Learn best practices for building a strong internal communications program.
As communication professionals, we often get asked the following questions:
- Is internal communications the same thing as employee engagement?
- How does internal communications impact business success/results?
With so many different phrases – internal communications, employee engagement, employee experience, workplace experience, company culture, etc. – it can be hard to see how it all fits together. But the answers to the two questions above are actually pretty straightforward.
Employee engagement is key to a company’s growth and success – research shows that highly engaged workforces enjoy a 90% better growth trend than those with less engaged employees. According to Gallup, they also experience 65% lower turnover, an important stat for any company that’s been struggling to attract and retain employees. But engagement doesn’t just happen on its own – a primary driver of engagement is a strong internal communications program. So, you can look at it as: internal communications drives employee engagement, which drives business success. In fact, one study shows that companies with highly effective communications practices see 47% higher returns to their shareholders.
The events of the past few years have likely had a big impact on your employee engagement and communications strategy. But regardless of how the pandemic shifted our ways of working, the basics for creating a strong internal communications program remain the same. Here’s a refresher on best practices:
- Make it part of your employee engagement strategy. Internal communications is not a standalone initiative; it’s a tool for connecting with your employees, and a vital piece in how you bring your overall engagement strategy to life. Additionally, be sure your engagement strategy is tied to your company’s strategic business plan.
- Have a vision and a plan. Build a strategic plan that aligns with your company’s purpose and messaging. Include a framework for different processes and protocols that will ensure communications are consistent, streamlined and effective.
- Connect the dots. From emails to intranet posts and everything in between, messages should reflect your company’s purpose, values and business strategy. And, they should help your employees understand the role they play in bringing it all to life. Employees will be more engaged if they see how they fit into the bigger picture and feel like they’re providing value on a daily basis.
- Tailor to your employees. One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to your employee engagement and communication strategy. Consider how an employee’s age, career stage, role and location impact their communication preferences – and adapt your strategies, messages and tactics accordingly. This is particularly important for organizations with employees who don’t sit at a desk all day (aka “non-desk employees”), such as those on the manufacturing floor, in the warehouse or on the road selling or delivering products. Non-desk employees will have different communication needs, preferences and challenges that must be considered in order to truly engage them.
- Use multiple channels. As mentioned above, different employees will prefer to receive information in different ways. They also may prefer to hear about certain topics and messages through certain channels (e.g., employees may prefer to hear good news or day-to-day information one way, but bad news a different way). Incorporate a variety of channels and tools to fit the message, situation and employees’ preferences (e.g., the intranet,, videos, emails, virtual or in-person meetings, etc.)
- Include employees in the conversation. Employees are more willing to help activate what they help create. Include them in the creation of your employee engagement and communications strategy and provide a means for feedback and ideas. In addition to employee surveys or focus groups, consider creating an employee advisory committee, which should consist of employees across a range of roles, locations, ages and career stages. This group can share ideas and feedback to help shape your strategy. Of course, if you ask employees for their feedback and ideas, be sure to show how they’re being used. It’s not enough to just ask – you need to act, too.
- Get leadership buy-in and people manager support. Leaders must commit to supporting and resourcing an employee engagement and communications strategy. They also need to understand how employee expectations have changed when it comes to how leaders communicate and adjust accordingly. And it’s not just about the C-suite: people managers must understand their role in creating effective, enterprise-wide communications, and have the skills and tools to fulfill it as well.
- Be transparent. Transparency enhances authenticity and increases trust among employees. Always explain “the why” behind decisions and be consistent in the information that’s shared. This is especially important when it comes to leader communications.
- Provide the right tools. From a user-friendly and engaging intranet site to platforms that provide connection and collaboration, ensure that your organization has the right tools and technology in place for effective communication company-wide.
By following these best practices, you can build a robust internal communications program that drives employee engagement and, ultimately, success for your company.
This post was updated by the author from December 2020.
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