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    Sabercom's blog

    Internal Communication Strategy

    By Oliver Candy | 06.06.22

    With remote positions being more common than ever, effective communication seems to be at an all-time low. Some employees have to spend hours messaging back and forth, whereas others check slack once a day, which is why you need an internal communication strategy.

    Otherwise, communication will remain ineffective, and employees may feel disengaged at work. You certainly don’t want that, so let us help you out!

    internal communication strategy

    What Is an Internal Communication Strategy?

    An internal communication strategy is the communication plan that public and private organisations might use to communicate with customers, stakeholders, or both. So, a good one enhances the organisational performance of a company.

    These plans can detail the company internal communication policy, strategies, financial goals, and organisational accomplishments. They can also illustrate how and when to communicate them. For instance, the HR team may communicate the latest employee plans and policies, and the Marketing and Sales team may share their latest marketing techniques.

    Types of Internal Communication

    Let’s take a minute to illustrate the seven types of interactions that fall under internal communication.

    Firstly, we have leadership-generated communication, referred to as downward communication. It’s when leaders share formal announcements, updates, and more with their employees, which is the core role of internal communication. This type enables leaders to become more visible to employees on the office floors.

    Secondly, employee-generated communications refer to employees contacting their managers and others above them in the company hierarchy. With virtual suggestion boxes, discussion forums, staff polls, and more, everyone at your company can have a voice.

    Thirdly, peer-to-peer communications, called lateral communications, take place between employees. To promote a positive company culture, you can incorporate communication hubs, project collaboration, peer recognition schemes, and more.

    The fourth type is culture communication. Though intangible, this type increases employee engagement levels, business stability, and retaining staff. A comms strategy example of culture communications may be onboarding procedures, mission statements, or rewards and recognition schemes.

    Next, information delivery is the fifth type of internal communication. That’s when your internal communications department informs your employees of all legal, organisational, and procedural issues. These include legal requirements, training tools, HR policies and procedures, brand positioning, and more.

    Our sixth type is crisis management. Of course, when unexpected obstacles arise, you need to be strategic about resolving them, but there’s more to crisis management than that. After all, it incorporates pre-crisis protocols, multi-channel messaging, and instant news broadcasts.

    Finally, change administration, the seventh type, is one of the trickiest ones to handle. Communicating change, such as a significant structural change, product modification, or new software, isn’t easy. After all, it comes with fear and resistance, thus requiring a strategy.

    Challenges of an Internal Communication Strategy

    You may encounter various challenges when establishing an internal communication strategy. To start with, you might use the wrong digital tools to communicate with your employees due to insufficient research, budgeting priorities, or lack of clarity.

    To use the right tool, you need to ask yourself what needs you want it to fulfil. Your answer should help you set your priorities straight.

    For example, if your priority is better leadership-generated communication, this is the feature you look for in an app. Otherwise, a tool for scheduling and collaboration on projects won’t be relevant.

    Another challenge is the inability to measure impact. In other words, you may be unable to measure engagement levels from your employees, leaving you unsure if your internal communication system is successful or not. A solution would be using digital communication platforms with engagement tracking features and analytics.

    Budgeting issues are also a real challenge, which we’ve referred to earlier. Although it can be costly to invest in quality tools, some are reasonably priced. Still, you have to be willing to invest time, energy, and money if you want a quality strategy.

    What Are the Benefits of Internal Communication?

    If you’re willing to face the challenges we’ve just mentioned, here are the benefits you’ll be reaping. You’ll get a faster response and resolve issues more promptly in an emergency. After all, when everyone is already in the know, you don’t need to catch them up on anything.

    Additionally, you can utilise a quality internal communications strategy to understand your employees, their strengths, their weaknesses, and so on. Accordingly, you’ll become a more informed leader.

    Not to mention, you have a much better chance of achieving your goals if your employees know them and are up-to-date with any changes. That means they’ll be more in sync and conduct smooth communications.

    As for employees, an excellent internal communications system allows them to share their ideas, feel valuable, and review and get reviewed by their co-workers.

    As a result, your engaged employees will be more productive and cooperative and less likely to leave. Do you think it’s too good to be true? According to a Gallup Workplace meta-analysis, teams in the top 20% when it comes to engagement have 59% less employee turnover than other teams!

