6 min read
Why is internal communications important? There are a lot of reasons. This article shows how good internal communications is absolutely essential for engaging employees and keeping everyone focused on what matters.
It’s astonishing to think that there are companies out there that still undervalue or neglect internal communications. But they do exist. And their businesses are likely suffering as a result.
Why is internal communications so important? We’ll get to that. But first, let’s define it.
Internal communications (IC) is all about promoting effective communications among people within an organization. It involves producing and delivering messages and campaigns on behalf of management, as well as facilitating a dialogue with the people who make up the organization. This can mean anything from announcing a new policy or informing people of an upcoming event, to conducting an org-wide engagement or culture audit. IC is usually the responsibility of HR, marketing, or PR departments, but can be done by any and all departments across an org.
Side note: I’d argue that internal communications is most effective when it’s an interdisciplinary effort, overseen by leaders from multiple departments. More on this later.
Some companies may not have the resources to invest in planning an internal communications strategy, while others have planned a strategy but might not have the capacity or tools necessary to maintain it. And that’s understandable. But if you take a look at the reasons why internal communications is important (by continuing to read this article), you’ll soon find that it's imperative for the health of your organization. Why? Because if your organization has people, you’ll need to communicate with them clearly and regularly.
We’ll start with the most obvious reason why IC is important. Keeping your people informed of upcoming events, policy changes, engagement initiatives, headcount changes, and updates on the overall health of the business helps create a sense of transparency and openness that people respect.
Here’s a real shocker: people don’t like to be kept in the dark, like mushrooms. They crave information about the company they’re working for, the projects they’re working on, and the overarching goals of both. Good internal communications is all about getting the word out to everyone, preferably in a way that gets them involved and invested in the bigger picture.
In that same vein, internal communications is often thought of as top-down messaging, written by leaders for the consumption of employees. But really it’s a two-way street. Sure, you can hone your messaging to direct people’s attention, but eventually their attention will wane. Especially if they feel voiceless.
In other words, it’s not about captivating a passive audience with the right messaging; rather, it’s about promoting two-way communication around what’s happening at your organization. People want to feel like their input matters, and creating a venue for them to do so is going to do wonders for building engagement.
This works especially well if messaging, news, and announcements are delegated not only to your marketing or HR department, but to representatives of many different departments within your organization. The tech team should have the opportunity to explain what they’re working on, as should the QA and Sales teams. This is the interdisciplinary approach I was talking about earlier.
Appointing news reporters and event coordinators from multiple departments to publish their own updates gives your people a more holistic view of the things that matter at your organization. So, use your internal communications to give different people a voice.
In a lot of ways, the primary role of internal communications is to help make your company culture manifest. If done well, your IC strategy will bring your workplace culture to life. If done poorly, it’ll leave your people scratching their heads.
After all, each announcement, message, news update, CEO blog article, etc. plays a role in how your people interpret the cultural landscape of your organization: what it stands for, who it values, why its mission matters. Your company culture is the sum of its parts, and good internal communications takes this into account.
In fact, culture should really be at the forefront of your IC strategy: built into the messaging, the tone, the back and forth discussion, the news that’s shared and omitted. Your culture should guide your internal communications and vice versa. Why? Because a robust, thriving company culture is essential.
I can’t emphasize this enough: creating a two-way conversation should be one of your main goals with your internal communications strategy. It’s the difference between boring top-down messaging (probably in the form of mass emails that no one reads) and thoughtful, interactive conversations that promote engagement.
Engagement can mean a number of things: asking thoughtful questions at an All Hands event, commenting on an important news update posted on your company’s intranet, sharing what your team is working on to the rest of the company. Good internal communications creates space for these small yet meaningful acts. Again, it’s not just about communicating ideas as much as it is encouraging communication among your people.
Employees who feel that their voice matters, that their ideas are worth listening to, are more likely to go above and beyond when your organization needs them. And the value of that can’t be underestimated.
Things don’t always go swimmingly. Business sometimes suffers, teams are sometimes forced to restructure, and mergers and acquisitions happen. This is when people need internal communications most. Announcements of impending structural changes need to be treated with extra care because the morale of the organization and its business continuity are at stake.
Being transparent about what went down, who was affected, how they were taken care of, and what this means for the organization requires a delicate tone and complete transparency, especially in the case of layoffs. People will have questions and the way you answer those questions will remain in your people’s minds for a long time to come.
Use your internal communications to create a setting for these difficult-to-have conversations and, I promise you, you’ll earn the respect of your people. Being transparent and delicate when delivering bad news creates an atmosphere of openness and caring that can help sustain your organization through tough times.
And besides that, your people will respect you for telling them like it is. This is one of the most crucial aspects of IC, and demonstrates why underutilizing it can quickly turn your people against their organization.
A lot of people find their jobs dull. They go to work, talk to a colleague or two, attend meetings, get their work done, and then book it out the door as fast as possible. And that’s perfectly fine for a lot of people. But for those who crave more involvement in their workplace, and want to play a more direct role in the development of its culture, that kind of work style isn’t satisfying.
This is where good internal communications steps in. It promotes learning and speaking events, leadership training programs, shares customer feedback and media coverage, and provides opportunities for people to get more involved, if they want to. For some people, this isn’t important—and that’s OK! But some of us want to get more out of our work, whether that’s in the form of education or training, or finding meaning in company values and goals.
If those opportunities exist, but no one knows about or takes advantage of them, your internal communications strategy isn’t working, and to some degree you’re failing your most engaged people. By empowering members from multiple teams to promote their events and programs, or share their news, you give your people the information they need to add another fulfilling dimension to their work.
To promote open communication at your company, your communications strategy needs to create room for feedback, pushback, and public debate of issues and ideas. This is how collaboration happens and it’s often not pretty.
Internal communications can be harnessed to create a channel for these tough discussions. This can happen in a number of ways: employee polls, a link to an internal discussion forum, an event announcement to encourage feedback and criticisms, or even an org-wide invitation to debate a particular goal or project.
The same goes for feedback. One more time: 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. Good IC is always finding a way to improve and better serve the organization’s people.
So there you have it: seven reasons why effective internal communications is the key to a healthy, engaged organization. If your current internal communications strategy isn’t being used this way, I recommend reading our internal communications best practices article here. It’s a good start for implementing your messaging more effectively, and goes into detail about how to turn your top-down messaging into a two-way conversation.