Within any organization, internal communication should be a top priority. While it looks different for each company size, type and industry, effective internal communication should have a two-way flow between executives, managers and individual contributors.
It may sound like an easy concept, but many organizations are struggling to keep internal communications effective. Many utilize mostly top-down, one-way communication tools that do disseminate appropriate information, but they’re unsure if the communication was retained or acted upon by all levels of the company.
Ineffective internal communication efforts can lead to errors of omission by employees who have misunderstood or were misinformed about company policies, business processes or job functions, possibly impacting the company’s bottom line directly. Misunderstanding or not receiving messaging from company leaders also negatively impacts employee morale, retention and performance. A Holmes report found that ineffective internal communications can cost more than $26,000 per employee annually.
However, companies with effective internal communications in the same report saw returns jump by up to 47%. Two-way communication within an organization will create a democratic culture of inclusion and respect, where employees remain engaged and become the company’s biggest ambassadors. They’re more likely to remain at the company, working towards promotions and other career goals while recommending the company as a choice employer to their personal and professional networks.
Here are some key points organizations should consider to ensure internal communications are effective:
It’s important to know that every employee prefers to receive communications differently and that the average person needs to hear the same message between 3-7 times before it is retained and can be acted upon. An effective internal communications strategy should include multiple forms of communication that tailor to individual learning styles. They should incorporate long copy, short copy, images, video and interactive aspects – sometimes within the same platform – to be retained by the audience.
These may live on a company Intranet page, much like an internal blog or newsroom. Each message can include an image or video, link out to more information or resources, or ask for feedback from the reader. Commonly, companies will use emailed newsletters, sent on a consistent basis. Consider that employees are constantly facing email burn-out and it may be more effective to send a digest of a digital newsletter on a regular basis, rather than expect them to reference an email when utilizing or returning to the messaging.
The popularity of employee communication apps has been on the rise. They often act as a home base for the company’s Intranet, contact directory and employment resources while also providing a timeline-based news feed much like popular social media sites. They’re extremely flexible and increasingly easy to implement while fitting into employee lifestyles without much effort or change in routine.
Speaking directly with employees about important messaging can be the most effective way to ensure retention. Companies should consider hosting company-wide meetings with multiple presenters from leadership to cover key items that have come up within an appropriate timeframe. Some may have monthly or quarterly meetings, either in the office or a hybrid in-person/virtual meeting, depending on needs. Leave time for open dialogue and gauge involvement continuously to improve each meeting.
No communication platform will be effective without employee engagement from all levels within the organization. The first step to implementing any communications strategy is getting buy-in and participation from the top level of leadership.
This can be created within any type of communication – if you’re sending a company-wide digital newsletter, consider having the messaging come directly from executive leadership – they should have a say in what is shared and how often. They may not actually pen the messages themselves, but the message can come from their email address and be written to carefully reflect the individual’s unique tone of voice. Be sure to personalize any communication both for the author and the audience.
If an employee communication app is used, ask leadership to post their own images and stories, as well as engage with posts from other employees. Similarly, while public social media profiles may not be considered internal communications, seeing a personal side of leadership on their LinkedIn or Twitter profiles can aid in building trust within the organization.
The effectiveness of communications should be tested often. Mini surveys can be added to digital newsletters, and many organizations will send out annual employee surveys. Make sure that a section of the annual survey asks closed and open-ended questions about the effectiveness of the communication strategy. Employee apps are often rich with data down to the individual employee level, like the last time they logged in, if they saw certain messages or how often they engage with information and posts.
Keep an open mind when reviewing the results and be ready to adjust the strategy accordingly – it’s a common belief that you can consider internal communication efforts as important as external sales or client relationship efforts – treating your employees as important as your customers can go a long way in reaching any organizational goal across departments.
Liz Rouech is a Senior Account Executive at Mulberry Marketing Communications, an award-winning full-service B2B communications agency based in Chicago, London and Australia. She is passionate about the art of business communications and enjoys helping her clients improve brand perception in their unique industries.