Internal communications plays an essential role in the employee experience, as it is one of the main ways a company can ensure its employees are aware of the organization’s vision and are clear about its norms, goals, and expectations. A good internal communications strategy is also reciprocal—it allows employees to communicate with organizational leadership as well as top-down communication. A lack of internal communication can cause a disconnect between employees and the company, leaving room for uncertainty and confusion. So, how does a company build the “perfect” internal communications strategy?
A lack of internal communication can cause a disconnect between employees and the company, leaving room for uncertainty and confusion.
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In a post-pandemic world, this matters more than ever—I find employers are struggling to ensure their employees remain engaged, stay connected, and receive consistent messaging across all business units. This (seemingly) new struggle is all the more reason a strong internal communications strategy is essential.
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What is an internal communications strategy?
An internal communications strategy is a plan for the way a company manages its messaging within the organization, with the goal of ensuring employees are connected and informed. When done well, it helps employees understand company norms and values, strategic goals, and employee expectations. It helps keep all departments in sync, and also provides a mechanism for employees to remain wholly engaged with one another and with the organization.
An internal communications strategy isn’t just a natural, organic occurrence; for successful companies, internal communication is a strategic, planned, and well-established component of their business.
5 Steps To Create An Internal Communications Strategy
1. Clarify what pieces should go into your internal communication.
If you don’t currently have a communication strategy, important questions to consider include the following:
Who is the audience you intend to speak to?
What will be the goal of the internal communication program?
What holes in communication have your employees pointed out?
Does your current method of messaging follow best practices for internal communication? Are you aware of the best practices? (GenesisHR can help you identify them.)
If you do have a current internal communication strategy, identify the successful aspects of it and make sure those are built into the new strategy.
2. Build your internal communications strategy.
An effective communications strategy needs to consider both your organizational structure as well as how and what you need to communicate with employees. As you build your strategy, consider your mission statement, company values, culture, and strategic business goals. Your internal communications strategy should cover all aspects of messaging, including daily communication on Slack, when to email vs. when to direct message, and sending out a monthly newsletter to your whole company. All communications as a whole should be purposefully aligned, so that every message you send out is congruent and supports the mission of your company.
I’ve broken down the creation portion below to provide insight into who is in charge of building the communication strategy; what should go into the strategy; when you should be utilizing it; and how you can convey messages.
Task multiple leaders across the organization with building a strategy that ensures unified messaging. A strategy designed by just one person may not adequately address the needs and concerns of all business units, so engaging leaders across all departments is the best option. Your plan needs to be both bottom-up and top-down—two-way communication allows employees to give feedback, ask follow-up questions, and engage.
Aim to create jargon-free, transparent messages. Your internal communications strategy should include the following:
Quarterly and yearly goals, initiatives, and achievements
Praise and recognition
New hires and promotions
Ongoing company news or information
It is good and sometimes even necessary to repeat your communication multiple times and in different ways For example, when important news or directions are emailed, shared by a supervisor via a Slack channel, and mentioned at a virtual meeting, it will have a much greater impact and chance of being received than sharing it using just one method.
The team creating your strategy will need to plan how frequently you will communicate with different groups using the various methods you’ve chosen. For example, will you send a quarterly company newsletter, require a weekly team meeting and twice-weekly stand up meeting for all employees? Will you require participation from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the company Slack channel? All these questions should be answered in your strategy.
As a manager, you set the precedent for communicating availability. Share your calendar and keep your internal communication system updated regarding your daily availability—and have your team do the same. Technology can help provide some visibility with remote workers. Be open about sharing when you’re stepping away from your workspace to set the precedent that it is fine to do so, but be sure to communicate when you plan to return.
Organizations that have transitioned to hybrid or remote situations no longer have a central place for communicating. It is essential to have the right technology in place to support your communication strategy.
Meeting applications like Zoom, Teams, and others are incredibly helpful for small group or large company virtual meetings. For day-to-day communication, tools like Slack, Skype, or another internal communications system are crucial to help people stay in touch. Bonus tip: I use and recommend Slack for its channels function, which allows you to create separate “rooms” that can be customized.
3. Create a plan to roll out your strategy.
Some organizations prefer to introduce a full strategy all at once, while others roll it out in stages. You can certainly phase in your strategy if needed; I recommend introducing it with a single department or group. Then, use any information you learned from that initial roll out to improve for the next group(s). Phased implementation can be especially helpful if you’re introducing new technology.
4. Evaluate how well your strategy is meeting its objectives.
Once you have an internal communications strategy in place, it’s important to continually measure and evaluate it—are employees actually more informed and engaged? You should also be aware of messaging fatigue. Messaging fatigue occurs when communications are sent to everyone all the time, rather than being targeted to only those people who need the information. Unfettered messaging makes it more likely that people will ignore or delete messages they presume to be unimportant.
I recommend having managers discuss communications with the employees they supervise as part of their quarterly meetings to make sure any problem areas are dealt with promptly. We discuss internal communications and employee engagement at length in the following articles, which I recommend especially for remote workplaces:
5. Change what’s not working.
Your evaluations may reveal a lot of room for growth. That’s OK! Use that information to do as much work as you can.
And if you find yourself getting stuck, know that you’re not the only one. As we inch closer toward the three-year anniversary of the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that many employers still haven’t quite figured out how to handle the evolution of internal communications in a (maybe) post-pandemic world. And that’s no slight to employers—we’re all still figuring out what our “new normal” as employers and employees looks like.
GenesisHR can help.
If you’re looking to put your best foot forward in 2023, we’d love to hear from you. GenesisHR is a professional employer organization serving dozens of small and medium-sized businesses in New England and across the world, and we can help you become an employer of choice. We’ll partner with you to improve your internal communications and provide the HR assistance you need to grow and scale as a business, including expertise in and management of benefits, payroll, compliance, and more. If you think an HR partner might be exactly what you need to get ahead, get in touch with us today!
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