We live in a world where we have every possible communication tool at arm’s length, yet, some companies don’t take advantage of them. For those that do use internal communications tools, many of them undervalue its importance in keeping employees informed and engaged.
I want to show why internal communications effectiveness is vital to the success of organizations of every size, and how it can help you succeed in 2022. Don’t forget to check out our toolkits!
First, let’s define internal communications so we’re all on the same page.
What Is internal communications?
Internal communications (IC) is the function responsible for effective communications among participants within an organization. The exact scope of the function is going to vary by organization and practitioner, from producing and delivering messages and campaigns on behalf of management, to facilitating two-way dialogue and developing the communication skills of employees, management, and all other participants.It is a core element in the creation and maintenance of corporate culture,ongoing
Internal communications (IC) should focus on promoting effective communications among people within an organization. This can mean a lot of different things, such as announcing a new policy, announcing an upcoming event, improving employee engagement or performing a cultural audit for the company. While IC is generally a responsibility of human resources (HR), marketing, or the PR department, it can be done by any and all departments across the organization.
Internal communications are very important to an organization. I realize some companies may not have the resources to invest in planning an internal communications strategy, I’m sure others may have a planned strategy but they lack the capacity or tools necessary to maintain it. It happens, that is understandable. But if you take a look at the reasons why internal communications are important (below), you’ll soon find that it’s imperative for the health of your organization.
Bottom line: If your organization has people, you’re going to need to communicate with them on a regular basis and your messaging needs clarity.
With that being said, let’s dive in and highlight why good internal communications are important to your success.
Why good internal communications is essential
1. Internal communications keeps your people informed
This may be the most obvious one to start with, but it’s true, regular internal communications keeps your people informed. You want to make sure your people are informed of policy changes, new policies, upcoming events, engagement initiatives, headcount changes, even updates on the overall health of the business. This can help you create a sense of transparency and openness that most people are going to respect.
Nobody likes to be left in the dark. Well, perhaps the bats, but not people. Your people want to belong, so they naturally want information about the company. Good internal communications is all about getting the word out to everyone, preferably in a manner that gets them involved and invested in the goals of the business.
2. Internal communications can help your workplace thrive
A lot of people find their jobs dull. They go to work, talk to a colleague or two, attend meetings, get their work done, and then book it out the door as fast as possible. And that’s perfectly fine for a lot of people. But for those who crave more involvement in their workplace, and want to play a more direct role in the development of its culture, that kind of work style isn’t satisfying.
This is where good internal communications can come in. It promotes learning and speaking events, leadership training programs, shares customer feedback and media coverage, and gives people the opportunity to get involved, if they want of course. For some people, this isn’t important, and that’s completely fine. You never want to push people to get engaged, you’re always going to have employees that don’t want to engage. But some of us want to get more out of our work, whether that’s in the form of education or training, or finding meaning in company values and goals.
If those opportunities exist, but no one knows about or takes advantage of them, your internal communications strategy isn’t working, and to some degree you’re failing your most engaged people. By empowering members from multiple teams to promote their events and programs, or share their news, you give your people the information they need to add another fulfilling dimension to their work.
3. Internal communications gives you a honest view of your organization
Internal communications can get a bad reputation at times as it is often thought of as a top-down messaging structure, written by leaders for the consumption of employees. If that’s the case, that’s the wrong way to do it. IC should work for everyone involved, not just management and executives but all people. There’s nothing wrong with optimizing your messaging to direct people’s attention, but more than likely, that attention will falter.
It should never be about captivating your audience with the right messaging; instead, you should be promoting two-way communication around what’s happening at your organization. Most people want to feel like they have a voice, this is why creating a stage for them to do just that is so important for building employee engagement.
A lot of companies will make the mistake of delegating news, messaging, events, and announcements to your marketing or HR department only. Rather than that, it should be delegated to representatives of all departments within your organization. Tech, Q&A, acquisitions, sales, you want to give every department that platform. Every team should have the opportunity to explain what they’re working on, what’s working, what’s not working, and so on.
This is where your marketing team, event coordinators, or reporters from different departments can add to the conversation by publishing updates about the organization. Internal communication is a tool that can be used to give everyone a voice.
4. Internal communications opens the doors for feedback, debates, and discussions
If you want to start promoting an open communication policy at your company, your communications strategy needs to create a space for;
While it won’t always be pretty, this is how meaningful collaboration begins. Some of the most fruitful discussions and conversations I’ve had over my career started in this manner.
