Effective communication between a company and its employees enables businesses to fully tap into the unique knowledge, insights, and talents of its people.
Often, the benefits stretch beyond pure profit. More open discussions help build a strong community within a firm, allowing workers to feel confident and happy, and to outperform expectations at their roles.
To develop a corporate culture that is forward-thinking in its approach, thanks to team members who regularly contribute superstar ideas, here's how firms can improve internal communications.
In 2010, the National Federation of Independent Business published an article that listed five benefits of instant messaging for your business. Those include:
- Archived group and individual chat logs, which can be easily referenced at a later point
- Seamless collaboration with team members from off-site locations
- The ability to productively manage multiple conversations at once
- Opportunity to break down language barriers when text works better than voice
- Elimination of long-distance calling fees
The value is clear: you have to empower employees to communicate.
Create ways for employees to exchange ideas, information, and questions. Chat rooms and listservs work particularly well at company, department, and team levels. These empower people to seek answers from their peers, strengthen connections between colleagues, and transfer knowledge.
To streamline internal communications, the right tools matter. Slack, HipChat and other Internet Relay Chat (IRC) services improve peer-to-peer communications—or horizontal communications. With programs that connect workers at all levels—or vertical communications—each individual is empowered with a voice on issues or topics that matter to him or her.
Collaboration solutions, such as the one we have built at Vocoli, allow executives to hear from employees to create transparency, harness the wisdom of the crowd, and track employee suggestions.
This makes owners and managers more accountable when team members invest time and energy into brainstorming ideas that could become very profitable for business, improve customer service, or increase tasks. Besides, many ideas can’t move forward without outside manager input. It is important that new concepts are not just discussed among peers. Management needs to be involved and feel connected to those suggestions from the very beginning. With their interest and influence, company leaders may help implement the best ideas.
For any internal communications program to be successful, corporate communications managers need resources. To establish a meaningful budget, organizations should evaluate and weigh the downsides of failing to invest in employees’ ability to build stronger relationships with each other, share concerns and constructive feedback, and discover information that helps them be better at their jobs.
Here are a few things to think about:
- Recent costs of employee turnover
- Customer loyalty and retention, and the effectiveness of your customer service team
- Employee engagement and morale, or lack thereof
- Missed opportunities, misunderstandings, and lost revenue because of miscommunication
- Product or service quality and development
In addition, they should think honestly about the benefits and disadvantages of using existing systems for such programs.
The wooden suggestion box on the wall or web form on the company intranet you already have may not be enough. If people are not currently using those for employee suggestions, then it will be tough to get them to start, no matter how good your internal marketing plan is.
Investing in a new method for collecting and reviewing employee suggestions not only makes the logistics easier, but it also sends a powerful statement to employees—that you’re serious about hearing what they have to say.
Often, successful internal communications campaigns provide long-term returns that are orders of magnitude more than their cost.
When managers are tasked to demonstrate those results, here are three ways they review the effectiveness and impact of internal communications:
- Analyze recent changes in productivity, sales, and profits
- Conduct surveys on employee happiness and job fulfillment
- Review latest staff retention rates
If the early results show promise, then management may be more accommodating whenever communication specialists suggest additional solutions that may further bolster the firm’s bottom line.
In most organizations, employees follow leadership’s example. To create change, executives, directors, and managers must be the champions of knowledge sharing, transparency, and worker engagement. Dedicated personnel may give advice and direction, such as internal communications managers. But senior execs, department directors, and team managers need to back them up. This has to be a collaborative effort.
When businesses build or license platforms to support company-wide conversations, employees inherently become better at their jobs. Upon improving horizontal and vertical communications, firms may receive more feedback from employees and will be tasked to execute new ideas. Creating an initial budget can be difficult, but it gets easier when organizations recognize there is more to lose by forgoing internal communications projects entirely.
Soon enough, the results, including improved worker performance, engagement and retention, will speak for themselves. But to ensure change takes place, management needs to participate and inspire the whole staff to do the same.
How does your business manage its internal communications? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Rich Kneece is CEO of Massachusetts Technology Corporation and founder of Vocoli, a digital suggestion box and innovation platform that helps companies capture great ideas from their employees and customers.