Why Internal Communications Should Be Strategic
When it comes to running a business, having an effective internal communications strategy is essential. Without it, no one knows who is responsible for what and what tasks need to be completed as a matter of priority.
You have probably spent a significant amount of time developing best practices and policies for when it comes to working with customers, clients, and vendors, but just end up muddling along when it comes to communicating internally. However, it is vital that you implement a strategic internal communication policy, to help everyone sing from the same hymn sheet and make your staff and other stakeholders feel valued and a part of the team. You cannot just tell them what needs doing – you need to let them know why they are doing it, what you expect from them and the end goals. This allows them to align their efforts so that your whole team is working towards a common goal.
What is an internal communication policy?
Internal communications are vital to the success of your business. Devising a policy to deliver this is just as important as this will determine exactly how you will share your message. By building an internal communications policy, your company then has a blueprint that means that internal communications will always be a success.
Creating such a plan will often prove one of the best things that a company can ever do, for reasons that we will explore shortly. The problem comes with devising a plan or a policy in the first place. It takes hard work to devise and then to initially get it off the ground and implement. What is indisputable, however, is that the work is worth it and we have some tips coming up that will help you on your way.
Why does your business need an internal communications plan?
It is not just your business that needs to take a strategic approach to internal communications: all businesses need to do this. If you’re looking for the reasons that make this worthwhile, the key takeaway is that by putting in this work you will go on and increases employee engagement. Is there a business anywhere that is not looking to achieve this?
No doubt you are already aware of the benefits of an engaged workforce, but just to summarise:
- An engaged workforce is more productive
- An engaged workforce is more creative
- They bring extra revenue into your business
- They stay with a company for longer, reducing staff turnover
If you want to see these benefits from your workforce, then it makes sense to put in the leg work required to implement an internal communications plan. Here, we look at some great internal communication strategies for you to put into practice.
Evaluate your current internal communications strategy
The chances are that you already have a strategy in place of some description, but is it actually strategic? Does it work for you and your organisation? Look at what works for who and what does not work. Look at the people involved in your communications and who can be added to make it more effective – perhaps someone who is well versed in content writing and can communicate ideas efficiently and succinctly.
Identify the metrics that will measure your success
You do not plough on with your content marketing or social media strategy without analysing it to see what works and doesn’t work, so don’t do that to internal communications. Look at what metrics will give you an idea of engagement with your strategy: can you see how many employees have logged into and used your intranet? Some things, of course, cannot be measured, but look at what can be, and use the insights you gain from this wisely.
Consider your brand internally as well as externally
As a business, you (hopefully) know the importance of branding when it comes to selling your business concepts to consumers. However, it is not just enough to be selling it externally; you need to be continually selling it to your employees and other stakeholders to your business. It is the best way to make your staff feel engaged and connected on an emotional level to the products or services that you are offering and makes them more of an advocate. If you are promising something to customers through your seasonal marketing campaign but are not communicating this to employees, they may end up working at cross-purposes, and this can be damaging to your brand.
Keep it simple
When it comes to internal communications, there is no one size fits all. It depends on your industry, the general demographic of your staff and how you operate. The key is to make it simple, whatever you choose to do. It may be a virtual noticeboard on your intranet, or a workload management platform. It may be email, it may be good old-fashioned face to face meetings, or as many have switched to now, online conference calls.
Great internal communication is essential to running a successful business. Keep your employees up to date and make them feel valued, more productive and make your business more profitable.
How to start from scratch
The above points are all great ways of ensuring that your internal communications are strategic, but this assumes that you already have an internal communications plan in place. What if this is something that you have yet to consider? What if you can see the benefits that it can bring but have no idea where to start? If that sounds like you, then we’re here to help.
You are going to need your plan in place as soon as it possibly can be. After all, the next time you are informing employees of upcoming changes, you’re going to want their buy-in. For that reason, we’ve put together some easy to follow steps that will see you devising your own plan in record time.
Assess where you are at right now
Before you can begin to think about what you would like your internal communications strategy to look like, you need to have an understanding of where your company is at right now. How have you been approaching your internal communications up until now? Are there any obvious strengths and weaknesses that you can identify?
