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I’m helping several of my clients improve their internal communications at the moment and it struck me that some of the things I have always taken for granted growing up in comms roles, are actually quite alien to some business leaders. For instance, asking the question ‘is this a need or nice to know?’ before sharing it.
Smart people leaders are focused on helping their employees be as good as they can be by providing them with information they need to know. These are the things that need actioning to ensure things get done and goals get achieved.
Inclusive people leaders know that it is equally as important to share things that might interest employees about the wider business and the team that are working in it.
We all know that it makes business sense to care about people, to ensure employees are safe, comfortable and that they are as happy as they can be doing the work they do. When your people are happy, they do better work, they look after customers well and ultimately everyone wins.
Internal communications is the process of keeping employees connected and informed. When done well it creates a shared understanding of company vision, values, and goals. It squashes the rumour mill and wasted energy that is spent on back-biting between teams or departments.
When done exceptionally well it engenders a culture of trust, purpose, identity, and community. It is a two-way street, with plenty of opportunities for employees to give their thoughts, ideas, and opinions on how to make the business even better to leaders who listen and take action.
The stuff that is nice to know might include recognition of a new customer win, an employee celebrating their child’s graduation, or someone welcoming a new addition to the family (be it a baby, dog, kitten, hamster!). When you truly care about your people you should take the time to communicate the nice to knows about their wins or personal stories, as well as the things that need to get done to make your business fly.
Here are some more top tips for improving internal communications in your business:
Ask don’t tell
It is easy for internal comms to turn into broadcasting. If you are just ‘sending out stuff’ then it is time for a re-think. If you don’t want to pose questions directly to people, try creating channels and platforms for them to suggest ideas and offer constructive criticism. But don’t fall into the trap of asking then not responding – this is worse than not asking people what they think at all! That just makes leaders disingenuous – appearing to listen but actually just pretending to. Your people are the most important resource you have. Listen to them and get their views and ideas, you might be surprised the difference it can make to your business, as well as your culture.
Be transparent and share the bigger picture
That whole ‘finding your why’ thing that was all the rage a few years back is important when it comes to thinking about internal comms. People perform better at work when they have a clear purpose and can see the benefit of the work they directly do on the bigger picture for the business. Sharing how the company is doing financially, customer wins and other good news stories can be inspiring. It also motivating to know that your work is contributing to something to the success of an organisation. If things aren’t going so well, then that’s good to share too….often your people at the sharp end can have great ideas for efficiency savings or innovation. Don’t be afraid to involve people when times are tough – it is often these times that the strongest bonds of trust are formed and changes and impact are made.
Create a network of champions
Internal champions or ambassadors are a great way of ensuring that company initiatives succeed. Get together a group of people in your business who embody your values and culture. These don’t have to be people in leadership positions, in fact it works best when they are at all levels of the business. The essential criteria is for them to understand why good communications matters and be prepared for them to be a conduit for two-way engagement between team members. Equip them with the messages and tools they need to become your champions for internal communications.
Choose the right channels
When you take the time to craft and prepare communications messages, it is important that you consider the channel and tools you’re using to get it out to people. There are so many different channels you can use for effective communication, and it will be different dependent on what you’re communicating and to who. You may want to combine multiple channels to ensure your message is received, such as all-staff emails, town-hall style meetings (increasingly a mixture of online and in-person), internal employee engagement platforms and intranet sites. It’s also best practice to follow-up any important verbal meetings with written confirmation of what was discussed to ensure messages land correctly and can be referred to if required.
Over-communicate in times of crisis
As we saw during the pandemic, the best performing companies were those who kept their customers informed at every stage, whether it was closures or changing of opening hours….moving from in-person to online delivery. The same was true internally and many businesses found themselves turning to different ways and harnessing technology to keep their employees informed but also to listen to their concerns and provide reassurance. Remember those office Zoom quizzes? Communicating regular updates and briefings to employees during times of crisis engenders trust and confidence. Even when sometimes no news is good news, it is better to fill the void than to allow the dreaded rumour mill to crank up. Being consistent, calm, and communicating at regular, set intervals supports your employees, boosts morale, and keeps everyone informed, even if/when the rest of the world feels like it is in crisis mode!
To finish, internal communications doesn’t have to be this big, scary thing. You can start small with a monthly round-up of what’s going on in the business. The main thing is to start and then keep it going. Try out different things and get feedback from your people….have some fun along the way.