How to Build an Effective Internal Communications Strategy
An internal communications strategy is extremely valuable for both small and large businesses. Especially if you can’t afford a high staff turnover and low productivity, and honestly which business can?
When the business starts out with only a few people, communicating is easy but as the company grows, you need sustainable measures that adjust with the growing size and makes sure that communication does not get lost. You need to create a communication plan and start putting processes in place before your company grows out the simple communication methods your business started with.
The problem is that most businesses do not realize they need an effective communications strategy until it challenges them. It needs to be simple. Simple enough that it should be able to be easily communicated and passed on to even the lowest levels of your organization. Once you’ve established an effective method of communication, repeat, repeat, and repeat.
According to the University of Bath, 94% of the world’s most admired companies believe their efforts to engage their employees has given them a competitive advantage. Along with high engagement levels, these companies had an operating margin nearly three times greater than those with low engagement.
There are six steps to creating and maintaining an effective internal communications strategy.
Internal Communications Strategy Step 1: Always start with an audit
An audit helps you find out where your current situation is. If your company exists of only five people or less, then just hold a meeting and simply ask them what they think. If you’re dealing with more than ten employees, then perhaps an online survey would be most effective.
Get your staff’s opinions on your regular communications like the weekly newsletter. Ask them what their thoughts are on it and what they understand about the business. You need to evaluate whether or not the message you are sending is being understood. Also, take the opportunity to ask them whether they feel like their input contributes to the company’s goals and if their value is being appreciated? If they respond negatively, it’s a problem that needs sorting out.
Internal Communications Strategy Step 2: Define your communications objectives
Use what you’ve discovered in your audit to set some clear communications goals. For example, if your survey reveals that not everybody understands the business goals, then make a new plan to articulate it clearly and define measures to evaluate whether or not the new plan has worked.
Internal Communications Strategy Step 3: Develop your key message
Your key message should be linked to your business goals so that everybody understands what your business is trying to achieve, and how he or she can get there. If they don’t know, they might make up their story or purpose that may not match with your vision.
Since you’ll be repeating your message frequently, you need to have focus and consistency in your message. Putting a new message out each week, particularly one that may conflict with the previous message does not give your company the time to receive, understand, communicate, and provide feedback and insights to your last communication.
Internal Communications Strategy Step 4: Choose your channels
There are a lot of different ways to communicate your message. You can use meetings, e-newsletters, emails, social media sites and much more. If you don’t have fixed channels of communication in place, use your audit results to find out the best option for your business. If you are a small company of 5 or less, then a meeting might just be sufficient. However the bigger you are, the more channels you will need to develop, especially when the team is not always together. Some employees might be working remotely, part-time or traveling on the job. If people are unhappy with too much email spamming their inbox, then use a channel like Yammer or a weekly roundup bulletin. However set some clear rules on how to use them.
Internal Communications Strategy Step 5: Create a calendar
Now that you know what to say and how to say it, you need to plan when to say it. Have one person on your team manage the calendar. Get the frequency right, and don’t rely on only one channel of communication. Go for a mix of face-to-face and written communication.
Internal Communications Strategy Step 6: Measure, measure and measure again
It is important to receive feedback on how you do. Give your employees lots of opportunities to have input on the communication methods and soon enough engagement and your profit will go up. Keep your internal communications strategy refreshed, relevant, and continuously evaluated, and soon enough you should see an improvement in employee engagement and productivity levels.