7 steps to fostering effective leader internal communications
— April 9th, 2017
The role of internal communications was once simply pushing a message top-down through an organization - and assuming it had been understood, no matter who (or what type) leader was sending it. Today, the leader - ranging from senior management to team managers - is responsible for ensuring they have effectively communicated to either their entire workforce, business unit or team. Poorly communicated information hinders employee engagement. It's almost worse than not communicating at all!
To prevent any barriers in effective communications, Internal Communicators must now ensure structures are in place that enable consistency of the message sent to a distributed workforce spanning business units, skill levels, languages, regions and cultures. The modern IC professional enables and empowers organisational leaders to communicate effectively - whether it’s good or bad news.
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Here are seven essential elements that Internal Communications professionals need to review as part of fostering effective leader internal communications.
- Have a clear vision, strategy and goalsThis almost goes without saying, but let's say it. If you can’t explain your own internal communications strategy simply and effectively to others - you are part of the problem. You need to be able to communicate with and engage your lead communicators so they in turn have a clear understanding of the company direction and goals and can effectively communicate it to others in the organization.
- Understand the value of good internal communications skills A recent Willis Towers Watson report found that most employees don’t think senior managers commhttp://www.towerswatson.com/unicate openly and honestly; and an employee's most trusted source of information is their line manager. Some of this may come down to corporate culture, but much of it stems from poor communications. And, just because someone is in a senior position, or communicates regularly with a team, doesn't automatically mean they are effective communicators! Managers must be able to explain, update, simplify, guide, support, listen, empower, develop and inspire.
- Have a place at the top table IC professionals should be striving to move from simply pushing out information to strategic partnership with stakeholders. Having this relationship with the decision-makers allows the IC team to get the buy-in and trust they need to both implement a communication strategy, and roll out a plan to identify and work with leaders to enhance their communication skills.
- Align leader and audience with message – The '8 types of leader' listed in the cartoon nicely shows how everyone has different styles of communicating. That's part of what makes a leader unique, however it doesn't work if they can't speak clearly, are off-message or don't craft the message to suit their audience. IC teams should work with leaders to tailor a specific communication or campaign to the communicator's style AND think about who the audience is.
- Create informed conversations - Using social business tools can be very effective in this context. Opening up an informed conversation between the senior management and employees can foster extremely engaged conversations that enhances the understanding of the communication. By opening up a two-way communication channel you will also create 'our door is open' feeling - which leads to true understanding of the information being imparted.
- Measure, identify and align – Use measurement tools available to you to create a crow's nest view to measure engagement across the organization; department by department, by region, by country - and by leader. Creating a leader profile will help you spot engagement and internal communications issues at that level, which can be taken to the face-to-face level with individuals.
- Share results with stakeholders – This allows you as an Internal communications professional to be in an advisory position, you'll be able to share measurement of engagement, and where the blockers are. Not only this essential to ensure you have a place at the table and are able to help shape the IC strategy.
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