How to Keep Your Teams Engaged and Build Trust

April 2021
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Internal communications can improve employee productivity and company performance, research has found.

According to Gallup’s 2017 “State of the Workplace” report, employees who are highly engaged with their work can boost customer ratings by 10 percent and sales by 20 percent. Overall, the report found, “the behaviors of highly engaged business units result in 21 percent greater profitability.” Such organizations communicate openly and consistently, the report found.

Similarly, a 2013/2014 report by consulting firm Willis Towers Watson found that organizations with strong programs for internal change and communication are 3.5 times more likely to outperform their peers. Despite such evidence, however, a 2018 survey from the insurance and consulting firm Gallagher found that six out of 10 companies lack a long-term strategy for internal communications.

Internal communications should align with the organization’s values and purpose. When an organization’s words don’t reflect its values or those of its stakeholders, misunderstandings and distrust arise. To build confidence and trust among employees, every message shared should be consistent with the organization’s stated values.

Another way to strengthen internal communications is by avoiding clichés and lazy writing — such as repeated words, limited explanations, jarring pronouncements with no context, etc. The best communication is clear and concise. Compelling content requires original thinking and a deft touch.

Frequent communication, easy to access and understand

As communicators, we should keep our messages brief and straightforward. Since we can never assume employees will read an entire message, we should lead with our strongest material.

During the pandemic many people are fatigued by information overload, so it helps to communicate with employees in short, measured bursts. Brevity helps assure the message is read, while clarity ensures it’s understood.

When communicating the rollout of a complex internal issue, for example, a good strategy is to create a stream of frequent information that’s easy for employees to access and understand. Better yet, we can make that information available in multiple locations. Consider developing additional resources such as FAQs, fact sheets, break-room flyers and other materials that reiterate the company’s position.

When it comes to communicating with them about difficult internal issues, employees will be more involved when given the opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns or share their opinions without risking retaliation. Make managers and supervisors your partners in communicating, and assure they understand the need to be empathetic.

Communicating with employees requires us to be unafraid of new communications platforms — but also not to fall for every new, shiny object. As remote work continues, more tools are available for employee communication than ever before. But we should vet them thoroughly and not jump from platform to platform.

When choosing technology for internal communications, consistency and the right fit are what matter. It helps to create private, dedicated spaces such as Facebook groups, Slack messaging programs or company intranet sites.

Successful employee communication is simple and direct. It incorporates both a “push” strategy (distributing information proactively) and a “pull” component (providing resource locations that employees can access when needed). This blend lets employees find information and makes sure they receive important messages.

Communicators can also reach employees by creating a cadenced plan for important announcements. For complex business issues or organizational changes, outline an internal communications strategy ahead of time.

An internal communications approach that includes positive messages and details of the company’s plans will help manage the flow of information and prevent misinformation. The internal communications strategy needs to be in harmony with any external strategy and its messages should become more frequent as any major announcement nears.

Keeping teams engaged, especially during a pandemic, is difficult. With the workplace changed and employees stretched thin, communication matters now more than ever. The best long-term strategy for internal communications is to treat employees as we would any audience, by giving them timely messages they can easily access and understand. 

Return to Current Issue Internal Comms for Employees Near and Far | April 2021
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