HOW TO ACHIEVE EFFECTIVE INTERNAL COMMUNICATION...

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And why it is essential to do so

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By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International

November 2023

Successful organisations prioritise effective internal communications as much as the interactions they have with customers and clients.

Without that focus, companies can struggle to innovate, collaborate and grow. How do you run a successful business when one department doesn’t know what another is thinking or planning to do?

When office-based companies are at the start-up stage, internal communications can be almost entirely face to face. It might be five people working from a single room. But as they grow, disseminating company information to employees becomes more complex, and requires an internal communications strategy alongside relevant tools.

This has become even more true since the pandemic. Remote and hybrid working models can create challenging communications environments, leading to employees feeling disconnected from the business. With the wealth of tech now available to allow team members to communicate and collaborate in real time, working on different sites makes effective internal communications increasingly important.

 

SMOOTH FLOW OF INFORMATION

What is internal communication? Essentially, the term is a catch-all for the flows of information that take place within organisations. That can mean the messaging that flows from managers through to the rest of the organisation, with feedback and ideas that flow the other way. It can mean horizontal messaging as information is passed between departments. It can be emails and instant messages employees use to work effectively together, and it can be face-to-face meetings.

These information flows are essential to the smooth running of any business, amplifying the company vision, so that everybody buys in. They make relevant people and departments aware of a change to a system or process, as well as feedback from clients. They celebrate success and – if something does not go to plan – ensure everyone knows what has been implemented to put it right.

In addition, internal communications are often used to help create a sense of community and a shared vision, even in large and dispersed organisations. If you get these messages right, they can be highly motivational, driving businesses forward by promoting inclusivity, teamwork and the power of collaboration. In the UHY global network, we encourage communications between firms in different jurisdictions through everything from UHY’s intranet to a calendar of popular in-person events. UHY’s recent annual conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was an opportunity for member firms in the network to discuss challenges and developments in global accountancy as well as to network and collaborate on client business.

 

RIGHT TOOLS AT THE RIGHT TIME

So how do you promote effective internal communications? Technology plays its part. You need to give everyone in your organisation the means to communicate smoothly and seamlessly.

What this entails will depend to some extent on the culture of the organisation, but it usually includes a combination of calls, video calls and conferencing, email and instant messaging. This ‘omnichannel’ approach lets employees communicate in the way that they want, and in a way that suits the information they want to send or gather at any given moment. Channels such as business messaging apps that connect people to the information they need are increasingly popular as they can streamline the flow of information and promote inclusion.

These are not the only ways organisations communicate, however. Larger businesses may have an intranet or a company newsletter. Formal and informal presentations (in person or online) from senior members of staff are part of many companies’ annual calendar of top down communications. Some CEOs encourage employees to email them directly.

 

TRANSPARENCY AND CLARITY

When it comes to communications from senior management to the wider company, technology is only one part of the story. The other is tone, purpose and language.

In short, your communications should be transparent and clear, with a defined and straightforward aim. Do not mix messages or combine separate, important announcements in the same email. Always make them friendly, conversational and inspiring.  

Remember, you can send a company-wide email, but you cannot force people to read it. To get the message read as widely as possible, get to the point quickly and succinctly. When busy people see pages of text, they often click away.

Make sure everyone who needs to see a communication is included. Often, that might be everyone in the business. Even if an announcement does not directly affect the entire workforce, the reason for the change may say something positive about the way you want the business to operate, and that is something a lot of people will want to hear.

Maintain a consistent style and tone across communications, and provide opportunities for feedback. What does the business feel about a new innovation or ambition? Do employees on the frontline feel it will help or hinder their work, and in what ways? This is all hugely useful information.

Finally, measure and improve. Analyse employee engagement metrics (how often they read, share or interact with content, including sending feedback) and use the information to refine your internal communications strategy.

It is important that you do. Internal communications is the oil that lubricates the cogs of your corporate machine. The better they are, the more smoothly the machine will run.

 


Image credits:

Team call by Anna Shvets

Site discussion by Anamul Rezwan

Hospitality team by Photo by Ketut Subiyanto

TEAMWORK AND COLLABORATION...

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Why they need to be nurtured

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By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International

September 2023

Teamwork and collaboration are essential to the smooth running of organisations. That may be stating the obvious, but it is remarkable how many businesses lose the collaboration instinct over time. Teamwork should always be considered a work in progress. It requires constant tending to truly flourish.

The benefits of teamwork are well known. Put simply, one brain might solve a problem one way. Ten brains working together might come up with a better way – or several – and in much less time.

When people collaborate, good things tend to happen. They approach issues from different angles, identifying different challenges and opportunities. Each individual brings their own knowledge and experience to the task in hand, allowing them to see things that others might not. In professional services, collaboration between provider and client is crucial to a successful relationship.

