Everyone agrees that internal communications are important, but no one seems able to pin them down. When your company communicates effectively, it can often seem like the product of luck more than anything else.
But one thing is clear: good internal communication is critical to success in every group endeavor, and this is especially true in business. In one study, it was found that when employees understand their overall role in the company, a whopping 91% of them will work towards success. When that understanding is not communicated well, that percentage can drop all the way down to 23%.
The good news is that internal communication isn’t just luck—it’s something that can be steadily improved with a solid strategy, just like any other metric of success. And in the long term, your company will reap the benefits, as engaged employees become more productive, more likely to work with other teams, and happier.
Below are 3 practices that, if thoughtfully implemented, can help you build an effective communication strategy within your company:
1. Be Prepared to Use Your Employees’ Feedback
When it comes to improving internal communications, you already have your greatest asset: your employees! As Stuart Leung at Salesforce noted, “71% of employees feel as though business leaders don’t spend enough time explaining plans and goals.” Although calling meetings and sending company-wide emails can certainly help to overcome this phenomenon, it’s just not enough when used alone.
People need to feel heard, and one way to do that is through effective surveying. Ask your employees anonymously where they think the communication roadblocks lie. Of course, even when a company utilizes anonymous surveys, employees might not see the immediate benefits: according to this Officevibe survey, 80% of employees believe that managers will not act on the results. Their fears aren’t entirely unjustified, given that in that same study, 47% of managers admitted that they spend only 2-5 days a year on engagement activities. Furthermore, anonymous surveying reduces accountability, which can skew your results and leave the real sources of mistrust unnamed.
But as the Harvard Business Review suggests, you can still use surveys as long as you frame them correctly. Make it clear that your employees’ opinions—even critical ones—are valued, and encourage team leads to uncover pressure points. If in doubt, just ask your employees if they would be comfortable putting their real names on a form. If mistrust is such an issue that employees are reluctant to speak up, then you know that you need to work on creating a more open environment. Tackle it team by team until you uncover the sources of miscommunication and work to vanquish them.
2. Make Equality a Priority
Albert Einstein once said “I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university.” If we all shared that kind of approach, it could go a long way in aiding workplace communications, since human beings need to feel that they are both welcome and respected in order to collaborate.
While it might seem idealistic to expect that everyone will follow this principle all the time, it’s not impossible. At the higher level, have a clear no-tolerance policy for disrespect and unkindness among your staff, and ensure that team leads have a vested interest in enforcing (and obeying) that policy. Make the complaint procedure as clear as possible so that people feel safe reporting instances of unfairness or inappropriate behavior.
At the individual level, try to remember that every person has their ups and downs, and that the harried customer service representative might just be having a worse day than you are. A culture of respect and compromise will go a long way in letting employees feel heard, which in turn leads to better communication and transparency.
3. Streamline with Good Organization
Good communication is straightforward. So when you’re thinking about internal communications, the same principle applies. Streamlining the points of contact will allow your employees to keep track of their conversations in an organized manner. It might seem unnecessary or expensive, but implementing a collaboration tool or communications platform is one of the best ways to ensure smooth sailing. Of course, you should select these tools wisely in order to get the best return.
Using feedback gleaned from your surveying efforts and from management observations, try to get a feel for which bottlenecks need to be cleared away. Here are a few tools that can help solve common issues:
- Is there consistent miscommunication about customer accounts and the service they receive? Then think about investing in a robust ticketing system, like Kayako or Zendesk.
- Does miscommunication plague your sales life cycle in particular? CRM (or customer relationship management) databases like Salesforce and Insightly were designed specifically to overcome tracking problems across departments.
- Finally, is there miscommunication within departments themselves? “Team spaces” like Trello and Slack can provide an easy way to share information and maintain accountability.
Miscommunication might be difficult to overcome, but by keeping these three practices close to heart, you’ll be well on your way to improving internal communications in your company.