8 Reasons Why Internal Communications is Critical for Success
Internal communications (IC) is an essential component of a company’s effort to maintain employee engagement and keep everyone, at all levels, focused on what really matters.
The modern business world is rapidly changing, and workforce demographics are changing along with it. As younger generations begin to enter the workforce, the relevance of effective communication between employers and employees is increasing. Newer generations have less patience for office politics – rather, their primary focus is on an increase in collaboration, transparency, and feedback. With this progressive shift in what employees’ value in their company, there comes the need for a set of tools that can encourage success in this new work environment. This is where internal communications come into play; it is one of the key mechanisms that work to align employees behind common goals.
What is Internal Communications (IC)?
In order to fully grasp the importance of internal communications, we first need to understand what it means.
At a base level, IC is the function responsible for effective communications among employees within an organization. Its specific scope and function vary depending on the organization itself, but it usually involves producing and delivering messages or campaigns on behalf of management and facilitating two-way dialogues between the people who make up the organization. This can mean anything from announcing a new policy, informing people of upcoming events, to even conducting an organizational-wide engagement or culture audit.
Usually, internal communication falls under the responsibility of HR, marketing, or PR departments, but can be contributed to by all departments across an organization. In fact, IC is arguable most effective when it is an interdisciplinary effort.
Not every organization may have the resources or funding to invest in an internal communications strategy, while some others may already follow a strategy but might not have the capacity or resources necessary to maintain it. However, internal communications should not be an expendable effort for your organization. In fact, it is crucial for the health and success of your organization. If your company has people, you need to be able to communicate with them clearly and regularly.
Here are eight reasons why internal communications is a key business function:
The desire to stay informed on the reasoning and purpose behind our actions is not lost on us as we enter adulthood, and even less so when we put in day-to-day efforts towards a company-wide goal. As employees, we want to understand our organization’s goals, have a clear sense of the plans for getting there, and be confident and assured in our contributions towards those plans.
Employees want to feel valued, listened to, and like they are a part of the team. This is especially true for the younger generations in your workforce – constant reassurance and validation from others is something they are accustomed to in the new age of social media.
Illustrating purpose is not limited to showing your employees their goals. A large component of solidifying their sense of purpose involves visualizing the actions that everyone can take in order to contribute. An example of this would be regular posting and sharing of information about team or company-wide achievements. This keeps employees motivated and is effective in reassuring the value of their contributions. Recognizing and rewarding the attainment of milestones in a longer path towards a shared goal increases a workforce’s sense of teamwork and progress.
A well-functioning internal communications system is effective in motivating employees to continuously strive for the common goal of the organization. By being transparent in the “why”, you can significantly engage your employees in the “what”.
2. Controlling the Message and its Origin
With modern technology and social media being so easily accessible anytime and anywhere, companies often feel intimidated by the risk that employees learn about important company news from these external sources. In order to dissuade this from happening, it should be part of your internal communications strategy to develop a means of communication that matches and even exceeds the external speed of social media. In order to stay ahead of the constant influx of information your employees receive from external sources, you should aim to make internal points of view readily available to employees, not just during pivotal moments in your organization’s timeline, but also in everyday operations.
In order to ensure information that employees receive comes from the right source, is timely, and reaches everyone at all levels, an organization first needs a well-defined but flexible and fast editing process with a short approval chain up and down the hierarchy. This ensures important information is dispelled to the workforce in a timely manner, without sacrificing quality.
The other component necessary to achieve these goals is the establishment of fast, interactive, and reliable channels to reach all employees. In today’s age, fast and interactive typically means digital. Combining new procedures, skills, and technologies are needed to create trust and transparency within the workforce. With a reliable means of communicating on a larger scale to employees, this enables organizations to remain in control of the messages they send, instead of leaving information up to individual interpretations.
3. Empowering and Supporting Middle Management
The traditional means of communicating information is top-down through the organization’s hierarchies. However, this trickle-down of information poses a frequent risk for delays, limited feedback and dialogue, and an unhealthy dependence upon the individual communication efforts of everyone in the chain. While plenty of messages may be getting sent out, most of them likely won’t reach the people doing the work. An internal communications system can make this chain of communication much more effective.
