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How internal communication teams can use visual communication to build a strong company culture

Think about companies that have a vibrant culture. What are the ingredients for a company culture where employees share in every company win, stay on long-term, and contribute meaningfully to the company’s mission and vision? And why is company culture so important to begin with?

According to Bhushan Sethi, Global Leader for People at PwC, companies who dedicate resources to developing culture:

“maintain a sense of community better, innovate with a higher degree of success, and deliver better business results.”

Feeling included leads to strong employee engagement, and communication is key to employees feeling like they are part of the team — making it a must-have aspect of positive company culture. The past several years have shown the absolute necessity of transparent leadership and how employees have grown to expect frequent company updates and milestones. Employees also want to work for companies that share their values; employer expectations for employees in 2021 include company culture and transparency at the top of the list.

Research from Entromy revealed that employees in 2021 now expect regular communication from their organization in the form of “frequent, transparent, and personalized communication across broad areas of the business, operations, and leaders’ intents.”

In fact, prioritizing the employee experience and strong team culture is critical to business success. In 2020, however, only 42% of employees considered their day-to-day employee experience to be positive.

So, how can companies improve their culture using visual communication strategies? Let’s dive in.

Why use visual communication to build culture? Why is it important?

To start, let’s take a look at why visual communication is linked with solid company culture and helps to engage employees.

  • #1: Tone from the top
  • #2: Technology and tools
  • #4: Development and training
  • #5: Formal communications
  • #6: Employee networks
  • #7: Engagement networks
  • #9: Visible signals from leaders

Visual communication appeals to a wider audience of employees and caters to the majority of the population who identifies as being visual learners.

A few key statistics and facts about the power of visual communication show how effective visual content is for retaining and processing information:

In addition to being a better way to learn and receive information, personalized communication with employees contributes to improving company culture, offering a competitive advantage for businesses. PwC data from 2021 showed that nearly 70% of organizations report that prioritising company culture offers them a competitive advantage.

What are visual communication skills?

Being a skilled visual communicator doesn’t come naturally to everyone.

Developing visual communication skills requires an understanding of the content itself and basic design principles. When attempted by those who don’t have the right tools or information, visual content can send the wrong message, or obscure the message, which is something that internal comms teams want to avoid.

Key graphic design strategies to factor in when creating visual communication content are:

  1. Use the right dimensions for the medium. For example, social media images have recommended image sizes.
  2. Embrace white space. Less is more and will help convey your message more effectively.
  3. Use complementary colors. Colors that complement, but don’t clash are the key. Try the color palette tool to find pre-made color combinations.
  4. Include brand elements. Use elements that help bolster your brand identity like colors, logos, and fonts.
  5. Use templates. When in doubt, use a content template to avoid design mistakes or for inspiration.

The advantages of visual communication content that is designed well include reaching new audiences, engaging with more individuals, better communicating important messages, and helping recipients to retain the information more easily.

What are some examples of visual communication for teams?

Teams use visual communication whether they realize it or not. Is your team a big fan of the /giphy feature on Slack? You’re communicating using visual tools! Teams can use visual communication through the sharing of information using images, videos, GIFs, PDFs, presentations, social media images, animations, infographics, and reports.

Sharing information is helpful, and some visual communication tools even allow for real-time collaboration between team members. When visual content is shared in a live, editable document, teams can create and distribute internal content more easily and at scale.

How do communication teams use visual communication?

Internal communications teams have to put out content at a fast clip that incorporates company branding. Communication teams use visual communication to share social media images, company event invitations, leadership videos, company milestones, annual reports, and other company communications.

Internal communication teams at enterprise organizations distribute this content across channels using targeting and segmentation, then track engagement to understand what groups of employees want more of.

Since company communications set the tone for company culture, brand and comms teams can minimize off-brand content or “rogue” design by using brand approval workflows and collaborative design software to minimise back-and-forth.

Ways to use visual communication to build team culture

66% of executives think that culture impacts performance more than an operating model or company strategy. It’s a worthy investment in people and creates opportunities to hear employee voices, establish relationships with company leaders, and even make better group decisions.

Here are the ways that high-performing organizations use visual content to build company culture effectively.

