Employee communication – is it really that important? Don’t the requisite emails and notifications sent to employees, along with the, you know, annual or semi-annual communique from the leadership, and the performance reviews, seem like a lot of communication already? What more is there? Shouldn’t the focus be on external communication, on clients and the external world? The fact of the matter is that in today’s world, especially with the growing millennial workforce that expects more than just the basics from employees, and makes a choice of which organization to work for based on just these kinds of factors, internal communication is gaining increasing prominence. Keeping them informed of happenings within the organization is one need, but making them feel a part of every activity and essential in the organization is paramount. Organizations today need to weave internal communication into their retention strategy, branding, and messaging.
Usually the purview of a company’s HR and Corporate Communications departments, it however depends on the size of the company in question, since smaller ones may have just one HR person who handles it all, or an HR team – but no separated out communication team. And of course, in very large organizations, the communication departments further split into internal and external comm.
Let’s start with the most basic question – what exactly is internal communication? Internal communication refers to sharing information and communicating with employees within the organization – appropriately, effectively, and frequently, and across a broad spectrum of topics and modes, touching employees at every level. Internal communication includes Downward, Upward, Lateral, Multi-Directional communication – from management/leaders to employees, from employees to management, between employees, and across all the levels, and can be formal or informal.
Formal channels include the aforementioned emailers and reviews, as well as the company intranet, reports, team meetings, presentations, policies that are disseminated, blogs, webinars, corporate videos, resource libraries…the list is endless – can you think of some more? Informal communication is more often than not verbal, and includes games and activities, water cooler conversations, the infamous “grapevine” and any casual conversation with a colleague or even your boss – you know, the “off the record” kind. Sometimes, information that would otherwise not have reached you comes your way as a result of this informal communication.
Food for thought: What do Social Media channels fall under?
As I write this, I am realizing that social media is fast becoming another medium of communication – from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Yammer or its equivalent. Where do these channels fall, I wonder? Are they formal, informal or somewhere in between, straddling the line? LinkedIn is seen as a professional networking site, and thus would probably get categorized as formal. But what about say an Instagram photo of an office party, or even a selfie taken at work? Tweets and FB posts are often in the form of a shared article or cartoon – is there some formal, thought out communication taking place or are they just an informal reaching out? As I ponder this, do head to the comments and share your perspective.
So, the next question then is, why should one expend effort and put time and thought into internal communication? Well, it has quite a widespread effect, actually. Effective internal communication is vital to employee engagement and morale and ultimately leads to higher motivation, productivity, loyalty, and impacts retention rates. It leaves employees with a sense of belonging, of purpose, of feeling important and vital to the organization. And this directly correlates to employee satisfaction rates. Employee buy-in increases and that affects performance as well, when they feel cared for.
One of our recent clients at Prayag, one of the “big five” in the accounting world, is a prime example of a company that takes its internal communication very seriously – and it shows in multiple ways. For one, they have a dedicated team internally. Then they decided that they wanted to work with an agency to help with ideation and execution of their internal communication campaigns, which, by the way, are a calendarized, well thought out and planned in advance set of endeavors. They are always on the lookout for innovative and interesting ways to share information and communicate with the employee base – be it introducing new recruits, announcing annual results, a CSR event, or anything else. After spending a week at their offices for induction, I came back struck by the enthusiasm, dedication, and high levels of motivation of the employees I met. And I think it is safe to say that one of the reasons for the willingness to log in at late hours, take meetings from home and be available, is the company’s culture, strong communication with, and support for, employees.