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Internal Communication is Not Just For a Crisis


 — April 18th, 2024

Internal Communication is Not Just For a Crisis

The benefits of effective internal communications have been known for a long time: improved efficiency, productivity, morale, retention and loyalty.

All of which translate into better outcomes for the business in question. I often say, “Without your people, you wouldn’t have a business!” Despite this, when I started working in internal communications, it was definitely regarded as the poor cousin to external communications, attracting smaller teams, smaller budgets and, in many instances, less respect and attention from the powers that be.

I’m sure you’ve heard this before… that all changed with COVID-19. Suddenly, employees were remote and harder to reach, yet the need to have them engaged and motivated was greater than ever.

Harnessing Effective Communication Through Human Behavior Insights

Internal communications professionals were front and center—brought in at the start of key conversations and with a seat at the boardroom table. They no longer had to argue the value of effective internal communications. It was known.

During the lockdowns and the intervening months, there was a huge focus on employee engagement and wellbeing; and there was genuine hope and optimism this renewed view of internal comms was here to stay.

When the lockdowns ended and businesses sought to recalibrate to find a new normal, some did try to maintain their revised approach to internal communications.

Sadly, just a few years later, what I have heard from a number of in-house professionals in my network is that,for many, life as an internal communications professional has largely reverted back to how it was before.

This has not been helped by the current economic climate. With redundancies, hiring freezes and budget cuts taking centre stage, internal communications has been high up on the list of casualties.

Instability and discomfort in the office, coupled with many employees feeling financial strain outside of work, means there is still a huge need to communicate meaningfully and effectively with our workforces—making them feel informed, valued, and giving them an opportunity for their voices to be heard.

But this isn’t necessarily happening. And it's in these sorts of situations where internal communications needs to come to the fore.

The organizations who seem to be bringing internal comms back up the agenda are those who are looking to implement a change programme or are undergoing a restructure.

I heard a statistic recently that 70% of change communications fail because there is not sufficient buy-in from employees or leaders. I totally agree that internal communications should be a key priority with any significant change.

But I fear this is illustrative of a concerning trend: that organizations are only using internal communications when there is a problem or a crisis. If this is your approach, then employees will see through it and know you only ever communicate when there is an issue or concern.

The three points I’d urge you to take away from this article are:

  1. Don’t forget what makes your company tick: your people. If you want them to be there through good times and bad, you need to look after them—and one way of doing that is by communicating with them in ways that helps them feel informed and part of something bigger than just their day-to-day role.
  2. You don’t have to do a lot to have a big impact. If money is tight, you don’t need to do big flashy events and expensive campaigns. Just make sure employees are hearing company updates in a timely fashion, that leadership is visible—whether that’s in Town Halls or walking around offices/sites—and speak to your people and hear how they are doing, first hand.
  3. Referring back to the statistic I mentioned earlier, if you are undergoing a change or restructure, or simply a tough time for your business, don’t be afraid to involve your employees in the conversations. Yes, what they have to say might not be sunshine and rainbows, but it’s important for you to hear what they've got to say and to incorporate it into your plans and messaging (where appropriate). Make them feel heard and respected!

When I look at the internal comms profession now, compared to when I entered it, there has been a significant improvement in how it’s perceived—both by new entrants into the profession and key stakeholders in businesses.

However, I think we’ve still got a way to go to ensure that strong and effective “business as usual” internal comms are the norm in all businesses, without the peaks and troughs.


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