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James is founder and owner of Response. An HR and recruitment expert from Sutton Coldfield, he regularly advises companies on how to improve and get the maximum ROI from their recruitment process.
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I think we’d all agree that it’s pretty difficult to run a business, without some kind of “internal communication.”
But many companies still fail to understand how much of an impact their strategy can have on their business.
If you get it right, you can inspire, motivate and engage your employees – boosting customer service and of course, sales.
Get it wrong and you could create company-wide distrust, resentment and disengagement.
On a very basic level, you will use “internal communication” to set your expectations for employees, plan and execute projects and keep them updated with the latest developments of your company.
Many managers do this via a mixture of emails, meetings, policies and performance reviews.
But there can be so much more to an internal communication strategy than just the formalities.
You can (and should) regularly be…
- Congratulating and rewarding individual staff members/teams on their successes.
- Revealing and celebrating the achievements of the company as a whole.
- Sharing knowledge, relevant to your industry (blogs, articles, guides etc.).
- Touching base and catching up with employees, teams and other managers.
…and anything else that you think will engage, entertain and inform your employees.
Because, when you do things like the above and when you commit to maintaining a good, honest, open level of communication with your employees, you…
- Make them feel valued, involved and like an important part of your company.
- Inspire and motivate them to succeed (for the sake of the company they love).
- Boost their client relations (happy employees = happy clients) and sales.
- It all helps you to create a team that are happier, closer, more productive and who are all working towards the same goal.
Every company will have a different strategy for internal communication, but here are some key things to remember when planning that strategy…
There’s really no point in sending out a yearly company update to employees – just to tick a box.
The more frequently you communicate and touch base with an individual and/or team, the more involved, valued and engaged they will feel. It’s as simple as that.
In fact, I’d recommend at least one company-wide communication every week (in addition to group messages, contacting individuals and social media activity that you should already be involved in).
No time? Really..?
It only takes a few minutes to write a quick email, send a quick Tweet or record a quick video message (etc.)
And if you get the whole management team involved, you could set up an “internal communications schedule” and share the responsibility (for example, one person Tweets/ blogs/ emails per day).
Lead by example: if you communicate with employees, they’ll communicate with you.
Email is great and everything, but it has its limitations.
To ensure that your internal communication strategy is as successful as possible, it’s definitely worth using a variety of different channels.
- Get staff and managers to contribute to an internal blog.
- Use social media (groups, forums, group messaging).
- Create videos or have group video chats
Or (goodness forbid) you could actually pick up the phone for a chat, once in a while.
There are so many different ways to communicate – have fun with it and keep things fresh and new.
People will soon become blind to the same, weekly, templated email.
If you have the budget, then it’s worth looking into some of the different software packages out there that have been specifically created for internal communication.
- Create open “channels” to discuss different topics, projects and ideas (work and play).
- Create private “channels” for sharing and discussing confidential information.
- Direct message colleagues and managers quickly and efficiently.
- Share files.
They basically empower your staff to keep in touch with each other – and you – more quickly. It’s much easier to collaborate when you’re all in the same space (even virtually).
Just keep things consistent (don’t change the software every week; it’ll drive people mad).
Just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you’re banned from a little chitchat with your employees.
You’d be surprised how a simple conversation about someone’s weekend can make them feel valued and noticed; it really does make a significant difference.
Consider some of these kinds of things…
- A “congratulations on making that sale” phone call.
- A fun (cheesy) inspirational quote to the newbie.
- A “happy two-year work anniversary” email.
- A video pep talk, when an individual/ team have had some bad luck.
- A funny (but relevant) meme, joke or video.
You’d be surprised how these little touches can cheer employees up and make them feel loved.
Do you ever choose to read big paragraphs about things that don’t interest you?
Well, neither will your staff.
Even if your company culture is slightly more formal than your average ultra-hip tech company, you still need to inject a little bit of fun into your internal communication – otherwise it’s pointless.
Infographics, photos, posters and stories are all great ways to get across information – and as we already said, don’t be afraid to try new channels like video, social media and blogs.
Don’t get into the habit of talking at employees, rather than to them.
This internal communication malarkey works both ways you know; you need to give your employees the opportunity to talk back!
Too many senior managers these days make themselves seem entirely unapproachable for one reason or another – but by completely separating yourself from your employees, you’ll breed resentment – and you’ll never truly know what’s going on in their heads (until it’s too late).
I personally love the idea of an “Ask the Boss” event each month, where employees are invited to send in their questions to someone very senior.
This can be done via email, video, social media or in the form of a blog, but it’s a really nice way to ensure people feel listened to and valued by the “big bosses.”
You should always welcome new ideas, questions and criticism. Hearing from your staff (who are on the front line, day in, day out) will help you to improve your business and keep you in-the-know.
To gain even more insights, you might want to consider setting up an employee satisfaction survey! Click here to find out more.
If there is a disconnect between what you say you are, value and do and what you actually are, value and do, then your employees will struggle to relate, trust and appreciate the company altogether.
“If an employee sees the stated values of an organisation being lived by the leadership and colleagues, a sense of trust in the organisation is more likely to be developed, and this constitutes a powerful enabler of engagement.”
If you advertise a certain set of principles, then they should be readily exhibited in the everyday culture of the company and every day internal communication from management.
So, if you’re a highly creative, highly unique and highly innovative tech start-up, then make sure your communications are highly creative, highly unique and highly innovative.
If you’re more traditional, formal and pride yourself on perfection, then make sure your internal communications reflect that too.
You can’t fake company culture either, I’m afraid, so practice what you preach.
For example, if you spend your time telling the world how fun, friendly and people-focused you are and then treat all of your employees like crap – that’s going to breed resentment.
Employees definitely won’t appreciate being a part of a lie.
It’s dead important that you’re honest and open with your staff about the business.
Great managers will keep employees in the loop; sharing the good, the bad and the ugly (within reason, of course – some things are legally best left unsaid).
If change is afoot, let your employees know what’s going on.
If you’re hiding something, they’ll know anyway; you’re not fooling anyone with your umpteen meetings, bad mood and general air of secrecy.
Honestly, keeping secrets tends to leave staff feeling nervous, unsure and unloved.
One of the best ways to encourage communication is to reward it.
If someone gives you some feedback (yes, even negative), then it’s a great idea to openly thank them or, particularly if they find a great solution, to reward them with some kind of “prize” or gift.
If people feel like suggestions are rewarded (as opposed to fearing a backlash) then they’re much more likely to be honest with you.
Congrats on making it this far – I’m aware that this blog post is pretty damn long.
Thing is; there’s just so much to talk about when it comes to internal communication and it’s so blooming important.
Anyway, here are the highlights:
- Don’t just do it to “tick the box.” Employees will see through that, instantly.
- Be approachable, honest and open and your employees will be too.
- Be consistent.
- Do some research; there are loads of resources and tools out there that can help.
- Keep communication interesting, friendly and always add a touch of personality.
If you’d like some more guidance on how to engage your employees, click here to check out our recent blog post.