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Pick right communication strategies to create value

The crux of any successful organisation is effective internal communication. It is the lifeblood of a company and yet it takes a back seat to other key ‘priorities’ and is often considered a waste of time.

The harsh truth is that strategic internal communications impact an organisation’s effectiveness dramatically. On a macro level, it is essential for maximising performance, achieving results and driving change. By aligning interests and strategi es, it advances company objectives and ensures continuity within the organisation.

In a narrower perspective, open lines of communication engage employees at all levels – it enables them to understand company vision, values and culture, connects them to organisational objectives and fosters mission-focused employee behaviour to support corporate goals. Managers can not only make better decisions, but also gain staff buy-in for the same.

Consequently, companies that communicate effectively with employees have a motivated and informed workforce that is more satisfied, feels more involved in the fate of ‘their’ company and ultimately contributes more to success. Profitability, job satisfaction and employee retention are bound to soar.

Leverage the power

Internal communication is nothing but the sharing of information within the organisation. It is the liaison between the organisation and its employees and hence, should represent both the voice of management and employee interest.

The communication channels should be used for everything from announcing events, issues, initiatives, plans, changes, problems and challenges facing the organisation. It should establish formal roles and responsibilities, update employees on the direction in which the company is headed, inform about management decisions and clarify operational processes. Then and only then will it build employee trust and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Especially in times of crisis or shifting of gears - downsizing, altering a customer service strategy, dealing with accelerated growth – employee communications should provide adequate information of the event, what is expected of them and strategies to handle the issue.

In practice

Top management should analyse organisational requirements and build a strategic communication plan based on company vision and mission. It is advisable to employ a professional communications specialist for this task.

To ensure effective communication, carefully create a user-friendly, strategic and business-focussed message. Keep it honest, transparent, timely, clear, concise, credible, informative and independent. Apart from proper content, it should also be well presented and straightforward, devoid of manipulations or ambiguity.

Then again, any communication is in the management’s control only till it is sent to the employees. What is to ensure that the staff will actually read the message and it will not fall on deaf ears?

Not only should the message be compelling enough to grab attention, it should also appeal to the sensibilities of the recipient. So, instead of bombarding everyone with information overload, communications should be targeted to match the varying needs of different groups. What makes a middle manager sit up and pay attention may bore an accountant.

Internal communications should also be two-way by involving employees in issues that affect their working life. It should address staff concerns, clarify their issues and encourage them to provide feedback. Only when management actually listens to what employees have to say, will the participatory communication forge stronger relationships and a sense of community.

Not to mention, internal communication should be ongoing with regular and updated information on company plans, expectations and employee contributions. Also, communicate both the good news and the bad – withholding information from employees is fodder for anxiety and conflict.

Mobilising actionable tools: Organisations can choose from a variety of effective communication channels – oral, written, face-to-face and virtual. Some are interactive, some personal, others not.

• Print materials, message boards, newsletters, videos, magazines, presentations, they function as both a management voice as well as voice of employees by highlighting staff success stories, contributions, grievances and testimonials along with updates on company news, events and strategies. Even eye-catching posters placed in high-visibility areas can create a lasting impact.

• Emails, instant messaging. An inexpensive route to instantly disseminate timely information that notifies aligns and invigorates employees. Even staff can use it to raise concerns or ask questions.

• Intranet website. This is an invaluable resource that hosts email, file transfer and network news. A powerful and dynamic means to integrate information worldwide and achieve collaboration and interaction. It can be used to instantly publish information on changed processes that everyone needs to use.

• Company blogs. It can’t get more informal than this. Even CEOs have taken to blogging for floating new ideas, circulating information, gaining instant feedback and steering conversations in a deliberate direction.

• Conference calls, virtual meetings. These online and participatory tools can literally bring far-flung people ‘under one roof’ to facilitate discussions or brainstorming.

• Casual sessions, meetings. These are get-togethers where employees can listen to or even talk with organisational representatives. Plain old face-to-face conversations are the most effective way to reach out and create personal bonds.

It is essential to choose the right mix of communication strategies that will create value and not stick to just one of them. As its been rightly said, “Even positive change can backfire in a company if its poorly communicated to employees”


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