Communication Strategies at a Fortune 500 Company:
The Impact on Performance

By Maria D. Simmons


Abstract

Organizations eager to accomplish strategic goals establish well-defined communications strategies. A well-defined strategy is one that engages employees and aligns with the organization's business goals. A close tie between business, performance technology, and communication strategies will focus understanding and support for the direction of the organization. While various combinations of performance interventions have been developed to help build a high performing organization, they cannot be effective without a communications program. Effective communications build awareness and/or motivate to action, explain a program's value to employees as well as solicit employee's buy-in. In this paper you will read about communication strategies that enhance performance, employed by Intel Corporation a Fortune 500 and world-class organization. Dennis A. Simmons, Materials People Systems Program Manager, shares the Materials Communications strategy, delivery channels, value, and the impact their communications have on performance.

Intel's Materials Communication Strategies and the Impact on Performance
Organizations eager to accomplish strategic goals establish well-defined communications strategies. A well-defined strategy is one that engages employees and aligns with the organization's business goals. The Materials Communications group at Intel was created to assure employees received useful, timely, and consistent communications. They partner with performance technologist and the line of business to ascertain that communications support and enhance performance throughout the organization. In this paper, you will read about the Materials Communications strategy, technology driven delivery channels, and the impact this communications effort has on performance in the organization.

Strategy
The Materials Communications strategy is to deliver communications that are timely accurate, effective, and efficient. The objectives for their communications are to create effects, maintain effects, increase effects, and decrease effects. These objectives are directly linked to enchasing performance that meets the strategic goals of the organization and the line of business they support. Communications that create effects focus is on that which did not exist before - - new awareness, a fresh attitude, and a new behavior by the target audience. This strategy leads to communications about a change and they create excitement and motivation. Communications that maintain effects focus on continuing the level of comprehension, and keeping the present rate of participation. Communications that increase effects seek to bring about growth, increasing favorable attitudes causing a larger retention rate and expanding awareness. Communications that decrease effects, conversely, focus on subtraction, lessening criticism, reducing disharmony, decreasing turnover, and softening opposition.

For each communication Materials Communications at Intel conducts a seven-step needs assessment designed to get a "quick start" on planning and designing communications. Table 1.1 illustrates the planning step used by Materials Communications and the definition of each step (D. Simmons, personal communication February 9, 2004).

Delivery Channels
"Our communications are creative, motivating, and often very entertaining. They keep us all moving in the same and right direction. Conducting a thorough analysis of the audience helps us determine the appropriate delivery channel" (D. Simmons, personal communication February 9, 2004). The Materials Communications Group provides a full range of online tools and services to help the line of business they support with their communication needs. As one would expect they have embraced information technology and use it very effectively and creatively. Their approach is to communicate using the appropriate technology that best meets their objectives. Materials Voices is a biweekly electronic newsletter sent to all employees. This communication contains links to the various technology driven delivery channels used at Intel. The links within the newsletter may take an employee to a video, a voice message, or a message within an internal website. Employees who want more interaction can sign on to the CyberTalk, a chat room where directors and content experts from different business units are available online to answer questions. All communication links are sent to employees via email and accessed from the Materials Business at your Desktop Website. The popular M.TV (Materials TV) videos produced by the communications team range in topics from safety requirements, to new systems and tools, and many other hot topics. These are just a few of the many ways in which Intel communicates to enhance performance.

Good communications focus on effects, are clear, specific, measurable, and time bound. Our communication objectives tell us what we are aiming for. They describe the impact we want to make on our audience, giving us a glimpse of the end result. Specifically we are interested in effect objectives. They focus not on the tools but rather on what we want accomplished with these tools (D. Simmons, personal communication February 9, 2004).

Value
We know that some of the most successful companies create a workforce that understands the mission, goals, values and procedures of the organization (Bacal, R. 2004). An example of how communications at Intel enhance performance is how they maintain their incident and injury free environment. Safety is one of their strategic objectives and core value. Their new employee core curriculum includes a three-hour Incident and Injury Free course. Ninety days after course completion a level three evaluation indicates that employees are demonstrating safety behaviors. Many organizations would feel confident that employees would continue to demonstrate safety behaviors solely because employees received training and the training accomplished its objectives. This is a risk Intel is not willing to take. Communications support all training and non-training performance interventions on the topic of safety. Their goal is for employees at Intel to reach level five of Krathwohl's Affective Domain (Krathwohl, 1964). To maintain a high level of awareness, a series of musical notes resonate through the intercom system three times each day. If you happen to walk in at that time, you may observe employees standing, stretching, or doing a series on exercise at their desk. Some may elect to continue working, however the awareness of safety is created just the same. Recently three new exercises that employees can perform at their desk to reduce stress related injury was communicated via M.TV video. The safety exercises were also communicated in each staff meeting and reinforced by managers. This is an example of how Intel reinforces performance and behaviors through communications.

Impact
Knowing the desired performance outcome of a specific communication (awareness, acceptance, and action) is an essential step. For example, you may want to build a level of awareness with respect to a new business initiative and the training available. Alternatively, you may want to sustain a desired level of retention with information, image, and name recognition over time (acceptance). Finally you may also want to motivate target audiences to take specific action in a relatively short time frame.

Communications at Intel enhance performance by increasing the likelihood that employees maintain a value system that controls their behavior for a sufficiently long period of time for them to have developed a characteristic "life style". Thus the behavior is pervasive, consistent, and predictable. Other performance interventions paired with communication outcomes at this level cover a broad range of activities, but the major emphasis is on the fact that the behavior is typical or characteristic of the employee. According to a special report (Bacal, R. 2004), the intent of creating such cultures is not to dominate or control employees, but to "aim" them at a set of common goals on which they can act every day.

Conclusion
Communications are an integral component of any performance improvement approach. High-impact interventions should be enhanced interventions. They increase the power and longevity of the intervention (Stlovitch and Keeps 1999). At Intel communicators, performance technologist, and line management, work together to establish proactive, well-defined high impact communications.

References

Bacal, R. (2004). Internal Communication Strategies - The Neglected Strategic Element. Retrieved February 3, 2004 from http://performance-appraisals.org/Bacalsappraisalarticles/articles/comstrat.htm

Krathwohl, D.R., Bloom, B.S., and Masia, B.B. (1964). Taxonomy of educational objectives: Handbook II: Affective domain. New York: David McKay Co.

Stolovitch, H. & Keeps, E editors, (1999). (Eds.) The Handbook of Human Performance Technology, second edition. SF: Jossey Bass.

Author Note

Maria D. Simmons
Instructional Designer

 

Back to top | Back to Menu