By Shannon Alter, below, leadersexceed.com
Internal communication is really where it all begins: if you have poor communication with your employees, your customers and clients will see it too. Your employees are at the core of what you do every day. This means that consistent and clear internal communication is key – this plays a vital role in driving the growth of your business. How your team works together internally determines how far and how fast you and your business can grow.
As hybrid working grows increasingly popular, internal communication has never been more important. Employees need to feel seen and heard, but they also need to feel part of a wider team that’s working towards the same mission and vision. This can be challenging for the entire workforce, as more emphasis is placed on technology to replicate those all important water cooler moments, or simply stopping by someone’s desk to ask a question or seek advice.
The best internal communications strategies are based around collaboration, connection and creativity. People want to know why they’re working for you. When your team feels like they’re part of something bigger, they’ll naturally want to work harder for you, coming together to bring the values and the mission of the business to life. That’s when you’ll see results.
Everyone wants to feel they can have an impact – if they can’t, they will go elsewhere. If they value their work, trust you and want to see the business succeed, then their passion and energy will carry through all aspects of the business.
Internal communications is often misinterpreted as a top-down form of communication, driven by leaders and carried down the ladder. In reality, it’s a two-way street. It’s important to create a safe space for employees to give feedback, advice and professional opportunities.
The 2012 Engage for Success Research by David Macleod and Nita Clarke identified four common themes to make employee engagement, and therefore internal communications, more successful:
- Strategic narrative -Develop leaders who can tell a compelling story about where the company is heading.
- Engaging managers – Foster managers who outwardly support their teams and champion individuals to succeed, and give them the right training and the tools.
- Employee voice – Employees deserve an opportunity to speak up and offer constructive feedback, without judgement.
- Integrity – This is at the top of the list and speaks directly to character. If a leader isn’t honest or doesn’t have integrity, there is no trust.
Here are my top tips as a Communication Expert and Executive Coach:
Tip #1: Foster open communication
Ideally, this should be ingrained in your company’s culture. It’s crucial to have open lines of communication from the assistant on through to the CEO, where everyone benefits from that open line of communication. Everyone’s opinions matter, regardless of their job title or pay grade.
Tip #2: Be open-minded to new ideas
Agreeing to disagree is a skill, but giving new ideas time to process and responding from a place of balance, rather than feeling attacked, will help you get to a desired outcome faster and easier (and people will respect you more for it)
Tip #3: Be present
Have you ever been in a presentation or a board meeting where others aren’t paying attention as they’re scrolling on their phone, or worse – answering calls and being disruptive? We all have. The key here is to be present, and this starts by actively listening.
Respect works both ways, so if you want your employees to respect you – and trust you- then you need to show that you respect them too.
Tip #4: Ask questions
Asking questions shows that you’re interested in the other person.It also gives you an opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level. If you don’t know what to ask, simply try ‘I’d love to know your thought process behind that’, or ‘how do you see this impacting the business’.. Not only will the other person feel like you’re interested in them and their idea, but you also get to learn how they see themselves fitting into the future of the business. It pays to have a short list of questions and perhaps even a few extra in your “back pocket” too.
One of the biggest issues organisations have today is not only a lack of communication, but a lack of clarity. Be crystal clear. If you’re not 100% sure you understand what’s expected of you, ask for clarification. I’d always prefer to feel awkward by asking for more clarity, than spending time on something that’s wrong and has to be started over. It’s better to ask the question than to have to go back and fix it because you didn’t understand.
Tip #5: Eliminate emotion
This can be a tough one. As human beings we’re emotional creatures and our emotions can often catch us off-guard or appear out of nowhere in situations where we feel uncomfortable, especially during conflict or a crisis.
When you’re really passionate about what you do and genuinely do your best, it’s easy to take feedback and criticism to heart because it feels like a personal attack. However, it’s important to remove the emotion from any transaction as decisions will be made based on the needs of the business or individual, not because of who you are or what you’ve done. As the business grows, it becomes easier to build a barrier between the brand and you as an individual, therefore it’s easier to make decisions based on the needs of the business, rather than your feelings and emotions.
Don’t forget that your internal communications strategy should be just as nimble and agile as the business, it’s not (or shouldn’t be) set in stone! As your business expands and scales, your internal comms strategy will expand and scale with it. Every lesson happens for a reason, but how you react to it will define the success, or failure of future choices.