Internal communications can be empowered to create a channel for these tough discussions. This can happen in a number of ways: employee polls, a link to an internal discussion forum, an event announcement to encourage feedback and criticisms, or even an org-wide invitation to debate a particular goal or project.
The same goes for feedback. One more time: internal communication is (or ought to be) a two-way street. Listen to your people and regularly ask for their feedback. That way, if an update or post doesn’t go the way you’d planned, for example, you can learn how to avoid making mistakes in the future. Good IC is always finding a way to improve and better serve the organization’s people.
5. Internal communications can help build organizational culture
Company culture is priceless in a lot of ways, one of the main roles of internal communications is to help make your company culture manifest. If done correctly, your IC strategy can help you bring your workplace culture to life. If done poorly, or not at all, you’re going to never have that foundation to grow your organizational culture.
All content can play a role in building company culture. Events, news, sales, announcements, blogs, PR, and videos can play a key role in how your people interpret the cultural landscape of your organization. It gives them the opportunity to see what goals have been achieved, what goals are being aimed for, what the organization stands for, what it values, who it values, why its mission matters, and so on. When you think about it, company culture plays a part in it all, and good internal communications will always take that into account.
When you think about your IC strategy, culture should be front and center. Culture should be included in your messaging, back and forth discussions, company new, and other forms of content. You want your culture to guide your internal communications and and you want your IC to contribute to your culture.
6. Internal communications gets your people engaged
If your people are not engaged, you’re never going to hit your full potential. The big question to ask yourself: “does your company have consistent two-way conversations?”
Creating a two-way conversation should be a primary goal with your internal communications strategy. If you’re only relying on boring top-down messaging (likely in the form of mass emails or prints that no one reads), you’re going to fail to communicate with your people. Instead, your communications should be a two-way street and it should be caring, thoughtful, interactive conversations as this is what will promote high employee engagement.
Engagement is a loose term, it can represent a lot of different things. Any type of engagement with your people could be considered just that. This could include;
- Commenting on a communications tool such as Beekeeper
- Asking questions at an employee’s only event or meeting
- Sharing department updates with management
Good internal communications creates space for these small yet meaningful acts. Again, it’s not just about communicating ideas as much as it is encouraging communication among your people.
Employees who feel that their voice matters, that their ideas are worth listening to, are more likely to go above and beyond when your organization needs them. And the value of that can’t be underestimated.
7. Internal communications helps keep people calm in times of crisis and uncertainty
As I’m sure you know, things don’t always go as planned. This is true for any business, you’re going to have times where things go wrong. I’ve seen just about everything, the organization has to restructure, mergers, acquisition, laying off employees, moving to a new location. These tenuous times are where people need internal communications most. Announcements of impending structural changes need to be treated with extra care because the morale of the organization and its business are always at stake.
As a leader, you need to be transparent about what happens, who was affected, how they were taken care of, and what this means for the organization going forward. It also requires an easy tone and complete transparency, this is especially true in the case of layoffs. People will have questions and the way you answer those questions will remain in your people’s minds for a long time to come.
Use your internal communications to create a setting for these difficult-to-have conversations and, I promise you, you’ll earn the respect of your people. Being transparent and delicate when delivering bad news creates an atmosphere of openness and caring that can help sustain your organization through tough times.
And besides that, your people will respect you for telling them like it is. This is one of the most crucial aspects of IC, and demonstrates why underutilizing it can quickly turn your people against their organization.
8. Internal communications builds trust
With an increase in transparency and improving internal communications, you can increase the trust employees feel for the company and its leaders.
Many studies have shown internal communication initiatives can contribute to higher co-worker trust and higher employee engagement.
While employee communication is often shared only within the company, there are benefits to keeping parts of it public. This study that was done on hospitality workers revealed that there was an increase in trust when certain types of information were shared via social media by employees.
As we’ve discussed throughout this article, increased trust can also lead to higher engagement, which can lead to a wide range of benefits for everyone involved.
9. Internal communications can increase employee performance
When a company’s employees are highly engaged and know they have a voice, it can lead to higher employee performance.
According to this study, internal communications have a direct impact on employee performance. In order to contribute to a positive environment, studies suggest that the conversation needs to be frequent, transparent, and honest. If your employees don’t have a floor to voice their thoughts, ideas, or concerns, you’ll struggle to get your employees to a peak performance level.
Is Your Internal Communications Program Built for Success?
Effective internal communications is at the core for organizations that have high levels of employee engagement. If your current internal communications plan is failing, I’d recommend picking up our internal communications best practices guide. It’s a good start for implementing your messaging more effectively, and goes into detail about how to turn your heavy top-messaging into two-way street conversations.