All of these benefits are important for business, so why do some organisations end up collaborating less over time? There are several possible reasons:

  • Siloed thinking. Teams and departments focus on their own results, not those of the business. That makes them less likely to work with others.
  • The loudest voice wins. Within teams, the most forthright or demonstrative members often hold sway. The voices of less confident members are drowned out.
  • Competition. Some measure of competition is fine, but an overly competitive environment – between teams or individuals – stifles collaborative instincts.
  • Leadership. If organisational leaders don’t value collaboration, they don’t encourage it and don’t invest in the systems and processes that nurture it.
  • Dispersed teams. Hybrid working models, if not managed well, can limit the opportunities for teams to collaborate.

There are others, but the results are the same. When teams fail, businesses suffer. The Centre for Corporate and Professional Development at Kent State University in Ohio, US, perhaps puts it best – “The failure of a team can start for a number of reasons, but the consequences are the same: factions are formed, battle lines are drawn, communication stops and suspicion rises. Productivity and efficiency drop off sharply.”

 

HOW TO KEEP COLLABORATING

How do business leaders stop this from happening? How do they embed teamwork and collaboration into the DNA of their organisations?

Most importantly, they should emphasise common goals. That means commercial goals, but also the firm’s ambitions in other areas. For example, solid Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) and inclusivity policies can help to create a collaborative environment.

Leaders should lead by example. Be open to ideas and opinions. Speak and listen to staff individually or, if the organisation is large, survey them regularly and acknowledge their contributions.

Smooth channels of communication are essential for successful teamwork. Create feedback loops that staff can use to communicate ideas, challenges and opportunities to managers. If necessary, invest in technology – project management and teamwork apps, for instance – that allows team members to communicate easily with each other even if they are not in the same building.

Encourage team leaders to listen to the thoughts and ideas of even their most reticent team members. You never know where the next great idea will come from. A typical roundtable full team meeting might not be the right platform for everyone. If that’s the case, consider smaller, more informal group chats where everyone has the chance to contribute.

In addition, demolish silo walls. Implement systems and processes across the organisation that encourage knowledge sharing between departments.

 

ALL IDEAS ARE VALID

All this should go hand in hand with a no blame culture. Employees will not come forward with thoughts and ideas if they think it will cost them, in terms of reputation or progression. Emphasise that all ideas are valid, and that a continual flow of idea sharing is essential for business and their clients’ success. 

This is true for teams and offices, and also across organisations. UHY is a large global network, and we encourage collaboration between firms through a calendar of regional and international events, subject-specific Special Interest Groups, and the promotion of cross-border secondments and other, more informal, inter-firm links. We understand that collaboration across borders is as essential to our success, and that of our clients, as the teamwork within member firms. 

Successful businesses need a shared vision, a continual flow of thoughts and ideas to which everyone is comfortable contributing, and mutual trust. These things do not always come naturally, but there is much that business leaders can do to nurture the collaborative instinct.

 


1Centre for Corporate and Professional Development at Kent State University in Ohio, US https://www.kent.edu/yourtrainingpartner/what-do-you-lose-when-teamwork-fails

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Team collaborating by Vantay Media on Unsplash

Ideas board by Lazizli for Unsplash

One to one meeting by Hey Memento for Unsplash

PURPOSEFUL BUSINESSES...

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A driving force for positive change

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By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International

August 2023

We are all in business for a purpose. Businesses exist to create and sell products or services and, by doing so, to make profit. A business that does not make money will not be a business for very long.

But having a profit motive is not the same as being a purposeful business. Certainly, purposeful businesses exist to make money, but they also have a wider motivation that informs everything they do.

Put simply, purposeful businesses do not put profits before everything else. They operate with positive social, environmental or corporate goals in mind (and often all three).

 

SOLVING PROBLEMS – NOT CREATING THEM

Purposeful businesses make money from solving problems and never from creating them. They identify a challenge and focus their efforts on doing something to help customers overcome it. They work to minimise any negative impact those efforts may have on wider society and the planet.

In short, they see their products or services, and also their behaviour as corporate citizens, as a means for positive change. Some brands, alongside their products or services, might position themselves as ambassadors of environmental or social change. Other simply offer solutions to the everyday needs that people face.

Purposeful businesses aim to be good corporate citizens. That might mean minimising the environmental impact of supply chains, or putting employee wellbeing at the heart of their human resources strategies. It also means abiding by local and international regulations at all times.

 

GUIDING PRINCIPLES OF PURPOSEFUL BUSINESSES

The British Academy1 has produced a set of guiding principles by which purposeful businesses should operate. It states:

“Measurement should recognise impacts and investment by companies in their workers, societies and natural assets both within and outside the firm. Performance should be measured against fulfilment of corporate purposes and profits measured net of the costs of achieving them.”

