Internal communications used to mean sending out emails en masse, hoping that people across the organization would eventually read them, and then frantically attempting to manage the deluge of reply-all emails that followed.
Important company news and updates would get lost in spam folders, skimmed over and forgotten, or completely ignored. Weirdly, a lot of companies still do this.
1. Use a tool that facilitates the efficient, free flow of information
This might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth emphasizing the impact the right software has on connecting your workforce. Since mass emails don't cut it any more, it’s time to move to other, more intuitive platforms that encourage higher rates of participation.
Whether you switch to an intranet, a messaging app, or simply get your people to use a single platform for their email and calendars, your primary goal is to minimize confusion by centralizing your content and integrating your internal communications mediums within a single source.
By creating a single internal communications hub for your organization, you’re going to:
- Drastically reduce the volume of noise your people will have to wade through in order to access and consume important information
- Be able to set up targeted messaging parameters to ensure that the information you’re communicating is sent to the right teams
- Minimize the likelihood of your people missing out on updates (a platform with notification alerts is an excellent way to keep eyes on what’s going on at your workplace)
- Create opportunities for more open, fluid discussion (platforms with comments, chat, shares, and ‘likes’ offer a social media appeal to internal communications)
- Be able to measure and track viewership, engagement, and participation rates, which gives you a better handle on how your information is consumed and acted upon
Initial launch and implementation of whichever tool you decide to use might be a bit of a learning process, but people generally catch on fast, especially if the tool is intuitive.
People will become active on the new platform if important information is hosted here, and only here. Especially if the leadership team is active on the platform (yes, people really do follow their leaders).
2. Develop an internal communications strategy
Once you’ve got the desired tool in place, you’ll need to spend some time carefully crafting your internal communications strategy.
“But wait, can’t I just publish my updates as usual?” Most likely not.
As with any new internal communications platform, it may take some time until all employees are up to speed. But, even before you launch your new tool, you’ll need to re-evaluate your communications strategy to take into account:
- features of the platform
- types of content you want to publish
- your publication schedule (frequency as well as significance of your posts)
- reader segmentation and targeting
- your current and desired participation rate
A successful internal communications strategy should also answer some of the following questions:
- Does our publication schedule overwhelm our people with too many updates? (Remember: less is more!)
- How active will our leadership team be on our platform, and how will the way they use the platform encourage our people to follow their example?
- What are the goals of our messaging (educate, inform, and/or inspire action)?
- How can we share information with corresponding teams in a way that’s open and transparent?
- How do our posts support and develop our company culture? (This is extremely important to your people, so make sure you spend extra time thinking this over.)
- Which filters do we need in place to make sure our content goes to the right people?
- How will our internal communications strategy scale with the growth of our organization?
Note: Depending on some factors, like the platform you use or the industry you’re in, there could be potential for some crossover between external and internal communications.
Say you’re a software-as-a-service company with a section on your customer-facing website that includes customer spotlights and case studies. This content doesn’t have to be used only to convert readers into customers.
You can repurpose the customer spotlights for internal customer profiles, which you can circulate among your sales and marketing departments—or really, to all your people. Now you’ve got the same content working for you in two different capacities.
A great internal communications strategy will consider how to repackage information, for employees as well as customers. By interlinking your external and internal communications teams, you cover way more ground.
3. Celebrate employee success stories and share wins
Whether it’s in the form of a shout-out, a ‘like’, a favorite, or an employee spotlight article, a virtual pat on the back is a great way to publicly acknowledge your people and get them active on your platform.
This type of content provides an excellent opportunity to inform people across the organization about what’s going on, who’s working on what, which goals are being met, and which members of the team are collaborating well. It also gives management an idea of how their people are performing.
If employees at all levels are given a means to give virtual props to their colleagues, internal communications can become the shared responsibility of each member of the organization instead of a single communications or PR professional. This will open up lines of communication, which in the long run does wonders for your company culture.
4. Support company values and harness those who contribute to the culture
Speaking of company culture, the information you to choose circulate, not to mention the manner in which it’s circulated, plays a large role in defining the culture of your company. Your internal communications strategy should account for this and your team should operate with your company’s values in mind.
If you’re all about open communication and transparency, for example, your updates ideally will come from people at all levels of the organization.
If you do decide to open up internal communications to your people (whether that’s through a centralized platform or not), you’ll soon notice that some of your people are natural champions of your company’s culture.
These influencers aren’t always in management positions: employees at any level can inspire their colleagues, and the more genuine they are, the greater potential to inspire action.
A savvy internal comms strategy will put a spotlight on the best advocates of your workplace culture. In some cases, posts or updates shared by your workplace influencers will automatically draw attention and encourage others to contribute.
Remember: your greatest internal communications asset is your people.
5. Create a channel for feedback, debate, and discussion
Another key aspect of internal communications is openness. After all, open communication is a must-have in most workplaces, especially if the goal is to connect and align teams.
To promote open communication at your company, your communications strategy needs to create room for feedback, pushback, and public debate.
Professional, friendly debate is going to happen, one way or another, and it’s important to allow it to transpire. If you work in an office where debates are part of everyday life, this likely won’t be an issue.
If you’re not used to that, however, try to avoid censoring or over-moderating public discussions. Your people will think highly of you for not shutting down debate. Plus, debate can often be productive for an organization.
The same goes for feedback. Internal communication is (or ought to be) a two-way street. Listen to your people and regularly ask for their feedback. That way, if an update or post doesn’t go the way you’d planned, for example, you can learn how to avoid making mistakes in the future.
If your people don’t like the way you’re communicating with them, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
6. Get your people using social media
It was only a matter of time before social media crept into the workplace. This isn’t a bad thing, either. No really, let me explain.
Your company likely has a few social media profiles kicking around, right? Encourage your people to take advantage of them by posting photos at work, using a company hashtag, or sharing a company social post on their personal accounts.
This is great for exposure to your brand and a cool look behind the scenes for people interested in your company.
You should be encouraging and celebrating posts like these on your internal communications platform as well. Some platforms even include a social media stream so that your people can see social posts using your company's hashtag in real-time.
Encouraging your people to post on workplace review sites like Glassdoor is also a good way to promote your company’s culture.
As mentioned above, internal communications best practices have come a long way in the past ten years. Utilizing internal communications to create a more connected workplace is a lot easier these days, thanks in large part to the proliferation of software tools that are designed specifically for that purpose.
Once you centralize your content and develop a thoughtful communications strategy, the puzzle pieces will begin to fall into place. Take advantage of these best practices and you’ll be one step closer to more connected and aligned workplace.