You need to have an honest overview of how internal communications work at the moment. Once you know this, you can consider how aligned this is with the end vision that you have. You can assess your current situation by:
- Listing strengths and weaknesses
- Conducting an internal audit
- Create a survey for your employees
- Engage employees in group chats
- Conduct interviews with staff
If you have a culture where your employees have the confidence to speak openly and honestly, you are going to receive some great feedback that you can use going forward. If you find your employees less than forthcoming then you have more evidence that this plan is needed and needed now!
Know where you are going
Having established where you are you’re now going to need to know where you are wanting to go. In other words, what are you hoping to achieve from your internal communications plan? Are you looking to increase employee engagement as we mentioned previously? Do you perhaps want to tackle the problem of absenteeism? No matter what your goal, this will be an integral part of devising your plan.
Once you’ve cracked this part, you then need to consider exactly how you are going to get there. Are you going to look for outside help or is it something that your business has the talent to achieve alone? Do you need a new platform to enable communications in your business or do you just need to make better use of what already exists?
Who is your internal communications strategy for?
As in all areas of life, you need to know your audience. The chances are that you are going to be catering for several audiences and that they will all require the language used to be tweaked. Attempting to address ground floor workers in the same way that you would address senior executives is unlikely to prove effective.
You need to look at your business as a whole and consider exactly how many audiences that you will be catering for. The answer may be considerably higher than you were expecting!
What is your message?
When devising an effective internal communications strategy, you’re going to need to know what message/messages you are trying to get across to your audience. Are you looking to give employees key information that they need? Are you trying to share different information with different departments? Are you trying to spread your information quicker and to achieve engagement?
There is more than just focusing on your message though. For internal communications to be effective then there has to be an understanding that there is a two-way process. You need to allow your employees to speak with confidence and to know that they will be heard. Your team should be able to speak out without fear of being censored providing that they are providing constructive comments.
ONCE YOU’RE UP AND RUNNING
As you may expect, devising your plan and strategy is just the beginning. Once you have this in place and you have improved your internal communications, there is still more work to be done. The main bulk of this will be in the form of reviewing your strategy to ensure that it is still effective and relevant.
Keeping on top of your internal communications strategy means that you will never be taken by surprise and you’ll never be back to square one where you’re having to start all over again. It is much easier to make numerous, yet small, changes than it is to face a major re-write.
WHAT ARE THE BEST WAYS TO COMMUNICATE
All areas of business need to be measured to ensure that they are achieving the required goals. Your internal communications strategy is no different. To be highly effective, there has to be a selection of communication methods that are used as different people will respond in different ways. For instance, some people have a fear of speaking in a crowded room whereas others have a dislike of technology. Ensuring that both extremes, and everything in between, are catered for is vital. Some of the choices that you have include:
- Face to face meetings on a one-to-one basis
- Staff meetings
- Notes/minutes being circulated amongst your teams
- Video calls
All of the above are capable of being monitored to gauge their effectiveness. In face to face meetings, you can look at the engagement during the process. When it comes to emails you can assess open rates and monitor which links have been clicked. You can even monitor which technology has been used more in your business and look at the uptake in video calls.
KEEPING IT UP
Your internal communications strategy should be an evolving beast of sorts. It is one, however, that you can not allow to die. If you are serious about challenging the culture in your workplace then internal communications are pivotal to that change. You have the chance to keep your employees fully informed about the organisation. More than this though, you make your employees feel a part of what is happening.
Ensure that you keep holding meetings. Make sure that the email updates that you have started with now carry on. Do all that you can to garner feedback from your employees. Remember the key benefits that we were looking at when it comes to having an internal communications strategy?
- An engaged workforce
- Reduced absenteeism
- Increase in revenue
- Decrease in staff turnover
If you want to see all of these benefits on a permanent basis then it makes sense that you will need to keep doing what you did to achieve them in the first place. With all the hard work put in, make sure that you take the time to appreciate exactly what you have done.