To be successful in communicating with your employees, there are ten “musts” that will make your program effective.
1. The impetus for good internal communications must come from the top. In order for communications with employees to be meaningful and relevant, there has to be active involvement and a commitment to communicate from your chief executive. The senior managers must use the tools you have to keep line employees up-to-date about strategic issues and challenges. Without that buy-in, any internal communications program is doomed to irrelevance.
2. You must have a plan in order to implement a successful program. Without a roadmap, it’s hard to get where you’re going. Identify the internal communications goals you have, assign staff responsibilities, and determine what tools you have or would like to develop. Set policies and procedures, so everyone knows what is expected from them.
3. Communications must be consistent and timely. In order for a communications channel to be adopted, your audience needs to see that it is consistently used and that the information they receive is both useful and timely. If your communications are sporadic or non-existent, or if they’re inaccurate or too late to help, then they won’t have any reason to listen. Strive to send messages in a predictable way, and that are filled with interesting information. And always make sure they hear it from you first, before the rumor mill can grind out competing messages.
4. You must leverage the chain of command and existing communication opportunities. Messages coming from line managers are the most direct and credible way to reach front line staff. Don’t reinvent the wheel or force employees to find your communications; instead use existing staff and team meetings to get your messages out, in addition to tools like email, social media, and intranets.
5. When you communicate, you must be honest, open, and credible. Your employees will know if you give them half answers or political spin. Be authentic, give them as much information as you have, and make them partners in the problem-solving process.
6. You must use communications to build a shared culture, not just to ram messages down your employee’s throats. Use your internal communications to celebrate successes across the organization, to talk about the values and vision shared across the organization, and to help employees see how their efforts contribute to the organization’s strategies.
7. You must remember to acknowledge your employees point of view in your communications. Your employees will always want to know “why do I need to know this?” Identify why and include those reasons as part of your communications. Sometimes it’s obvious, but sometimes it’s not.
8. You must be open to feedback. Communications is a two-way street. Without having mechanisms to ask questions, provide feedback, or complain, employees will quickly tune you out. Nobody wants to be at the receiving end of a megaphone.
9. Internal communications must be consistent with your external communications. What you tell your employees must jibe with what you’re saying to the public. Remember that your employees may live in the community and be considered “experts” on your organization by their friends and neighbors. The more they know, the better ambassadors they will be.
10. You must have an internal communications program. Talking to your employees is not optional. Not only do they have a valid need to be informed about organizational issues, but morale is affected by the level of communication within the organization, particularly in times of crisis or organizational change.