In 2013, the economic climate makes it essential that companies work hard on their internal communications. Telling staff what’s going on, encouraging them to believe in your business and asking them to help spread good news is vital if they are going to support you when bad news comes along.
Here are nine steps to effective internal communications.
Firstly, be clear about its’ role and purpose. You should be trying to create a climate which says ‘We’re all in this together’ and means it. A four-paragraph memo from the managing director, giving the company’s annual results in Stock Market-speak, isn’t doing the job.
That leads to our second point – set the right tone, from top to bottom. Your internal communications must be strong, accessible and transparent. One of the best ways to do this is with a works or staff council, with representatives from management and staff. Your staff reps should be encouraged to make regular reports to staff. From a management viewpoint, it’s important that you are seen to act on decisions by the staff council.
Thirdly, communicate the big picture. This means that line managers must be able to translate strategy into tactics. If you want your staff to come with you, it’s vital that you show them how you plan to get there.
One of the best ways to bring your staff on the journey is by celebrating successes at all levels. People like to see that if they work hard, they will be rewarded and they like hearing ‘good news’ stories about their company. ‘Employee of the month/year’ schemes are a good way of achieving this, as long as everyone feels they have a chance of being rewarded – and as long as the prizes are worth having!
If you’re going to promote a strategy which says: “We’re all in it together,” you must mean it. Just look at how the Coalition Government has allowed opponents to portray in a bad light by slipping up with this. Therefore, ‘face-to-face’ channels should be at the heart of everything you do. Get senior managers out on the office or shopfloor regularly, so that staff can see them and form a positive, consistent, view of them.
If that’s not possible, why not turn to technology? Do your executives Skype regularly, or hold videoconference calls with staff? These are good ways of putting your senior people into face-to-face contact, rather than allowing them to be distant figures who appear once a year.
Another good means of promoting a mood which says: “We’re all in this together’’ is to build channels for regular feedback – and promote them. Do you have a suggestion box? Is it prominently displayed and regularly checked? Alternatively, what about an email address to which staff can send suggestions?
If you’re going down this route, however, make sure you explain why some suggestions can’t or won’t be taken up.
All these ideas should be part of an effective internal communications plan. Do you have a communications calendar, detailing when and how things are going to be done? If you do an annual employee survey, when will it go out? When do you have to start putting it together? When will the results be published?
Perhaps the most important part of a good strategy is social media. Does your company use Social media? Who is in charge of it and is it updated regularly, not just with text but also with pictures and video? Do you have a Twitter feed? Again, who tweets and how often? Do you tweet good news about all aspects of the company?
Don’t forget, though, that not all your staff will have computers. It’s vital to get the resource right so that all your staff get the message, not just a select few.
And if you are using social media, make sure your kit works. There’s nothing worse than sending emails which don’t open, attachments which are blank or a Facebook page which crashes. It says ‘They don’t know what they’re doing’ and undoes all your hard work in trying to promote good internal communications.