1. Videos from leadership or created by employees

Senior management reports feeling more connected to company purpose than other employees. To help bridge this disconnect, companies can use video to put a face behind emails or company announcements using video messaging. Consider scheduling a regular leadership update video or quarterly leadership panel to connect with employees at scale.

Using team templates, employees can make and share branded videos on social media, which help grow brand awareness. These can be employee event wrap-up videos, “day in the life” videos to share company culture with potential candidates, or videos to share company achievements or milestones.

2. Visual company announcements

72% of senior managers believe that a strong culture helps change initiatives to happen more successfully. When company announcements happen or major company updates are going to occur, create transparent visual messaging to communicate how and when these changes will happen, and how they will affect employees.

Using animated explainer videos can help break down complex changes and improve the outcomes and staying power of changes in the workplace.

3. Annual reports and company updates

Annual reports give employees detailed information about company growth and progress, and can be an opportunity to have some fun and showcase your brand. Often shared publicly, a fun annual report can be a great way to attract new employees or investors and can be a source of helpful data that can be shared using data visualizations.

Alt: annual report template with gold and gray accent colors

Take a look at some annual report templates, like this clean gold and white modern company annual report template.

4. Data visualizations on team or company progress

Not a designer? Templates can help. Data visualizations help people process large amounts of information and even draw better conclusions and better understand the big picture. Data visualizations can be used in social media images, annual reports, team meetings, strategy and planning documents, presentations, and anywhere else data is displayed visually.

5. Company event flyers

Company events like happy hours, team building events, holiday parties, and team gatherings deserve their own proper invitation and can make team members feel included, especially newbies.

Blue square company image template that reads “new hires welcome lunch, get to know your new colleagues, Jan. 15, 2019, 11:30 am, portal tech lunchroom, everyone is invited!”

6. Company culture handbook

HubSpot’s culture code is a public presentation deck that’s (currently) 128 slides long and evolves and changes as the company grows. A company culture deck is a perfect marriage of using visual communication to build a positive team culture. Documenting your company’s mission, vision, and values can help employees better understand what they’re working for, and help new team members get a sense of the organization right from the start.

HubSpot’s culture code cover page with an orange background and white text that reads “the hubspot culture code. Creating a company we love.”

Explore company culture templates here. (P.S With Canva, you get unlimited team members, so you can share culture docs with new hires, no matter how big or small your team is.)

7. Shareable social media images

Social media marketing is effective for lead generation and brand awareness, and it also represents an important part of building a culture of accountability, discourse, and conversation among individual employees. And including visuals is an important way to encourage engagement— Tweets with video see 10x the engagement of those without video.

Experiment with branded social images for your next Twitter recruiting event or roundtable, and take a look at premium content and social scheduling in Canva to see how you can save time and automate more of the social content creation process on your team.

8. Company presentations

15% of company time is spent in meetings, but employees report that 2-5 hours per day is wasted on unproductive meetings and calls. Presentations play a key factor in contributing to efficient and productive meeting time. By integrating collaborative presentations and providing visuals, meetings can actually become shorter and have better outcomes, which makes employees happier and more satisfied.

Using visuals during meetings and in groups has been shown to improve decision-making times, reduce meeting times, and allow for a better process to reach a consensus. When people feel they can better understand complex data or topics with visualizations, and have an understanding of the bigger picture, they are more likely to feel engaged at work, which improves company culture and individual performance.

Take a look at company presentation templates to get inspired.

9. Memes and GIFs

Meme marketing is officially a thing. Millennials look at 20-30 memes a day, and consumers between 13-35 send memes daily. Memes and GIFs have become part of the lexicon of the younger generations and aren’t going anywhere.

Memes see high levels of engagement (very high: 60% organic engagement and 10x the reach of standard posts), and are innately shareable, since they’re based in relatable humour. Think about how your internal comms team can jump on meme trends, or enable employees to create their own (work appropriate) memes or GIFs.

Did you know that Canva has a free GIF maker? Now you do! Try it out and see if your creation goes viral.

10. New employee onboarding materials

Creating and distributing new employee onboarding materials is a huge part of the role of HR and comms teams. New employees are typically given a welcome packet with company information, benefits materials, some company swag, and information about company culture and lore.

