It’s easy for entrepreneurs to get focused on external communications while neglecting the importance of internal communications. If you’ve followed my video series The Diary of an Entrepreneur on YouTube, you’ll see that I hold regular progress meetings with staff at all levels, welcome ideas and tackle any concerns head-on.
This isn’t just me being a kind and caring person – it’s also about keeping my business healthy. Happy, healthy employees are essential if you want your company culture to be positive and nurturing, instead of becoming more and more toxic.
So why are internal comms so important for this? Here’s my view…
What is internal communication?
First of all, let’s define internal communication. When I talk about internal communication strategy, I mean open engagement with your workforce at all levels. Yes, you have your hierarchy and concerns can be escalated through middle management, but there are other types of internal communication to think about.
Your door should always be open. Again, managers can handle everyday concerns in the line of duty, but for the real stand-out stuff, sometimes you need to make yourself available (a burden your Managing Director can share with you if you’re short of time).
Just being available gives staff the reassurance that they have somewhere to turn if they don’t feel like they can speak to their line manager, or if they feel that their concerns have not been adequately addressed. That’s when internal communications are truly comprehensive.
Understanding the importance of internal communication
So why does all of this matter? I’ve already touched on this in general terms, but here are some specific benefits of good internal communication:
It can boost engagement
Communication facilitates engagement. Employees can provide feedback – both positive and negative – and have an understanding of what action will be taken, if any. But it needs to be genuine: people can tell when you’re hearing but not listening.
Gets information out
The information that comes out through good internal comms might otherwise be missed. Whether it’s a mistake that needs correcting, a problem with a live project, or a constructive suggestion about an upcoming bid, information has value, so don’t neglect it.
Great for sharing goals and objectives
Internal communication tools can make it easier to share information, notes and working documents. This enhances teamwork and ultimately aligns everyone’s goals and objectives in the same direction.
It can bring people together
Better communication means better collaboration. Again, if your business relies on people working in teams, good internal comms tools will facilitate this. Even if not, communication across your workforce can help everybody to feel involved.
Improves the culture of your business
Togetherness is at the core of healthy company culture. I’ve written in the past about caring for your team’s mental health in business. A positive, constructive company culture with good communication goes to the very heart of that, while enhancing productivity and quality too.
Promotes your brand
Don’t underestimate the importance of internal communication as a marketing tool. If you can build a reputation as a great place to work, and as an innovative business that values its employees, you’ll gain positive perception among your customer base as a result.
Across the board, communication engages people, whether that’s as a passive listener or as the correspondent in a conversation. You can’t fake genuine engagement. It takes time, effort and interaction, so don’t cut corners if you want the best from your personnel.
The benefits of strong internal communications
- Reduce problems
- Retain talent
- Improve output
You may also find you reduce the burden on your middle managers – it’s easier to put out a flame than it is to put out a fire, and open internal comms can help to identify problems before they can take root.
Internal communications challenges
There are plenty of internal communications challenges to overcome. You can start by setting an example – remember that open-door policy? Be visible about acting on employees’ concerns, and don’t automatically side with the more senior rank.
You’re going to need buy-in at all levels, so speak to senior managers and middle managers about your internal communication strategy and make sure everybody’s on board. Make clear that internal comms is not about gossip or drama, but is a way to ensure that your business is running smoothly at all levels.
The various types of internal communication
Let’s look briefly at some types of internal communication strategy you might want to consider. You’re not limited to just one of these – they can work well as complementary internal comms tools within a broader overall strategy.
Most businesses have at least an illusion of this, with a management hierarchy capable of escalating issues if necessary. Make sure there’s a way to bypass any specific level in the hierarchy if that is where the problem itself is found.
Useful as a one-off or short-term strategy, change communication is about engaging personnel during times of transformation, and can significantly reduce stress and worry. In rapidly evolving organisations, you might want to make change communication a permanent part of your strategy.
Sharing information is a good way to add meat to your internal comms strategy. Where appropriate, allow relevant information to lead your communications, just as it does in good external comms (e.g. press releases).
A culture of open communication can be incredibly nurturing and reassuring, especially in stressful industries and regulated sectors. Again, this relies on near-universal buy-in from middle management and personnel at all levels, so nobody is left behind.
Campaign-led comms is a good way to improve communication in a business where you have maybe not communicated well in the past. Start including internal personnel in campaign updates (without just spamming their inbox) and you can start to build some rapport where once there was none.
How to create an internal communication strategy
To create an internal communication strategy, talk to your senior managers and (if you have one) your Managing Director. Think about your company hierarchy and whether messages should come directly from your office, or filter down through management.
Do you want communications to happen face-to-face or remotely? Remote options include video conferences, as well as simple emails. Do you need to include remote and hybrid workers? What about freelancers?
A good strategy covers all the bases, even if some of them will rarely be an issue. But as a minimum, make sure you have included all core personnel and given enough thought to communications in both directions: your updates to them, and their suggestions, concerns or complaints to you.
Internal communications strategy should come quite naturally, but if you don’t think about it from day one, your workplace can quickly become silent and insular, with problems going unreported and unrepaired.
To discuss any of the issues raised here or for a chat about how improving your internal communications strategy could help your business, contact me today.