Internal communications as a function and discipline within organisations is moving further and further up the agenda for senior managers. Today’s execs know that internal communications are important, and understand that engaging their people is more crucial than ever – yet more difficult to achieve in the current economic climate.
As a result, business owners are looking for more professionalism from those delivering the internal communications – but the onus should still be on those at the top of an organisation, to develop and articulate strong messages which can be communicated throughout the company. Whether your business is large or small, communicating and engaging with your employees is essential to your company’s success – as happy, well informed employees tend to make more productive and loyal ones, too.
So how do you create inspiring internal communications?
We use the term ‘inspiring’ not as a word to describe super creative or out of the box ideas; but more in a sense that a company should inspire its employees to take action. Whether it’s communicating a new joint venture or acquisition, a corporate change initiative or rebrand, it’s important that you get your staff on board with your strategy and goals.
1. Give managers something to say – or they might make it up!
This is particularly crucial in periods of organisational change or uncertainty, when middle managers are the ones in the ‘firing line’ from confused employees wanting to know what is going on. Whilst the middle manager may be none-the-wiser than their team; their team believe them to be privy to the latest decisions – and to save their ego, they may wish to protect the relationship they have with their team and make something up or join in with the speculation. The solution here is a simple one: give them something to communicate in order to fill this void.
2. Create a ‘feedback loop’
It’s easy to just rely on feedback given at management meetings and team briefings. But if you truly want to communicate with your people, provide a mechanism to do so. And we’re not just talking about ‘suggestion boxes’! Set up specific areas on the company intranet or forums, to allow staff to give feedback on company issues, submit ideas and raise any concerns. If you don’t have an intranet, a specific email address that is accessed by a nominated person in charge of internal communications would suffice. Doing so will keep your finger on the pulse and allow you to quickly respond to the changing currents of communication. Make sure this loop is connected to senior management and decision makers, as these may be the only people who are able to address many of the concerns and issues.
3. Ensure that words and actions match
The credibility of your management team is determined by the extent to which managers ‘do what they say; and say what they do’. It’s important not to plan one thing, and then communicate something else. People are perceptive and will quickly see through things or catch you out. This can destroy credibility and create resentment in the workforce.
4. Use plain language, not management jargon
A company strategy is usually written out using multiple management jargon; with the benefits of the strategy being to the company and not necessarily how these will impact upon your people. The same information is then used to communicate the company strategy and goals to employees – the problem being is that it can go over people’s heads. Without the same level of strategic insights as board members and access to the same marketing information and data, it can be quite difficult for staff to follow these plans – so break down corporate information into simple, plain language, and focus on the benefits to the employees.
5. Put it in writing
Face to face communications works in many situations, but for consistency, company-wide announcements should always be reinforced with a written message or summary document which can be a robust and consistent message to all staff.
Many of these approaches will help you to engage more effectively when communicating with your employees. At Ripley, we run a number of leadership and management courses which help improve your management and team communications skills. To find out more, why not give us a call on 01423-861-122 or fill in our short contact form – we’d love to help you!
by Mike Smith