This article also featured on Fora.ie on 5 May 2018.
Every day we talk to clients about their achievements and plans for growth. These exciting developments are usually worthy of an external communications plan—but seldom do businesses ever effectively communicate them to their employees.
This isn’t because business leaders don’t appreciate, respect or admire their employees. Instead, they either assume they are always aware of the business’s plans or believe that news filters down organically and intact. It doesn’t, at least not in a way that you control.
Is internal communications really that important?
Like most things in life, real motivation and empowerment come when we’re part of something, when we feel like we’re contributing, and when we belong.
This is the ultimate aim of a strong internal communications strategy. An internal communications strategy keeps your employees up to speed on the direction and ambition of your company, and cultivates a committed and productive team.
This has never been more relevant than in today’s digital age. Communication is constant, instant and two-way. This presents great opportunity but also requires more planning. With a flexible, often remote workforce potentially spread across a country or the world, employers need to think outside the box. Embracing social and digital channels enables businesses to meaningfully interact with their internal audience in a friendly, visual and engaging manner.
How to get started
1. Understand the why
As in, why are you doing this? It’s only when you, as a leader, truly understand why internal communications matters and what it means for your business that you can sell the dream and ensure it becomes ingrained in the vision and values of your company.
You need to establish where you want to be in five years and what success looks like. Draw up a plan. Envisage the future of internal communications in your company. Setting the objectives and goal will allow you to develop the right strategy and benchmark success.
2. Research and audit
Understand your company’s current internal communications systems and processes and where they may be lacking. Maybe there are no structures in place at all. Identify the weaknesses, the strengths, the tangible areas for improvement, and the potential benefits that would result with an improved structure.
It could be as simple as a planned monthly all-staff meeting, a regular communication from the CEO or MD, or appointing a social committee. Maybe it’s better utilising platforms that your employees use, such as LinkedIn or Facebook, or video content. This works best if your organisation is large and spread out internationally.
Consider getting the ball rolling by introducing a formal channel for feedback or ideas on how the company can improve. Seeking input from employees shows that you care and value contribution.
We all lead busy lives and get caught up in the day-to-day. Without the pressure of a deadline or project, it’s difficult to take time out to work on new ideas that seem ‘nice to have’ rather than essential.
We’ve already established the value of internal communications. But it’s even more important to understand that successful internal communications requires time, work, and financial investment. Start treating it like you would any other customer or client project. If you don’t invest, it’ll be business as usual.
4. Lead and get help
As a company leader, you need to share your vision and ambition with your senior team. Getting buy-in from them will allow your strategy to be implemented enthusiastically.
Sometimes external advice and guidance is needed. Consider reaching out to a third-party if you need to know more about how to properly plan and execute an internal communications strategy.
How do I know if it actually works?
Repeat your desk research by talking with and polling your team. Do your employees feel more valued? Is there more collaboration and creativity? Has productivity increased and staff turnover decreased?
When Douglas Conant took on the role as CEO of Campbell’s Soup in the US, in less than a decade he transformed the company’s performance from reportedly ‘poor’ to ‘extraordinary’.
A Client Director in the corporate division of PR360, Sarah has almost ten years’ experience providing communications strategies to leading domestic and international clients.