Poor communication is a serious problem in business. Across organizations of any size, a lack of effective internal employee communications contributes to costly mistakes. What happens when you have three really smart people tackling a problem at the same time, but with different interpretations of the overall goals or necessary tasks? Potentially, missed deadlines, poorly allocated resources or wasteful spending. In other words, a general spinning of wheels that doesn’t create the outcome that’s best for the business.
How can you make sure this doesn’t happen within your company? Well, for small teams, it makes sense to just get in a room and get on the same page. That becomes more difficult the larger your staff grows. That means you need a real process for getting information out there. Improving employee communications should be a high priority so you can avoid situations like the one above. Help your employees learn and process valuable information so that everyone can work together toward common outcomes.
Maybe you’re already doing a few of these things. Maybe some of them will sound new to you. And, of course, in today’s pandemic world, some of these strategies are ones we didn’t need as much of before. Regardless of where your company is in their journey to improve internal communications strategies, you can apply these tactics.
Business Leadership – Communication from the Top Down
Research an internal communications plan
Before you can try to manage or improve anything, you need to have a realistic understanding of its current state. Where does your internal communication fall right now? Do you have an internal communications plan, or send items ad-hoc? If you have a plan, how effective is it? Who is responsible for executing and measuring the plan?
There is not a one-size-fits-all internal communications strategy for companies. Only you can determine what your brand needs and the best way to get there. However, if you feel like your employee communications efforts are lackluster and falling short, try reviewing your overall plan. If there is no real plan in place, there’s never been a better time to develop one!
Document clear objectives
If you’re looking for ways to improve internal communication, consider backing up and looking at the bigger picture. What are you hoping to accomplish with your employee communication? Come up with measurable objectives that cover what your plan will achieve and in what timeframe.
Many times, company leaders feel they have poor employee communication, when the real problem lies in the fact that they never established what they wanted the communications to do in the first place. How can you know if something is working if you didn’t have a goal at the start?
Address business problems in your employee communication plan
Essentially you need to answer “What’s in it for me?” for your employees. Ensure that any internal communications planning allows for a “why”. The only way to get buy-in across the board is to show the various returns of the effort – how things will improve at an individual level if staff supports the plan.
Assemble key stakeholders and identify champions
For any messaging to be taken seriously, it needs to come from the highest levels of the organization. Important messaging also needs a driving force, or a team committed to managing it. Stakeholders could be company leadership, a senior member of your marketing or HR team, a whole committee, or even an employee who is passionate about the subject.
It’s just as important to have a clear vision of who will manage communications day-to-day, as senior level stakeholders often become too busy or aren’t as available.
Understand the tools you have available
This is where logistics come into play. Do you currently use tools to enable internal communications strategies? Take an inventory of the tools you have available, as well as what you need them to actually do. This way you can identify gaps, and in some cases redundancies that just complicate things.
Based on your goals, are the tools you have the best for reaching your audience? For example, perhaps you have an intranet for sharing company information and you also have a collaboration tool for employees to chat, but do you have a way to enable two-way communication where employees can provide feedback to management?
Different tools are suited to different forms of communication. Review the objectives you documented and then take an audit of your systems and processes. Prioritize where you’ll invest to cover what’s missing right now.
Create Consistency – Get Everyone Bought In
Build an internal brand
Establish a consistent brand and voice across your intranet, newsletters, email, and messages. Doing so will establish a sense of ownership among staff and also help link content together.
Make two-way communication a priority
We’ve covered a lot of top-down communications. Do you have a plan or channel in place for bottom-up communication? If your communications are strictly one-way, you’ll quickly find employees disengaged.
Ensure that employees know they can respond to information, express concerns, or share ideas without being censored – and make sure they know which channels to use to do so. Let them know management will see their feedback, and help them to feel empowered to use their voice.
Don’t overwhelm people
Research is proving that attention spans are getting shorter. In today’s hyper-digital world, it can be tough to compete for the limited time that people have. We are essentially facing a constant information overload. That means you need to be thoughtful and intentional about what you’re sending to employees and what they’re sending each other. Emails, meeting invitations, notices, announcements, social content – you can see why some internal communications messaging can get caught in the noise.
