Many companies invest significant time and resources in external communication and neglect internal communication altogether. What many don’t realize is that an ongoing commitment to healthy internal communication helps build a strong team. Strong teams, in turn, drive business growth.
Internal Communication Defined
Internal communication isn’t primarily idle chatter around the water cooler. However, in the absence of a coordinated effort, that can certainly be one way that information is getting passed around your company.
Internal communication utilizes various channels, tools, and processes to share information and facilitate communication within a company. In some cases, communication efforts may extend to consultants and freelancers who need to be able to access and share information on projects. Anytime someone asks “an obvious question,” this should be interpreted as a strong signal that there has been a lapse in companywide communication.
Four Reasons Internal Communication Matters
Some companies have a culture of communication that’s healthy while others unwittingly contribute to fostering a toxic environment. Your company’s communication culture has a direct bearing on employee productivity levels. The environment you encourage will either negatively or positively affect your bottom line. Here are four ways promoting a positive culture of internal communication makes your team stronger.
1. Enables Employees to Take Part in a Strategic Vision
If you want to develop a motivated team, you’ll want to share your big-picture vision with them. When employees understand and support a company’s vision, they become more motivated and productive as their job takes on a renewed sense of purpose.
The well-known story about three stonemasons holds true in your business setting as well. Do your “stonemasons” see themselves chipping away at a boulder…or building a cathedral? Enthusiasm for the larger story increases productivity because workers see themselves fulfilling an important function. Without that enhanced vision, it’s all too easy for employees to view themselves as easily replaceable cogs in a machine.
2. Creates Transparency and Builds Trust
People are not mushrooms — they don’t thrive in the dark. A lack of transparency gives rise to distrust and helps feed destructive rumor mills. Of course, there will always be confidential issues that can’t be shared with everyone but, as far as possible, remain open with your staff.
Openly share company news (good or bad), earnings, growth, and projections. Inform staff of shifts in company strategy ahead of time and carefully explain plans to expand or restructure. If a crisis hits, be truthful and keep employees updated on how the company is handling it.
A consistent, ongoing policy of transparency is the fastest way to shut down gossip and false rumors. Knowing what’s actually going on increases trust in leadership and motivates employees to do their part to support their managers and coworkers.
3. Improves Interpersonal Relationships
Similar to how events unfold in our personal lives, poor communication in the workplace can quickly lead to conflict. Throw in some heated emotion and a difficult situation can quickly spiral out of control, ruining relationships.
Encourage constructive communication among coworkers. You can support a healthier culture by providing training on communication skills and conflict resolution. Creating a positive work culture will improve interpersonal relationships and can greatly reduce misunderstandings and conflict. As a business owner, resolving conflict — or heading it off before it becomes problematic — is both the right thing to do and makes good business sense.
4. Increases Employee Engagement
Top-down communication is often alienating. The Edelman 2016 Trust Barometer study revealed that 70% of employees view their fellow coworkers as being more credible sources of reliable information than management. This dynamic can be harnessed to good purpose by using workers at all levels to act as company advocates. By entrusting reliable information to others, you will effectively engage more of your workforce.
Keep in mind that communication is always more effective when it operates as a two-way street. Be sure to provide channels for employees to share feedback, suggestions, and (when appropriate) participate in decision-making. When employees feel that their input and opinion are important, engagement levels increase and productivity climbs.
Four Strategies for Improving Internal Communication
In an age where remote work is on the rise, putting systems in place to improve internal communication has become more important than ever. Here are four strategies you can consider as you work to improve your company’s internal communication.
1. Hire a Skilled Communications Specialist
Some companies split communication functions across the human resources (HR) and public relations (PR) departments. While this may work for smaller companies, it can lead to costly misfires as your company grows. At some point, centralizing communications will better serve a growing workforce. What you really don’t want is for your PR people to be saying something in the public sphere that confuses or contradicts what your HR people are saying.
Hire an internal communications manager with expertise in strategic organizational communication. This person should be able to analyze your current communication structure and develop a comprehensive strategy that strengthens teams and positively enhances organizational culture.
2. Burn Your Silos: Ensure Cross-Department Information Sharing
Whenever a department operates in isolation, your organization as a whole doesn’t function efficiently. Siloed work teams often become a breeding ground for three common problems:
- Employees duplicate or redo work. Absent intervention, productivity drops.
- Managers feel undermined when not informed or consulted on decisions.
- Sales and customer service agents are unable to provide customers with accurate information when they are not kept current on changes or new products or services.
3. Create Space for Employees to Communicate Safely
Many employees feel apprehensive about raising issues in the workplace, fearing negative repercussions. After all the turmoil we experienced in 2020, it’s more important than ever to create or bolster a safe space for employees to voice concerns.
Managers can hold regular one-on-one meetings with their employees to discuss problems or challenges they may be facing. Make sure your HR people provide ways for employees to safely share feedback, make suggestions, or bring sensitive information to their attention.
4. Put Multiple Communication Systems in Place
To facilitate internal communication, focus on making information easily accessible and provide your employees with multiple communication channels. These can include:
- face-to-face meetings;
- staff meetings;
- an intranet;
- emails and newsletters;
- public notice boards;
- social media and/or private messaging apps;
- audio or video channels, such as an internal TV channel in common areas;
- communication and project management software;
- semi-regular training sessions.
Your business thrives or struggles based in large part on the effort of your employees. This is why a well-developed internal communication strategy will always be an important part of your overall business plan. Well-informed teams work together much more effectively to achieve company goals.