Internal communications can be one of the most complex pieces of an organization and yet, it is one area that everybody thinks they understand -- simply because they are an employee.
No one would ever suggest that it's not important; however, the lack of understanding also causes some disparity in what is required in order to communicate properly.
The problem with having an under-resourced function is that it's is a surefire way to make it an under-performing one. When you have a cast of people who think they know how to communicate with employees and a communications department that has too little funding, and too few people to do it properly, you end up with a rash of well intentioned mistakes that amount to no more than a game of broken telephone. I have spoken with many frustrated communicators who have inherited a mess of tools, protocols, and channels and tried to make it work.
However, the fact remains that sometimes, the best approach to fixing internal communications is to pair it back and rebuild it from the ground up.
I once took over an internal communications department with no staff, no process or protocol, and no clear ownership. Imagine what the outcome was -- no value! Let me give you an example of how broken it was: more than 30,000 people were working for the company and only 1,500 of them had access to email, but guess how 80 per cent of the communication was distributed to "all employees" -- yes, by email.
There are so many mistakes that are being made and overlooked by companies across the country.
When I audit a company's communications and speak to their employees, here are few of the issues:
Excess volume - Too many communications that are made throughout the day, week, and month without any schedule, common sense, or reason.
Poor prioritization -- This happens all too often in companies across North America (and usually because of poorly understood company values). It occurs when everything is labeled high priority. When everything is a high priority, nothing actually becomes a priority.
Inferior quality - spelling mistakes, poor grammar, using various low resolution photos or word art - these kinds of quality issues take away from the message and can even make the most important message seem like a bad joke.
Process breakdown -- Approvals are important, but the process should be as clean as possible. Having ten people review a document is an arduous process, and frankly, a waste of time. No more than three people, other than the author, should ever be required to review anything.
Lack of two-way dialogue -- The expectation for transparency today is way too high. Employees need to be able to provide feedback to be a part of the conversation. It's much better if that dialogue happens inside the company, with other employees with the same level of knowledge, instead of on the company's Facebook page or worse, somewhere else for everyone to see
Oversupply of tools -- When you have to ask yourself which tool or channel should be used to disseminate a piece of news, it might be time to ask yourself if you have too many. Simplicity is the key, but don't overuse email or any push communications tool.
There are some great examples of internal communications programs out there that are seamless, conversational, and informative for both employees and senior level executives. The fact is, the reason these common mistakes happen so often is because companies fail to realize how important internal communications actually are. They should support the function with resources (people and budget) to develop, implement, and measure it properly
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