6 Guidelines for Effective Employee Communications

March 2020
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It’s not a secret that effective communication with employees matters — a lot. It impacts morale, engagement, satisfaction and even job performance.

However, despite all of these reasons, internal communications is often overlooked and undervalued. Too many organizations make the mistake of thinking that employees already know, don’t care or won’t notice when change is happening around them. 

They also naively believe that employees are content simply doing their jobs and aren’t looking for a greater connection with their managers, executives and colleagues. The reality is: A thoughtful internal communications program can make all the difference for a company’s people, and, in turn, the organization itself.  

Here are some things to keep in mind when building your internal communications initiative: 

1. Appreciate the power of your people.

Employees are a company’s most powerful audience. They can be great advocates or staunch adversaries. When organizations and their leaders trust employees enough to bring them along for the ride — even when it gets bumpy — and are transparent, honest and direct, the chances of a positive response will increase exponentially. 

2. Don’t make assumptions.

When building an internal communications initiative, don’t assume you know what employees want, need or expect. Don’t guess either; ask them. They are people with valid opinions and ideas. 

There are many great ways to engage employees before and during an ongoing communications program: surveys, focus groups, CEO town halls, off-site activities, brown bag lunches and one-on-one coffee outings with leaders. Even anonymous suggestion boxes work. Not only will employees know they are being heard, the organization will also likely be improved as a result. 

3. Be clear on what’s happening.

Reading between the lines creates doubt and confusion, while implying something is hidden in the murky messages. In times of change, corporate communication teams and senior leaders need to be clear on what is happening within an organization and then develop a communications strategy and timeline for sharing that information with employees. 

Don’t start communicating with any key audiences — employees or otherwise — before the facts are straight.

4. Create communications materials.

As with any good plan, strategy is important. But then, you’ll need to get down to specifics. If an important corporate announcement is being made, then develop a clear work-back timeline. Consider your tactics: emails, in-person manager meetings, companywide announcements, among other things. The more detail the better to ensure nothing goes awry or catches someone off guard.

Develop key communication materials — FAQ, custom talking points for all spokespersons, written communications, a video script — for supporting the above-mentioned tactics. Train the spokespeople who will be delivering the news. 

With internal communications, it’s inevitable that key messages will be delivered by multiple people. To ensure the message is controlled and shared appropriately, take the time to train these individuals entrusted with the communication delivery. 

5. Ask and ask again. 

Following a major announcement, corporate communications teams should catch their breath and then take the time to reevaluate employees’ understanding of the news and how they are responding. 

Keep surveying — both formally and informally — to keep a pulse on employee engagement and morale. Annual surveys are great, but quick gut checks are just as, if not more, effective. Allow for real-time feedback and changes — especially to ongoing programs. 

6. Be authentic. 

Authenticity is the real key to all communication success. Each organization has its own policies, approach and comfort level when it comes to sharing information and that’s completely fine. Just stay true to those rules, and be honest, factual and clear with employees above all.

photo credit: huber & stark

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