Effective internal communication helps ensure that all members of an organization are working collaboratively towards a common goal. It develops a cohesive culture and empowers employees to make the right decisions in line with the organization’s objectives. This in turn leads to greater efficiency and productivity and improves customer service. These outputs are relevant to every organization, so the size of your business really doesn’t matter in this respect.
Consider your most significant and important ‘resource’… people. You invest all kinds of effort in finding, on boarding, training and retaining exceptional talent, so why not engage them on a consistent basis? Engaging with your entire staff with relevant information is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
No organization should ever assume that good internal communications is a naturally occurring. More often than not, communicating and sharing information with colleagues is overlooked (or under valued) as everyone concentrates on getting work done, driving more business, etc…. This could mean that more subtle messages get missed, along with great opportunities to engage and motivate staff. That is the inevitable consequence of success (growth or whatever you want to call it) and it’s the reality especially at large, older and established organizations with cultures fully developed. Good internal communications is not just about major company announcements, it’s an ongoing, open dialogue between all those that need to know. As the business grows, you need to think about greater process discipline, but also the communications strategy and structure which binds your team together. Both of those are essential for long term business success.
“Engaging with your entire staff with relevant information is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”
Firstly, it’s critical to review where you are now and where you’d like to be. It is an important and eye-opening undertaking to review from a top down and also a bottom up approach. You might consider setting up a working group of junior staff from across the business to look at this first in a workshop format. They would look at a wide variety of aspects, from company policy announcements and business updates through to transferring calls and emails from customers onto other departments. Their observations and recommendations would then combined with a senior management view, which gives a much broader perspective of macro and micro issues.
These findings could then form the basis from which to address any observed weaknesses and, although your solutions will be very specific to your own circumstances, here are examples of some effective tools that could be used:
- Establishing (and/or updating) a set of Communication Principles and link them to your brand guidelines. This provides a guidance framework for employees which they can refer back to. Including performance against these principles in personal objectives can help too.
- Make sure every business process change has a Communications Plan.
- Store useful information in a central place e.g. intranet or even a simple SharePoint site.
- Open door policy – everyone in the business should be easily approachable and encouraged to listen as much as they talk.
- Monthly staff survey – listen to your staff. We use this survey to measure job satisfaction and give staff an opportunity to raise issues. Comments can be marked as private, but are otherwise shared with the group.
- Whole company monthly/quarterly meeting with individual departments providing updates. Communications would include progress as it relates to the overall strategic plan and the results of the staff survey. It’s a big time commitment, but provides high quality, engaging and relevant content in near time.
- 10 minute Stand Up – conducted weekly, except when we’re holding a monthly/quarterly meeting. A brief meeting with the whole company, providing just key updates, is effective in reinforcing values, purpose and targets.
- Encourage good email discipline and watch out for poor practice.
- Introduce an enterprise-wide social media tool, a bit like an online discussion forum. All staff have access to it and are encouraged to post relevant updates, so everyone knows what’s happening in their corner of the business.
Keeping the momentum and focus on this issue throughout the business can be challenging, but implementing some of these ideas, with senior management support, can be very effective.
The Bottom Line: Internal communications matters. It isn’t just for fun and is an issue for organizations of all shapes and size. Every company, big or small, should be mindful of the benefits of good communication and not be complacent in assuming that this is naturally occurring part of their culture. Companies don’t automatically benefit from good communications, you need to actively develop, implement, manage and commit to plans, routines and working guidelines. Be consistent. Be relevant. Be willing to listen and adapt, based on feedback. Do this, and you’ll do just fine.