A well-crafted internal communication strategy keeps employees engaged and informed. It ensures transparency and helps build a strong and inclusive corporate culture. However, many businesses don’t have a defined internal communication strategy. Instead, they disseminate messages in an unorganized fashion, which can lead to miscommunication and, during a crisis, dangerous confusion. How should internal communication look like then and what can companies do to improve it?
What Is Internal Communication?
Internal communication is an organized and defined flow of communication within an organization. It involves formulating messages and delivering them to the right people through the most effective channels, be it on behalf of the management, departments, or individuals. A good internal communication strategy ensures operational stability, regardless of external factors that may negatively affect the company.
Internal communication helps define a company’s core values. Badly structured internal communication strategy, on the other hand, can lead to disruptions in corporate culture and a decrease in engagement and quality of relationships across an organization.
Still, some companies tend to neglect or undervalue the importance of internal communication. Conversely, other companies spend hours strategizing how best to engage externally with clients, disregarding employee communication and engagement as a result.
As we move toward a distributed workforce, increasingly relying on remote tech tools, internal communication requires double scrutiny.
The Benefits of Good Internal Communication
Creating an environment where employees are encouraged to share their thoughts and feedback can improve employee engagement. When employees actively participate in decision-making, they feel valued and respected. Furthermore, their insight and contribution plays an important part in the making of and nurturing company culture.
Improved Employee Productivity
A direct result of employee engagement is improved employee productivity. When employees recognize that their work and insight have a tangible impact on company operations, they are more likely to commit to achieving goals and objectives. By giving staff a clear message that they are an inseparable part of the company, you are empowering them to be creative and incentivizing them to deliver more.
Decreased Staff Turnover
High employee engagement and the awareness of how employee work translates into the bigger picture decrease staff turnover. When you are regularly communicating the importance of employee work to the company’s overall success, employees feel appreciated and view their work as meaningful.
Employees should know exactly how their performance contributes to the company’s growth, structure, and mission. In a war for talent, this recognition can be the key to retaining the best in the industry.
Cohesive Company Culture
Internal communication actively shapes company culture and positively impacts your employees, making them engaged, happy, and productive. Employees should feel comfortable sharing knowledge and experience with each other. On the other hand, offering support and asking for help should also be ingrained in how employees interact.
Better Crisis Handling
Crises often affect many stakeholders, from employees to customers to shareholders. Employees specifically rely on internal communication regarding crisis updates. Crisis communication helps alleviate employee fears and uncertainties as well as clear out confusion about the extent of a crisis. When employees are well informed about a crisis, they are more likely to handle it better.
When all employee types (remote, hybrid, or on-site) are equally immersed in updates and changes in the company, it makes them feel part of the team. Transparency is especially important with remote employees who may sometimes feel separated when there’s a lack of on-site interaction with other staff members.
Creating an Effective Internal Communications Strategy
In a distributed workforce and with a growing number of external partners involved in company operations (e.g., freelancers, suppliers) traditional top-down communication ceases to be effective. There needs to be more transparency and inclusion in communication to increase involvement and information distribution among staff and beyond.
Rigid, top-down communication stands in the way of meaningful and diversified staff communication that is fundamental to fostering cohesive company culture.
Key elements of good internal communication strategy:
- Treat internal communication as a conversation with your employees (one in which they can actively participate).
- When crafting messages, take into account the multi-generational preferences of communication styles. This can be done by segmenting audiences and using different communication channels.
- Give your employees easy access to different communication channels. Create a centralized location (hub) with all the relevant redirects to other information.
Here is a step-by-step tutorial on creating an effective internal communication strategy.
Analyze Existing Communication Strategy
If you have an internal communication strategy, spend some time to analyze its strengths and weaknesses.
Note: If you’re just starting to create your internal communication strategy, move to the second step.
By objectively assessing your current internal communication you’ll be able to create a new strategy that builds on what’s already working and eliminates any weak spots.