Internal communications should aim to constantly empower and motivate middle management using the required resources and information available. This will encourage them to be the best possible leaders and communicators for their respective staff. It can also be beneficial when providing information that isn’t team-specific through a location-wide or central communication channel. Internal communication provides organizations with the opportunity not only to better understand their workforce, but also to train better managers.
4. Keeping the Brand Promise
Staying consistent with the brand promises of your organization can be challenging, especially in large distributed organizations with hundreds or thousands of middle managers. Internal communications aim to reduce this challenge.
Clearly communicated goals, well-trained and informed staff, and satisfied employees will improve customer relations with the brand, and resultingly enhance revenue. The importance of customer experience is not lost on marketers, but many overlook the importance of internal affairs when trying to improve their relationship with customers. Great brands are built from the inside out. By prioritizing your employees and building their satisfaction and confidence, you are bound to see that effect mirrored directly onto your customers.
5. Helping in a Crisis
When managing an internal or external crisis, timely and careful communication is crucial. Controlling how both employees and external investors view an incident is necessary and can be the driving force behind whether an incident develops into a full-blown crisis.
Not only can an effective internal communications system help you steer perceptions about incidents, but it also works to support both short- and long-term crisis management. Short-term crisis management addresses the incident directly, and long-term crisis management focuses more on preserving the organization’s reputation and formulating preventative measures for future negative situations. Establishing structure, plans, and channels well before a crisis hits allows for internal communication to keep crisis situations under control, no matter the size, reputation, or industry of your organization.
6. Better Work Environment
A healthy work environment should always be a principle aim for your organization. It reaps countless benefits, the strongest of which include avoiding high turnover and attracting new talent. Strong internal communication provides constant feedback and purpose to employees, which increases their engagement, which in turn decreases turnover rates.
Whether attracting new employees or retaining strong ones, employers need to maintain an open dialogue with their employees. An effective internal communications system encourages an open, communicative, and transparent work environment, which will ultimately give your company an advantage in today’s highly competitive job market.
7. Eliminating Rumors and Enhancing Transparency
While word-of-mouth can be beneficial in some ways, it ultimately poses more risks than what it’s worth. It can be helpful in allowing information to reach those who might have missed the original transmission, and can also be more flexible than formal communication, but it has the potential to severely distort the meaning of the information itself. Word-of-mouth and informal communication alone often end up supporting rumors and misunderstandings and is extremely difficult to control, especially in larger organizations.
Effective internal communication does not muzzle informal communication entirely. Instead, it increases its advantages while decreasing its potential risks through frequent and immediate communication, helping employees to interpret information and instructions accurately and efficiently.
Transparency in interactions with managers is extremely influential in employee satisfaction. By providing a high standard of transparency, while also working to keep the work environment rumor-free, employees and customers who are skeptical can be constantly reassured in their trust of your company.
8. Creating a Channel for Feedback, Debate, and Discussion
In order to promote open communication, your company’s internal communications strategy must make room for feedback, pushback, and debate of issues and ideas. This is how effective collaboration happens.
Internal communications can be utilized to create an open channel for these kinds of discussions. This can manifest in many ways: employee polls, links to internal discussion forums, the announcement of events that encourage feedback and criticisms, even organization-wide invitations to debates on goals or projects.
The same goes for encouraging feedback. Internal communications are a two-way dialogue between employees and employers. By listening to your people and regularly asking for their feedback, you can learn how to avoid making mistakes in the future and understand where your strengths lie so you can harness them further. Strong internal communication means always seeking ways to improve and better serve your company’s people.
Internal Communications Encourage Success
Effective internal communication is the key to a healthy, engaged, and transparent organization. By understanding the specific ways internal communications can encourage the success of your company, you can begin to implement your overall message much more effectively and turn your top-down messaging into a two-way conversation.