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What’s covered in this Internal Comms Guide? Among other things - what internal communication entails, which strategies work best for effective communication in different workplace contexts, what bad internal communication looks like and different comms strategies for different contexts.
What’s worse than knowing only 25% of employees strongly agree that they feel connected to their company culture?
The fact that only 33% of employees strongly agree that they even belong at their organization.
For Human Resources (HR) and Internal Communications (IC) teams investing their energy into cultivating their company culture and inclusivity, stats like these can be exasperating. That said, even the world’s most effective IC strategy can’t bring a sense of connection and belonging to all employees all of the time.
What’s important is conscious planning of effective communication in the workplace to align communication with employee expectations and goals. If your internal communication is consistently relevant and useful to your workforce, then cases of employee dissatisfaction will become the exception rather than the rule, and performance will flourish organization-wide.
In this guide, you’ll discover what modern internal communication is (with examples) in the context of other business concepts, effective strategies, the risks, who’s responsible and how to consistently achieve the right internal comms outcomes.
In simple terms, internal communication is the exchange of verbal, written and even non-verbal information between (and for) people within organizations. Theoretically, it’s the currency invested in meaningful employee engagement as part of a coherent company culture.
Internal communication helps address employee concerns in the workplace. The purpose of internal communication is to exchange information and engage employees. It applies up and down the employee and management chain. Internal communication must be symmetrical and two-way to positively enhance employee behavior.
Now that we have a clear definition of internal communication, and how it relates to company culture, we should establish exactly why it’s so important. Again, the surface answer is obvious, but it’s important to go deeper.
Company culture is created from the actions and ideals organizations and their employees value in their workplace; internal communication is the means by which they say and do them. When the two fall out of alignment, that’s when employees become more likely to feel disconnected, excluded, and disengaged.
Company culture blooms from a coherent internal communication strategy designed around the company’s cultural goals. This is a core principle to remember for HR and IC teams tasked with influencing and creating a positive company culture.
To put this in context: let’s suppose one of your cultural goals or values is to maintain transparency and trust. If certain information struggles to filter down from leadership levels, then your internal communication strategy isn’t reflecting your company culture.
Sometimes internal communication incentives can feel like running in one spot. Emails, zoom calls, Slack channels, team meetings, updates, and notifications. Countless threads of conversation entangle and overlap. The golden question (or questions): Are they adding value? If so, how? How are you measuring that value?
If communication happens in one direction, it will soon become ineffective. Feedback helps you determine how your team collaborates and if they have met their goals. It is important to act on feedback once you receive it.
The average person deals with email overload, which leads to important information being lost or forgotten. Employees can be frustrated by information overload. At least ⅓ of employees aren’t reading emails, citing distractions, irrelevancy, or being overwhelmed by messages. Make your messages concise to keep employee attention.
Be sure to use the appropriate channel to ensure the information reaches all your employees. People will avoid communication on a device they are uncomfortable with. Use the appropriate channel to ensure the information reaches all your employees.
Whose job is internal communication? If you’re reading this and you’re part of the HR or IC teams, you’ll know part of that responsibility is on your shoulders. But you’re not alone.
Internal communication is by and for stakeholders in the organization to communicate around the workplace employee chain. It’s a shared responsibility that should be upheld with two-way traffic; the most effective method of internal communication is cascading information. While HR and IC teams are responsible for amplifying certain company communication narratives, senior leaders and team managers must also weigh in voluntarily with appropriate communication at appropriate times.
An effective internal communications strategy should enable:
Internal communication may not be afforded as much consideration and budget as other business initiatives; but it directly impacts your organization's bottom line. Below are a few reasons why an effective internal communication strategy is essential.
If you asked every employee to tell you your core company objectives for this quarter, or in general, could they answer? If employees don't feel like they are part of the communication in the organization, they will not be engaged in their work.
When done properly, internal communication maximizes your company culture. Further engaged employees will create productive, happy, and profit-maximizing work environments. Some IC strategies to help improve engagement could be incentives, public praise, better organization around teamwork, or finding ways to increase job satisfaction or training.
With an effective internal communications strategy, employees will be quick to respond to emergencies and issues since they will be well-equipped with the needed information, saving your organization time and money.
Internal communications strategies can create best practices of informing employees of new workplace policies, health and safety protocols, available training, or even something as simple as changing office hours.
Discourse arises if communication only flows in one direction. Feedback enables a manager to measure how employees are meeting their goals and how they are collaborating with their managers and co-workers.
As well as managers communicating their expectations, two-way internal communication gives employees an accessible means of expressing how they feel, what they’re working on, and what could be improved.
People like to feel prepared. Knowing the company crisis protocol reassures employees that when the going gets tough, they’ve got a team behind them to help out.
Communicating the steps involved, the repercussions of specific actions, and what employees can expect if unwanted scenarios ever occur, gives teams much-needed peace of mind. It also assures them that it’s unnecessary to waste time allowing hypotheticals or workplace anxiety to take their thoughts captive.
How can you be sure you're implementing the right internal communication strategies, instead of simply sugarcoating overused tactics? Not everyone will find verbal monologues, meetings and speeches from leadership the most effective way to communicate, and that’s okay. Here are tips to make sure your workplace communication is effective.
Internal marketing is a great example of how creative thinking can assist internal company communications. What’s creative about this example is that it thinks of employees as customers.
Your internal marketing strategy might include an internal company newsletter. Or, to achieve better results more efficiently, workplace digital signage can be a powerful substitute for traditional modes of internal marketing.
