Internal Communication: How To Totally Ace It
Whether your business is fully distributed, partially remote or sharing a single office space, it’s vital to have a plan in place for communicating effectively.
Beyond simply helping your business run smoothly, it also plays a major role in creating a healthy work environment and building morale across your organization.
Creating a solid internal comms strategy can be tricky, though – especially as teams rely on different processes, communicate via different mediums and work in separate spaces. But, by designing a system that promotes transparency, you’ll be well on your way to getting it right.
How Does Good Internal Communication Impact Your Business?
Good internal communication can do a lot for businesses and the people who work in them. From a business perspective, it can enhance productivity and streamline processes, making it easier to roll out projects and innovate. For employees, it can be empowering – as it encourages them to speak up, share their opinions and be creative.
Together, these benefits can lead to even greater rewards, as employees develop a deeper level of investment in the work they’re doing, and the workplace becomes a much more enjoyable place to be.
How Do You Improve Internal Communication, Though?
There's honestly a lot of advice out there. So to save you some time, we've put together a 10 step process to help you drastically improve internal communication within your teams and across your organization. Let's dive in.
1. Get to Know Your Employees
While it may seem a little too fundamental for this list, getting to know your employees is really where a successful internal comms strategy starts. The reason being: communication is built for people and around people. It's driven by their preferences, personalities, tendencies, and goals. So naturally, you can't create an internal communication strategy, if you don't know who it's supposed to serve.
Luckily, getting to know your employees isn't that difficult a process. In fact, it's built on a lot of the same principles you use in sales, marketing and customer service. (Only it's much easier than that, since you interact with these people all day, every day.)
Think about the things your employees like. How do they prefer to communicate? Are they big readers or do most emails they get go unread? Do the majority of their conversations happen online or in person? Think about the way your employees communicate too. Are most of them just passive observers or do they actively participate in conversations? Do they prefer to communicate in one-on-one scenarios or do they like group chatter? Most importantly, do they communicate with people across your organization, or do they limit themselves to their teams and departments?
The questions you can ask are endless. The point is, the better you know the people on your teams, the better you can communicate with them.
2. Take a Pulse on Your Internal Communication
Before you can start developing a communication strategy, you also need to know where your internal comms stand. This means having a firm grasp on how your teams are currently communicating, as well as what’s working and what isn't.
You can start by asking yourself some basic questions like:
- What platforms and tools are my teams and departments currently using to communicate? Is there any crossover?
- What about our current internal comms strategy is working well?
- What things aren’t working?
- Where is there a drop off in communication?
- Is communication only happening from the top-down, or is it flowing in all directions?
It's always good to get other opinions and perspectives in this phase too. Not only will doing so enable you to validate your own insights and ideas, but it may also help you uncover problems that you were previously unaware of.
As a result, you'll be able to confidently double-down on the things you're doing well, while investing time and resources to fix the things that just aren’t working.
3. Create a Climate Where People Feel Comfortable Speaking Up
One of the most important things you can do to encourage better internal communication is help your employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions and sharing their ideas. But it's definitely not easy to do, especially if you have an established culture that doesn't lend itself to open communication.
There are ways to create a healthier environment for communication and collaboration, though. For starters, you can implement an open door policy, which allows employees to come and talk to you, when the need arises. This type of policy is great for building a positive environment for internal communication, as it shows your employees that you care and you're listening.
It isn't enough just to institute an open door policy, though. You also need to actively facilitate healthy communication, by listening respectfully to comments and responding in thoughtful, measured ways. This builds your employees’ confidence, as it shows them their feedback is heard and valued.
In addition, when you can and should act on feedback, do it. Don't hesitate or resist. Doing so will only discourage people from speaking up again. And if you can't act on feedback, let your employees know why. Not only does it build trust, but it also shows them that their ideas were important enough to you to be seriously considered.
