Internal Communications Strategy: Creating One from Scratch

internal communications strategyWithin any organization, their internal communications strategy is key. Staff cannot work if they don’t know what they are working for, and if your company doesn’t have a plan, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Luckily, creating a strategy for your communication is relatively simple, just be sure to start on the right foot and don’t do anything before you complete this course which covers the number one mistake everyone makes in their corporate communication.

What makes a communication strategy difficult is that there usually isn’t one, and it can be very hard to implement. Effective communication is essential in an organization because it is the key that allows everyone to stay up to date, and get involved in what the company is developing. Regardless of whether you’re telling the staff about a new company-wide initiative, educating them on new policies, or simply giving the business an update, having a plan for your communication allows you to be successful. Without proper communication staff will be less engaged with the business, especially if you believe that hundreds of quick and hasty emails are the solution. Being good at communication has major implications for your bottom line, as companies with effective internal strategies give returns 47 % higher to their shareholders than their ill prepared counterparts. This is critical especially in a crisis, so check out this course and learn how to effectively communicate no matter the situation.

Imagine you’ve just started at a company that has no communication plan. How do you even figure out what’s going on? This article cover seven areas which are a solid starting point, and gives you a base for the different ways you can reach your staff. Ultimately, you need to find what fits, and what your organization really needs. You’re first task is going to be convincing the team they need a communication plan, so take this course and learn how to convince people to your point of view and get them saying yes!

Structure of the Company

First, consider how the organization is put together. Look at the organizational chart and you’ll get an easy overview. This is important because the way a company is structured will determine what style of communication is best. Sometimes a formalized and hierarchical communication is required, while other businesses may benefit most from an open approach. A great source of information to help you evaluate is the employee satisfaction survey results, they’ll give you a firsthand insight into what each department thinks of their teams ability to communicate.

Culture of the Company

Next, consider the way things are done in your organization. You won’t be able to put together an effective strategy if you don’t understand the shared beliefs, values and behaviors of the staff. If you’re feeling stuck, look to the vision and values of a company, because the way a company defines itself is the best place to start in your task to define their corporate culture. This is important because it will influence the channels of communication you use. In companies with a large informal network, you can tap into this to this to assist, or if there is a strong culture based on structure and roles a face-to-face discussion may be more appropriate.

The Leader’s Management Style

Discovering the way that top management approaches their work will also impact the way communications need to be done. Look to your leaders and ask yourself, are they concerned about bottom line results, or do they genuinely care for the people? Employee satisfaction surveys will help you again here, as you can see what their team thinks and use their advice to help guide you in categorizing all of the leaders. Middle management is the key to an effective communications strategy, as they are the first point of call for many staff as changes come. When you truly understand the types of leaders in your company, you can better equip them for communicating effectively.

Influence

This one can be hard to determine, but you want to discover who holds the power in your company. There are a range of different types of influence that can be used, so consider how senior management achieve their goals. Are they using their power, charm, charisma or fame to get you to buy into their way of thinking? On top of this, is there expertise available in your organization that you can tap into, and benefit from when you recognize it? Using quotes from frontline employees instead of that of senior managers in company communication highlights you’re willing to let the experts have their say.

Change

Whatever your industry, your business is always going to be in a state of change. Do you yourself know all of the changes that have been made in the last week, month, year or even over the last five years? Look at your employees, and make sure they’re excited about what you want to communicate. The speed at which an organization can adapt is massively hindered when there is no simple and clear communication regarding change. Be aware of everything your company is going through, and ensure you always pitch your stories so that they address the concerns your employees all have.

Making Sense of It All

You need to consider how your communication will be interpreted, and ensure all of the messages you’re sending are tailored to the audience they are for. This will minimize any interpretations that are not in line with what you aim to communicate, because people will always translate the same information in different ways. Make sure you’re always checking for feedback on what is sent out, as this is a fantastic way of ensuring a common understanding for all staff.

