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SME Insights: Why You Should
Pay Attention to Internal Communications
Did you know that your internal communications strategy is one of the most powerful influencers for how employees behave in the workplace? A lack of communication between staff and managers is one of the biggest mistakes a company can make.
Communications inside a company are just as important to a business as public relations (PR) and communications outside. Effective communication is essential for operational success.
Small businesses often overlook internal communications. But effective communication can have a hugely positive impact on building trust and engagement with employees.
The most common communication roadblock for small businesses happens when the business grows. In a small office, discussions are free-flowing and out in the open. In a larger set-up, which usually has separate manager’s offices and meeting rooms, communications become increasingly dispersed.
Inevitably, discussions close ranks and happen behind closed doors. The dissemination of information gradually becomes less and less – this isn’t usually planned, it just happens.
The biggest barrier to improving business performance is usually a lack of employee engagement and morale. This generally comes from a feeling of not being involved or consulted. Connecting employees to the company vision therefore requires an effective communications strategy.
What are ‘Internal Communications’?
Internal communications refer to the sharing of information within an organisation. It involves facilitating dialogue, producing and delivering company messages, announcing policies and explaining goals. As a business grows it becomes increasingly important to have a planned internal communications strategy.
The importance of internal communications
Internal comms is now more important than ever before. Why? The millennial workforce demands it. Given that they will make up a significant proportion of the workforce by 2020, it is important that employers sit up and take notice if they want to attract and retain the best talent.
Millennials want to talk, listen and collaborate. They want transparency and feedback, and they have a quest for reason and purpose. To deliver this, a business needs to deliver great communication.
Above all, businesses need to be agile to succeed. Constantly adapting and changing goal posts to stay competitive, businesses need to keep employees motivated and moving together in the same direction – this requires a strong internal communications strategy.
The digital age is responsible for greater transparency. It is driving better communication offerings with lots of online tools available to help businesses.
Mike Knivett, founding director at Artemis Marketing says: “A well-executed internal communications strategy is arguably more important in SMEs with ambitious growth targets, like ours, than big corporates. It is vitally important we are all aligned with the company vision and are singing from the same hymn sheet.
“We have introduced regular company briefings, company newsletters to staff and all teams start the day with a 10-minute huddle. We understand how vital communication is for transparency and employee engagement. We also believe wholeheartedly in gathering meaningful insights from our people. We couldn’t grow without them. Our internal communications strategy provides the glue we need to keep our business on track.”
Internal communications increase employee engagement, build stronger teams, improve operational efficiency and boost performance.
Skills Required to Develop Internal Communications
Ability to say ‘no’
Having the guts to go against the grain and say ‘no’ to decisions is vital. There’s no point nodding along and agreeing with decisions if you think deep down it’s the wrong thing to do. Speak up, be confident, and create a platform for staff to say what they really think.
Ability to collaborate
If you don’t work well with others, how can you expect to achieve your communications objectives? Don’t be arrogant and think that your opinion is better than others – be collaborative and surround yourself with people, friends and colleagues who are as passionate as you are.
Supply fresh information on a regular basis, in a manner that is easy to consume. Keep it short, sweet and to the point. Attractive, bite-sized chunks of information will resonate a lot more coherently than long, detailed forms of communication.
Always remember your audience: who are they? What are their perceptions, needs and opinions? Produce internal communications with these questions in mind and ask yourself what you want them to do as a result. If you yourself don’t know what the answer is, don’t bother sending it.
Tips for Improving Internal Comms
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that people don’t like to be kept in the dark. Encourage dialogue and the sharing of information. And remember, internal comms isn’t a one-way street. Set up occasional catch-up coffee afternoons or informal breakfast meetings to chat, share company news, and communicate team and individual projects.
It’s also a good idea to provide an online platform, such as Slack, to encourage communication across teams.
Make objectives and goals public
Clarifying common goals is hugely important and should be a central part of any internal communications strategy. Ensure all your employees know what is in your company mission statement. Objectives need to be public. When employees understand company goals, they will be able to work more effectively together to achieve them.
Understanding your employees is key – have an open-door policy and schedule time to talk to your employees, both individually and in teams. One-way communication from the top down is controlling and doesn’t motivate employees. It is far more fruitful if you ensure everyone in your organisation has a voice.
Consider using an employee engagement survey to gauge how your employees are feeling. It gives you the opportunity to nip any communication problems in the bud.
Training and external events
Create opportunities for your employees to learn and to meet up in social situations outside of the office. Bonding together can help facilitate engagement and make communication much stronger.
Different types of information need to be communicated in different ways. We now have three different generations in the workplace, and the possibility to utilise remote workers from anywhere in the world. See the five top internal communications channels here.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
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Having an effective internal communications strategy in place can really make or break a business. Not only can it quickly pinpoint and resolve any current workplace issues, it can also keep employees engaged and improve the rate of staff retention.
Plus, with the millennial generation progressively taking over the workforce, encouraging open conversation and collaboration is now more important than ever. In order to be successful, it’s important to remember the three Cs: consistency, collaboration and confidence. Ask yourself whether your current internal comms strategy is actually working and look for potential areas where it could be improved.
About the Author
Dakota Murphey is a writer based in Brighton, specialising in new business startups and the interpersonal relationships that exist both between employees and clients.
Having written for numerous online and print authorities, Dakota has been published on a wide range of business topics, utilising psychology in the workplace, and how to build long-lasting relationships in all aspects of the working and personal life.