If after all of this your employees still seem hesitant--which is entirely possible--try introducing other ways for them to share feedback that allow for anonymity. That way, your employees can feel safe sharing their opinions, while you build rapport with them.
4. Pick the Right Communication Tools
Regardless of how your teams prefer to communicate, it’s important to have the right tool stack to make everything work smoothly. This can include video conferencing tools like Zoom, Skype or Google Meet. It can involve an instant messaging platform like Slack or Microsoft Teams, where people can chat with their teams and cross-functionally. It may even be an intranet system specific to your organization, that you can use to communicate from the top-down and from the bottom-up. The point is to find tools that meet the needs of your employees and fit with your internal comms strategy.
Another tool to consider is a Brand Asset Management platform, that you can use to create, collaborate on, save and share assets across your organization. Frontify is a great option for most companies, as it offers a wide range of features and workspaces, while still being lightweight.
5. Share Company News & Info
In order to facilitate open and transparent communication between your employees, you need to set an example for them. This means being completely honest when they ask questions, and sharing information as it becomes available.
Being this transparent can be difficult for some, as it’s typically more comfortable to keep your cards close to the chest when decisions are being made. However, if you’re serious about having good internal communication in your organization, it’s a must. Not only does it build trust between you and your employees, but it also inspires others in your organization to open up about their news and information
This doesn’t mean you need to share everything all the time, but it does mean that when things happen in your organization – big or small – you share it with your teams and departments.
6. Create Engaging Content
Believe it or not, you can actually communicate with your employees the same way you communicate with customers (or, at least, similarly). Email newsletters, internal blogs and instant messaging apps are all fair game for internal communication. And done well, they can actually be really enjoyable.
So flex your marketing muscles a little bit, and create engaging pieces of content you can send out to get people reading, thinking and engaging with you and with each other. Trust us, the more fun and interesting your communication is, the better the response you'll get.
7. Make Documents Easy to Access
Another important step to remaining transparent with your teams is sharing information. This includes everything from brand assets like logos, icons and images to digital assets and documents.
The easiest way to do this is by keeping all available documents in one place (ideally a Brand Asset Management platform), where employees can access, read and use them on-demand.
Frontify is a great option for businesses of all shapes and sizes, as it allows you to store all of your assets, projects and documents in a single virtual library. Access to this library can be given to people across your organization, so they can view, use and share the content as needed.
8. Be Strategic
Now that we've talked about lots of things you can do to improve your internal communication, let's talk about something you shouldn't do: go overboard. As with all types of communication, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
And since the last thing you want is for your employees to tune out, you need to make sure you're thinking strategically about when, where and how you communicate with them.
Unfortunately, there's no hard and fast rule for reaching out to employees or facilitating communication between them. It all comes down to their needs and preferences. However, thoughtfully planning out the frequency of your communication will make it more valuable to your employees and much less overwhelming.
9. Ask For & Listen to Feedback
Your work isn't done once you've started to implement your new strategy. Beyond just correcting missteps and working through the growing pains of a new system, you should constantly be looking for ways to improve.
This is especially important as your business grows, your teams change and new people come onboard – as your strategy will need to adapt to new circumstances.
So, what should you do? Continue to keep a pulse on what's happening in your organization. Take anonymous polls, talk to people one on one, do whatever you need to do to see where you stand on internal communication.
10. Make Changes
If, while you're evaluating your internal comms strategy and asking for feedback, you discover new things that would work for your organization, start using them. And, on the flip side, if you find you're doing things that just aren’t working, stop doing them.
Nothing is set in stone. You’re creating an internal communication strategy based on the needs of an ever-evolving asset: people. That means your communication strategy will (and should) evolve with them.
While there are no shortcuts to building and implementing a solid internal comms strategy, it can make a massive difference to the business, as a whole. Not only can it boost business growth, productivity, and overall efficiency – but it also helps your coworkers feel included in decisions, making their overall rate of happiness go up, too.