Why should you improve internal communications?
According to Towers Watson study companies with highly effective communication practices enjoy 47% higher total returns to shareholders compared with organizations that are less effective at communicating.
Improved internal communications doesn't only affect your returns to shareholder, it also can increase employee engagement, build stronger teams and enhance company competitiveness. Effective internal communications practices help increase productivity, build a better workplace and reduce day-to-day conflict between team members.
So, there are plenty of reasons to deal with internal communications in a strategic matter. Unfortunately, companies rarely make it a priority.
Robert Sher, who gives excellent advice to CEOs in midsized businesses and has extensive experience in improving internal communications, shares a case study. After several months, a software company created an IT development tool and pressed it to the global development team. This caused resentment resulting in rejection of using the tool. With just few months, the company had created the tool and also shelved it. Without putting much effort to communicating with other departments, leaders made decisions in a vacuum.
Therefore, improving internal communications should be just as important as increasing the sales. To give you some practical advice, we have summed up some of the lessons leaders tend to miss.
How to improve internal communications?
1. Encourage sharing, input and dialogue
Internal communications isn't one way street. Good communication flows both ways. As important as it is to give feedback to your employees, its also crucial to teach your people to give feedback on information they get. The key to unlock this step is an open and trustworthy culture that encourages dialogue. When your employees understand their role and expectations, they'll work for success.
2. Have managers lead by example
Would you encourage people stay late at the office to work on a project and then leave sharply at 5? Would you talk openly about companies financial difficulties and then buy yourself a brand new luxury car?
I hope you said no, because one of the best things you can do is lead by example. Therefore, if you want your employees to communicate, make sure you do the same. If you expect your team to share information openly and provide necessary answers, make sure you do the same.
3. Get employee buy-in
Leading by example is a good start but sometimes you'll need a little extra effort to get the employee buy-in. Each year, millions of dollars are wasted due to poor communications and silly misunderstandings. This is a concerning fact for leaders, yet not particularly convincing for employees. In order to get an employee buy-in you need to show and actually provide value. As silly as it might sound, you need to excite them about the cause of sharing information. You need to show the benefits they'll receive.
4. Make objectives and goals public
On average, half of companies fail to effectively communicate business strategies to employees in a way they could live it in their daily jobs. Its quite difficult to execute a strategy that you don't have a full picture of. To make your employees work easier and more meaningful, publish company, team and personal goals. Make them clear and visible to everyone. One great method that can help you are the OKRs – Objectives and Key Results.
5. Use online tools instead of meetings
Office workers waste around 3,8 hours a week on unproductive meetings. With proper planning you might be able to make your team meetings more efficient, but sometimes it's not worth the effort. There are better ways to communicate and collaborate. One option is to use online team update and reporting tools. What is more, improved collaboration through social technologies could raise the productivity of interaction by 20%.
6. Establish regular processes
Communication should be a part of daily or weekly routine, not annual information blast. People need and want granular real-time updates. Therefore, make communication a weekly process with defined rules.
7. Train people in the language of sharing
The fact that you understand your thoughts, doesn't automatically mean others will have the same understanding. Most people are trained at writing for themselves, sharing information from their perspectives and not for others. Nonetheless, writing well and understandably is a learned skill. A skill that can be mastered if there is a coach that can help.
8. Use mobile tools
People are accustomed to consuming information on the go. They are spoiled with the choice of getting the exact answer wherever they are. More and more employees are working from different parts of the globe and therefore need the information as they move around. Provide tools for internal work-related sharing on phones and tablets. You can also try out Weekdone app.
9. Survey your employees
Run regular employee surveys to get answers to most pressing issues and know the current state. Be aware of what your team feels and thinks, don't concentrate only on the achievements and plans. Having insights to what gets discussed over the casual cup of coffee and around the lunch table can provide valuable learning points. This kind of information is something that could predict future success stories or miserable failures.
All of the previous steps are pointless, if the you don't know how to listen and take in the new information. Quite often, listening is more important than publishing information. It's not enough to ask for input, it is vital to be able to really wait for it and listen to it. In the end, we have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.
Try implementing one of these steps right away. Don't wait for another misunderstanding to emerge. Act now.