A well-planned, carefully monitored and successful internal communications strategy is essential if you want to gain maximum value from your most important asset: people.
Employees feel more engaged and motivated - and will therefore be more productive - when they're kept in the loop about everything that's going on with the company, and when they have channels to share their opinions and get messages across to senior leadership.
These are many benefits of an effective internal comms plan, but many companies are failing to invest in this area. Six out of ten firms don't have a long-term internal communications strategy, research has shown, and 12% of those that do have one are failing to measure their success rates.
If you're looking to reinvent your internal communications strategy or create one for the first time, you can increase your chances of success by establishing the right pillars to underpin all of your efforts.
1. Strategic vision
The vision you're looking to realize and the goals you're hoping to achieve with your internal communications plan should have a clear strategic element. That requires an understanding of the nature of communications within the business at the moment, where you want to be in the future and how you're going to get there.
Examine what's working currently and what clearly needs to change, and consider how you can link new tools and methods with positive outcomes like greater efficiency and productivity. This is vital when it comes to arguing the business case for an updated internal comms plan.
It's also important to align your thinking around communications with the wider business strategy. If one of the company's current goals is to build a stronger employer brand to improve talent acquisition, for example, your brand characteristics should be reflected in your internal comms strategy.
2. Audience understanding
Just like a marketing or advertising campaign, an internal communications strategy will only work if it's based on an in-depth, accurate understanding of your audience. In this case, your audience is the entire workforce - from junior recruits and team members all the way up to executives and directors.
The process of preparing your strategy should include targeted engagement with people at all levels of the workforce to ascertain:
- People's views on internal communications at the moment
- Changes they’d like to see
- If employees feel they’re getting all the information they want or need
- Their preferred channels and methods of communication
This stage of the process also provides an opportunity for the HR department to outline the benefits of revamping the company's comms strategy and to prepare the workforce for forthcoming changes.
3. Company-wide support
Getting the workforce involved in the development of your strategy can contribute to a vital part of its overall success: awareness and support for your plans across the entire organization.
It's vital to get the backing of the decision-makers at the top of the business, of course, so you can feel confident of accessing the budget and resources you need to turn strategy into reality.
But it's also important to win the support of the employees and team members who make up the bulk of the workforce, starting with your own department. Having a diverse coalition of stakeholders invested in the creation and delivery of your communications strategy will give you access to a wider range of skills and insights, ultimately increasing your chances of success.
4. Data-driven insights
The work you've done so far has probably given you a fairly good idea of the direction you should take with your internal comms strategy, but before pressing ahead with the implementation you should take the time to back up your plans with hard facts and figures.
Doing some research and gathering solid data will take any unnecessary guesswork out of the process and give the entire plan much more strength and credibility.
Focused research can give you a better idea of:
- Which communication methods are likely to be the most effective for certain segments of your workforce
- The best times of the day or week to engage and communicate with people
- Capabilities (and capability gaps) within your team that could impact your strategy rollout and management
5. Tactical implementation
The strategic thinking involved in designing your internal communications plan and preparing for its launch should be followed by a more tactical, practical approach when the time comes to put your strategy into action.
This stage of the process will include:
- Summarizing the objectives you want to achieve with internal communications
- Establishing KPIs and metrics that will measure your progress towards those goals
- Identifying the communication channels and methods best-suited to particular workforce segments
- Verifying the team capacity and resources required to execute the strategy
- Confirming sufficient budget to achieve your goals
A tactical plan will provide the practical, real-world dimension your strategy needs to have maximum impact and deliver real change for the workforce and the business as a whole.
Your internal communications strategy shouldn't be an immutable fixture of the business that stays the same even while other aspects of work and business - like technology and employee preferences - are changing.
Plans should always be open to analysis and adjustment, especially if the company is going through a period of growth or transition. Organizational change often has repercussions in terms of how people and teams collaborate with one another and the need for leadership to convey messages to the workforce as a whole.
It's important, therefore, for your communication strategy to be flexible and adaptable. This will support the company's efforts to grow and evolve in line with external trends, which strengthens your brand and contributes to the overall employee experience.