“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
If there’s one thing the pandemic has taught us, it’s that communication (clear, consistent messaging) is the most effective way of keeping employees safe, healthy (mentally and physically), and productive. Transparency is the new black.
That said, organizations continue to fall short of effective communication strategies. If you say it (post it, send a memo or e-mail), employees don’t necessarily hear it, read it, or internalize it. The whole idea of communication is connection. If your organization isn’t connecting with employees, they’re not getting the information they need. This leads to a whisper-network, gossip, worry, and lowered productivity.
Your collaborators are your brand ambassadors. They are on the frontline of messaging for customers. So, if they’re not getting the message, how can they be successful? When collaborators are connected to the organization’s mission, vision, and goals, you will see improvement in employee engagement, employee advocacy, and cultural alignment in all areas.
Connection depends on an effective internal communication strategy. This takes time. This takes mindfulness and constancy. Here are things to consider.
1. Do a communication audit. What are the strengths of your actual plan? Where does it fall short? Who is involved in your communication plan? Who can improve it? What do you want to change in your organization as a result of better communication? You must be able to identify the WHY to better communication before beginning with the strategy. (This could be anything from better, streamlined processes to staff retention).
2. Who is your target? All communication must have a specific audience in mind. If you have a diverse workforce, you’re going to need to get creative about how to get the message out. People communicate differently depending on demographics of age, gender, location, teams or departments, and attitude or outlook. Finance will read and receive communication differently than those in the art department. Millennials communicate differently than 40-somethings. (eg. A message without punctuation is neutral but those with a period are considered “serious.” Yes. This is difficult for those of us who have lived by Oxford Grammar rules our whole lives!)
3. How are your relaying your message? Depending on the size of your company, do you have several platforms and tools to share messages? Being mindful of messaging and the multi-faceted ways to communicate with your teams is key to effective communication. Don’t rely on just one communication outlet.
4. What is your message and why should collaborators care? Remember that everyone brings their own focus to every conversation and/or interaction. This same message, however “neutral” it may seem, can be read or heard in so many ways! Try the know-feel-do approach. Get back to the what of it, what collaborators need to know; anticipate and respond to how employees will feel about it (Concerned there will be more work, need to learn a new skill? Worried about job security? Etc.) And, finally, what do you expect employees to do with this information? This is critical! What will employees do with this information? Effective communication is actionable. There’s clarity of what you expect your collaborators to do with it.
5. Timing is everything. Does your organization provide consistent communication? Have you made the mistake of releasing two important messages at the same time – thereby having one get buried in the other, lost? Is communication intermittent? Are there after-hours pings coming in? Be mindful of people’s home time.
6. Not everyone needs every message. I know. This seems counter-intuitive to everything we’ve written here, but it’s true. By segmenting and mapping out communications to include those who really need to know specific things, you’re reducing the messaging overload. Talk to frontline managers and team leaders. What do they and their teams need to know to get the job done? Everything else is fluff and will likely end up in the trash.
There’s no one-size-fits-all communication plan for organizations. Strategic communication takes time and mindfulness. Deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. That’s the key to successful, strategic internal communications.