Many companies place a huge focus and investment on communicating their message to the outside world.
They spend a fortune on advertising, marketing, public relations and social media campaigns in an effort to explain what they do or make and why they are different from their competitors. That’s all well and good and is indeed vital to develop your business. But an area that is equally important but often seen as less significant by business owners is internal communication.
Many communications professionals believe that any effective public relations campaign should start with internal communications. And there’s a lot of merit to this approach.
After all, if the leaders in the business don’t communicate properly, then how can they expect their employees, in turn, to understand what they are supposed to be doing and to do their jobs well?
I think good internal communications practices boil down to a few simple things which add value by helping employees to increase their knowledge and engagement in the following ways:
The Context of the Business: Firstly good internal communications helps employees get a grasp of what the business is – its history, its background, what it does or makes and why it does it.
The Reason for the Business: It helps them understand what the business stands for – its motivation, its aims and objectives, its culture and its philosophy.
Their Role in the Business: It enables employees to understand their place in the business – what they are supposed to be doing, why they are doing it, when they need to do it, how they need to do it. Ideally, good internal communications inspire employees not only to perform their roles correctly and on time but also motivates them to want to do their job better and better over time.
Their Development in the Business: Good internal communication enables employees to understand their training and development options and the potential career paths they might be able to take within the company. This encourages long-term commitment, development of homegrown talent and reductions in turnover. We see this in our own business where senior management have grown from young starters.
Their Contribution to the Business: Internal communications is a two-way process. It’s really important that employees feel they can participate – through feedback, suggestions, dialogue. Some of our best developments over the years have come from ideas from employees who had the confidence and the mechanisms to contribute to the growth of the company they work for.
Sydney Harris, the American journalist and scholar, wrote: “The two words information and communication are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through." It’s an important distinction. Communicating isn’t something you do to your employees. It’s something you do for your employees and with your employees.
Internal communications processes don’t have to be complicated or lengthy. Intranets are easy to set up these days and are a great way to share information. Email and instant, company-wide text messaging can provide regular and quick updates to employees.
We have regular whole company briefings on progress from different Directors via video updates and the Chief Financial Officer gives quarterly updates to each department individually on financial progress.
In my view nothing replaces face-to-face interaction; at Peninsula, we have Ops meetings monthly, which aren’t long, but are a forum for the management team to provide updates and share ideas. We have formal and informal company gatherings as well as regular face-to-face appraisals. Company breakfasts, end of month drinks, brainstorming sessions, away days are all different forums for people to communicate, share ideas and break down barriers.
I also encourage our managers and directors not to be stuck in their office but to walk the floor and talk to their colleagues all the time about what’s going on in the business.
Effective internal communication is really quite simple when it comes down to it. It’s vital that business owners understand the importance of internal communication as part of the development of their organisation and value it accordingly. Only then will their organisation be as healthy and functional on the inside and they may choose to portray it on the outside.
For further advice on internal communications, please call the Peninsula Advice Service on 0844 892 2772.