Among all the stakeholders of an organisation, perhaps the segment that is neglected the most is the internal stakeholders – simply put employees. The unfortunate part is that companies have historically failed to recognise that this is the segment that can be the most powerful branding tool. The internal stakeholders are the most impactful and effective brand ambassadors because their stake is the highest in the organisation.
While many new-age companies have started paying attention towards this segment, the larger universe still remains blissfully unaware.
So once we recognise the potential of internal stakeholders, role of strategic internal communication becomes critical for the growth of the organisation. It is only through powerful communication tools that an organisation can create effective, loyal and motivated brand ambassadors.
Now that we have an understanding of the objective or the “why” part of the story, let me take you through the “how” part of it.
Let me share five golden rules for effective internal communications. These will enable creation of ties that bind, leading to a loyal and productive workforce:
- Information is the key: A communicator (communications head or chief communications officer or communications director) needs to keep a steady flow of information from top management to internal stakeholders. So channels need to be developed with different frequencies for consistent communication of corporate news. Channels may include newsletters, emails, silent posts, discussion forums, or townhalls.
- Timing is of essence: Any key development needs to be shared with the internal stakeholders within a stipulated lag. The worst case is when employees come to know of critical developments from outside sources, including media. Failure to share key information on time creates an alienation of the employees who get the message that the top management does not think the internal stakeholders are important enough to be made privy to the information. That may be completely unintentional and just happened because of misjudgement of the timing of dissemination the information by the communicator.
- Make the employees feel like a stakeholder: Not only post-facto, employees need to informed, sometimes by MD or CEO or Chairman of the organisation of developing news. It is very important to seek suggestions. This is a selective exercise but extremely effective as employees understand their ideas and suggestions are valued. So communicator needs to organise such forums of free interaction of MD or CEO or Chairman and the employees.
- Do not shy away from sharing tough decision: It is very important that even the toughest decisions are communicated to the employees with proper rationale. As stakeholders they are aware that management needs to take tough decisions to run the organisation in tough times like these. Have trust in the maturity and intention of the employees and communicate the toughest of the decisions. Companies usually shy away from communicating tough decisions such as downsizing. It leads to an informational void, which is quickly filled with rumours and fear. This leads to loss in productivity as well as the loss of efficient and engaged lot of employees who fear imminent job loss and still have a market value.
- Show empathy and sensitivity: In every communication, be it written or verbal, it is critical to show empathy and sensitivity. It is important to show that the company “cares” about the needs of the employees – be it professional or even sometimes personal. It is the communicator’s job to make sure every communication signifies these two emotions from the company to the employees.
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