If I were to head a large company, I would pay my Head of Internal Communications more than my Head of External Communications.
Because I know that if this company is really to change, and to persuade the outside world it has changed, it has to change on the inside first.
Internal Communication is here to enable change and execution of the strategy.
My people must believe it and really feel it such that they can act as advocates for the strategy.
Employees are the most important audience to target.
I will – we will fail otherwise.
Let’s look at one Scenario: You are leading a team of people that work on-the-go, geographically distributed, across several shifts and functions. You have a high level of linguistic and cultural diversity in your team. You have to get your messages across to them in an instant to ensure strategic alignment and execution.
What criteria should your communication comprise to be effective?
The Top 10 criteria of Top-notch Internal Communications
- Inclusive (with every single one on the team in real-time)
- Open (open communication with all employees)
- Trust-Based (there is no team without trust, trust is your intentions and your behaviour)
- Continual (you cannot NOT communicate)
- Authentic (bosses are humans too, being vulnerable, admitting shortcomings)
- Boundaryless (location, time, hierarchy, language)
- Engaging (conversational vs. broadcasting)
- Measurable (through a continuous feedback loop for listening)
- Accessible (via a Mobile App because who does not own a smartphone?)
- Multi-directional (top-down, bottom-up, lateral)
About 80% of today's employees are working outside of the office or as non-desk workers. Most of them don't have a corporate email address. A common fear those deskless frontline employees have is "I don't want to miss out."
Another effect is that when they do not get any (or very little) communication directly from their management, they interpret that silence as a lack of respect for them and the contributions they make to the company's success.
Solution: Provide multiple communication channels.
Employees may hesitate to work remotely if they feel like their absence will leave them out of office happenings, both professional and personal.
To alleviate this anxiety, make sure you’re providing multiple channels for communication: email, instant messaging, phone calls, recognition programs, and video chat can all be used to make employees feel as though they’ve never left the office.
Don’t leave them underserved by technology on-the-go.
Withholding information from your team is one of the most detrimental things you can do to workplace productivity. In fact, employees rank “open communication to all employees” as one of the top two initiatives they wished their employer would focus on more, trailing only “positive recognition.”
Open communication is a key driver for employee engagement When employees aren’t connected to a clear vision of where they are going and what they need to contribute to get there, they will lack purpose in their work.
So, use every opportunity to engage in meaningful interactions with your team, always communicating openly and honestly.
There is no team without trust.
The current highest corporate value is trust. Trust is not rapport. Trust is not team-building. Trust is not about getting people to like you. And trust is not about getting people to just “feel good” about you or the company. Trust is your intentions and your behavior. It’s making it clear why you’re doing something, being honest about it, and then accurately following through with it.
This means being honest about performance. It means being honest about what’s not happening. It means being honest about expectations.
Trust-based communication is much more “coaching” than it is “managing”.
Employees want to hear from leaders more.
Employees will only contribute the full measure of their talents and skills to a company if its purposes and actions make sense to them. Providing meaning is, therefore, one of the central tasks for modern employee management.
Employees want to know the reasons why they should contribute to their company and its future success. Constant communication of the company’s purpose is key.
If you want to be a great internal communicator you must connect with your staff. If you’re not authentic and interested in the people you are communicating with, if you don’t care about them – they’ll know and they’ll disconnect from you. They’ll stop listening.
Most of the communication between our heart and our brain goes UP not DOWN. Yes, that’s right. Your heart decides before your head. Your heart communicates upwards and it’s telling your brain what to do. That’s true for every human being including those on your team.
So to communicate with and lead your people use your heart more often than your head.
Yes, business is ultimately digital. But people are still analog. Do engage their heart to give your people heartfelt reasons for sticking with you. In fact, the way to the best performance of your people is through their heart and not their mind.
Why else would we say, “Hearts and minds” instead of “Minds and Hearts”?
Make more human connections supported by technology.
When some (or all) of your employees are remote, you have to be more purposeful in creating connection. Use tools that make coworkers feel like they’re next door, rather than across the country.
Use social media to create a sense of community in shared virtual spaces. Social networking sites, as well as internal communities and virtual forums, can be creative venues for managers to provide visible, collaborative feedback and recognition no matter where your employees work.
Using social networks to deliver feedback or share ideas helps remote workers remain connected and enables all team members, regardless of location or language, to see, share and comment together.
Make it personal and inspire employees by sharing stories about them.
Use business updates as an opportunity for shout-outs about individual and team contributions.
Consider initiating a regular series featuring profiles of workers in jobs up and down the organization.
Let employees tell their own stories by inviting them to post them on your Beekeeper App.
Are you really getting through?
When you deliver an important message to your employees, is it closer to a message in a bottle than a direct conversation? Are you certain that your messages are not getting “lost at sea”? Are you certain that they reach the recipients, that they read and understand them?
It takes a determined ear to the ground to hear the word that’s going around. And an official channel with everyone on board to straighten out the news.
A proper feedback loop in the form of an Analytics Dashboard lets you know if your people are “buying” the messages you’re “selling” — and empowers communications that accelerate engagement.
With this Active Listening Channel, employers are able to get a baseline for employees and then ask more tailored specific questions based on actively listening to the reactions to previous messages.
It is not sending the messages over and over, but rather fluid questions that pay attention to the employees’ responses, generate relevant insights and inspire action.
The idea that workers should first receive important company related news from internal sources is a near impossibility without an internal, up-to-date channel.
Bear in mind that nowadays nearly all employees own a smartphone and are therefore always connected to the network.
Multi-directional communication entails not just speaking.
Any good relationship should be mutual enough to allow for both speaking and listening. How effective is communication, if it only involves speaking? A good communication leader should create avenues to listen to the people on the team. Invite employees to participate in the conversation. Stop merely broadcasting top-down and start communicating in two (or more) directions.
Bottom-up and lateral communications are easier than ever with the advent of social media in the corporate world. We all like to chime in in our personal lives. Most of us expect to be able to chime in at work too.
If you’re able to provide an internal social media space like Beekeeper for your employees to respond to information coming from the top, as well as share their own questions, ideas, and successes, you’ll go far toward creating a culture of open, inclusive and multi-directional communications.
The common pattern of all those top-notch criteria is to design communication around the employee, not the organization.
You just need the right channel of communication to make it happen. A channel that allows broadcasting and narrowcasting depending on the content of the message and the target audience.
Communication solutions that provide your employees with personalized responses at their moment of need will create a more positive employee experience.
When employees can confidently expect to know what’s going on in their organization, and feel they are a welcome part of the conversation, they will be more likely to take ownership and display high engagement.
Overall, look for an internal communication platform that takes advantage of similar mobile and personalized technologies that are used for customer communications. Your employees deserve as much investment as your customers if you want to stay competitive.
For a humane and people-centric leadership it might bear more fruit to do things FOR them, not TO them. To not ask what you want FROM your people, but what you want FOR your people.