The biggest advantage of digital signage over traditional internal marketing methods is in being able to connect your entire organization, even deskless and digitally disconnected teams that can’t access digital communication channels.
Make your communications frequent, but don’t bombard your employees. Whichever IC method you choose to implement, make sure it’s sent only as necessary to your employees. Invitations should be as slick as possible in terms of setup, technology, and themes. Schedule follow-up meetings as your audience wants, not as you want.
You encourage productive communication between supervisors and team members. You have an open-door policy and people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feedback, concerns, and ideas with people higher up.
Your open-door policy does not have to be literal either, as it can apply to employees who work outside of the office. Offering virtual meetings, or asynchronous options for feedback, are all forms of productive communication between managers and workers in all environments, such as factories or remote locations.
Your check-ins with your employees should be consistent with no motive, no deadline, and no requests for project updates – just a check-in to ask them how they are. These one-on-ones go a very long way for employee experience, especially in bigger companies where employees often feel overlooked.
You listen to what’s being said and you’re open to compromise. Your employees should feel comfortable coming to you with questions, concerns and solutions and you’re open to changing the game plan if needed.
Internal communication problems within organizations can quickly snowball if the strategy is poorly executed or neglected. Communication issues have a domino effect rippling out to every part of the business, including increased stress, complex (or even toxic) client relationships, reduced staff retention, drained motivation.
If left untreated, ineffective internal communication farms disengagement and a culture of resentment from employees who feel their needs go unmet and voices unheard.
However, when correctly executed, an internal communications plan can be part of the fuel that takes an organization from simply surviving to consistently thriving. That’s because most, and possibly all, positive business and individual outcomes are dependent upon communication flows among teams, departments, levels and locations.
One of the most common challenges when it comes to effective communication in the workplace is reaching distant or disconnected departments. The way you communicate with a remote team or employees outside of the office is going to look wildly different from the in-person strategy sessions that work for in-office employees.
How can remote and/or large-scale organizations connect all employees to internal communication workflows?
Consider multiple methods of IC, such as:
These can all be effective and time-efficient ways to build relationships, share knowledge, or engage employees. Choose a variety of topics and deliver company-relevant information to all people involved and get creative. Also remember to give your team the option to listen to it at a time that is most convenient for their schedule.
That said, juggling an abundance of worktools and other interactive media can actually have a negative cognitive impact that affects employees’ information retention, so a balanced approach is wise.
Ineffective internal communication is one of the reasons for the high turnover rate and low engagement levels in the deskless workforce, which comprises 80 percent of the workforce. Whether in manufacturing, food service, retail, hospitality, or any other deskless industry, your workforce plays a vital role in creating a profitable business.
A simple mistake in the food service, hospitality, production, and retail industries can hugely impact the organization's revenue, customer loyalty, and workplace safety. Costly mistakes can be avoided through communicating effectively about operations and compliance with your deskless employees.
Accidents affecting your frontline workers impact your organization's bottom line. They account for administrative and medical expenses as well as loss of labor. Workplaces with fewer accidents are tied to less employee absenteeism and more customer loyalty.
A good communication strategy prioritizes safety training by making it a continuous process. Doing this keeps frontline and deskless workforce well-informed on daily tasks and protocols.
The retail and customer services industry has the highest number of employees at risk of leaving at 43% of the workforce; the second highest sector is industrial goods at 32%.
However, when employees have sufficient technology, they are 50% more likely to stay. Frontline workers want clear information, a sense of purpose, and an organization that listens to their opinions. 41% of frontline workers want to use technology to fix communication problems.
It is vital to provide your deskless workforce with all the necessary information for them to fully understand not only how to execute their responsibilities but also why. If you implement sanitation protocols, you must send an announcement to the employees. You should send out a training session to boost employee knowledge if you have a new product line. You should also inform your employees if you are changing the hours of operation.
However, avoid information overload. Only share what is necessary. When sharing information, use photos, videos, and even images to make it fun.
The deskless workforce most often has no official communication channel to air their grievances to the top-level management, which causes demotivation among the employees. Four out of ten frontline employees don’t have access to strong feedback loops, yet 39% of frontline workers believe that recognition is one of the top drivers to workplace happiness and success.
Since only 35% of frontline workers rate corporate communication as effective, internal communication strategies must be reviewed to reach all workers.
You have to motivate your employees by creating a positive atmosphere. You can organize fun competitions and reward the winner with an extra day off or a small bonus. A leaderboard to show everyone's progress can also motivate your employees. The most important aspect of these incentives is that it’s efficiently communicated to your employees.
When your employees do a good job, they deserve to be praised. You can share positive feedback to show your employees that their achievements have not gone unnoticed. You can celebrate employees through other communications, including:
Being out of the loop is how deskless workers feel since they are not involved in the business's day-to-day operations. They have to be on their feet for the day, and the company does not see them on-the-job daily.
The deskless workforce is usually unable to regularly access devices for digital communication, such as e-mail, while on the clock. Digital signage has been a leading method for companies to communicate with their deskless workforce.
Only half (51%) of employees feel “in-the-know” within their organization. Some managers don't provide sufficient information to their employees, instead focusing on their own objectives while sidelining the top concerns of workers. In turn, employees miss out on significant changes in the organization.
On the other hand, managers have to be sure to avoid information overload. Companies should only share what is necessary; 60% of deskless workers state that short and easy to read messages would make communication more helpful.
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