Building an Open, Informative Culture with Employees
There was a time when the internal communication strategy for many businesses was saying as little as possible. But today, most businesses must commit to a high degree of transparency to be credible with their workforce, customers, and other key stakeholders. In the case of communication with employees, this is by no means a bad thing, since presumably you've hired men and women for their intelligence and willingness to contribute to business growth and who appreciate being kept in the loop.
So what contributes to having an effective approach for crafting an internal communication strategy? Keep in mind the following:
1. Transparency starts at the top. In the past, many CEOs and business owners were reluctant to share sensitive business and financial information with others in the organization. But employees today grasp the difference between confidential financial data that must be withheld for legal and proprietary reasons and leadership's willingness to disclose other non-critical business information. A culture of transparency starts at the top to establish trust and credibility.
2. Solicit employee input. Even if you have a strong sense of how to proceed with employee communications, getting input from employees themselves can prove beneficial. Consider meeting with a small group of dedicated employees for input such as: how news can best be disseminated; when to inform people of new developments; and what types of information might not be necessary to share. Your chances of a favorable response could increase dramatically if you're communicating in ways employees prefer.
3. Focus on clarity in language. It's important to remove any obstacles to reader comprehension. In your messages, always focus on using clear, unambiguous language to get your key points across. Stay away from company-related jargon (e.g., don't assume all employees understand acronyms or other insider verbiage). Convey your message as concisely and clearly as possible.
4. Communication is key to engagement. According to the 2017 Pulse of HR Survey from Paychex, there's still much more businesses can do to leverage communication to strengthen employee engagement. As the findings indicate, a little more than half of the businesses surveyed (54 percent) regularly solicit employee feedback about their levels of job satisfaction. Just half of those surveyed (51 percent) consistently discuss company goals, and progress toward those goals, with employees.
The need to communicate is confirmed by a 2015 Harris poll, among other surveys. Employees tend to "look first to their supervisors to obtain the information they need to do their jobs," and "this type of communication goes a long way toward motivating employees to achieve company goals."
5. Reinforce the message across multiple avenues. Another key point is being willing to communicate within the company using many channels. Employees are likely to receive and review your messages at different times, and in different locations. That's why you should consider repeating information at different times, and through additional avenues beyond your single point of contact. This might include company-wide meetings, emails from the CEO or business owner, social media postings, business website updates, and so on. Make sure the wording is consistent across platforms, so people hear a consistent message regardless of where they are getting the information.
6. Invite feedback. At both the designated point of access and in other venues, encourage employees to comment or otherwise respond to the news you share. This can be a critically important barometer by which to measure their engagement in your internal communication strategy, as well as the degree of morale within the organization.
7. Be the first to deliver bad news. It's likely at some point you'll need to share unfortunate news of some kind with employees (projected layoffs, for example). Within reason, an effective strategy is not to withhold such news and wait for employees to hear about it elsewhere. In such situations, rumors and gossip spread like proverbial wildfire, and the situation is almost always worse as a result. By coming forward with bad news in a timely manner, you not only halt the spread of morale-killing rumors, but you can help reinforce the level of trust among employees.