Effective internal communication is the lifeblood of any thriving organization. It is the thread that weaves the myriad individuals, functions and leaders into a unified tapestry and can shape the organization’s success. In addition to creating that tapestry, robust internal communications are a key function in recruiting employees to the organization and keeping them there; motivating employees to go above and beyond their job functions, improving quality of work throughout the workplace, and even influencing employee attitudes towards unions.
In today’s corporate world, where change is constant, and challenges can seemingly appear out of nowhere, a robust internal communications program can be the key to building and maintaining a strong organizational culture. However, doing so requires constant effort, the ability to stay nimble and a willingness from leadership to address and act on feedback quickly.
Assessing Your Internal Communications Landscape and Building Your Strategy
To ensure their internal communications are effective, organizations must first conduct a comprehensive assessment of their existing communication vehicles. This involves both quantitative analysis through metrics like email open rates, engagement levels on internal platforms (intranets), and feedback surveys, as well as qualitative assessments like focus groups to understand the nuances of employee sentiments. It is not just about the tools that are being used but how well these tools resonate with the workforce.
Quantitative data provides information that can be analyzed and quantified – what messages reach employees, how frequently, and through which channels. Qualitative insights, on the other hand, uncover the sentiment behind the data – why specific messages resonate, how employees perceive the organization’s communications and its culture, as well as what gaps exist. This dual approach allows organizations to pinpoint and replicate areas of strength and identify opportunities for improvement.
With a landscape assessment in hand, the next step is to build out a strategy. A well-thought-out internal communications strategy aligns with and works to advance broader organizational goals. It ensures that messages are not only disseminated but are also specifically crafted to engage employees at all levels and drive them towards accomplishing those goals. Is there a new product being launched or market being entered that need support? Is there a plant or division that is underperforming? Is there a new leader coming on board who needs to drive performance? The examples are endless. The strategic alignment that comes from a well-thought-out strategy fosters a sense of purpose and contributes to the organization’s overall success.
Crafting Meaningful Messages
An organization can have the best strategy in the world, but without effective messaging, that strategy will fall flat. Employers need to develop and utilize strong, easily understood messages that resonate with employees, support the broader organizational strategy and help move the needle on established goals. Messages should be developed with the insights gleaned from the assessment phase, keeping cultural nuances and workforce preferences top-of-mind.
Tailoring Communications to Employee Preferences
Just like in fashion, internal communications should be tailored to fit the unique preferences of employees. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work. Employees have a variety of different ways they like to receive information. Some prefer concise and visually appealing infographics, while others lean towards easy-to-digest written communications or watching a video message.
A successful internal communications strategy requires understanding those preferences, developing creative and engaging communications vehicles and tailoring communications accordingly. These vehicles could include more traditional emails, videos, texts or infographics, as well as more creative ideas such as storytelling sessions, interactive workshops or even gamifying select communications. By embracing a variety of channels and formats, as well as engaging creative thinking that goes beyond the types of communications employees typically expect, organizations can ensure their messages are not just received but absorbed and understood by a broad audience.
Utilizing and Preparing Leaders to Communicate
Not all communications should be delivered through a screen. In fact, it is usually the case that it is more impactful when internal messages are relayed via managers and leaders. However, those leaders must understand how to deliver the messages in an effective and engaging way and be prepared to have a dialogue with employees about the messages. Organizations must provide leaders with regular message delivery training as part of their professional development and should offer specific guidelines and tips for every communication those leaders are expected to deliver. It’s also important that leaders have enough time to become familiar with the messages and ask any questions they may have before they meet with employees.
Gauging Employee Sentiments and Soliciting Feedback
The dynamic nature of organizations requires a continuous evaluation of internal communications. It’s not enough to send messages into the void and assume they’re being absorbed. Regular assessments are necessary to gauge how well employees retain information and, equally important, how they feel about the organization and its internal communication efforts.
The same vehicles mentioned above should be used to understand the emotional impact of the communications as well as measuring how many people those reach. Are employees feeling motivated, connected, and well-informed, or do they harbor sentiments of confusion or discontent? These insights empower organizations to tweak their strategies in real time, ensuring that internal communications remain a positive force in the workplace.
It’s also critical to remember that internal communications should not be a one-way street. To truly strengthen the workplace, organizations must establish a robust feedback loop that encourages employees to share their thoughts, concerns, and ideas. This involves creating avenues for open dialogue, whether through town hall meetings, suggestion boxes, or digital platforms that facilitate real-time interaction.
The effectiveness of this feedback loop hinges on swift and visible action from management. When employees see that their input is valued and acted upon, it fosters a sense of belonging and empowerment. It transforms internal communications from a top-down dissemination of information to a collaborative process that nurtures a culture of shared responsibility and continuous improvement.
Effective internal communications are just as critical to the ongoing success of an organization as sales numbers, customer acquisition or market share. By creating an effective strategy around internal communications, organizations can foster a workplace culture that thrives on transparency, collaboration, and shared purpose. Doing this will unlock the full potential of their people, propelling the organization toward sustained success and resilience in a constantly evolving business landscape.