Communication is the heart of any organization. More than presenting products and services, it’s how a business shares its voice, its brand and its story with the world. Significant time, thought and money is invested in external communication, influencing public perception and controlling public voice, but what is frequently overlooked or sidelined is internal communication, even though it is just as important.
Internal communication encompasses everything from functional items like official processes, guidelines and procedures — getting employees the information they need to do their jobs — to inspirational items like mission statements, company values, and voice guidelines — getting employees the information they need to participate as part of the team.
It is important that organizations foster an atmosphere of openness and create systems that will lead to the free and effective flow of information, ideas, various resources and even feelings to promote a sense of shared purpose. An excellent internal communication strategy can unite and inspire members at all levels of an organization. This comes with many advantages, such as employees who are:
- Informed – Having complete, timely information makes everyone more effective and efficient.
- Confident – Knowledge is power, and being properly informed will empower employees to succeed.
- Inspired – When all members of an organization understand and believe in the mission and values, they are inspired to do better and work harder.
- Team players – Giving people at all levels and from all departments access to the same information encourages teamwork.
- Sharing a common vision – Feeling like you and your colleagues are working toward a common goal leads to greater investment in and fulfillment from the work you do.
- On message – Organizations should have a unified voice and message that they present to the public. This message will be much more effective and powerful if every employee is trained to use it and inspired to be an advocate.
- Supported – Employees will be able to work with confidence and creativity if they trust that their colleagues — especially their superiors — believe in them and support their decisions.
- Given useful feedback – Providing feedback is an important aspect of internal communications because the ability to improve and adapt — both as individuals and as a company — is vital to growth.
- Respected and respectful – Having care and consideration for how you communicate with fellow employees is an excellent way to show respect and gain respect in turn.
- Willing to take ownership – The more an employee understands about their company, the more they feel inspired and encouraged to take ownership of its growth and success.
- Responsive to change – Change on an organizational level can be hard. Investing resources to make sure everyone is aware and buys into the need for change will help smooth the process.
Left to chance, internal communication becomes irregular and inconsistent. The consequences of neglecting these efforts have debilitating effects, including:
- Gossip and speculation – Just because communication is not managed doesn’t mean it will not happen. People will fill in the blanks for themselves, often with worst-case scenarios, which leads to…
- Stress and fear – Even small changes in routine can cause stress if employees don’t understand why they happen. Or worse, if the change comes as a complete surprise. Large changes that aren’t communicated properly can easily lead to job insecurity.
- Territorialism – If information is rationed out in meager portions, people are much more likely to guard their share.
- Confusion – If a message is delivered inconsistently among employees or departments, the results can be chaotic with everyone working toward different goals with different expectations.
- Ineffectiveness – Members who don’t believe in the mission of an organization will be unlikely to see it through, just as employees who don’t understand the goal of a project will be unable to adequately complete it.
- Inefficiency – If a team begins a project without having all the information they need, time is wasted and trust is squandered.
- Lack of ownership – Having incomplete information cripples one’s ability to take ownership both of individual projects and of the mission of a company as a whole.
- Off-message members – If members of an organization do not understand its voice and are not trained to use it, the message they present to the public will be confusing and ineffective.
- Isolation – People work better as part of a team, but if communication is poor between departments and individuals, teamwork will be hindered and suspicions and resentment could develop.
- Resistance to change – Did I mention that change can be hard? New work processes, company reorganizations, rebranding, new software implementations. All these things and more are a normal part of an evolving business, but if proper investment isn’t made in communicating these things to employees, the results can be chaotic and even catastrophic.
Here at GO2, we understand the importance of internal communication, and it’s one of our goals to help clients improve theirs. As an example, we recently created a comprehensive Intranet site for Comcast Business sales representatives. Housing an asset management and search tool, educational materials, product and customer strategies and an offer lookup tool, the Intranet, dubbed Nucleus, provides one solid place for crucial information. We performed research to determine everything for the site — environmental context, user personas, task and process flow, site organization and user interface. And we didn’t stop there. We were sure to include training tactics and engagement elements, including plans for pre-launch, launch and post-launch.
Taking it a step further, GO2 created a site called VITL for Sherwin-Williams. We created VITL for representatives who rely entirely on iPhones, iPads or laptops as they work remotely. The site houses sell sheets and data sheets, which representatives need to access on a daily basis. Before VITL, these sheets were scattered across various Sherwin-Williams sites, and now the representatives can access them in one location in less than three clicks.
As you can see, internal communication strategies, especially within a large organization, have many aspects and can become pretty complex. GO2 can help bring order to chaos, getting employees the information they need in a way that’s understandable, inspirational and supportive of your organization’s mission.