Anyone with experience in running a business or managing a large department will know that healthy communication is an absolute must if you want to achieve high efficiency and productivity.
Poor communication can be a key factor in a range of wider problems, such as lapses in service because one team has failed to share a client demand with another, or general dissatisfaction and disengagement in the workforce because people don't feel they're being kept in the loop or listened to. This can drive up employee turnover, which recently reached its highest level in the US for ten years.
Despite the clear benefits of good communication and the risks of getting it wrong, research shows that 60% of firms don't have a long-term internal communications strategy. Of those that do, 12% don't measure the effectiveness of their efforts.
If you're keen to make improvements in this area, one of the wisest things you can do is to establish a focused internal communications plan. Here are the key steps to take:
1. Know your current problems
Reviewing the current state of communications and identifying deficiencies that need to be addressed is a good starting point, because it helps ensure your new plan is relevant and connected to the company's needs.
Engaging with your workforce and asking for their feedback on your existing comms strategy - if you have one - could generate some useful insights into what's working well, where you need to improve and what people really care about.
It can also prove beneficial to study complaints you’ve received from employees to identify common themes connected to communication.
2. Know what you want to achieve
Once you have a clear picture of where you are at the moment, you can begin to think about where you want to be in the future.
Give some thought to the most important goals you hope to achieve with your new communications plan, which could be linked to key workforce concepts like employee engagement and effectiveness of collaboration across teams.
It's wise to question why you're setting particular goals, to build a clear picture of why it's important to achieve them and to ensure you're focusing on the right objectives. This will also help you get buy-in and support for your plan from executives who’ll be asking how it benefits the business.
You can add valuable structure and specificity to your plan by ensuring the goals are SMART:
3. Assess your communication tools and audiences
You can maximize the likelihood of your internal comms plan being a success by giving some close thought to the tools and technologies you'll need to put the strategy into practice. There are many options to choose from, such as:
- Regular face-to-face meetings
- Conference calls
- Instant messaging
- Project management tools (like Slack and Trello)
- Social media
The decisions you make about which communication methods and tools are best-suited to your workforce will be informed by the 'audiences' you're targeting.
People who work in sales and marketing, for example, might want to communicate and collaborate in a very different way to those in finance and accounting. It's important, therefore, to incorporate a level of flexibility into your communications, without compromising the plan's underlying principles and ultimate goals.
4. Prioritize two-way communication
The process of finding the right tools to implement your plan should also reflect the importance of two-way communication, with members of your workforce being given the opportunity to make their views known.
Crucially, your employees should know that your efforts to improve internal communications aren't motivated purely by the company's desire to give orders and get messages across to its workforce.
Enabling and encouraging staff to use dedicated communication channels to express their opinions should be a central part of your plan. People should feel they have a voice in the organization and that they can come forward with their thoughts and suggestions - whatever they may be - without fear of censorship or discrimination.
5. Launch, measure and review
Once you're confident you've done enough groundwork and preparation, and the time comes to actually launch your internal communications plan, make sure to include key elements like:
- An executive summary
- Past achievements and future goals
- Audience (workforce) segments
- Tools to be used
- Metrics and KPIs to measure progress
The final point on this list is particularly important when it comes to actually implementing your plan and assessing how it's performing. Relevant metrics and KPIs will help you form data-driven answers to questions like:
- Has employee engagement increased?
- Have staff referrals gone up?
- Have retention and turnover improved?
Regular tracking, measurement, and improvement are essential if you want to raise your internal communications to the highest possible standard and generate the best results for the business.