What is internal communication?
Internal communications are often defined as how an organization communicates across its departments. At its basic level, this is true, but there is so much more to internal communications, and its importance is becoming more and more evident in today’s hyper-digital world.
Internal communications expert Rachel Miller of AllThingsIC defines internal communications as “the way a company interacts with its people and they interact with it.” She goes on to add a tagline to that definition: “I think the purpose of internal communication is not telling people what to do. It is to create shared understanding and meaning. Only when this happens can employees work together towards a company’s goals.”
And so we come to the crux of it: a good internal communications strategy ensures everyone at an organization is aware of and aligned with the core purpose of an organization. In this way organizations can rest assured that everyone is pulling in the same direction. There’s no confusion about strategy or objectives, all staff members, from board level right down to new hires, know what the company is about.
What are the advantages of internal communications?
Within that broad definition, there are myriad advantages of internal communications. A strong internal communications strategy will help an organization to:
Connect employees: As globalization continues apace multi-cultural workplaces have become the norm, and as younger employees (Millennials and Generation Z) join the workforce we’re also seeing more multi-generational workplaces. Building relationships and common purpose between all the different groups in an organization can have a positive effect on work culture and can encourage better employee relations.
Gain a better understanding of workforce: Two-way communications – through enabling comments on newsletter articles, sending out regular surveys, inviting feedback on organizational changes – opens up the door for organizations to get to know employees better which in turn leads to middle managers who understand what their employees are thinking, which in turn leads to better informed decision making.
Motivate employees: A LinkedIn survey revealed that for many employees, having a sense of purpose is a key factor in whether they’re happy in their job: 74% of participants said they wanted to feel that what they do in their job matters. Internal communications can be the tool to give employees that sought-after sense of purpose and make them feel valued: use it to highlight achievements or to be clear about specific tasks or projects their working on and how these fit into the overall organizational goals.
Keep everyone informed: With the social media boom it can often happen that staff first hear of news or changes in their organization from outside sources. A regular, well-structured internal communications plan means organizations can take control of the messages or news employees hear. This is important in order to maintain staff morale, motivation and trust.
Develop a multi-channel approach to internal communications
Corporate communications isn’t, or shouldn’t be, solely focused on one single channel. A good strategy uses different channels through which to communicate with employees: email, intranet, enterprise social networks and video, as well as offline channels such as notice boards and “town meetings”. By mixing up the delivery channels organizations can reach more employees including remote workers and front line staff with no set desks.
But first, you’ll need to understand what’s working now (or not, as the case may be). Organizations could be devoting time and budget into a particular channel that is simply not getting through to employees. Consider identifying employees across the organization in different roles and different circumstances – remote worker, front line worker, manager, Generation Z, new hire, long-term employee – and ask for their feedback on how they consume corporate communications.
Involve employees to maximize authenticity
Internal communications can be an effective tool to establish workplace trust and openness. Involving employees in your corporate communications, by “cultivating and amplifying authentic employee voices” organizations can gain more mindshare among employees according to Gartner.
Enlist employees to tell their stories, whether it’s about the culmination of a successful project, a specific achievement or simply the way in which they overcame specific challenges at work.
This collaborative approach to internal communications can re-inforce the foundations of transparency and trust within an organization. It also promotes a feel-good factor in the workplace and taps into the growing need of employees to feel valued at work.