I have never worked in a business that really did internal communications consistently well. Some organisations tick the box when they have a decent intranet or in-house magazine, others believe it’s a job well done when the boss does a town hall meeting. Few actually develop the skills of their line managers so they can communicate effectively with other employees.
At GGI we have recognised this and are working with our clients to address the issue by developing a number of solutions.
Email and social media
Many organisations have become far too reliant on email when it comes to internal communications. Simply forwarding messages is not an effective way of communicating with teams, and greater emphasis needs to be placed on face-to-face contact.
When it comes to social media, most firms have poor or no strategies in place, either for their own or their employees’ use of social media. Staff are increasingly using social media in their day-to-day lives, so why not harness their expertise and encourage internal discussion groups? All it requires is some sensible guidelines to be laid down.
Communicating bad news/conflict
Nobody likes having to communicate bad news but sometimes it can’t be avoided. Getting it right is an art, but bad news is often communicated very badly and very bluntly. This does happen all too frequently with managers who have not been given the proper training and lack the necessary 'soft' skills.
Many organisations’ communications strategies are one-way, which does little to get key messages across and doesn’t inspire staff. Ensuring managers perfect their performance in one-to-one communications with their teams is essential to success.
Take the following example. A manager hears that one of his sales team has given a very poor presentation. Quite often the salesperson would be severely reprimanded, which will lead to resentment and possibly poor performance in future. Far better if the manager is given proper coaching to enable them to ascertain what when wrong and offer some guidance on how this could be avoided in future.
Most managers need to better understand that different messages are needed for different audiences, and coaching them on how to manage stakeholder communications is of paramount importance.
Delivering positive/negative messages
Generally speaking businesses are not particularly good at celebrating achievement, either at a team or an individual level, which breeds resentment from those who feel undervalued and leads to them being far less engaged. Recognition is about appreciation, and that begins with saying thank you. Thanking someone publicly in front of their peers is essential to help team building and engagement.
When the news is bad it is important to tackle it head-on as soon as possible. People need to know what is going on and shouldn’t be left to draw their own conclusions.
Communicating 'resilience' in a tough environment
Business environments can be tough, so having resilient managers who can drive a team forward in times of adversity is essential.
Quite often managers will be heard moaning that the senior management team isn’t giving them the resources they need to do their job effectively. Through coaching managers can develop their leadership capabilities and take a more positive approach.
To summarise then, the whole area of internal communication has not been treated with the importance it merits, often because businesses already believe they are doing it well. But it’s not about having the most sophisticated intranet or most beautifully designed in-house magazine. Internal communications done well or done badly can have a massive psychological impact on staff, which directly affects employee and customer engagement and ultimately the bottom line, and it's time organisations up their game in this vital business area.
Daniel Kasmir is a partner at The Global Growth Institute, which is a headline partner of the 2015 HR Excellence Awards