In internal communications, it’s obvious who your audience is, right? If your first thought is the “all staff” email, then you’re unfortunately heading down the wrong direction.
Yes, the organization as a whole forms the internal audience, but the trick to start taking charge of your internal communication is realizing you are working with people who are working in different schedules, across different departments.
Once you walk away from the generic “all staff email” and start seeing your internal audience as living, breathing human beings each with their own needs, you are on a path to deliver empowered communications.
Does that mean you simply need to segment audiences into departments? Hold on there for a second, let’s start by exploring what it means to humanize your audience instead of grouping them into buckets:
“The big thing the team has learned is that before you communicate, you have to listen. You cannot go into internal communication with a preconceived idea of what internal stakeholders need.” – Maintaining Hope and Inspiration: using social media to encourage internal stakeholders
Before deciding on a communication strategy and rolling out your program, have you stepped back and asked what your colleagues want or need? Whether through surveys or good old-fashioned interviews and focus groups, you’ll be able to have your finger on the pulse as to what pain points employees are experiencing, and how they want you to solve those issues.
Tip: A useful way to segment your internal audience is by pain points or communication needs. Remember, in order for this tactic to be effective, you’ll need a clear understanding of your audience, and regularly check-in to make sure your grouping is still relevant.
“Ideally, good internal communications is a two-way process… There is a growing body of evidence to support that effective internal communication plays a fundamental role in developing positive attitudes such as trust, organizational commitment, job satisfaction, organizational identification, and positive employee-organization relationships. Employees feel valued when they believe their opinions matter and are asked for feedback.” – Evaluating Effective Communication Methods
There is a major difference between communicating with employees rather than to employees. Going one step further than simply listening, this is about actively engaging with what employees are saying and feeling.
Tip: By creating feedback channels, you can allow for employee engagement through collaboration, and the flow of information upstream as well as downstream within the company. Don’t forget to get the leadership team on board with this initiative. You’ll need their backing to promote it, as well as their participation to ensure that feedback will be handled in a transparent way.
“There is a discrepancy between the communication tools that people find most effective and the ones they regularly use… However, email, which is the most commonly used method of workplace communication, is not considered very effective by the majority of respondents.” – Communication Barriers in the Modern Workplace
Of course, email is not going to disappear anytime soon, but it’s important to realize that it simply isn’t the most effective communication channel for most people. A person who sits behind a computer all day is going to have vastly different channel preferences than someone who works on a factory floor or manages a large group of people. Even just looking at formats, have you considered town hall meetings or videos?
Tip: Ask employees what channels or content they find most efficient for their jobs, and tailor-make your content towards each of those channels. Yes, it’s much more work than sending just one email, but the impact will that much greater.
“Engagement is about being timely, targeted and relevant – sending the right information to the right employee at the right time”– Delivering Effective Internal Communications
It may sound like a pipe dream to be relevant and to send the right content to the right person at the right time, but unless you’re actively chasing the dream it won’t become a reality. The simple act of becoming conscious of how your message may affect employees is a terrific way to start.
Tip: Aside from the obvious tactic to ask and engage with employees when and how they want to receive messages, set up a series of experiments to discover the best content types and times for different contexts in the workplace.
“What do the best do to build community? First, they recognize that a shared experience and purpose is important to the business. They understand that building community requires an ongoing conversation. They do not shy away from connecting with employees, and they have the courage to address controversy. The best organizations use a variety of media and are careful to remain consistent while localizing the message when necessary. They segment audiences to make sure tailored messages reach those who need to hear them, and they take care to nurture an inclusive culture.” Clear Direction in a Complex World
You are not alone in your mandate, and that’s a powerful realization to take to heart. You may be in charge, but your work involves every single one of your colleagues. When internal communication is encouraged and appreciated by the whole organization, the job moves away from simply sharing messages and towards creating a meaningful impact.
Tip: The latest State of the Sector report shows that internal communicators put the most emphasis on the executive team of a company. This is understandable as the leadership team often needs to determine the direction of content, and it’s simply who needs to be convinced of results. But by including your colleagues (or middle managers if you’re in a large organization) in your mandate through training or feedback channels, your net will be cast that much wider.
Your audience is your colleagues and coworkers. These are people just like you who often don’t read emails and hate getting requests late on a Friday afternoon.
When you start treating your internal audience like people instead of a mailing list, you’re on a path to connect, engage and most importantly empower your colleagues with meaningful communications.
Understanding the needs of your internal audience is only one step in your journey towards delivering impactful internal communications. Have you thought about your content yet? Here’s a guide that will help you create quality content with an internal communications plan.
IC 101 is a blog series dedicated to sharing internal communication best practices. The principles discussed in this series are drawn from research from Simon Fraser University and learnings from internal communication experts in the field. Join us in this series to empower your communication efforts today.
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