7 Tips for Creating an Internal Communication Plan that Effectively Engages Employees
By Lisa Maxime
Communication planning season is upon us! Throw the confetti and bring out the glasses of wine.
Communication teams are brainstorming, planning, and putting the finishing touches on their 2018 plans, or so I hope. Effective communication is the result of intentional planning and identification of specific tactics that will achieve organizational goals.
While most communication plans are created with external audiences in mind, it is imperative that internal audiences remain at the forefront of all communication planning.
An organization’s success begins with its ability to engage and inform its employees. They are the gatekeepers to an organization’s overall performance and profitability, so it is vital that they understand how their daily tasks align and contribute to the organization’s goals and strategies.
If you have completed your 2018 internal communication plans, hats off to you. If you have not, do not fear.
Here are seven tips to consider when creating your internal communication plan.
1. Use Polls or Surveys to Identify Areas of Improvement
Create a poll or survey to identify improvement areas for your current plan. If you have time, create a survey that focuses on specific areas you suspect need improvement. Use open-ended questions to solicit feedback.
If you are short on time or work in an environment in which the employees are pressed for time, consider using a poll. Select one or two questions that you think would really help with updating the communication plan.
For example, ask employees if they are satisfied with the current communication vehicles used to distribute information. Do they feel the information distributed is useful? What would they change about the current internal communications?
These questions are quick and to the point. Employees are more likely to participate and provide feedback.
2. Interview Current Employees
Employees are a valuable resource to use when attempting to gauge the organization’s culture and climate. Interview a few to get their opinion of what the company is doing well in regards to employee engagement, as well as what the company could improve on. Use their responses to come up with topics or themes for the company newsletter, blog post, event planning, or even providing feedback to senior managers and executives.
3. Listen … No, Really Listen
You have conducted surveys, polls, and interviews, now make sure you take those responses and really listen to the needs, desires, and feelings of your internal audience. They trusted you enough to share their thoughts and opinions, use that information to make a better strategy to communicate and engage them in 2018.
Effective listening is one of the most crucial skills to have. It is also one of the hardest to apply. We all have a lot going on and it is easy to “zone-out” when you should be listening. It takes a conscious effort to remain in the present and not drift away.
But you must do it. If you are serious about improving your organization’s internal communications, listen to the needs of your internal audience and try to address those needs in the upcoming year.
You will not be able to address them all, but pick a few and be intentional about bringing those issues to the forefront throughout the year. The employees will be appreciative and more likely to participate in future surveys, interview, and polls.
There is nothing more frustrating as an employee than taking the time to respond to a survey or poll only to find out your concerns have fallen on deaf ears. If for some reason you are unable to address a concern, be transparent and give a reason why it may not be addressed in the upcoming year.
Transparency and honesty go a long way in gaining the trust and respect of the employees.
4. Keep Up with Technology
This is a difficult task, no doubt, but very necessary. Technology continues to change how we communicate with one another and it shows no signs of slowing down. As a communicator, you must stay informed of these changes because they could affect your communication goals or the decisions you make about distributing information.
You can stay abreast with the help of social media, your IT personnel, articles, and professional associations.
Being informed about upcoming technologies can help with planning your communication needs in the future. Does your company need to upgrade? Can the system be used by all departments? Is it a system used by communicators only? Will it enhance your current system and increase productivity?
These are all questions that need to be asked when deciding if the latest technology will be beneficial in communicating with internal stakeholders.
5. Use Multiple Communication Channels, If Necessary
Different communication channels are needed depending on the complexity of the message being delivered. Many times, you need to use multiple channels to ensure the message is received efficiently and in a format, that provides clarity.
Decide if the message is complicated or will elicit strong feelings. If so, a face-to-face meeting or broadcast media may be appropriate. Allowing the audience to interact with the speaker can absolve doubt and fear. The audience also has the opportunity to ask questions and interact with the speaker.
Mobile channels can be used to deliver private, complex messages to individuals or small groups. The audience is able to interpret the speaker’s tone and message. Mobile channels can save on time and difficulty it may take to coordinate a face-to-face meeting.
If the message is less personal, consider using email, websites, intranet, or social media. However, make sure the message is clear and to the point.
Messages that need little to no interaction can be delivered in the written form: policies, letters, announcement, etc.
Use a combination of these channels to make sure the message is being delivered in the most efficient manner.
6. Be Transparent
Consult with senior management and executives to determine a policy for sharing information. Lack of information in a timely manner leads to rumors and anxiety. Employees feel distrust and detachment from the organization when they are kept in the dark.
Of course, you cannot share everything, but senior leadership should make every effort to share information about what is going on in the organization and how it will affect its employees. If change is coming down the pipeline, address the changes to expect.
Frequently sharing information on a consistent basis will help strengthen the employee’s commitment to the organization. Remember they are adults and would rather hear bad news than no news.
7. Determine Your Metrics
Last, but certainly not least, identify the metrics you will use to define success. Decide if your definition of a successful internal communications campaign is defined by social shares, employee engagement metrics, or the number of employees logging onto the intranet.
Will you use surveys and polls throughout the year? If so, at what intervals? What are you looking for in your analysis of the data collected? Are you measuring likes, comments, and shares on an article? Did a topic really get employees talking? Was the company picnic and holiday party a success because of information gathered from employees?
Whatever you decide to use should measure results that move the organization towards its goals for 2018.
Communications planning can be overwhelming and stressful, but the tips above should help you in identifying factors you should consider when developing your plan.
I hope 2018 is your best year of communicating internally!
Author’s Note: Lisa Maxime is founder of Zemy Enterprises, a communications consulting firm providing sustainable, forward-thinking communications strategies and solutions to businesses looking to increase organizational performance and profitability. For more information on how Zemy can help your company engage, empower, and execute visit us at www.lisamaxime.com