Terms like communication, public relations and marketing often conjure up thoughts of glamorous events, iconic brands, media strategies and the way your business might be seen by your customers.
Whilst these are all key elements of marketing and communications there is a forgotten component, particularly in small to medium sized businesses ‚Äì internal communication.
Communicating with staff and internal stakeholders is arguably as important as communication with customers and those outside of your business.
Internal communication should be strategic and aligned with your business plan. It should be integrated in a number of teams in your organisation and done through a number of mediums.
Leaders in the organisation, staff with HR and Communication skills all play an important role in communicating successfully with staff and internal groups.
Many large organisations have teams that focus on internal and external communication but in a small to medium sized business, communicating with internal stakeholders can get pushed aside when there are so many other competing demands on time and budgets.
So how can it be done successfully in such an environment?
The term internal communication can sound a little daunting. The overall plan of how you communicate internally should be strategic but the way it’s done can take the simple form of an intranet, meetings, emails and forums.
Perhaps you’re wondering what the ROI is in sharing information with staff. Indicators like retention, staff satisfaction and efficiencies that come with staff’s understanding of their role within a bigger picture all improve when you invest in internal communication.
If I have convinced you of the importance of internal communication in a business and you’re willing to have a go, don’t make the easy mistakes when you start to develop some tactics.
It’s not about simply sending emails or transferring information to your staff. The very nature of communication suggests some sort of dialogue or interaction.
Encourage staff to engage in conversation in person, in online forums or whatever way is appropriate for your workplace. Listen to what they have to say in these settings and share information openly.
Your staff and internal stakeholders’ opinions matter. Their perception is their reality of work on the ground in your business.
Don’t forget to go back to the basics of communication and consider the following to apply to internal audiences.
- Who do you need to communicate with?
Perhaps it’s the whole organisation, managers or just certain teams. Make sure the information is relevant to the audience as this ensures they don’t tune out when they receive communication.
- Why are you communicating?
Ask yourself, what difference do I want to make in the business or why do I need to transfer this information. The answer to this question will help you target your audience as well as decide the best medium to communicate with.
- What call to action do you need?
Are you asking your staff to take action or pass information on? Make this request or call to action as clear and simple as possible. Your teams are busy and asking them for feedback or to do something extra needs to be brief and obvious. Don’t forget to give them the tools they need to assist you in communicating.
Communication is such a core principle in business, don’t overlook your most important asset – the internal resources you already have.
Elizabeth Baker is a Communication Manager at a Hunter based not-for-profit. She is a freelance writer and communications consultant who is passionate about internal communication.