How to Improve Internal Communications: A 5 Step Guide
Maximising how you use internal communications can help improve business performance by engaging employees and enabling better decision-making. Effective internal business communications keep employees connected, well informed and feeling positive. Having a more engaged workforce should increase staff retention and boost employee loyalty. And there’s a benefit that is all too often overlooked: internal communications can be used to remind people that life should be fun — even in the workplace.
Learning how to improve internal communications begins by deciding on who should be your internal communications ‘champions’ with responsibility for rolling out your messages. Next, agree on why you want to communicate: these are your objectives. Then confirm what information you need to share. Finally, identify the best ways to deliver that information so your communications are read, understood and remembered.
Follow these five steps to improve employee communications for a better-informed workforce, where employees understand business goals and work better together as one team.
1. Who should be responsible for internal communications?
Gaining buy-in for your communications at a Board or senior director level is essential for giving messages credibility from the top. These people will be your internal communications ‘champions’.
A lack of time available to spend on developing and running internal communications could undermine efforts to communicate effectively with employees. So, you also need to consider carefully the mechanics of gathering and distributing information in a timely fashion.
In its 2020 survey of internal communications specialists, software and advisory services provider Poppulo found that nearly two-thirds of those surveyed spent most of their time writing and sending content, compared with just 16% who spent the majority of their time on planning and strategy.
Therefore, it could be more cost-effective to work with an outside agency to support your internal communications projects, so you spend less time feeling stressed and more time focusing on long-term strategies.
- Set up an editorial team with support from HR, marketing and senior management – along with representatives from every part of the business. An inclusive team with its finger on the pulse of the business should create more relevant and interesting communications
- Nominate an editor or author for communications, especially newsletters, to give a human face to what you say. This makes messages appear less formal and ensures employees know who to contact with ideas and feedback on what you communicate
- Create content lists for a year in advance to help you plan what you want to say and when to say it for maximum impact on readers
2. Why do you need internal communications?
Internal communications should be an integral part of your business improvement activities. After all, the contribution that internal communications make to business performance through greater employee engagement is significant. A Gartner survey makes the connection between improving how employees feel and both increased employee engagement and positive company culture. The firm noted that greater engagement also leads to better staff retention.
Research by Gallup shows that employees who feel engaged are 23 times more likely than disengaged colleagues to recommend their employer as a great place to work.
In the current coronavirus crisis, setting out clear internal communication objectives that help you achieve your business goals has never been more important, especially around the issue of managing employee wellbeing.
Internal communications objectives could include:
- Share important information quickly and accurately, especially difficult messages, to avoid misunderstandings
- Share company goals and reinforce them regularly to improve employees’ understanding of the business
- Improve employee engagement and productivity by sharing ideas and information on business processes
- Improve the employee experience, so people feel more engaged and loyal
- Bring people closer together, especially across different business departments and divisions
- Provide a channel for feedback and discussion about the business, so you make better-informed decisions
3. What are your internal communications stories?
The content of internal communications is determined by the objectives you set. A staff newsletter, for example, is likely to encompass a broad range of topics that educate, motivate, inspire and incentivise their audience.
Internal communications content could include:
- General company news and updates – where you are and where you’re going
- Longer-term strategic news covering company goals and updates on annual targets
- Details about individuals and teams, with profiles and ‘behind-the-scenes’ stories
- Reward, recognition and celebration stories, from incentive schemes and company milestones to honouring long servers and company stalwarts
- Fun and motivational stories about employees’ lives outside work
- Community stories covering business support for the communities where it operates
- Details of employee offers, discounts and incentives
- News on vacancies and training opportunities to help employees map out their career paths
- Feedback from employees on the business generally and what they want to read about in their internal communications
- Surveys and vox pop questions on topical business issues
- Coverage of your business in the local and national press
4. How to make internal communications content more engaging
Effective communications combine words and images to maximise their impact and readability. Visual information can replace words, wherever appropriate, to help make stories easier for readers to digest.
Visual communications company TechSmith estimates that using visual communications at the right time could significantly benefit business performance to the tune of more than $1,200 a year in productivity for every employee who consumes information as part of their role.
The use of visual content is on the increase. A survey of visual content in marketing material by infographic template designer Venngage reported a 10.5% increase to 74% in content containing visuals between 2018 and 2019.
- Make communications more vibrant and readable with a blend of photos, images, graphics, videos, presentations, charts and visualised data
- Break up text with plenty of subheadings, quotes and eye-catching panels
- Choose your language carefully – set an informative and conversational tone of voice that chimes with your audience
- Involve readers by inviting comments and feedback, as well as including competitions, quizzes and other ways for them to join in the ‘conversation’
5. What are the best ways to deliver internal communications?
When and how you communicate with employees will determine how successful you are in getting your messages across. Too much, and people might ignore it, but you don’t want to leave them in the dark with infrequent contact. Although the timing of internal communications is crucial, Poppulo found that 45% of it was unplanned. A regular newsletter that rounds up key news is one way to ensure a steady flow of important information reaches staff in a timely way.
The choice of delivery channels for internal communications is changing in the post-Covid-19 world. We are likely to see more employees working from home for at least some of the time. A survey of business decision-makers by workplace scheduling specialist Smartway2 found most people said they enjoyed the flexibility of working between their home and the office during the coronavirus pandemic, with just 2% wanting to return to the office full-time. So, for example, printed newsletters delivered to people’s home addresses could be a friendlier way to keep in touch with employees rather than adding messages to their email inboxes.
- Consider print, online or both. If staff don’t have easy access to a desktop or laptop during working hours then you don’t want them to feel isolated or left out of the communications loop
- Mobiles, tablets and smart devices are growing in popularity – commercially available apps dedicated to internal communications could provide a useful additional online channel
- Link newsletter content and delivery with other internal communications channels, including face-to-face (or virtual) events (such as all employee briefings, ‘townhalls’ and ‘coffee break’ meetings), so you provide a unified voice and consistent messaging
- Decide on the frequency of your communications. Not too much but too little.
Summary of How to Improve Internal Communications
1. Decide who are your internal communications ‘champions’
2. Agree why you need to communicate – set clear objectives that you want to achieve
3. Decide on the key stories and news you want to communicate
4. Make your content more engaging
5. Choose the best delivery channels for maximum readability
Awardaroo Can Help!
Our Business Communications Service helps businesses enrich their internal communications, so they can improve their performance and profitability.