#ChallengeTheProcess: Emojis in employee communications – yay or nay?

Many would have laughed 😆 just a few years ago at the idea of using emojis in employee communications. But with their popularity undoubtedly rising we think it’s time to pose the question again, and we want to know what you think, too!

The use of smiley 🙂 sad 🙁 or laughing faces 😆 in our everyday online conversation is now so natural, it was only a matter of time before these fellows popped up in the workplace too. In fact, emojis found their way into everyday emails between colleagues long ago. But do they have a place in some of your more official employee communications too?

The science would suggest so. Think of the humble emoji in marketing terms – brands already use them to good effect in their external efforts to boost engagement, sound more relatable and add context to whatever message they’re trying to convey. One study by Wordstream found a simple emoji in a Tweet can increase engagement by 25%.

But before you start peppering your internal communications with cute cats and melodramatic monkeys , here are a few things to consider:

What are you trying to achieve?

If you’re trying to get a gauge on employee mood or opinion, emojis might just be the ticket. Emails from utilities providers often ask people to rate how good they found a communication with a 🙂 😐 or 🙁 option, and you may even have seen life-sized versions of the same in airports or train stations (at least, before Covid stopped us touching everything). Emojis can be well-received when included in employee surveys and can even encourage more open and honest feedback.

They can also add context to your message and help convey emotions you might struggle to achieve with text alone. Emojis can’t replace great messaging, and it is possible to go overboard with it as Chevrolet once did by writing an entire press release in emoji – Google ‘Chevy goes emoji’ and if you can decipher it let us know, because it had us scratching our heads until we gave up!  But when used well, emojis can enhance your message and add depth to what you’re trying to say.

It’s worth bearing in mind too that every day, more and more people entering the workplace for the first time have grown up with ‘emoji speak’, and so by including it in your communications you’re effectively speaking their language. On top of that, understanding how and when they use emojis can help you to understand them better and even help shape your future communications around them and their needs.

To give an example of how this might work, researchers at the University of Michigan recently analysed the use of emojis in a developer community hub and found they were able to spot a correlation between the ones employees peppered their chats with, and whether they’d go on to leave the project they were working on. With this kind of knowledge, you could start to understand employees’ emotional states through their emoji use, which could then lead to informed action around your wellbeing provision and in turn, decrease turnover rates.

Are emojis a good fit for your brand?

Emojis can add personality and relatability to your messages. But be careful not to go ‘off-brand’ altogether for the sake of trying to move with the times. This doesn’t mean to say that only cool, fun brands can use hearts  and high fives . But think carefully about how you choose the emojis that best reflect your brand personality and how you want your audience to feel about you. If calm and sensible is your thing, you’re probably not going to want to confuse or alienate your audience altogether with scary clown faces or a set of startled eyes .

It’s worth thinking about your visual identity here, too. If your brand palate is fairly mute and the use of emojis is going to add another 14 colours into the mix, you might find they’re just not always appropriate for getting your message across in an ‘on-brand’ way.

The language of emoji isn’t always universal… or inclusive

Once upon a time, an employee fired off an email to a colleague containing figures that were so great, he added a fire emoji to the email’s subject line for a bit of oomph. The recipient took it to mean the books were so bad, they needed burning.

They say a picture can tell a thousand words, but the danger is that not everyone will interpret a visual in the same way. Emojis can be misconstrued. They can also unintentionally exclude people who aren’t used to them!

Emojis can be a great way to build company culture, and show that you’re moving with the times, but it’s worth bearing in mind that not everyone likes (or even knows how) to use them. As a rule of thumb, if you’re going to include emojis in your communications mix, it’s best to stick to the ones most universally understood.

Which brings us back to our original question, do you think they have their place in modern employee communications?

We’d love to know – take part in our quick poll!


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