As companies focus on both sustainability and growth, they have to begin juggling different responsibilities and priorities. One often overlooked feature of a thriving organization is an effective internal communication structure, which can get executives, management and employees all on the same page. When companies ignore the importance of organizational communication, the consequences can be dire and potentially irreparable. But when companies realize how vital internal communication is, the benefits of strong workplace communication can take an organization to the next level.
What Is Internal Communication?
Perhaps the simplest way to break down internal communication is to think about the hierarchy of a company or to think about an organization broken down into teams. As businesses grow and different teams with different assigned roles come on, it’s still necessary to keep all employees informed. Internal communication, which can vary, helps alleviate confusion and acts as an overall unifier in the organization.
Whether it’s a message from management about new procedures or instant messages that connect employees, internal communication brings stakeholders together to maximize efficiency and productivity. Other examples of internal communication within organizations could be newsletters, video messages, employee engagement surveys and meetings.
Internal communication is a vital aspect of any successful business. According to research conducted in the scholarly journal Public Relations Review, the concept both relies on and blends different parts of an organization. The study found that communication in the workplace can be viewed “as [an] interdisciplinary management function integrating elements of human resources management, communication and marketing.” It works to bring different areas of an organization through a singular, open channel. Effective workplace communication relies on different members of the organization coming together to get everyone on the same page.
Why Companies Need to Consider Workplace Communication Strategies
While a comprehensive internal communication strategy can prepare a company for sustainability and even growth, the benefits can be seen in a variety of unexpected ways.
Rajeev Bhardwaj, vice president of human resources at Sun Life Financial, said in Forbes that internal communications are important not only at the HR level, but also as a unifying factor for businesses. He wrote that it “plays a vital role in helping employees understand the values and priorities of the organization” and to understand the scope of their role in the company that much more effectively. This sentiment is important, especially for human resources professionals, because of the stark benefits in onboarding new employees and updating seasoned workers with new expectations.
Outside of its ability to help bring workers together, internal communication is also massively important as organizations look to engage with employees. Recent scholarship has found the connection between organizational communication and employee engagement to have immense benefits when developed simultaneously. The 2017 article “Engaging employees through internal communication” explored how tightly linked effective communication practices and employee engagement strategies are. After discovering how “internal communication satisfaction has a significant role in high employee engagement,” the researchers went on to state that the two concepts should have a symbiotic relationship.
After an organization has determined it needs a comprehensive organizational communication strategy, it’s necessary to address some key concerns specific to the company’s needs. Kara Cowie, vice presiden of corporate communications at SkillPath, shared a four-pronged approach that companies can employ as they create and implement their appropriate workplace communication plan. This approach, she wrote, will also prove immensely beneficial as organizations look to heighten their employee engagement efforts.
- Prioritize the people communicating: As companies draft and implement internal communication strategies, they need to understand how specifically their employees want to talk with each other. A workforce that’s on-site will have dramatically different communication needs than a remote one, so management must “determine which tools will work best, who will manage them and how you will measure interaction levels and satisfaction,” according to Cowie.
- Select the right platform for the right occasion: Different forms of communication will be more effective at different times and in different settings. It’s important for management to realize that a one-on-one meeting might be better than an instant message or email for conflict resolution and brainstorming.
- Include a social media component: Employees are on social media, so platforms like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn could prove particularly effective in fostering inclusive communication. As employees connect with the organization and with each other, company culture will thrive.
- Create employee support groups: One way management can improve workplace communication is by developing resource groups for employees. When employees feel safe and valued, they’ll be much more likely to contribute their best work and to be motivated in solving problems, and organizations will have a much easier time connecting with and motivating its workforce.
As internal communication can influence employee engagement positively, it also has the power to build, influence and maintain a company’s culture. Niamh Whelan-Reiter, global lead of corporate communications at Avanade, said that organizations’ inner communication methods can be boiled down to two primary practices: “information dissemination and strategic enablement.” Each strategy has its own pros and cons, and both require more attention.
- Information Dissemination: In this model, according to Whelan-Reiter, decisions are made at the top and are then funneled down to employees. With the more hierarchical approach, employees understand “what they can expect in exchange for their work — salary, benefits, association with a successful company.” As a result, this method of internal communication relies on a foundation of trust between strong leadership and employees aware of the requirements of their position. This tactic can be seen as the more traditional approach.
- Strategic Enablement: On the other, more unconventional side, the strategic enablement model is necessary for “organizations that see internal communication as a vital aspect of company growth.” In this approach, both employees and management engage in conversation to get on the same page in reaching the organization’s goals. As a result, executives are more approachable and personal, and employees have a greater stake in the direction of the company.
Both models have been successful for different organizations, and as companies begin developing their internal communication strategy, it’s probably more helpful to look at these different approaches as more of a spectrum. While companies may be able to blend different aspects of the approaches, it’s still necessary that they consider the approach that best suits the objectives of their company.
Examples of Successful Internal Communication
To help give insight into how companies should begin brainstorming their own internal communication model, organizations should look to the ways that other businesses have brought their employees together.
Coca-Cola and the Value of the Survey
One example of a company that employs an effective internal communication tactic is The Coca-Cola Company. An article in Forbes stated that Coke uses an employee engagement survey as an effective internal communication tool. In the survey, Coke doesn’t only ask about employees’ satisfaction with their jobs.
The company takes it a step further to make sure that “they understand the company’s vision and strategies, including how their individual work is connected to those strategies.” Moreover, the organization relies on other surveys issued randomly throughout the year to understand more clearly the status of their culture and how their employees are being engaged.
Warby Parker’s Next Event
Eyeglasses brand Warby Parker employs a constant cycle of “setting up fun lunches, events and programs,” according to an article in Entrepreneur. While it may not be immediately clear, Warby Parker’s dynamic, vibrant company culture relies on and succeeds because of its strong internal communication. As management continually plans events that employees get excited about, they understand that the best way to generate enthusiasm is through its workplace communication channels.
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