message in a bottle on the beach at sunset
PHOTO: Adobe Stock

Allison Nelik never would have believed that she would build a corporate-wide internal communications program from the ground up when she started her career 15 years ago. Yet that’s exactly what she’s accomplished. While earning an M.S. from NYU in Public Relations and Corporate Communications, her career started in film publicity before shifting to a more corporate environment. When she moved back to NYC years later, she stepped away from media to explore communications in other industries. In 2018, MSCI approached her with the opportunity to create and execute a wide range of strategic communication plans to help employees immerse themselves in the enterprise strategy and understand their role in the organization’s success.

“Let’s take email for example,” Nelik said. “It’s just one channel that we use to communicate and consume content outside of work. Why do organizations rely on it so heavily to communicate to employees? We can do much better and I believe we owe it to employees to provide a modernized, emotionally impactful and intuitive experience.”

Nelik is now executive director, head of global internal communications at MSCI. With My MSCI, the employee communications platform powered by Firstup, the entire organization is empowered to move away from sending email and instead, deliver content to the endpoint each employee prefers while providing content that gives their teams a reason to engage. 

Firstup was a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s Spring Digital Workplace Experience event, which took place online May 4 and May 5. Nelik presented the session, “Being Comfortable Is Not the Goal,” covering how MSCI is taking a bold approach to deeper and more impactful internal communications.

Nelik spoke with SMG about the ideal internal communications experience and how popular content is helping MSCI build an employee culture for the future.

A Modern Approach to Communication and Employee Engagement

Simpler Media Group: What makes an 'ideal' digital comms experience? How does that differ from what most organizations are doing, and how can those gaps be filled?

Allison Nelik: In my opinion, it’s one that mirrors our experiences and preferences outside of the workplace. In today’s world, we consume and engage with content all day. Outside of the workplace, we use a variety of channels based on our preferences, manage our own alerts and notifications, use apps that funnel content into one place and feel as though the content we receive is based on who we are and what we are curious about. Why should the workplace be any different? 

SMG: What are the biggest obstacles to creating and delivering on employee engagement goals?

Nelik: Segmenting employees can be a roadblock without the proper tools and awareness of employee preferences. Employees are unique, just like our customers and clients. Expectations regarding experiences and content are higher than ever, and because of that, employees have learned to block out the noise. Delivering relevant content when they want it and how they want it is becoming more complex — it’s not as simple as a standard company-wide email anymore. I find it’s becoming harder and more time-consuming to truly consider all of your unique employee audiences, what you want them to do, feel or think and then position messages and consider distribution based on those insights. As hard as that may be, this is how you cut through the noise and create a bigger impact.

MSCI's Allison Nelik: "When we tailor content to employee segments, we are positioning our employee engagement platform as a worthy place to spend time."

How to Level Up Your Employee Engagement

SMG: What advice do you have for organizations who want to overhaul their employee engagement platform, but aren’t sure where to begin? How should they measure progress/success?

Nelik: Don’t feel as though you have to conquer everything all at once. Sometimes, these platforms can offer a wide range of solutions that can solve many problems. But, trying to solve them all in a short period of time can make things messy. Each year, we evaluate the current state of My MSCI, our internal platform, and decide what problem or opportunity we want to focus on next to increase our growth and engagement. First, it was the introduction and adoption of a new platform, which centered on changing behavior. Second, we implemented a My MSCI-first approach that positioned the platform as the place where we create, publish and distribute all internal content. Now, in our third phase, we are working toward more integration with other internal platforms to make My MSCI a one-stop shop. 

When you begin to measure your success, be honest with yourself. We don’t measure to make ourselves feel good (even if it does feel good to see positive results!). We measure to learn what’s working, what’s not and how we should pivot.

SMG: In providing employees with preferences in how they receive and consume information, how does it improve their digital experience?

Nelik: It clears out the clutter. Realistically, every piece of content we create will not be consumed by every employee. When we tailor content to employee segments, we are positioning our employee engagement platform as a worthy place to spend time while deepening the connection with the employee — and the employee to MSCI.

SMG: How does utilizing a global employee engagement platform increase community building within an organization? How does it impact company culture?

Nelik: This is more important than ever now that many employees are working virtually and/or in a hybrid environment. Offices have always been the hubs for company culture, so what happens when employees no longer need to go to that office every day? An employee engagement platform can be the place where company culture comes to life: a place where experiences and photos are shared, wins and milestones are celebrated, recognition is imparted and information and insights flow freely.

SMG: Personally and professionally, what were the best experiences and events that occurred during the pandemic?

Nelik: I gave birth to my daughter, my first child, 6 weeks before the pandemic hit the U.S. When I came back to work six months later, I was in a completely different environment now being fully virtual. Reflecting on how this has impacted me professionally and personally, and how it has impacted my family, we have thrived in a virtual workplace. Without commuting or sitting in an office for a set amount of hours every day, I have been able to soak up more quality time with my family. And, because there is more flexibility to the exact hours I’m working, I’m more productive than ever. Watching the workplace transform has been an extraordinary experience, and I’m happy to say that it has helped me be my best, both at work and at home.   

Watch the Spring Digital Workplace Experience event on-demand here.