Speaking to a colleague recently, we reflected on one of our client organisations and how they currently have very low levels of employee engagement. We speculated as to whether this may be because their leader, a brilliant man with clear ideas on how to take the company forward, did not communicate his plans out to the wider team. Could this, we postured, be solved by having an effective internal communications strategy?
So what is it and why is it important?
Internal communications should be seen through the prism of being an ‘enabler’. It allows for the smooth running of an organisation through clear and effective channels. There is a clear link between organisations that are successful, and those that have an operational internal communications strategy.
Part of the reason for this could be that employee engagement tends to be higher in organisations that have coherent internal communications. Employees that are more informed as to the workings of their employer are far more likely to be engaged than those who are not. A successful internal communications policy will put the employee at the centre and work outwards, such as asking:-
- What information do employees need to know, and why?
- Do they all need to know the same information?
- How do they want to receive and digest information?
Offering employees a voice through an internal communications policy is also a successful route to enhanced employee engagement. The MacLeod Report, published for Government in 2009, indicated that there were four enablers to employee engagement.
- Leadership provides a strong strategic narrative about the organisation, and where it’s going
- Engaging managers
- An employee voice throughout the organisation
- There is organisational integrity
As can be seen, providing a voice and a narrative to employees are two methods to engagement. It is, therefore advisable to develop an internal communications plan with your senior management team for all levels of the organisation. Use it to communicate not only what is happening within the company, but to also achieve your mission and vision. Ultimately, having a consistent internal communications policy is less about having differing delivery methods and more about influencing the internal culture of the company.
What about pitfalls?
First of all, consider what it might look like if you did not have an internal communications policy. More than likely, it is probable that you would end up in a situation in which the person or people that shout the loudest would get heard. Furthermore, employee engagement is unlikely to be as high as it might possibly be and the culture of the organisation not as clear as it should be. If your internal team is not clear on your core themes and “why”, it almost certainly ensures that your customers and suppliers also won’t be clear. An issue often associated with internal communications is that it does not fit easily into one department and therefore does not have a natural champion. It can sit with marketing, HR or the senior management team and is further covered by a variety of members groups and associations.
And the benefits?
Having an internal communications policy is critical in maintaining employee engagement and communicating your corporate culture with employees. Many organisations are now turning to Enterprise Social Networks (ESN’s) such as Yammer as a way of communicating this out. The collaborative nature of ESN’s, aligned to their inclusiveness and ability to level job roles and titles makes them a particularly effective internal communications tool.
Internal communications can also assist with employee learning and development. As 70% of learning is done in the workplace as opposed to formal training sessions, the dissemination of information both horizontally as well as vertically allows for learning networks to be created. This assists in breaking down silos and encouraging. As we have seen above, a strong strategic narrative aids in engaging employees. Many organisations and companies remain weak because they do not succeed in communicating across their sense of mission, values and vision to their employees. An internal communications policy can allow this to be circulated to everybody within the organisation, thus allowing for increased engagement.
Tell the Story
An effective internal communications policy should allow for employees to know the information they need to know through a resource that works for them. Rather than another layer of bureaucracy that employees will not engage with, internal communications should be seen as a liberator that allows employees to work effectively rather than being bombarded with information. Use the tool to tell your organisations story, engage with employees and relay your vision and mission.