So, internal communications aren’t an issue in your company, right? You’ve got a system of team meetings in place, your door is always open and the annual employee engagement survey tells you everything is hunky dory. You don’t need to worry about internal communications, certainly not when you’ve got that important tender to finish off. Many a committed and hardworking business owner has made statements just like the ones above. But internal communications are such an important issue for every business, is it really something you want to leave to chance? After all, you wouldn’t dream of allowing your sales and marketing to function without some corporate guidance and oversight. In this post we look at the importance of internal communications to every business and why an internal communications strategy is a must-have.
The Importance Of Internal Communications
Effective internal communications are quite simply essential to the smooth running of your business. Employees need to understand the company culture and values as well as where they fit into the overall picture. They also need to be kept up to date with what’s happening on a corporate level as well as industry news and developments. But to be effective, internal communications must be a two-way process. Staff members need to feel as though their voice is being heard and so every company should have mechanisms in place for staff to feed concerns up to senior management.
Internal communications can take many forms: emails, newsletters, message boards and blogs as well as team or departmental meetings and staff conferences. Most organizations use a variety of methods, but the most effective ones are usually those that involve face-to-face communication.
Why An Internal Communications Strategy Is A Must-Have
As we’ve seen, internal communications are so fundamental to everything that you do that it’s incumbent on every business to have a strategic approach. Sticking your head in the sand and assuming that all will be OK is counter-productive because without a strong and clear internal communications strategy, it’s very hard for you to communicate externally with customers, suppliers and stakeholders.
What’s more, internal communications also have an important impact on employee engagement. Research from Gallup and other thought leaders has consistently shown there is a strong link between good internal communications and high levels of employee engagement; in fact, the two go hand in hand. And there’s a whole wealth of evidence demonstrating that engaged and motivated employees are also more productive, take fewer sick days and change jobs less frequently. They also provide superior customer service resulting in increased company profits. The impact of good internal communications and employee engagement together is, therefore, not to be underestimated.
Given the importance of internal communications it follows that a well-thought through, strategic plan is needed. After all, internal communications is not a one-off event. It’s an ongoing process that requires a multi-pronged approach to reflect the different needs of the individuals that make up the average workforce as well as the unique operations and structure of the business.
So, we have established the importance of internal communications and the need to have a corporate strategy overseeing and directing it. Let’s turn our attention now to how to go about developing an effective internal communications strategy.
How To Develop An Effective Internal Communications Strategy
Involve staff: The starting point for devising an internal communications strategy has to be with staff members. What are their preferred methods of communication? How do they like to receive news and updates and how often? What’s important to them and how can they let senior management know about their concerns? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, then the first step is to consult with employees on the essential elements that need to be reflected in a strategy. Set up a cross-departmental working group to review where you’re currently at, what’s working well and what could be improved and get the group to put forward a proposal. Alternatively set up a staff focus group, or why not ask for views on your company intranet’s news feed? You could also seek staff feedback with a survey or poll conducted on the intranet.
Decide on your internal communications channels: The research and consultation conducted with staff will help you to identify your preferred channels of communication. But remember that depending on the specific message some channels will be more appropriate than others. For example, important information on job vacancies might be better shared on LinkedIn and corporate announcements that affect all staff are probably best published on the company-wide intranet. In addition, you will also need to consider what’s appropriate to the operational side of your business. If you have large numbers of remote workers, for instance, or you employ sales personnel or field technicians that primarily work away from the office, then you will need to carefully research and consider what communications channels will work best for these employees. Your strategy is likely therefore to include a wide range of mechanisms and channels for connecting and engaging with all staff members.
Identify the key metrics to track your progress: There’s no point in having a strategy in place if you have no idea whether it’s achieving the aims and objectives you set. An effective internal communications strategy, therefore, must include a set of core metrics so you can determine whether it’s working. The metrics to be included will vary from business to business but are likely to include some or all of the following:
- benchmarking against similar organizations
- employee surveys and focus groups
- pre- and post-campaign surveys to assess the impact of specific communications campaigns
- company intranet logon rates
- shares and comments on social media
- clicks on and participation in blogging, podcasts, video messages and so on.
As a minimum an annual employee communications or engagement survey is a great tool for assessing the impact of your strategy. But it’s also worth considering measures to assess the impact of specific campaigns and initiatives throughout the year.
Utilize The Company Intranet
Whatever form the final internal communications strategy takes, one thing’s for sure – the company intranet will be a valuable tool in making it happen. Here are some ideas on how you can utilize the company intranet to improve internal communications in your business:
Providing a news platform: Whether it’s corporate, team or departmental news use the intranet’s news feed to get the same, timely messages out to all staff.
Promoting two-way conversations: Blogs on the intranet and staff comments on news feeds as well as regular surveys and polls provide the opportunity for staff and managers to engage in those all-important two-way conversations. Make sure that you use the intranet to also feedback to staff on the outcomes of those conversations.
Assessing the success of your communications: Use the intranet to collect quantitative and qualitative data about the success of your internal communications strategy. From recording clicks on news pages through to seeking views in blogs or polls, the intranet is a valuable way to collect performance data.
Showcasing a variety of channels: The intranet provides one platform for launching a variety of communications channels, from podcasts through to blogs, vlogs and wikis. What’s more, the 24/7 nature of the intranet means that staff can access these channels at a time and place that suits them. It could be whilst on their daily commute into work, while out on the road visiting clients or in the quiet of their own home of an evening.
Mike McMinn is currently General Manager of Technology for MyHub Intranet Solutions covering CTO and CMO duties. MyHub is a cloud-based intranet software solution that provides companies with a simple and easy to manage CMS that provides a range of powerful business communication and collaboration tools. Get in touch with us here at MyHub for a no-obligation demo or 14-day free trial and see for yourself the impact an intranet can have on your internal communications.