t have the time. Then, someone shifts things a little by recording what they have to say. Before you realize it, small pseudo-podcasts start circulating on all the company social platforms.

That’s when Novo Nordisk understood that audio as a communication medium was a popular pick among a handful of its employees. Fast-forward to 2022, the Danish company took a leap of fate with private podcasting and landed on its feet with 19,334 plays from 7,439 users.

Their reason: the desire to mirror how people communicate outside work. And they report it is a success.

The extolling of audio in the workplace

In the last few years, media consumers demanded more video content on their social media platforms. 79% of US consumers believe streaming platforms make them happy. And Google reports that many internet users find watching videos a pleasant pastime.

“In times of uncertainty, digital video can be a wellspring of positivity.”

Marketers nowadays and businesses alike spend more time and resources producing video content because they feel it better engages their audience than any other form of content. At least, if you have the budget for it!

Considering this surge of video, how can audio improve internal comms? And does this mean that employers should create video content too? Well, no.

When it comes to engaging employees, we keep going back to what Jeremiah Owyang said: “Social Audio is the “Goldilocks Medium”, text social networks are not enough, video conferencing is too much, social audio is just right.”

So, what’s right about audio?

Audio gives out more context than text

Higher comprehension. Less miscommunication.

Sending out the wrong message in text is so damn easy.

People can misinterpret written messages. They can read between the lines.

Tim Sanders reports that, when reading texts, only 7% of people can decode the message or the intention of the author.

Yet, audio makes it easier to understand intention and context, thus increasing comprehension to 38%.

Convenience for employees.

A typical employee is reluctant to read long texts. It tires them and stops them from doing anything else on the side.

However, audio doesn’t require the full attention of its audience. In fact, your employees can listen to the podcast while doing groceries or driving from one place to another-as Novo Nordisk field sales reps were.

And the key benefit is that employees can listen to internal audio whenever they want.

  • Remote workers living in different time zones can listen to internal audio when it’s convenient for them.
  • It allows employees to tune in as many times as they need to fully understand the message.
  • Listening to company podcasts doesn’t wear them out as much as reading articles, emails, or slack announcements.

Fewer distractions

In a dispute between the superiority of audio versus video, one point goes out to audio for offering fewer distractions.

We have identified a few factors that impede the audience from fully receiving the message.

  • People judge harshly spelling mistakes.
  • Visual content distracts the audience from what’s being said.
  • People zone out during virtual conferences.
  • People concentrate too much on their physical aspect when appearing on camera or video.

Audio elegantly avoids all these.

But do you know what counteracts distractions like no other?

Telling stories instead of sending dull internal comms

Storytelling is the foundation of sharing knowledge. And, indeed, stories keep you hooked. Childhood through seniority.

Some may say we are social creatures that have constructed their apprehension through stories; that used stories to pass on knowledge or to better understand the world.

**Nevertheless, storytelling is not dead. **

Water cooler chats have the same effect. Only you’re not aware of it. So do meetings, presentations, and office banter.

Even our body tells us we're made for storytelling. Whenever we hear a story, we create oxytocin—some chemical that makes us feel connection and empathy.

Now, you might not be familiar with how to tell a story. And you may not have the time to write corporate chronicles.

(Side note: no one would read them anyway.)

But recording yourself telling those stories will do the job. That’s because behind the company message is a human voice, making it more personal. And less corporate.

While text messages alienate the reader, audio connects the audience to the author.** It builds trust and empathy—and you want your employees to feel a connection to the company they're working for.

Incentivizing employee wellbeing

Forget decreased employee engagement. Ignoring the physical and mental health of your employees will drive your business into the ground. You don’t believe that?

98% of managers agree that the mental well-being of their team directly affects their business.

While they report reduced productivity in the last year (aka 2020), they don’t believe that the root cause is the budget cuts, project delays, or remote work adjustments.

But the stress and information overload that inhibit the motivation of their employees.

The flexibility that internal audio provides to employees could be of help. While they will spend normal work hours at the designated work desk (or couch), employees could use the allotted time for internal comms to go for a short hike.

Then work will feel a bit more like a walk in the park. Like, really!

Audio feeding higher employee engagement

Do you feel like you tried every trick in the book? Historically, all of those have been text-heavy.

2020 and 2021 proved that standard working environments are not a gateway to high work performance.

But perhaps you already know that.

And if you do, you also know now that there is a better way of doing things. You just need to test it out.

Why not experiment with something new this year?