Break your plan into smaller themes that people can better focus on. And before you send anything, ask yourself what the value is. Does the communication directly relate to the goals you set? Always ensure the most important information is featured first and prominently in emails or printed materials. We also suggest mixing up content formats, types, and channels, and utilizing video, imagery and other mediums so your team doesn’t get burned out reading the same types of communication over and over.
“Everyone” means in-office workers, remote workers, people who work part time, etc. It also means ensuring any tools that you use for internal communication are ADA compliant and usable by people with various disabilities.
Now more than ever, workplaces are diverse in terms of how employees get the job done. Ensure that your systems and processes meet people where they are. If announcements are made in person, or employees need specific VPN access to see the Intranet, you might be facing some gaps while people telecommute or vary their schedules. Consider every audience you need to reach and the avenues available to reach them.
Have a crisis communications plan
It’s important to plan and prepare for things to go wrong. Eventually a problem will come up, and you don’t want to test your communication strategy in a crisis.
Creating a plan ahead of time enables you to anticipate what could go wrong, and then ensure you have protocols in place and that they’re understood. You can also include internal communications elements like a two-way employee alert system and a chain of communications command.
At the end of the day, you want to have a clear picture of how quickly your message can get out and how much it’s understood by your entire staff.
Get Tactical – Tips for Managing Employee Communications
Hold group calls when needed
Most companies use a mix of email, internal collaboration tools, in-office notices and digital signage to relay messaging. Sometimes, though, nothing is a substitute for just hopping on a call. Consider setting a rule for when a call should be scheduled over engaging in an email chain. For example, if an email results in more than 3 responses, it might be time to just connect over the phone.
Too often, important steps toward progress can be delayed or even missed while people wait for clarification via email, or further responses. For time-sensitive items or questions that will likely lead to more questions, just schedule a short call.
Consider limiting or even banning email
Email has its benefits, but it’s not a great tool for improving internal communications. The problem is that studies have shown employees spend up to 23% of their day on email. When you consider that people send or receive, on average, 112 emails a day, you have to wonder if it’s the most productive avenue for communicating.
There are so many tools designed specifically for communication among teams – such as Slack – and they offer features such as grouping team members, controlling notifications, and the ability to make public when needed. Best of all: no accidental “reply all”!
Take a look at what communication or collaboration tools you have in place and see if these platforms might replace email in some capacity. Encourage team members to leverage these tools rather than email when possible.
Host weekly standups
A practice often held by startups, this habit can benefit any company seeking to improve internal communications. In a large organization, departments can have their own standup meetings, usually on Monday or Friday afternoons. Keep the meeting a running item on your team’s calendar, and ask them to bring their biggest questions or to-do’s for the coming week, along with the greatest achievement from the previous week.
One question we always like to ask in these standing meetings is “What do you need from this group to accomplish your goals this week?” This fosters a collaborative approach and accountability, and means there’s no surprises when someone asks for your assistance on something time-sensitive.
Display your achievements and employees
People want to feel like they work for a company doing important things, and that their work makes a difference in the company. Use digital signage to display dashboards, KPIs, employee spotlights, recent awards, or new client logos. The options for highlighting wins are endless – but here are a few ideas!
MVix offers over 150 data source integrations to keep signage engaging. Whether you’re an ad agency featuring your latest tv spot, or a financial firm displaying key graphs and charts, you can use digital signage to cultivate a more positive workplace where every employee feels included and responsible for recent successes.
“Count down” as a team
Another great way to use the digital signage available in your office is to keep track of progress on critical initiatives. Show charts or timelines that let employees see how close the company is to achieving certain milestones.
Many companies use signage to keep a running daily count down toward important launches or events. Even if employees aren’t directly working on that particular project, they can get excited and experience the resulting morale boost.
Remember: Internal Communication is Already Happening
A diverse range of communication is already taking place within your organization. Whether it’s just among friends at the water cooler, or managers sharing corporate news within their departments, people are talking. The question is: how much control do you have over the communication already happening? Are the current internal communications contributing to a successful, productive, and engaged workplace?
If not, you may want to take some time to put in place a clear, consistent, and structured internal communication strategy. Today’s digital world offers a variety of helpful tools that enable employees no matter where they are, but don’t underestimate what goes on in your office. Digital signage, in-person announcements, and good old fashioned meetings are all part of effective internal communications.
We help companies improve the way they communicate with their employees and within their buildings to create better aligned and more productive workplaces. For ideas on how to better engage and support your team, read more of our employee communications blogs.