When business leaders try to answer the question, “what is effective internal communication,” they can often get this idea confused with “what is good internal communication.” Good communication can be reduced to a simple matter of frequency. If you are repeating your value propositions and mission statement over and over, you might think this is good communication. But if the message isn’t being heard and absorbed, that communication isn’t effective—and really, probably isn’t that good either.
Consider the findings from an Inc. Magazine survey that was systematically conducted over five years. 600 business leaders were asked if the executive team would be able to list the company’s top three priorities, and 64% of leaders believed their executives would be able to do so perfectly.
In reality? Only 2% of executive teams could accurately list the company’s top three priorities.
It’s probably not possible that executives wouldn’t have heard this information at some point, or even seen it in writing. But whatever they heard or read wasn’t absorbed.
And if that level of mis-alignment is happening at the upper levels of the business, just imagine what is happening in the lower rank-and-file. 74% of employees feel they are missing out on company news and necessary information. What may be even more concerning is that 69% of managers don’t feel comfortable communicating with employees in general, according to HR Technologist. All this adds up to a lack of engagement among many employees in the workforce, creating preventable turnover among staff and customers alike.
Okay, enough dwelling on the harsh realities of being out of sync internally. Let’s talk about how to achieve effective internal communication at all levels of a business, and the improvements that can manifest as a result.
What is the Role of Internal Communications?
Internal communication in an organization shares information with everyone at the business. Yes—everyone.
Many leaders think of internal communication as happening from the top down. Part of the role of internal communications is certainly sharing goals and vision with employees. This communication must happen consistently. According to ClearCompany, only around 6% of organizations communicate daily about goals.
If you are in the majority who do not communicate daily about the mission, that might mean your goals aren’t visible to employees. But it could also mean that you are leaving employees free to understand stated company goals incorrectly within their own context. Employees are self-interested and will find a way to make goals work for them, especially when incentives like prizes or bonuses are involved.
Remember in 2016 when Wells Fargo set a goal and incentivized employees to open more new accounts? To win the prizes, employees opened accounts for customers who didn’t want them, and in some cases people who didn’t even exist. This is an example of why communication about goals can’t just be “set it and forget it.” You have to reinforce both the goal and the cultural and ethical motivations behind it. If you put too much emphasis on revenue generation, employees will interpret this as the intention of setting the goal no matter what else you say.
This leads us to the second role of internal communication, which is allowing company leadership the chance to listen to employees and make them feel appreciated for their contributions. 74% of employees told the Workhuman Research Institute they would work harder if they felt more appreciated. That means feeling seen, heard, and valued, just like it does for your loyal customers.
However, if you are just improving internal communication to get employees to work harder, they will see right through it, just like they do with loftily-stated goals that are really only prioritized to drive revenue. While effective internal communication examples are out there, none of those scenarios are achieved overnight. In her book Keep Your Customers, Ali Cudby instead encourages leaders to work in what she calls two-degree shifts. “A two-degree shift is almost imperceptible, so it’s easy to make,” she explains. “Yet over time, if you repeatedly alter your course by two degrees, you’ll end up in a different place.” Ali points out that this approach also allows leaders to reinforce what is working and change what isn’t without alienating employees.
Building an Internal Communication Strategy
There are five steps to building an internal communication strategy that sustains and improves your company culture along with customer loyalty:
- Prioritize Connection in Company Culture: Connection in this case doesn’t refer to interpersonal connection, but instead to a connection between the employees and a core message about the business. This vision of what you intend for employees to feel about the company should align with your vision for the customer experience.
- Create and Activate Clear Goals: Once the vision for internal communication is defined, you must create and act on clear, measurable goals for internal communication. These might be tied to customer loyalty, brand awareness, or increased employee trust. Just make sure the goals are clear and quantifiable. Make sure to share these expectations in a variety of ways so the information can take root.
- Define and Reinforce Measurable Steps: In addition to repeating your goals, it’s important to provide and communicate with your team about the path to succeed at those goals. Share a path of action steps that will guide employees to the desired attitudes, practices, and processes. For instance, if your goal is to improve customer loyalty through improved internal communication, how will that happen? Will employees learn more about your product or service to better-inform customers? Will they be trained on empathy in customer service? Will new technology be implemented and trained on? Whatever the steps to achieve the goal, make sure stakeholders at all levels are getting involved. When employees see their leaders taking action, that will inspire them to work hard too. And when employees know they are succeeding, that success pays over to customers, and ultimately the company.
- Apply Tracking and Metrics: Tracking and measuring the shifts that happen in your culture will help you know if the efforts are working. Creating expectations for employees means you have to follow up to ensure they are following through on what you have asked. This doesn’t have to manifest through negative consequences. Instead, you can reward the behaviors you want and revisit incentives to make sure they inspire employees to do more for each other and your customers.
- Celebrate Wins: For many employees, simply recognizing their contributions and efforts is enough to reinforce their behavior. But especially when it comes to customer-facing strategies, rewarding employees more tangibly can inspire better engagement. These could be individual rewards or one team celebration when everyone achieves a goal. The necessity to celebrate wins large and small is one of the reasons that quantifiable goals are so essential. Tracking outcomes and achievements gives a tangible reason to celebrate, as well as reinforcing to employees you are paying attention. This makes both employees and customers feel valued.
These strategic steps for internal communication take you from deciding what information you need to communicate all the way to celebrating milestones achieved along the way. Remember that a celebration doesn’t mean the work is done! Good communication takes daily intention and constant reflection. But for employees and customers alike, the effort is worth it.
Reap the Benefits of Internal Communication with Alignmint Growth Strategies
Internal communication helps employees and company leadership get on the same page about the goals, values, and mission of the organization. Alignment Growth Strategies helps make goals, values, and missions clear to improve the customer experience, as well as create tangible benefits for employees, customers, and the company. But bringing all the internal groups to a mutual understanding of these benefits can reveal many barriers of trust, resentment, and uncertainty. That’s why third-party consultants like Alignmint Growth Strategies are such a valuable asset to businesses across industries. We bring years of experience in corporate culture and organizational loyalty to the support of your organization. Through careful listening, fact-finding, and analysis, we help leaders identify the small shifts that will achieve big results over time. Call on Alignmint Growth Strategies for outside perspective on how to align your employees, hit your revenue goals, and grow to the next level.