A lack of communication is universally cited as a reason for things going wrong within a company; it’s raised in grievances, exit strategies and in day-to-day engagement amongst colleagues. A workforce that doesn’t feel informed on their company’s direction and strategy quickly becomes disenfranchised which ultimately costs the business in terms of productivity and staff turnover.
So how can a company improve its internal communications? It starts with breaking down this catch-all term into its different components. Typical types of communication include:
- Top down: Where communication is driven from senior management. Once the most common (and sometimes only) form of communication within a business, it still has an important place in shaping culture and direction. Its form can vary from a corporate newsletter to a video stream.
- Information: Where the message relates to training tools or compliance requirements. Most suitable for the Training or Compliance Officer to either share directly or via managers to make more relevant to their own departments.
- Change: For most individuals, regardless of the level at which they operate in business, change is invariably something that is feared and not embraced. Knowing how to communicate change begins with understanding and addressing staff concerns. Since a restructure, merger, office closure or the decision to discontinue products will affect different teams to different extents, it’s important that the communications are tailored to audience; take place at the right time; and provide a forum for staff responses.
- Crisis: However unfortunate, there will be times when there’s little opportunity to prepare, such as when dealing with a technological crisis such as an outage or with a misdemeanour at company level. What a company is able to plan for, however, is how it can communicate this news, ensuring that there is a mechanism in place to broadcast to all staff at the touch of a button.
- Culture: Typically led by the HR team, culture communications are part of the onboarding process for new members of staff and set out the company vision. Regular communications in this area – whether that be celebrating an individual or team’s contribution or the company’s wider CSR activity – helps to remind staff that they are part of a community.
- Bottom up: The most powerful communication of all is perhaps two-way or bottom-up communication. Staff members who do not feel their voice is being heard will start to create a narrative of their own which, once it takes hold, can be incredibly damaging to staff morale.
Staff blogs, suggestion boxes and surveys present sound platforms to feed ideas back to senior management. It goes without saying that inviting feedback is not enough; staff need to see their suggestions being pursued.
These communication types present the pillars for a clear internal communications strategy. Like most initiatives seeking to change human behaviour, however, true success lies in their continual, practical application.
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