It’s 2021, and workplaces have changed a LOT. Remote work has boomed, and being glued to a glowing rectangle for eight hours a day is no longer acceptable for many.
If working in person is something your business insists on, be prepared to see top talent give you a wide berth. Sure, casual Fridays, an office dog, and team lunches are nice. But what employees really want is flexibility in their jobs and the means to work effectively from wherever they choose. It’s up to employers to help them do this.
How? With strong internal communications and the right tools and processes in place to help employees work, collaborate, and bond from wherever they are in the world.
Internal communications: what is it?
Internal communications are any exchange of information that happens within an organization.
It can be a newsletter, a memo, or even a simple email blast to employees. It helps create a sense of purpose and connection between people who aren’t always working together face to face, like managers and staff or coworkers in different locations.
As we move towards more flexible ways of working, communication — and the tools we use to do it — are becoming increasingly important.
Keeping track of what’s happening in your business can be hard, but internal communications tools, such as Zoom and chat apps, are changing how we communicate.
Why are good internal communications important?
A company’s best resource is its workforce, so it makes sense that internal communications would be worthwhile for business success.
When you communicate with employees in engaging ways, they feel valued by their employer and are more likely to work harder because of it. Higher job satisfaction also means less turnover, which will save your business money in training costs down the line.
Internal communication is also necessary to keep employees up to date on any changes in your business or organizational policies. Employees value transparency, whether the news is good or bad. When people find out about major workplace changes from outside sources, it comes across like you don’t trust or respect your workforce.
Here are some more reasons why solid internal communications are a must:
1. Clear roles improve accountability
Clarity is the only way to make sure everyone knows their role. If messages aren’t making it to the right person, or they’re lost in cyberspace, that’s not good news. Misinformation means mistakes — and that leads to wasted time and money.
2. Transparency reduces gossip
If you’re not keeping your employees updated on what’s going on with the business as a whole, they’ll look elsewhere for information. Plenty of people are happy to share their opinions or information about your company — and it might not be good. By improving internal communications, you can control what messages go out and how they’re framed.
3. Good communication promotes engagement
Informing your employees about company activities keeps them engaged and happy with their working lives. People like to feel trusted, and two-way communication is one way to show that.
When your staff knows exactly what the company is trying to achieve, they’ll be motivated and inspired to drive their own development and career paths.
Internal communication also improves relationships between employees by building on common ground, knowledge, and understanding of what other people are doing in the business. In short, engagement boosts staff retention and productivity, which are good for the bottom line.
4. A team-oriented culture fosters collaboration
Internal communications help your team see the bigger picture within the company. Don’t assume that employees understand your business goals or your strategy to achieve them. As a leader, it’s your job to communicate a clear vision and help team members see how their role fits into it.
Explain why certain changes are happening in order for it all to make sense. Chances are, employees will be more likely to embrace changes when they understand the impact on the wider organization. Communicate common objectives that make employees feel like they’re working towards something. Otherwise, they won’t contribute their best ideas.
5. Internal communications create a more robust work culture
Good internal communication is excellent for your company’s culture. And this is especially important when your employees are working remotely all, or some, of the time. Having a system in place for any employee to reach another prevents delays in information sharing.
Diversifying your communication methods also adds another dimension to workplace conversations. Instead of defaulting to frequent meetings or emails, employees can choose from various tools and channels. This helps with both engagement and effectiveness when it comes to message delivery.
Employees who usually shy away from traditional forms of communication have other options to convey important information.
6. Openness guides the team through tough times
In times of crisis, internal communication is crucial. Structural changes, reshuffles, and mergers are scary. Yet, they don’t have to be quite so daunting if managers carefully explain what’s going on.
Being transparent about what’s happening, what went wrong, and how things will be fixed requires a delicate tone, especially in the case of layoffs. Use internal communications to set the tone, answer questions, and generally be there for your employees. You’ll earn their respect.
7. Good news gets shared
On the flip side, communicating good news is also very important. Just make sure you do it the right way. Many organizations make the mistake of heaping praise and rewards on top executives when the company hits a major milestone while ignoring everyone else.
The employees who create value along every link in the chain feel that their efforts are unappreciated. And unsurprisingly, those workers move on to better opportunities.
Smart business leaders know that recognition shouldn’t be a trickle-down affair. Employees make a lot of sacrifices and give up years of their lives to make your company a success. Celebrate their achievements internally, and they will sing your praises outside the workplace.
8. Internal communications helps new hires learn the ropes
The last thing you want is for new hires to feel left out or confused, both of which lower morale. Internal communication helps to get new hires up to date on what’s going on with the company.
Nowadays, there’s no guarantee that a new hire will stick around after onboarding. Poor communication sends the message that your culture is chaotic, so you should aim to make a good impression from day one.
Good internal communications make it easier for incoming employees to connect with different people around the business. An added benefit? The whole team is better equipped to support your onboarding plan and make new hires feel welcome.
9. Better collaboration increases creativity
Good internal communication fosters discussion and breeds creativity. New ideas are brought up regularly, and everyone’s thoughts are heard.
Challenges to internal communications (and how to fix them)
Good internal communications are a must. But there are several challenges to overcome in the path to getting it right.
Internal communication can be expensive and time-consuming. Many companies don’t see the value because they haven’t measured the ROI on what good internal communications can do for the organization. Without knowing the benefits, companies may not invest proactively. And without action, well…it’s difficult to see success.
To overcome this, you have a number of tools at your disposal. You can consult employees via surveys or interviews, or even quick DMs via your chat app. You can track employee turnover rate, use your project management tool to measure performance, or monitor employee engagement. Think about what you want to improve, and then put a plan in place to measure it.
It’s vital to offer employees a big-picture view of the work they’re doing — especially if they work across different departments or offices. Internal relations will struggle if they don’t see how their work fits into the grander scheme. Training managers in the art of good organizational communication is your secret weapon here, and you should make sure they have the tools for solid collaboration.
Internal communications: what does the future hold?
Internal communication trends will be driven by technological advances and a more dispersed workforce. Fortunately, there are a variety of solutions to make internal communications easier, faster, and cheaper — compared to just a few years ago when companies had to go it alone.
The increasing popularity of cloud-based software and services has led to a higher level of collaboration between employees. Meanwhile, AI, automation, and big data all play a part in helping companies become more efficient, digital-first, and better able to attract gig workers, digital natives, and freelancers.
There’s an increasing demand for transparency throughout organizations. Employees want to know what’s going on behind the scenes, how their work is helping the business achieve its goals, and which projects will be most impactful. Other employees now expect to be kept up to date as standard practice.
Showing staff that you support open communication — and focusing on the employee experience — isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s good for business too.
How we work together is key to the success of any company. Through internal comms channels, like chat apps and other collaboration tools, organizations can create spaces where people feel like they belong.
Companies that focus on building trust and transparency will create a stronger brand that inspires not only customers, but employees as well.