Individual Differences

In addition, make sure you’re aware of your target audience, and use this information to help you decide the communication channels you want to implement in line with your strategy. Think about the percentages of white and blue-collar workers, their working hours and the male/female split. Perhaps there is a more popular language than English and you could reach them more effectively by communicating in their preferred language. HR is a great source of information on this aspect, and will readily help you get a picture of your target audience.

Now you’ve got a bit of an idea on the starting point, you can start working on your own internal communications strategy. As you begin to put this together, this post is a great counterpart, because it highlights all of the barriers you’ll face in effective communication in your organization. In line with this, there are a number of trends that you should also consider, and different methods of reaching your team.

Here’s the latest in communication trends:

  • Mobile

The latest technology is rapidly dropping in price, and as a result most employees are using their own personal devices for work, simply because they are far better than what the company provides (that is, if they were actually one of the lucky staff who received a work phone in the first place). Is there a certain brand you can use in your communication strategy, like developing instructional videos or games for your staff’s iPads? How do your update emails look when reading on the screen of a smart phone?

  • Video

Video is a new medium that faster download speeds and goliaths like YouTube have made readily available. According to YouTube, mobile devices now account for around 40% of the videos watched on their site. Companies now are forsaking the typical employee handbooks, and instead building vast video libraries where staff can search for videos, comment and tag them, and most importantly, upload their own as a means of sharing knowledge. Tap into this trend!

  • Engagement

It’s HR who are typically the ones shouting “engage our employees” from the rooftops, but the latest research has discovered that good communication also contributes to higher levels of engagement. You can reinforce this by giving the employees channels for their own voices to be heard, and direct your communications through the stakeholder groups with which they already identify, like their team, project groups, or the direct employee-manager relationship.

  • Social software

Despite being rolled out in many organizations, employees generally aren’t adopting the companies own social intranets. It’s your goal as a communicator to play an active role in making the transition, and removing employees from the vice-like grip that email has on their everyday communication practices.

  • Employee ambassadors

Don’t just look internally, but also run with initiatives that connect your employees directly to customers. You’ll get them solving problems, answering questions and engaging with clients that will ultimately raise the entire company’s profile.

  • Use images

On social media in general images dominate the content and with good reason. Interaction with images is significantly higher than text based narratives, especially as people move away from desktop computers and now work from smart phones and tables. Use images to tell stories and deliver your messages, and you’ll connect on an even greater level.

  • Gamification

Inside many companies today you’ll see many wellness and training programs that already employ these techniques, but there is a huge potential. Basically, you’re aiming to make tasks that are usually mundane and tedious more fun, by adding elements of game play. This usually includes leader boards, leveling, and completion bars for certain tasks. There’s a huge potential to capitalize on the human desire for intrinsic rewards, and apply this to your internal communication practices.

  • Print

Usually companies abandon print communication because of costs, not for any other strategic reason. Whilst we’re not suggesting a full scale roll-back, you can have success in reaching people with print media who regularly don’t have access to the internet. Nurses and support staff in a hospital who cannot access the internet are a prime target for this communication tactic.

  • Strategic influencers

Tapping into the informal networks of influence is key in reaching the masses within your organization. You want to capitalize on this, and get the handful of influencers that lead your company (informally) on board, to help promote and push your message.

In any communications strategy, there are a wide range of channels that you can capitalize on to reach your staff. The ones that are most valuable to use will vary between different companies, but the key is selecting the ones that are most appropriate to you, in your situation. This course is great for covering all of the traditional communication methods in a lot more detail than the above, so check it out!

Internal communications has rapidly changed from its humble origins of senior management simply pushing a message down to the entire organization. It is no longer the case that you can assume what you send is understood, it’s your role as a leader to ensure you’ve effectively communicated to the entire organization, business unit or your team. Being a poor communicator, and not getting the right information to the employees that need it will hinder your business, and it is often worse than not communicating at all!

Think about how you interact with your team, your colleagues and your organization, and consider how you can benefit from developing an internal communications strategy. You’ll be amazed at the results!