Answer these questions:
- How is your current strategy performing? What’s the feedback you’re receiving from your employees?
- How do you think your internal communication contributes to your company culture? Additionally, does it reflect your company’s core values?
- How do you connect with your employees? Do you have designated software and channels for communication?
- Are there any metrics you’re analyzing to check the performance? What is the effectiveness and reach on various communication channels?
- Who manages your internal communication? Is it possible the team is too small?
If you’re struggling with answering these questions, you can send out a survey to your employees asking for honest feedback and suggestions on what they think could be improved. Remember, asking employees for their insight is the foundation of good internal communication.
Below are the most common culprits behind the low effectiveness of internal communication:
- Maybe you’re sending too much information? Flooded by too much information, employees might not notice relevant announcements. Meaningful information is key to engagement.
- Maybe you’re not evenly including all your employees (remote, on-site, hybrid) in meaningful discussions?
Define Your Objectives, Goals, and Timelines
In this step, focus on goals and objectives you want to achieve through your internal communication strategy.
- Do you want to shape and nurture company culture?
- Want your employees to be more engaged?
- Would you like to disseminate valuable information to specific departments to facilitate their work?
After defining your goals and objectives, you’ll be able to narrow down what should be improved to achieve them. With goals written down, it’s easier to plan a realistic timeline outlining which processes should be changed and what new to add.
Segment Your Audience
Naturally, to create an inclusive communication environment you want to reach all of your employees. However, to keep information relevant and prevent information overflow, you have to segment your audiences. For example, the IT department doesn’t need information valuable for the marketing department (e.g., detailed sales updates).
Remember, a good internal communication strategy involves sending the right information to the right audiences. That information has to play two parts: nurture company culture and provide useful information to the receiving team or department. Or in other words, send information that brings real value to the recipient.
Choose Communication Tools and Channels
To increase content consumption among employees, use multiple communication channels that let employees truly immerse themselves in internal communication.
Email, so popular among many companies, is only one channel, one that doesn’t really give employees much in terms of interactivity and engagement.
The choice of channels ultimately depends on your goals and company culture. Every tool should have a justified use case. You want to avoid a situation where there are too many tools and employees are confused as to where they should seek a particular type of information.
Communication channels to consider:
- Social media
- Discussion boards
- Instant messaging apps (e.g., Facebook or Slack)
- Videoconferencing tools (especially to boost engagement among remote staff)
The best approach to choosing your tools is to list all of them and determine how and why the company uses them.
Ask these questions:
- Are there tools for facilitating meaningful two-way communication?
- Can employees securely and easily use the tools?
- Do all employees feel they have a tool they’re comfortable using?
Learn How to Measure the Success of the Strategy
When you’re reaching your audience via numerous channels, you should be tracking the effectiveness of these channels.
Here are some useful metrics to keep an eye on:
- Engagement metrics (i.e., how many people read corporate messages)
- Social shares of company updates
- Social mentions
- Intranet usage
Come Up with a Team
Build a team that controls and manages your internal communication strategy. The team should be responsible for reviewing the content as well as writing and approving it.
It’s good practice to include both the marketing department and the HR department in charge of internal communication. A designated internal communication team undoubtedly streamlines the process of disseminating internal messages and decreases bottlenecks.
Regularly Review Your Internal Communication and Its Effectiveness
Send out surveys and actively monitor success metrics to learn which areas can be further improved. Regular evaluation of the internal communication strategy will help you align it better with your employees, letting you achieve your goals.
Improve Internal Communication and Build a Successful Company
Having an internal communication strategy is one of the key elements of successful companies. Build a mindset where employees can voice out their concerns while letting them know that they are being heard. Then, identify the most effective channels for simple and complex messages to reduce bottlenecks, create a cohesive company culture, and reach your goals. Remember, building an internal communication strategy is an ongoing process where you refine it based on direct stakeholder feedback.