Lack of communication between staff and management is the one mistake companies make the most in managing their employees. Highly effective internal communication practices make it 4,5 times more likely to have highly engaged employees. Employees that are engaged are 57% more likely to work harder, 80% more likely to perform better and 87% more likely to stay longer with the company.
There are dozens of initiatives you can take to improve internal communications (ICO) within a company. From my experience with ICO, I have selected seven different points that can effectively enhance your company's way of 'working as one team'. Depending on the size of a company, some items will be better suited than others.
This is the most important step. Listening is more important than publishing information. It is crucial to teach your employees to give feedback on the information they get. An annual short survey or questionnaire is an important tool to really learn what your employees think, or how they feel about the company.
Even more important: get out of your office from time to time, and walk around. The short conversations with employees from different levels, will tell you more about your organization than any survey.
2. Make the mission and vision clear
Take the time to explain the company values and mission, whether as part of corporate training or as a regular reminder to employees. When employees are unified in their understanding of the company goals, they will be able to communicate with one another more effectively in order to reach them.
3. Clearly communicate company goals and objectives.
Employees will be more motivated when they are aware of the company goals and objectives, and when you can make them see how their efforts are contributing to the goals.
This always reminds me of a simple, but beautiful anecdote. During a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?” “Well, Mr President” the janitor responded, “I’m helping to put a man on the moon.” Next to clear company goals and objectives, I strongly believe in well-defined job descriptions for every employee.
4. Arrange the office in a way that makes communicating easy.
Avoid silos: make sure your building provides enough places where your employees can communicate more with others outside of their group. Take a look at the setup of your building and your employees, and try to spot ways to improve it. If you’re really serious about creating an open dialogue, then don’t forget to take a look at the physical work environment.
5. Good internal communications do not happen by coincidence.
Although visiting your employees for an open ‘surprise talk’ is a very good thing, it takes more to create good ICO. Communication should be a part of daily or weekly routine. Therefore you should establish regular processes. Centralize messages on an intranet of some sort, and make communication a weekly process with defined rules.
A company intranet site offers several advantages. It not only is ‘the’ place where official information can be found, It is also the centralized place where employees working in different offices can find the same information at the same time.
An intranet site can also reduce internal email. And as we all know, internal email in some companies is a real time-wasting plague. Internal email should only be used when the information is “urgent, Important and need to know”. All other information should be communicated via the intranet.
When your employees make it a habit to visit the intranet’s home page at the start of the working day, they will know all the latest news about the company. With this in mind, it is a good idea to publish your news just before the end of the day.
And remember: today, creating an intranet site is technically an easy thing to do. So please don’t waste a lot of time by setting up a complicated site-structure. Keep it simple!
6. Plan External Events.
You should never oblige your employees to attend activities outside of the office, but you must certainly create those opportunities. A holiday party or a happy hour after work, give employees something to look forward to. It also gives employees from different groups the opportunity to meet one another. Colleagues knowing each other from a ‘good after work conversation’, will probably work better together than when they only know each other from ‘business calls’.
Why not have your project managers and/or marketing managers give a presentation about the latest products, or the upcoming promotional campaign to everyone who's interested? The company pays for the sandwiches and the drinks… and afterwards everyone feels more involved with what the company’s doing.
Another good idea is to define a common ‘sports target’. Exercising together for a 10 miles run, or trying to conquer the famous col ‘Mont Ventoux’ by bike. But... make sure sharing the experience and having fun remain more important than beating each other.
7. Let a trained professional do your internal communications.
This last tip, is a very important one. I am fully aware of the fact that not every company has the luxury to be able to hire a full time ICO professional. This however may not be an excuse to not organize this in the best possible way. Even when you ask your secretary or an HR-specialist to do the job, make sure you let these people follow a thorough course in ICO. They will feel more comfortable, and your company will be the biggest beneficiary.