There’s a very good reason why young children ask “why?”.
Wanting to know the purpose behind the things you’re being asked to do is a basic human instinct. At work, we want to know what our goals are and our company’s plans for getting us there.
At this time of year, motivating your employees is particularly important. A recent study by Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance showed that workers feel least motivated during the winter months. Good internal communications can act as a vital employee motivator by answering the “why” questions – and that’s just one of the many reasons it is so important.
The days of lifelong loyalty to one employer are gone, with employees becoming increasingly choosy. They don’t want to be dictated to – they expect their views to be listened to and acted upon. There are many benefits for the employer, like improved morale, higher productivity and greater staff retention, if staff feel engaged. Good internal communications also help ensure that employees share positive workplace experiences with others.
After many years of being considered the poor relation to the likes of media relations and marketing, it seems that most firms now recognise how critical it is to communicate well with their employees. A recent Censuswide survey found that 80 per cent of C-level executives believe internal communications has become more important over the past year. Almost all respondents (99 per cent) said employee engagement was important to their business.
Interestingly, the same research found that significantly more respondents prepare for an internal team meeting (87 per cent) than for a live media interview (54 per cent), showing that they believe the toughest audience can be their own team.
Of course, it is easy to talk a good internal communications game, but more difficult to put a strategy into practice, especially in large, geographically-dispersed organisations. Sending a weekly newsletter or email about major company announcements no longer cuts the mustard.
Because people want to feel listened to and cared for, successful internal communication should be an ongoing, two-way conversation, whether that be in person or virtually. It’s not just younger employees, who have grown up with social media, that expect fast feedback. Workers of all ages now want a higher degree of transparency from their employers. For larger companies or organisations, internal communications require a coherent strategy and dedicated resource.
The irony is that frontline employees – the ones interacting with your customers, who should be the ambassadors for your business – are often the ones who have the least access to information about the company. They’re the ones most likely to be disgruntled if they feel they’re not being communicated with, and to pass that negativity on.
At the other end of the scale, SMEs shouldn’t assume that because their team is small, and perhaps even all sitting in the same room, that a chat across the office is all that they need.
So how do employees want to be communicated with? Recent figures from the European Association for Internal Communication suggest that there’s still a big role for the company intranet – 74 per cent of respondents view it as very important.
Almost as many value a face-to-face chat, with digital media given the thumbs up by 60 per cent of respondents, and traditional print by 43 per cent. Internal communications are particularly important in a crisis. Reliable methods of contacting all staff quickly need to be considered.
So, when thinking about overall communications and marketing strategy, don’t treat internal communications as an afterthought. If you feed their inner small child by regularly listening and letting them know “why”, your staff have the potential to be your most passionate brand ambassadors.
Anna Chambers, account director at Perceptive Communicators.