An effective internal communications program in the workplace is crucial and can make a world of difference for employee morale and retention.
“It’s easy to simply send an email to your teams, but it’s critical to take a step back and look at your strategy, and intention, around those communications,” says Amanda Deppe, senior director of internal communications and community programs at Robert Half. “For example, is it a behavioral change you want to make, or something else? You need to look at your goals and how an internal communications program can support them.”
Deppe adds that internal communications can be foundational to the employee experience. “If an employee receives a message and it doesn’t feel like it’s connected to the company, it can be confusing,” she says. “A solid internal communications strategy ensures that messages sent to employees use one clear, cohesive voice and feel authentic to an employee’s work experience.”
Internal communications should also be inclusive of all company departments, helping a firm avoid duplicate programs or different messaging on the same topic from multiple departments. “We work a lot with departments, like human resources or IT, to help holistically support their programs or goals,” says Deppe. “We serve in a consultative capacity, helping connect people and projects across the company.”
In these ways, a solid internal communications program is essential to every company, no matter what the size. Here are some additional reasons why you should implement — or revisit — your internal communications strategy.
Why you should have an internal communications program
Retention — A good internal communications plan can help you retain employees at a time when it’s challenging to keep your best workers. When employees are updated on the company and successes are highlighted, everyone feels connected to a firm’s larger goals. Pride in your workplace and a feeling of connection to a larger purpose can help you retain top performers on your team.
Clear goals — Internal communications can help communicate a company’s goals and priorities so everyone is on the same page, which is a motivator for employees. When goals are confusing or not communicated clearly, it’s hard to figure out what work is the priority and where to focus your time.
Control the message — Every company has a rumor mill and there’s no escaping some office gossip — but you can control the narrative by sending out the information you want people to know. This helps you avoid rumors that can lead to dissatisfaction or confusion among employees.
Communicate change — In a time when change is more the rule than the exception, internal communications is essential. Employees should have a source they trust to get clear information they need on changes, and how those changes will impact them.
Crisis communication — If the company has an emergency or crisis situation, internal communications should be a trusted source of information. Employees can feel confident that they’re getting the most accurate and up-to-date information about how the crisis will affect them, as well as direction on what they can do (or what not to do). In addition, having one clear voice during a crisis is important to avoid rumors and alleviate any confusion about what’s going on.
A final advantage to having a solid internal communications strategy is that when all employees are on the same page, that employee cohesion is communicated to customers — a win for the business. There’s no confusion about services available or what teams are able to deliver, for example.
Building an internal communications strategy
It’s clear that having an internal communications strategy is key to just about every company, but how do you create one? Here are some things to consider:
How will you communicate? Is your company small and casual, or large and formal? These environments would likely use different methods of reaching people. A smaller company might spend most of their time communicating on Slack and less on email, for example, while a larger one might have an internal homepage that’s updated daily. Or maybe you need to communicate using multiple platforms to reach everyone: Email may be the go-to for Boomers, while IMs are the choice for Millennials. Consider your audience and the best way to connect with them.
How often do you communicate? Everyone gets too many emails, IMs and notifications, so it’s important to consider how many messages you want to send out. Maybe an internal website can provide daily or weekly updates that people can choose to read or not, but you’ll have a different approach when discussing change or crisis situations to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.
How do you motivate people and prevent rumors? How you communicate information makes a huge difference. Imagine receiving a two-line email that says you’re closing a line of business, but there’s no other information included. Now imagine instead of an email, managers are given speaking points to help explain the why the line of business is closing, and there’s a resource page on the intranet with frequently asked questions on the topic. The second approach is a lot more personal and thoughtful. It’s more likely to quell rumors and prevent top employees from considering other job options if the news directly impacts them.
How do you celebrate achievements? Whether you have an employee of the month profiled in a newsletter or send a weekly email highlighting big wins for one of the company’s teams, having a strategy for celebrating successes, work anniversaries and other life events (if it’s appropriate for your firm) is a great way to motivate everyone and keep them feeling connected to each other.
How do you communicate in a crisis or during a big change? The key to communicating change is simple: Announce it quickly and accurately. One of the biggest drains on employee morale can occur when staff members hear or read company news from someone outside the company before they hear the news from leadership. Make sure communicating change to your employees is a priority. Keep in mind that employees want to know not only what's happening in the company but also why it's happening. Here are some additional tips:
- Provide accurate information. Set the record straight by proactively communicating to all employees. Otherwise, distorted half-truths will make the rounds — so nip these destructive office rumors in the bud.
- Share information quickly. As noted above, your employees are more likely to trust and believe you if you don't hoard information. If you take a while to convey news, people will wonder if you have a hidden agenda.
- Provide a question-and-answer session. If employees know they can ask questions, they'll be more likely to wait for an answer before spreading office rumors.
- Avoid spin. Keep your content straightforward and concise. Everyone knows when they're hearing half-truths and propaganda-like messages, and this can decrease morale.
If you consider what information you would want to know as an employee — and how you’d want that information conveyed — you’ll have a great head start in creating your internal communications strategy.