Few leaders would dispute the importance of communicating effectively with customers. After all, the last thing you need is a kerfuffle that makes them take their business and money elsewhere. But for some reason, employers don’t always have the same standards when it comes to communicating with employees. Maybe there’s the assumption you shouldn’t have to work that hard with employees. But that’s a lot to take for granted. Internal communication is like your organization’s circulatory system. Everything that happens in your organization depends on smooth, collaborative communication. A new business deal, a delivery, a marketing campaign, a new software implementation, can all be derailed by an internal communication failure. And that can be costly.
Consideration of communication strategies as a part of your business plan is a good first step. You already know that clear communication strategies for customers are essential. Now, how about some for employees that are woven into your business strategy?
What should you communicate?
Different companies choose different levels of transparency, but research shows that there is a direct correlation between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction, and that the primary driver of employee satisfaction is effective communication.
Employees are more invested in the company if leaders give them:
- A clear vision of the future
- An understanding of the criteria by which decisions are made
- Workplace expectations and policies
Identify appropriate and effective methods for each situation.
- Do you communicate about an ongoing project through a project management system—like Basecamp—or through some other medium?
- Do you establish a quick daily meeting on the progress of a feature, or does it make more sense to impart information during a weekly scheduled meeting?
- How do you use emails, phone calls, texts, drop-bys, posters on the wall, to share information and does everyone understand and comply?
You also need to ascertain what information is need-to-know and for whom. Who are the true stakeholders? Do you want to err on the side of keeping too many people in the loop—possibly blowing up someone’s email—or leaving someone out of a thread they might have wanted to weigh in on? What criteria will you use to determine?
Test your system and gather feedback
Document how your communication plan is working and make changes as necessary. Ask yourself: What is the current situation, who are the key stakeholders, why do they need to know? And afterwards, what was the outcome? Was it successful? How can we improve on the process?
You will probably need to make iterative changes as you discover how your communication plan is impacting work, morale, customer service. See if you can align the ongoing development of your internal communication to key performance indicators.
Create feedback loops that will make it clear whether the right people are getting the right messages in a timely fashion. With feedback, your communication system can continually improve and you’re more likely to dissolve information silos that can impede the success of your business. Make employees an integral part of the loop and you will see an increase in efficiencies and creative problem-solving. Both are great for the bottom line.
Most importantly, when things get stressful, see how well your communication protocols contribute to solving problems or exacerbating them. This is a true test of the success of a communication strategy.
Communication isn’t easy. It takes time initially to set up the process, the who, what, where, when and how of it all, and time is money, as they say. There is an ROI in all of this. A good internal communication strategy is a driver of a successful business plan.
All companies, even those that produce products, run on communication, information, and innovation more than they do on producing widgets. Whatever your company does, communication is the business you’re in. Now’s a good time to get serious about it. We’d be glad to help!