5 Crucial Steps To Improve Your IC Strategy
Do you struggle to improve your internal communications and find it isn’t at the level you want or expect? You need to look at mistakes which may appear while planning various IC actions or building your communications strategy.
Rectifying these errors could help you see significant improvements in internal communications in your company.
1. Don’t implement changes based on the views of a few – listen to all your employees instead
Unfortunately, when it comes to internal communications, it’s still the case that IC specialists and their boards don’t make the effort to heed the needs and requirements of the people who matter most: the employees.
Or else they listen to just a few people, and on that basis, they create new rules, implement new tools or organize new actions.
And then they are surprised that the new proposals and solutions don’t work, employees don’t want to use anything, and they complain or even hate the proposed ideas.
In all companies everywhere, there are employees who, unprompted, express their feelings (usually complaints) in relation to IC actions and other corporate issues. But we must remember that most employees don’t, for whatever reason, feel the need to similarly share their thoughts so publicly.
If they’re not asked, they keep quiet. Usually, if someone decides to express their feelings and opinions loudly at work – bad or good ones – they have to be very strong. It is the same with people writing comments on social media. Most people don’t have such needs. Only a small group of them finds time, courage and a motivation to do so. If you hear complaints or hate comments, it is possible that they come from a small group of employees who have such a need to express their feelings in public.
But it’s extremely important to remember that they are presenting their own personal opinions, and these might not accurately reflect those of the entire workforce – or even a majority.
Instead of focusing solely on their remarks, ask all employees (or a bigger group of them) if, in their opinion, past and planned IC actions meet their expectations.
Then identify any problems and react.
They will also provide you with many new ideas on how to improve IC in your company. Listen carefully to their suggestions, add your experience and knowledge and you will be able to create better communication solutions.
2. Don’t thoughtlessly follow communication trends – the needs of your audience are more important
Nowadays, it seems as if everybody feels the need to predict the future of IC.
Hands up, I admit it’s something I personally don’t feel very comfortable about. And what’s more, I see a gap between the predictions I read and what I see on a daily basis in practice working with my own clients.
For example, for a few years now we’ve been hearing the prediction that video is going to be one of the most popular trends. So why don’t I see it in practice? Why do my audits show employees still preferring text and graphics? Why so many of them? Maybe this is only the case in my country, Poland, but I think it’s wise to think that we shouldn’t take all these trends for granted.
Sure, it’s interesting to read about them, analyze them, be inspired by them and stay informed, but that’s all. Don’t follow them thoughtlessly. If your employees prefer reading instead of watching videos, that’s not a problem; it’s not a negative.
They might spend a lot of their free time on social media, but if during an IC audit they tell you to keep your printed internal newspaper, don’t worry.
You might try to persuade them to use internal social media by showing its advantages, goals, and solutions, etc., but don’t force them to be digital and social if they don’t feel such needs.
And yes, your company won’t be trendy, digital and up-to-date. But you have to answer (together with your board) one question:
Do you want to have a trendy company with fancy IC projects and tools to show off and – at the same time – have communication problems because these trendy solutions aren’t right for your employees?
Or do you want to have smooth internal communication that reflects the employees’ needs and positively impacts cooperation among them, as well as influencing the financial bottom line?
3. While implementing new IC tools – educational and promotional actions are a must
Don’t forget that the successful implementation of new IC tools is dependent on supportive educational and promotional programs. Your energy, time and budget should be divided into these three distinct parts. Unfortunately, far too often we focus so much on the implementation process that afterward there is no time and energy for proper communication and promotion of the project.
But the supportive steps needed following implementation will be the difference between the success and failure of the project. Forget about just producing a few articles on a newsletter after launching a new intranet. Don’t even think about one short poster campaign about its great functionalities. It won’t work. It is not enough.
My favorite example of a good way to organize this process was presented by Pandora at the IntraTeam Event in Denmark. While implementing a new global SharePoint intranet they divided their budget into three parts and all of them were equally important.
Apart from implementation, they spent a lot of time creating educational actions to explain to their employees the operating principles of this new tool, its possibilities, and functionalities, etc.
Then they planned a promotional campaign to encourage their users to find out about the new solution and check the details.
This carefully planned approach across implementation, education, and promotion significantly increases the chances of its success. Try it.
4. Don’t expect all employees to be involved and engaged in your IC actions
It would be great to have all employees involved and engaged in IC – but it is impossible.
And research shows it’s getting worse. So, start with those who are willing to help you achieve your goals.
Be patient, plan regular actions to involve more and more employees and do it constantly. Wait for a snowball effect.
Focus on those who want and wait for others. They will come. Not all of them, but you will see that some employees will gain confidence to join you. They just need more time.
Here’s a real example from my own experience. When I was working for a Polish corporation I was responsible for an internal newspaper. I regularly informed all employees about an upcoming issue and let them know of opportunities to publish their articles, ads, etc.
I was always careful to include and cooperate with those who showed interest, and all the time I looked for a few new participants.
If someone was interested, I immediately involved them (helped write an article, choose a topic or pictures, interviewed them, etc.).
And what happened after some time? I got a call from a manager complaining that his team wasn’t interviewed, although their project was – according to him – more important than the one I described in the previous issue.
I was happy to hear this because it showed my approach was working and the newspaper was now regarded as being a relevant communication source for employees.
More and more people were willing to be on its pages because they saw its growing importance and ever greater numbers of colleagues engaged with it.
My snowball was growing bigger and bigger! So much so that after a year the publication had become a bigger project than I could deal with on my own, so parts of the process had to be outsourced.
5. IC isn’t optional – it is a crucial element for business success
I saved the most important bit ‘till last. All company actions concern communications and proper and effective functioning isn’t possible without good communication.
But unfortunately, this still isn’t obvious for many companies. That is why, there is one more task for you as an IC professional – you simply must educate management about the importance of IC, its role, possible actions, and expected results.
It is essential to connect business goals with your actions. That might seem an obvious thing to say, but all too often internal communication professionals don’t align their actions to business aims and objectives.
If IC isn’t supporting the business goals it quickly loses the backing, resource, and support of the leadership.
On the other hand, if you submit your planned actions and show them aligned to the business goals, you increase the chances of them being supported and implemented.
The leaders of the organization want to see their business objectives reflected in your internal strategies and plans. They want to feel that your actions support them and that they’re not something that runs parallel and non-aligned with the aims of the business.
And key to maintaining the support of your senior leaders is proving the effectiveness of your communication activity. To be able to do this you’ve got to measure the results and then present them to the board. If you don’t measure you can’t prove effectiveness, and if you can’t prove that then why should you be listened to?
Of course, it’s essential that your function and your team’s efforts are adequately resourced and supported, because IC is crucial for business success, but you still have to prove your worth and to do that you’ve got to measure your communication performance and results.
You should conduct the same actions among employees – clarify goals, explain your steps, promote your work and show results.
And don’t expect changes in a short time – our job is a marathon, not a sprint.
Best of luck…