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Internal Communication Strategy: 12 Best Practiceson 21 February 2020Posted by Gabby Shultis
Every organisation handles internal communication differently. Some develop a robust internal communication strategy while others just wing it.
In this guide, we cover internal communications best practices to inform your strategic planning. Whether you’re at a large, small, or mid-sized organisation, the knowledge below is sure to help you up your game when it comes to communication in the workplace.
What is internal communication?
Glenn Gutek, CEO at Awake Consulting, defines internal communication as the formal and informal transference of information within a business, and the ongoing conversation that is shaping the internal narrative of the organisation’s current reality.
This definition underscores the importance of putting time and effort into planning your internal communication strategy, and measuring the results once you execute on it. Your workforce supports your organisation; you must support them in return if you hope to maximise engagement, productivity, and more. (Tweet this!) It’s how you realise a better bottom line.
12 Internal Communications Best Practices
1. Keep communications brief.
Today, people inherently have a short attention span, and employees are no exception. David Reischer, CEO of LegalAdvice.com, cautions against sending internal employee communications that are too long. Lengthy memos, emails, and the like will either be skimmed or not read at all. “That defeats the purpose,” warns Reischer. “Brief and precise communications improve chances of employees absorbing your shared information and allow for targeted responses that improve productivity and speed.”
2. Celebrate employees’ successes.
Everyone loves a good win, especially when you know others value your contributions. In fact, a 2011 study by an independent research firm found that 77% of employees were willing to work harder if they were appreciated. This benefits both employees and the organisation.
“Most employees are motivated when they receive acknowledgement and are rewarded with positive feedback. It’s important to always remember that an organisation is made up of people. Enabling the exchange of feedback results in a more motivated workforce,” Reischer advises.
Organisations can acknowledge employees both privately and publicly. For example, a company- or department-wide announcement about an employee’s success could be supplemented by a brief, one-on-one meeting between the employee and their manager.
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3. Choose communication methods that work best for your employees.
All organisations are not created equal. There are a myriad of different environments where employees may perform their job duties, and they require different methods of communication. Mike Driehorst, a communications consultant, shares an example that highlights such a distinction:
“How internal communication within a business works varies greatly [depending] on where your employees are physically located. You need to go to them. The typical choice is digital, but depending on the type and size of your company, not all employees will have regular electronic access to things like email or company software. For a large manufacturer, for example, you have to rely on methods like bulletin boards or pre-shift meetings to communicate key information.”
4. Maintain consistent branding and messaging.
Marketers know how important it is to present a consistent picture of your organisation to customers. The same goes for your employees. Your initial thought may be to just disseminate information and share updates with employees without regard to what those communications look like or how they read. But you need to give the same diligence to internal communications as you do to customer-facing ones.
Driehorst calls out the fact that inconsistent messaging can lead to confusion and misunderstandings among employees. “It’s a fairly simple concept but one that is hard for organisations to put into practice. I say don't overthink it, but do make sure all messages have a consistent look and feel.”
5. Ensure there’s a feedback channel for internal employee communication.
Even the best communication professionals can miss the mark sometimes. That’s why one of the most important types of internal communication channels is one for feedback. Employees need to have a way to provide feedback on the methods in which they are receiving information from the organisation. As Driehorst clarifies, “This isn’t for organisational issues but how communications are being received. Internal communications pros can get myopic in their work. Being open to feedback from your employees is key to staying grounded and effective in your communications.”
6. Encourage open dialogue across the organisation.
This stems back to the culture of the organisation, which typically starts at the top. “Encourage leaders to facilitate open discussions, with a focus on collaboratively achieving the best possible outcome for the issue at hand,” shares Faith Kubicki, content marketing manager at IntelliChief.
When employees are free to ask questions and comment without fear of criticism, both they and the organisation benefit. Nate Masterson, CEO at Maple Holistics, explains why. “When a worker is stuck on something and doesn’t feel like they can ask for help, they'll spend more time trying to figure it out than needed, making them less productive. This could also lead to a bigger mistake if they go down the wrong path. Tangentially, employees’ unrestricted questions or comments can lead to greater innovation across the company.”
7. Employ visuals.
Varied statistics support the idea that the general populace tends toward visual learning. That’s why Simon Nowak, CEO of Authority Dental, says it’s worth communicating your goals and messages to employees in visual form. “To achieve that, you can use posters or digital screens, for example. It will enable your employees and colleagues to better understand and remember the message you’re conveying.”
Aleassa Schambers, director of marketing at Root, adds that visuals are key when enacting change in the organisation. Showing employees the big picture of the change they're working to create is tremendously valuable. When you use imagery that showcases what outcomes you want to see, and the path of how your workforce will achieve those outcomes, you’ll see accelerated behavior shifts and greater understanding. “This is because visuals can showcase the emotions that people experience during change. More importantly, leaders are forced to align on what outcomes actually look like for the business.”
8. Keep things lighthearted.
While having “fun” isn’t suitable in every work situation, a Robert Half survey indicates that 79% of CFOs believe an employee’s sense of humor plays an important role in how he or she fits in with the company’s corporate culture. Thus, Nowak recommends adding a sense of levity to internal communications—when appropriate. “It’s not a secret that a positive work atmosphere tends to produce better work results. Including humorous elements in your internal communications will contribute to this end by making communications more interesting and engaging.”
9. Arm managers with the right tools.
Schambers says managers act as executors and communicators of senior leadership’s vision. As part of the communication effort, managers need to be armed with information and tools that enable them to fully understand the vision, connect their teams’ roles to activating that vision, and then coach their teams to reach desired outcomes. “For example, managers may need to reinforce new processes, or keep the change conversation top of mind amid the myriad of day-to-day activities.”
10. Streamline communications.
“Ruthlessly cull any unnecessary automated communications, even down to CC-ing people who don't need or won't benefit from inclusion in the conversation,” suggests John Moss, CEO of English Blinds. His focus is on cutting down background noise—this will help boost productivity and ensure that, when employees do need to make or receive internal communications, they see and can accurately gauge the relevant degree of importance.
11. Invite feedback from employees—and act on it.
Moss says many companies neglect to ask for input from employees on how their internal communication channels help and support them, and what could be done better. “Even within companies that do request feedback, those valuable insights are often filed away for some later time that never comes, or not used effectively to catalyse improvement.”
12. Keep employees updated on company happenings.
“This is something large organisations are often good at, and something that comes naturally in small businesses. However, it tends to be a struggle for mid-sized companies—likely a growing pain,” explains Will Craig, managing director of LeaseFetcher.
Craig says it’s natural for employees to want to understand how the company is performing—seeing how the work they’ve done for smaller projects impacts the overall organisational picture. “Gaining this understanding can be quite encouraging, and it’s something that’s so easily done with a well-considered internal communication model.”
You can give your employees the opportunity to keep themselves in the loop with a monthly briefing, a written document of monthly achievements and news, or a shared dashboard of new, ongoing, and completed projects.
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