    What Are the Tools of Internal Communication?

    Let’s get down to business and discuss tools to use in your strategy. Digital signage is an excellent tool if your employees aren’t absorbing the information you share. When you put screens in strategic positions, you create a passive method of information sharing, which you can update easily.

    Moving on, you can establish an intranet, which is a private network that connects your team via the web, such as Igloo. Also, you can divide it into different channels for media updates, document-sharing, notes, and more. And you can use the intranet to create forums.

    In addition, instant messaging tools are vital in sending messages, photos, videos, texts, and links fast. Think of Slack or Flock. And we can’t forget video chat tools for voice and video calls, such as Zoom and Skype.

    Last but not least, we have collaboration tools like Google Docs. They allow multiple employees to work on the same project, accessing them simultaneously and adding feedback and changes.

    developing an internal communications strategy

    How to Build a Successful Internal Communication Strategy

    Without further ado, these steps will help you create your company’s internal communication strategy.

    1. Assess Your Company’s Current Communication System and Challenges

    Before developing your internal communications strategy, think about your current approach to internal communication.

    Do you have an existing internal communications plan? What about it works, and what doesn’t? Did it help you achieve any of your previous communication goals, and to what extent was it helpful? Also, you can run an audit and a company survey to get feedback and gather data.

    2. Set Objectives and KPIs

    You need to set goals that you can measure in the workspace. So, what are your communication goals, and what key performance indicators (KPIs) do you intend to measure them with? Also, don’t forget to set deadlines for them. For example, you might want to shift employee behaviour, increase engagement, or else.

    There are no universal KPIs that work for all companies, but here are some:

    • Pageviews on intranet pages
    • Open rates in email communications
    • Click rate in emails
    • Video views in intranet pages and emails
    • Staff surveys

    3. Identify Your Audience

    Your company may have several departments and teams. Of course, you want to incorporate them into your plan, but you can’t use the same tone with all of them. So, identify your target audience, whether they’re senior executives, key stakeholders, their colleagues, local representatives, and finance, IT, or HR departments.

    4. Develop Your Messages

    Plan what you want to say and what reaction you want to elicit from your audience to craft the perfect message. Consider the message’s what, where, when, who, how, and why. And start the message with the “elevator pitch,” a summary of the main points you want to discuss.

    5. Decide on Your Most Preferred Strategy, Channels, and Tactics

    You don’t want to skip strategy development and jump right to using tactics. But how do you decide on the right strategy for your internal communication goals? The answer is trial and error; that’s how you supply the missing data. As for channels, there are countless ones, such as:

    • Employee Communication App: Such an app may be excellent for communicating with your staff, especially remote employees.
    • Video Calls: If you want to share presentations, video-calling apps like Zoom support that.
    • Face-To-Face Interactions: You can improve engagement and receive feedback by establishing monthly meetings.
    • Team Meetings: Holding meetings in the office or other locations can create a more collaborative environment.

    6. Lead by Example

    Make sure your work is visible. After all, it’d help if you embodied the same transparency you want from your employees. Also, collaborate with the right members of your team to craft your internal communication strategy.

    7. Measure Your Progress

    It’s so important to track your progress. A study by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. states that up to 60% of organisations don’t have a long-term internal communication strategy. And even those that do may not measure their progress; 12% aren’t using metrics for measurement.

    Earlier, we’ve discussed KPIs, so measure your progress and compare it to your goals. Then, you can determine what needs to be done.

    8. Populate Your Communications Calendar

    It goes without saying that you need to have a communications calendar. So, don’t forget to schedule your tactics and messages. And create a timeline so that there aren’t any surprises. Also, schedule meetings with other executives to understand how your company handles change.

    The Do’s and Don’ts of a Successful Internal Communication Strategy

    When developing an internal communications strategy, here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind.

    The Do’s of an Internal Communication Strategy

    Here’s what you should do in your internal comms strategy:

    Aim for Quality Content and Tactics

    Creating quality content and using top-notch tools is crucial. But how do you discern them? Regarding content, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

    • Does your content inform your target audience of the message and engage them?
    • Did your employees understand the message clearly?
    • Did this message cause a shift in your employee’s behaviours?
    • Did it grant you the results you were after?