Create organised folders with onboarding documents that can easily be updated by the core comms or people management team, ensuring that individual managers always have access to the latest version of the materials.

11. Swag

Swag— stuff we all get. Right? Swag is another key part of visual communication as it relates to developing a company culture. There is nothing more disappointing than a new employee starting a remote role with nothing to show for it. People want to feel like they are part of the team, which relates to sports teams or any organization. Provide company swag and take the extra step to personalize some of the gear if you have the resources.

Try the Smartmockups app in Canva to instantly transform images into customizable product mockups to design company swag.

Examples of how teams have built great company culture using visual communication

Many organizations have seen the power of a strong visual brand in helping to develop a positive, supportive company culture. Let’s take a look at some examples of companies that dedicated internal comms resources to building a cohesive company culture that employees are proud to represent.

Slack revolutionised the way that employees communicate and introduced the world to asynchronous communication with personality. Slack’s internal teams struggled to unite a remote workforce, and has since shaped their company culture through intentional measures.

Slack built their global culture using visual communication by:

  • Keeping up with regular check-ins on Slack and Zoom, leaning on a channel where team members can share “office banter” and random thoughts.
  • Involving leadership and hosting fireside chats on Slack.
  • Fun is a big part of how they’ve maintained their culture in a remote work environment. Slack’s internal teams use apps like one that shares images submitted by team members, then requires others to guess who it’s from (or of.)

WorkJam’s CEO + Co-founder Steven Kramer understands the power of positive corporate culture that is developed when folks “have the tools to share ideas, give and receive feedback, set goals, and celebrate progress.”

His team implemented strategic culture-building activities that started with a priority on messaging to “encourage community and collaboration.” Kramer’s team found that by providing the space for employees to talk openly in a “watercooler” format, they can create relationships, which builds community in the workplace.

Peak Support is another team that has explored company culture in relation to remote or hybrid work. Founder and CEO Jonathan Steiman believes that building culture on remote teams “requires a bit of planning, use of new technologies, and a lot of communication.”

To help employees avoid feeling isolated or left out and create an atmosphere of meaningful community, Steiman recommends that internal comms teams and managers:

  • Use technology and discover “affinity groups” like yogis or gamers, then provide the space for them to communicate freely.
  • Check in with team members frequently and increase corporate communications.
  • Implement ways to collect feedback.
  • Make new hires feel welcome.

Tools for improving internal communication and building a culture of visual collaboration

Discovering the tools that your internal comms team needs to be successful is a combination of a few considerations.

To find the right visual communication tools for internal teams, think through these questions:

  • Who will be using these design tools?
  • What will you be making using these tools?
  • What design creation tools will your team actually use?
  • Where are the gaps in your company or team culture?

Often, it’s helpful to run a survey before taking the leap into choosing a visual communication tool to fully understand your team’s individual needs.

Examples of tools that can be used to improve team communication and contribute to a positive workplace culture are:

Easy-to-use, collaborative design software

Remove the barrier to entry that most folks have with software platforms— that they are too hard to a) learn, b) use, c) keep using. Look for design tools for teams that offer templates, document storage, educational resources, and team-oriented features.

Messaging apps

Once you’ve made visual content, where will you share it? Think: email, messaging apps, social media, or other apps that your team already loves and uses regularly.

Team content libraries

Access to a folder of pre-approved brand assets improves utilisation. If you create a massive library of content and share it with your team, they’re more likely to share it than if they have to create it all from scratch.

Video conferencing apps

Video is a critical component of building a team culture where people feel included. Video conferencing provides a platform for fireside chats, team building events, and other culture activities.

Video communication tools

Creating and sharing knowledge can be facilitated through the creation of videos and video training sessions.

Survey and employee feedback software

Surveys and employee feedback help companies identify areas of improvement and holes in company culture and communication.

Visual communication is the future of communication and helps people to more easily identify and understand company content. When building and developing company culture, communication is at the heart of every initiative and should be tailored to the audience that consumes it. To help your team effectively create and distribute visual communications across channels and improve team performance, explore Canva Teams.

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