Critical Communications: the Internal Loop

Is your team "in the know?"

Is your team “in the know?”

How often do you reach out to your team? Is it only when you have a major announcement? Is it once a month in a generic newsletter? Your employees should be your company’s biggest fans. They are your voice to the rest of the world whether you intend them to be or not. If you think your PR, marketing, customer service, and sales teams are the only ones who “sell” your company, you’d be sadly mistaken. Nine times out of 10, one of the first conversation starters on almost any occasion, either business or personal, is to ask what someone does for a living. Is your staff answering with a vague, role-based response, or do they sing the praises of their amazing employer?

Employees want to feel as if they are part of the strategic equation, that they have an impact on the organization’s success. Whether they are in an administrative role, a management position, or a technical role, it is critical that they feel like they know what is going on in the company. Transparency goes a long way in earning your team’s trust. Open communications also encourage a more collegial atmosphere, which, in turn leads to enhanced workplace satisfaction.

The effectiveness of the program you put in place will be dependent upon your corporate culture. Every organization has preferred methods of communicating, but getting the right mix together and not relying on only one method is key. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Monthly Newsletter – this should include an intro from the President/CEO, updates from every division, high level announcements on the latest wins and new corporate initiatives, and employee highlights. I have found that the employee highlights section tends to actually get the most traction. People genuinely want to learn about their co-workers, but they also love to see their own names in print. Include marriages, births, birthdays, graduations, corporate anniversaries… but even more importantly, do a write-up on someone’s recent trip to Europe, an anecdotal experience with a client from the employee’s perspective, or even charitable activities that are near and dear to your team’s hearts. One month, we did a fun write-up about a client team’s experience with the office mouse (yes, a live one) and how they caught the little guy and set him free outside. It got more reads than the HR Update. The point is to make it personal.

Private Social Networks – Your team loves to interact with others on Facebook, Twitter, and even LinkedIn, so setting up a private corporate social network can be extremely effective in the right environment. Several years ago, we set up Yammer for an internal beta team to try out. It caught on better than we expected, and the users very quickly expanded beyond the beta group. Everyone wanted to participate. They shared relevant articles, created project groups to discuss client milestones and activities, asked questions and commented with helpful information. It worked because it was part of our social culture, so understand your team and what resonates with them.

Instant Messaging – The fast pace and overflowing inboxes of today’s workplace demand a way to instantly connect. Why not use something that most everyone on your team is familiar with? Years ago, it was AIM. Then there are those who favor tools like Skype, especially if you have an international team. Other organizations use Salesforce Chatter. Just be sure it is something that ALL employees have access to and that they not only create a user profile on day one at your company, but are also provided with a list of all internal usernames when they set it up.

Email Announcements – Big announcements such as major business wins, acquisition of another company, key new hires, or even the grand opening of a new office should be communicated to the entire team as quickly as possible. It garners enthusiasm and rallies the troops around positive news. Yes, many people ignore emails these days, but if you use it specifically for special announcements and label it as such, it has an immediate impact on the team.

Monthly All-Hands Calls/Webinars – This is a very basic way to keep the entire team “in the know.” As I mentioned before, transparency goes a long way in earning the trust and respect of your team. Share financials, company challenges (and how they will be resolved), and encourage feedback, both on the call and offline with the option of remaining anonymous. Solicit questions before the call to ensure you are prepared to answer anything the team may be wondering about.

Annual All-Hands Retreats – With today’s globally dispersed teams, it is more important than ever to have that face-to-face connection. The camaraderie that comes out of well-planned corporate retreats is invaluable. This is your chance to bring critical training to a dispersed team, implement effective team-building exercises, but most importantly, allow your team to be social in a relaxed atmosphere away from the office. I would argue that these retreats are far more effective if there is more focus on interaction between employees than high stress workshops, so keep the latter to a minimum, and make sure the ones you do have are worthwhile and will provide everyone with real learning opportunities.

Weekly Team Calls – Sometimes you just need each of your divisions on the same page, and it is more efficient to inform your management team and allow them to disseminate to their teams in a more intimate forum. Having team calls also allows them to focus on areas of importance to their projects without boring the entire team with superfluous information that is not pertinent to the company as a whole or to their specific jobs.

But there is one more piece to this puzzle. And what is that secret ingredient? Content and timing. Just as is the case with your external communications, you need to customize your messaging – providing information that resonates with your audience – and it has to be sent at the appropriate time. But marketers, this is your area of expertise. Segment your internal audience as necessary to get the right messages to the right people at the right time. The result will be a team that carries your corporate flag with a consistent message, consistent branding, an inclusive culture, and will inspire loyalty within your ranks. What internal communications programs have you found to be effective?

leave a comment