    As for tools, we’ve already discussed them, and there are no one-size-fits-all tactics. Instead, you should factor in your business type, work location, team size, strengths, and weaknesses when choosing your tools.

    Address All Your Employees

    We’ve elaborated on the importance of defining your audience. Now, you need to craft several messages to reach every single employee. This way, you can be more visible as a leader, and they can all feel that they’re a part of something bigger and become more engaged.

    In large companies or organisations, this can be a challenge, so we recommend sample group interviews. These interviews should include a representative of each team and department. Additionally, we recommend video messages from CEOs via employee engagement apps.

    Form Partnerships Across the Business

    Using internal communications to promote lateral communication and partnerships is a great idea. We’re talking about employees and management communicating and solidifying company culture. Also, the more ideas they exchange, the better they’re at problem-solving.

    Provide Leaders With Strategic Advice

    You want to address every group, so make sure you strategise advice to the leaders under you. For example, you can tell them to relay updates and information to your employees. Of course, make sure to address them with the right tone.

    Be Proactive

    Don’t wait for a crisis to happen before you respond. Instead, devise a crisis action plan ahead of time, reducing risk and keeping any repercussions to a minimum. To do that, you can use a multi-channel approach to reach every employee fast and employ a feedback mechanism to ensure that your team is safe.

    Measure Your Strategy’s Success

    Remember the KPIs you’ve chosen earlier? Make sure to revisit your internal management plan regularly or even weekly. Assess how it’s unfolding via your company’s KPIs to acknowledge your successes and make any needed adjustments.

    internal comms strategy

    Don’ts of an Internal Communication Strategy

    Here are some mistakes you want when implementing your internal communication goals:

    Don’t Believe That One Message Is Enough

    You can’t send out the same message to your employees regardless of their hierarchy. Also, remember that implementing an internal communication strategy requires various messages over some time. For example, internal communications strategy timelines can be 3, 6, or even 12 months.

    Don’t Expect Change Without Resistance

    Change is scary, so don’t expect your staff to welcome it with open arms. Instead, it’d be best to utilise your internal management tactics to create some leadership-generated content.

    In other words, clearly explain how the change will happen, and provide examples. 

    Also, strive to know how your company is adapting to it, and enable two-way communication and feedback.

    Don’t Rely on One Communication Channel

    A single channel won’t be convenient for your different target audience groups. When we think of failed communication strategy examples, one that comes to mind is only using an employee intranet when some employees may not have access to it. And the solution would be an internal communications app.

    Don’t Make Rank-Based Assumptions

    You want to address all your employees equally, and remember that just because someone is a shop floor employee doesn’t mean they don’t have the company’s best interest at heart. So, communicate the same information to your employees, ensuring they all understand how they fit into the big picture.

    Don’t Make It All Serious

    Add some lightness to balance out the heavy reports, sales figures, and news. Why not write messages about social events, fun memories, personal achievements, light-hearted polls or competitions, and so on?

    Don’t Strive for Total Control

    Your job will be easier once you accept that you can’t have complete control over all communications. Instead, you need to create a sustainable internal communication plan and divide the responsibilities among all leaders.

    This way, you have cascading levels of communications over your company hierarchy. And you can focus on the major campaigns and critical communications.

    How to Use Digital Signage in Your Internal Communication Strategy

    If you want examples of digital signage usage, think of social media feeds on screens. Your social media managers can help craft personalised messages for your employees, promoting faster reactions.

    Also, why not set up internal data dashboards? Make it so that they display progress-related graphs and get updated automatically. Now, everyone in the office can see them and celebrate the company’s success.

    Additionally, you can get your employees engaged by having them write a short notice. It can be a celebration, reminder, anecdote, or else. This way, you’ll have a digital noticeboard for your playlist.

    We also can’t forget how helpful digital signage is for meetings. Just picture a visual sign on a screen or tablet in the meeting room that details the day’s meetings, events, and times. Finally, you can make your employees feel connected to the outside world by displaying world news and events.

    Conclusion: Internal Communication Strategy

    Overall, developing a solid internal comms plan can help eliminate the lack of connection and engagement that ails many companies, especially ones with remote workers.

    To do that, you need to determine your quantifiable goals, suitable channels, messages, and target audience. Then, dive in, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This is the only way to create the internal communication strategy and company culture you desire!