This sounds a little like an ESG strategy, and meeting ESG criteria can certainly be one of the goals of purposeful business. But a company that integrates these principles ‘will organise itself on all levels according to its purpose’. That will involve areas like corporate governance, shareholder obligations, financing and investment too.

 

A NETWORK FOR POSITIVE CHANGE

In the UHY network, our member firms aim to make informed decisions for the benefit of their own business and to support their clients. As well as core accountancy skills, our members offer consultancy and business advisory services that not only help to make organisations compliant with regulatory standards, but also help them to become fitter and more efficient. Many of our members offer specific services around ESG, technology adoption and corporate social responsibility.

In short, our member firms seek to add value to client businesses. By working together and sharing expertise across borders, they also help multinational companies expand more seamlessly into new territories. By sharing knowledge, ideas and innovations across our network, UHY professionals are able to offer clients the most up to date support on technical, regulatory and organisational issues and standards.

 


1British Academy  https://www.thebritishacademy.ac.uk/publications/future-of-the-corporation-principles-for-purposeful-business/

Image credits:

Greenhouse interior by Abigail Lynn on Unsplash

Site managers by Gustavo Fring for Pexels

Teamwork by fauxels for Pexels

THOUGHT LEADERSHIP...

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An expression of insight

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By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International

July 2023

Member firm professionals across the global UHY network write blogs, contribute to articles, speak at events, produce reports and much more.

All this activity might be best summed up in the term ‘thought leadership’. This is a well-worn phrase these days – it might be described by one person as the expression of expertise, and by another as the expression of opinion.

Someone else might insist that anyone who has a blog or podcast on a single subject is a thought leader. These can all be very different things, but they are credited as thought leadership anyway.

 

INSIGHT IS KEY

To my mind, there is a little more to it than that. A thought leader certainly needs to have wide experience of their subject matter, and they also need to think deeply about it. Through practice, research and discussion, they strive to acquire meaningful insight. The final piece in the jigsaw is the desire to share that insight with others.

In this interpretation, a blog can contain thought leadership, but not every blog – and in fact not many blogs – will. An article qualifies for the title only if it contains insight in terms of a fresh angle, an against-the-grain opinion, or a new approach to an old problem.

Thought leaders use their expertise to explain and inform. They answer the questions their audience asks. They deliver authentic content. But they should also provide something that their readers, listeners or viewers will not easily find elsewhere.

 

GOOD FOR BUSINESS

In this way, thought leadership becomes useful for both authors and audience. The audience gets potentially useful insight. The authors refine their thinking by testing it in the real world, and are seen as authorities on the subject.

Acquiring such a reputation can certainly be good for business. Organisations, brands and individuals all use thought leadership to increase their standing among customers, clients, targets and peers. Thought leadership is a way to show that you understand your customer’s challenges, or that you recognise and understand new developments in the sector. It shows your authority and authority inspires trust.

The usefulness of thought leadership is amplified by the ubiquity of digital and social media. In the past, a CEO might write an article for the company magazine or website and a handful of people would see it. Today, an interesting opinion, shared widely on LinkedIn and Twitter, can start a wide-ranging conversation and be seen by hundreds or thousands of interested parties.     

Many years ago, thought leadership had a narrower meaning. It tended to be applied only to major new pieces of research. It was leadership because it moved the profession forward, shed light on an unexplored topic and was entirely original. Thought leadership was the preserve of large firms with big research budgets.

The democratisation of thought leadership is no bad thing. The advance of a profession should not be led solely by the operators with the deepest pockets. We all have a stake in the future, and we should all have the opportunity to be part of the debate.

It is good that the term is now used more loosely, but the word ‘leadership’ should not be ignored. Thought leaders add something to the discussion, rather than just regurgitating information that has been expressed many times before.

 

SHAPING THE FUTURE

What they add does not have to be groundbreaking or even surprising. But in its small way it should move the debate forward.

It could be an anecdote that illuminates the benefits of a new networking opportunity. It could be a fresh, well considered opinion on a piece of controversial finance legislation. It could be a case study that describes how a firm managed to overcome a unique or unusual challenge. In our magazine UHY Global we encourage readers to think about the impacts and opportunities for their business from external issues and commercial change around the world.

It could be a thousand things, but those who read or hear it should go away with something to think about, and the sense that they have been presented with a new idea or way of doing things. They might not agree with the new angle or fresh approach described in the piece, but they will understand that it adds something to the conversation. 

There are few great leaps forward, in business as in life. Instead, the future is reached through many incremental steps. A well-expressed article or conference presentation, written or given by an expert with insight, can help set the direction of travel. That is the aim of thought leadership, and it is why UHY professionals are keen to be part of the discussion.      


Image credits:

Photo by Pavel Danilyuk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-working-at-the-desk-in-office-8111853/

Photo by Matheus Bertelli: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-man-holding-mic-3321793/

Photo by MART  PRODUCTION: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-writing-while-holding-an-ipad-7550431

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