Internal communication refers to information that is shared between a company and its employees to ensure they have the information necessary to perform their jobs, act as brand ambassadors and engage in the employment experience.
More often than not, internal communications is often underfunded and under-appreciated within companies. It is an essential function that is noticed more prominently when it is not working vs. when it is working. The absence of a cohesive internal communication strategy can be felt across the organization in terms of productivity, trust, connectedness and retention. In fact, productivity is likely to increase by five times if employees feel included and engaged in detailed communication from their employer.
Now, more than ever, getting internal communication right is essential within organizations as they navigate a new work environment that includes an increase in hybrid and remote workers. Nearly half of the U.S. full-time workforce, about 60 million workers - have jobs that can be done remotely working from home. And, after experiencing what that was like during the pandemic, nine in 10 remote-capable employees prefer to continue some form of remote-work flexibility. This includes working fully remotely or in a hybrid environment. With such a dispersed workforce it will be important to implement internal communication strategies that connects virtual and in-person workers with your company in meaningful ways.
The dynamics fueling the Great Resignation are another factor underlying the importance of internal communications in today’s workplace. In 2021, nearly 48 million people quit their jobs. Recent survey data suggests nearly half of employees are looking for a new job or plan to find one soon. Drivers fueling these workforce dynamics include high labor demand with 11.3 million job openings as of January of this year and evolving employee expectations. Many people are leaving their jobs for better pay, an increase in growth opportunities and more flexibility. Notably, toxic work cultures were a major driving force, as employees are looking for companies where they feel seen, respected and heard.
Employees expectations have evolved. They are seeking jobs within healthy company cultures that provide better work-life balance, flexibility and benefits. As a result, companies need to be ready with robust communication strategies to help reinforce positive cultures and communicate the opportunities and benefits available within your organization.
The rise of social media channels, apps and the ability to create digital content directly from our phones has transformed how we connect with one another in our personal lives and professionally. Many employees have become their own personal content creators and have learned the principles of effective visual and written communication via their own social media platforms. As a result, the expectations for internal communications have never been higher. If your internal communication efforts are impersonal or stale it is simply not going to fly.
Employees, and consumers for that matter, desire real, authentic, human-centered communication and can sense when a brand is not being transparent and real. 87% of employees want their future company to be transparent. In addition, employee access to external communication channels means that anything that is shared internally will absolutely be shared externally. Companies need to ensure that all internal and external communication efforts are strategically aligned and in sync.
The role of internal communications will vary based on your company's size and industry. Mid-size businesses may task their HR department with internal communications, have a single individual that supports internal communications or have a small and mighty team that handles this function for the entire company. Larger, more complex organizations may have robust internal communications teams that are distributed across business segments and/or regions. Regardless of how this department is structured, 60 percent of companies lack a long-term internal communication strategy and nearly one in four workers are dissatisfied with how communication is shared.
Although internal communications may often be undervalued or overlooked, it is vital to an organization's health. Communications leaders often function as the connective tissue between diverse teams internally and are key to communicating the culture, employee benefits and inspiring employees to be brand ambassadors of the company’s mission and purpose internally and externally.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the reasons why internal communications matters.
The culture of a workplace is a complex tapestry of language, action and emotion. It is the environment employees live, breathe and work within on a daily basis and includes the shared values, beliefs, behaviors and assumptions of people within your organization. Creating your culture begins with defining your company’s mission, purpose and core values, operationalizing them and reinforcing through shared language, leadership and communication initiatives across an organization.
Although internal communications doesn’t create culture without systems and leaders to support it - it does play a key role in reinforcing it. Every touchpoint an employee has with your company, whether that is your office space, employee intranet, or an interaction with a leader, is an opportunity for you to communicate what it means to be part of your company, and establish expectations that fuel a healthy culture.
When it comes to thinking about brand strategy, new products and announcements, the focus is often placed externally on marketing and public relation efforts designed to engage with consumers and the public. However, any product launch or company initiative needs to begin and end with a cohesive internal communication plan that is designed to educate and engage employees so they can understand why the company is making this decision and proactively communicate it to each other and customers they come into contact with.
We’ve all experienced when brand alignment breaks down. For example, you see an ad online for an exciting new promotion or event from your favorite clothing brand. You go into the store and ask a sales representative and they know nothing about it. Or, perhaps, you go to return a product from a store that has a reputation for customer service. Instead of being greeted by a friendly team member, they barely greet you and you end up feeling like an inconvenience. These are interactions that happen every day and they showcase a lack of brand alignment.
Whether it is understanding new brand initiatives or embodying what it means to represent your brand with customers, it is important to have a cohesive internal communications strategy to ensure your employees not only know what is going on, but are inspired to be champions of it.
So, how exactly do you inspire your employees to be brand champions? As Simon Sinek would say, a key aspect of gaining buy-in is to “start with why.” It’s not enough for employees to understand what is happening and what they are expected to do. They also need to understand why it is important to the organization, and more personally, to them.
Employees are increasingly seeking out companies that align with their core values and have a very clear “why” behind their brand. These purpose-driven brands often see 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of employee retention than their competitors. Communicating the purpose behind your company allows employees to understand if they are personally invested in what you do, and if they are, they will be excited to speak out about their experience with your brand and share the latest news with their network.
Secondarily, it’s important to communicate the “why” behind brand initiatives, new product rollouts, company policies, process updates and more to ensure that your employees are buying in and can act as advocates for your messaging every step of the way.
Connection and belonging is a fundamental human need that doesn’t stop when we enter the workplace. Gallup found that employees who say they have a best friend at work increase in engagement and performance. In today’s world of hybrid and remote work, finding new and creative ways to fuel connection in the workplace is crucial. 91% of workers are hoping to feel closer to their work colleagues and 85% want to feel more connected to their remote team members. That’s where an intentional internal communications strategy can help.
Introducing platforms that are more collaborative, such as Slack or Workplace from Meta, can help create a sense of connection at work, provide opportunities for dialogue between diverse teams and introduce the opportunity for employees to collaborate digitally. But, it shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to have a comprehensive plan to communicate company events, employee recognition, unique benefits and more so that employees understand the opportunity available to form valuable connections at work.
When it comes to why internal communications matters in today's digital-first world, the data is clear. Employees who feel included in detailed communication are nearly five times more likely to report increased productivity. Unfortunately, 74% of employees feel they’re missing out on important information from their company.
Brands that recognize the value of internal communications and engaging their employees in transparent, purpose-driven communication will be able to activate and inspire one of their most powerful resources: their people.
If you are looking for a partner you can trust to help you transform your communications and culture, we can help. Let’s talk.
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