Internal communications functions: is your company doing it right? What, exactly, is internal communication supposed to accomplish, anyway? If you’re struggling to define internal communications for your business, you aren’t alone.
Your business’s internal communications include the entire flow of information to and from individuals within the business. Every employee in the company is an integral part of the team that works together toward a series of common goals. In order to effectively accomplish those goals, however, information must flow freely through the company. Employees need to know what is expected of them, how well they’re meeting their goals, and even what the company’s mission statement is. Effective internal communications can empower and engage employees. Poor internal communications, on the other hand, can leave employees floundering as they struggle to find out what’s going on or decide what to do next.
Internal communication is entirely separate from external communication. While internal communication focuses on sharing information with people inside the company, external communication focuses on people outside it: investors, your customers, or the public as a whole, for example.
It may sound complicated (trust us, it’s not) so let’s simplify things by looking at the key functions internal comms need to perform …
The primary function of internal communication is sharing information with everyone in the business. In order to ensure that employees are informed, management must provide them with the information they need to be successful.
Sharing information with employees throughout the company may take many forms. Company email or company message boards are great but can get cluttered quickly. Consider investing in a dedicated intranet software, trust me, it will change the game for you and your company.
Your internal communication software should include both direct communication with employees and access to information employees might need in order to perform their job responsibilities effectively. You might find, for example, that customer service employees benefit from access to a list of potential solutions to some of the most common problems faced by their team.
Employee communications ensure that team members have the right information on hand while helping to set the tone of each day’s business interactions and the company’s culture as a whole. Employees will see a big difference in communication that invites them to join in finding a solution versus one that hands down management’s ideals with little room for discussion.
Internal communication focuses naturally on the things that matter most to the company. For example, if your focus is on meeting goals at any cost, you may send out more communication about those goals than anything else. On the other hand, if your focus is on creating an excellent environment and a great place for employees to work, your employees will notice that in your internal communications, too.
Measuring internal communications can also give you a good idea of the current company atmosphere. Are communications becoming sparse, short, or frustrated?
Chances are, your employees are dealing with some cultural concerns. Are they upbeat, excited about upcoming events, and ready to engage? This might give you a better idea of what your employees like most about your business.
You don’t want to monitor every communication employees send through your business, but keeping an eye on some of those important communications can help employers adapt to the current environment to increase employee satisfaction. So check out message boards, email threads, and your dedicated software on a regular basis!
General information sharing is a natural function of internal communication. When serious issues arise, however, internal communication becomes even more important.
Suppose you’re in the middle of a social media disaster. Are employees allowed to comment on the issue? If they do so without permission, what consequences may they face?
What about a natural disaster: when will business re-open? Are employees expected to work from home if possible? What functions are available in spite of a disaster, especially one that may have shut down the office? Equally importantly, what resources is the company offering employees who may have been displaced by the disaster or face other issues?
During a disaster or public affairs problem, your internal communications strategy becomes even more important. They allow employees access to all the right information straight from your company–and that can prevent a lot of guesswork and uncertainty.
Not only does this tell employees how to proceed next, but it can also offer them valuable peace of mind that can help keep them calm in a crisis. Ultimately, this means that employees will be able to return to work sooner, and in the case of a public relations crisis, it can prevent you from having to clean up a mess later.
Resource: Internal communications plan template
Internal communication goes two ways: not just from management down, but also from employees up. An effective internal communications plan doesn’t just spread the information that management wants its employees to know.
It also offers employees the ability to share their ideas, their struggles, and their concerns. Internal communication can increase innovation or significantly raise employee satisfaction. When you give employees a voice, you also substantially improve their overall engagement.
Effective internal communications functions allow employees to explain their problems or concerns, either anonymously or directly. It gives them a chance to ask questions. Most importantly, it takes their ideas into account, giving them greater ownership over the business as a whole.
When employees are engaged and take ownership, they offer a better customer experience. Not to mention the fact that they’re more likely to stick with your business long-term.
Internal communications perform a number of important roles within your business every day. Each organization will be different depending on size, needs, and culture. Start by focusing on each of the key functions, invest in an internal communications tool, and expand your efforts as the business requires.