The evolution of internal comms is one of the more heartening aspects of the contemporary business story.
Disappearing are the days of PCs smothered by an array of shouty, demanding, neon post-its and send-to-all emails decrying sales performances and incompletely filled time-sheets, signed off by a CEO no one ever sees. It’s not just that internal comms are becoming more sophisticated either. Businesses are waking up to the fact that they’re about a lot more than just conveying important messages.
Good internal comms actually have a measurable impact on the performance of an enterprise, indeed business and economics research company, McKinsey Global Institute, found that productivity improves by 20-25% in organisations with employees who feel better connected. Numbers not to be sniffed at. The more enterprises develop and experiment with different methods of communicating with their staff, the clearer it becomes which methods are worth adopting.
In this blog, we have cherry-picked ten of what we consider to be the best tips to get the best out of this most valuable of tools.
1. Easy on the Jargon
“Those of you attending Tuesday’s thought shower need to be prepared for some blue-sky thinking vis-à-vis the recent project HR have been holding the pencil on. We’re looking for ideas with great texture to simplify the level of granularity in certain data sets and expose our silver bullet.”
Erm…what? The bane of many an office-worker, corporate jargon is like that maniacal fly that no amount of Raid or furious rolled-up newspaper swiping can exterminate. Committed users of this nonsensical language think they sound very David S. Rose, little realising they sound much more David Brent. As well as being difficult to decipher, business jargon also feels increasingly outdated in a modern and streamlined world. It is a fax machine amongst tablets. Particularly the younger end of the workforce prefer correspondence that is direct, concise and to the point. The more able they are to understand it, the more willing they become to engage with the core message. Keep it simple, keep it clear.
2. Be creative
“Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible.” – Frank Zappa
Internal comms doesn’t just refer to emails. Any process that involves bringing employees together and having them interact comes under the umbrella. A department, for example, might consider ditching the meeting room and instead going for a walk to talk about pertinent issues. Some businesses are shelving the email in favour of wall-mounted TVs projecting meeting times, achievements, important dates and so on. The point is you must have the confidence to dare to be different, you might just find a way of tapping into employees in a way you’d previously never managed. If it doesn’t work, so what? At least you tried.
3. Encourage and respond to feedback
“We all need people who will give us feedback. That’s how we improve.” – Bill Gates
It is easy to fall into the trap of internal comms turning into one-way traffic. Assuming that because correspondences use some brightly coloured fonts, that everyone is enthralled with each piece of output. The most sure-fire way of finding out if your internal comms framework is engaging employees effectively is by actually asking them. Or, if not posing the questions directly, creating channels and platforms for them to suggest different ideas and offer constructive criticism. Of course, many enterprises do this yet still do not respond, which is arguably worse. Employees may start to find senior leadership disingenuous, apparently listening, but really just pretending to. Your employees are the most important resource you have. Listen to them and engage with them, you might be surprised the difference it can make.
“You can’t improve what you don’t measure and generally, whatever you measure…improves.” – HP motto
Remarkably, despite it being standard business practice to scrutinise, interpret, and respond to all areas of corporate performance, many enterprises use no form of metric to determine internal comms efficacy at all. The main reason for this is enterprises that have always used the same internal comms channel have no real frame of reference. Speak to employees. Find out from them what they want to hear and how they want to hear it and put something in place. Yes, that might involve some investment, but when global professional services provider Towers Watson are discovering that companies with highly effective internal comms are producing 47% higher returns to shareholders, then it might be worth the price of a few wall-mounted tellies. Whatever conduit you choose for sharing information, just make sure you measure levels of engagement, morale, and productivity and as with all other areas of your business, constantly be looking at ways to improve.
5. Avoid information overload
“The result of information overload is usually distraction, and it dilutes your focus and takes you off your game.” – Zig Ziglar
Global marketing company Mindshare recently discovered that 33% of employees wanted more information from their companies. Or, in other words, 66% really don’t. Embracing the power of great internal comms is a wonderful thing but try and curb your enthusiasm. You know when a music artist releases a new song that you absolutely love, but then every radio station plays it all day, every day for a month? Your head rocking soon turns to head shaking. It’s the same with internal comms. Less really is more. Again, respond to what your employees want to hear and give it to them, in moderation. Consider as well differentiating your output so departments get the information most relevant to them. That little bit of effort will go some way to preventing your staff from throwing the metaphorical radio out of the window.
6. Embrace technology
“To explore technology is for me something I have to do. Otherwise, I feel completely left at the back…abandoned.” – Bernardo Bertolucci
As important as internal comms undoubtedly are, your employees have jobs to do. Cumbersome and unreliable channels are not appreciated. As part of their research, Mindshare also learned that over half of employees believed a single platform that consolidates all company communication would make it easier to receive and share information. Fortunately, we live in a technological age and options there are aplenty. Group chat software such as HipChat and Yammer provide a single space for group instant messaging, video-conferencing, and screen sharing. Sticking with one platform for email, calendars, and documents also makes things a little easier. Adopting digital signage means that important information can be relayed without packing even more into emails.
7. Emphasise the bigger picture
“We’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Martin Brody, Jaws
As eluded to earlier, targeted, differentiated information sharing is great but what is also great is reminding employees that they’re a part of something bigger than the confines of their desk or cubicle. In fact, jobs board provider JobsInMe found that an eyebrow-raising 85% of employees said they feel most motivated when management share regular company updates and news. Reminding staff of the company’s goals and missions has the effect of inspiring them, inspiring them to do their job well and inspiring them to not only want to remain with the organisation but progress within it.
8. Recognise and appreciate
“A person who feels appreciated will always do more than what is expected.” – Anon
The bedrock of internal comms is facilitating the ability of an enterprise to open channels of communication. Share news at departmental, wider company and industry level, give opportunities to provide feedback, motivate, inspire, inform, and educate. It seems though that many enterprises focus more on corporate information sharing than anything else. If an enterprise really wants to inspire and motivate, recognise the achievements of departments and individuals, mention them by name, share important dates like birthdays and wedding anniversaries. People love it, it gives them a spring in their step for the rest of the day, and best of all – it’s free.
9. Utilise social media
“Not using social media in the workplace, in fact, is starting to make about as much sense as not using the phone or email.” – Ryan Holmes, Founder and CEO, Hootsuite
Ooh, this is controversial. Are we advocating people snapchatting their disciplinary hearings and spending their mornings sending out Candy Crush requests? Not exactly, but social media is so ubiquitous it’s impossible to shut out. Do you know what they say about when you can’t beat them? Your company should really have a social media presence anyway and encouraging staff involvement is a great morale-booster. Let them take pictures of themselves having fun and working on projects and upload them with the company’s official pages tagged. They get a kick out of working for an organisation so forward-thinking, other employees get to see what’s going on in other departments, and the company’s profile is raised. That’s a whole lot of wins right there.
10. Be transparent
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” – Dalai Lama
OK, not too transparent. We’re not talking about printing company tax returns in the monthly newsletter but there’s evidence to suggest companies could be more open. Towers Watson found that 50% of employees they surveyed went as far as to say that a lack of transparency held their organisations back. When individuals and departments feel they’re being left in the dark on certain issues, it can create feelings of unease and prevents them from having the confidence to share their thoughts and ask questions. A greater openness bolsters rapport and levels of trust. Companies may worry about what employees will do with greater access to information but providing they’re being treated well, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that they’ll be much more inclined to help than hinder.