EXEC 10 TIPS : Better internal communications

It’s often difficult to measure the impact internal communications has on business performance. In tough times this activity is often first to go. As the recovery gains momentum and job opportunities return, retaining staff will fast become priority again, so it’s vital that your internal communications gets back on track. Here are some tips to consider:

Lead from the top

Effective communications need senior managers’ commitment and endorsement. ‘vision statement’ is great in theory, but behaviour is what counts. Managers must behave consistently with the ethos they promote.

Remain transparent and genuine

Employees can typically sense when changes are afoot. Keeping bad news to yourself can lead to rampant speculation, rumours and lost productivity. Be upfront and warn employees of changes such as layoffs, so they can prepare emotionally and financially.

Know your audience

Equal opportunity regulations should always be followed, but you should anticipate the different needs and expectations of individual employees before you communicate with them. Consider who they are, the level of information they have about the subject and the context in which they’ll be receiving the information – marketing manager may want different information from different channel than factory worker.

Integrate internal and external comms

There must be fit between what you are telling your staff and what you are telling your customers, shareholders and the public. Staff feel valued if they know important company news first – don’t make them read about it in the local paper.

Get staff feedback

Surveying staff and adding their ideas into your programme is an effective way to improve workplace culture. Staff have different perspective to you and they often know where the system needs improving. Address any big issues or problems upfront and don’t take responses at face value – read between the lines. Share the results with the team to see if they think it has hit the nail on the head.

Form staff panel

Staff panels that meet regularly generate better ideas on improving culture and communications than one-off surveys. The panel should be made up of representative pool of staff who agree to be surveyed occasionally, complete questionnaires and attend focus groups. This is cost-effective and shows long-term commitment to staff.

Encourage freedom of speech

If you have an intranet or an internal company blog, think of it as the competition to the newspapers, blogs and broadcast outlets that cover your company. Employees should be encouraged to constructively criticise via these mediums without career consequences.

Encourage use of new media

Facebook, Twitter or YouTube can open the lines of communication between employees and employers and create strong sense of community in workplace. Instead of blocking Facebook, set up pages and groups to inspire and engage your employees. This will position you as cutting-edge, caring and fair enterprise.

Don’t ignore the grapevine

The water-cooler is critical source of employee reaction and emotion, so if rumours start to circulate, listen to them. Provide managers with Q&As for important internal communications announcements that they can use in both informal conversations and team meetings.

Remain consistent

Avoid following fashion and tinkering. If you try to improve communications and then fail because your messages are inconsistent or ‘token efforts’, your workplace will remain unsettled.

Karyn Arkell is general manager of Acumen Republic.

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