And why it is essential to do so
By Rhys Madoc, CEO, UHY International
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.
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