Internal communication has a lot in common with healthy living. Everybody knows the benefits, but people still disregard their importance.
Suppose a company announces to employees that it’s being taken over. Immediately, unhealthy thoughts creep in, and people start to worry about their jobs. Will positions still exist? Will they move to a new location? The communications team posts a Q&A document on the company intranet to help assuage those fears, but this one-time communication isn’t enough, and anxieties grow.
The ills of ineffective internal communication
This situation is stressful and unhealthy, undermining productivity, motivation, and morale. We often forget that behind each disengaged employee is a human being with feelings, and when we don’t communicate with them effectively, people feel underappreciated, disoriented and stressed. In time, these stresses can develop into physical health problems as well.
I am not a medical expert, but I know communication plays a major role in the overall well-being of both the team and the organization. It’s not just about what you communicate; it’s also often about managing expectations.
1. Match the company’s insides and outsides. When I interview people, I’m always open about what to expect at our company. It’s important to ensure the inside experience is consistent with the view from the outside. A new employee should never feel like she’s discovering a whole new world on the first day. Instead, it should be a confirmation of everything she understood coming into the position.
In a larger organization, it could mean empowering human resources to play a greater role in creating the company’s external image by connecting the dots between marketing and recruitment. Many HR executives are arguing for greater strategic roles in their companies, and that can only help project the right image to potential employees.
2. Strive to be transparent. Management transparency affects employee happiness more than any other factor and by a wide margin. We’ve experienced two waves of major changes in the last three years. During the first wave, we failed to communicate properly, and many people suffered; some left the company.
When the second wave came, we were brutally honest and upfront about the situation. Some people still opted out, but at least everyone understood the circumstances behind the changes. HR stepped in to mediate, and our open communication eliminated many of the reasons for personal disappointment. I believe that helped mitigate the stress as a result.
3. Provide an outlet. Sometimes, employees need to voice and release their feelings, and effective HR communication opportunities provide methods for giving that feedback. It could be a scheduled dialogue or individual meetings with the team leader and an HR representative.
We have a performance dialogue every six months, and I read back over every last comment. Other businesses have different approaches, but the idea is to provide opportunities for people to express their opinions on how changes are working out.
4. Repeat yourself. Whenever I communicate something important, I start at the monthly company meeting, follow it up by sharing the presentation online and then offer smaller sessions to dig deeper into various aspects of the plan.
Repetition is key to ensuring a message gets through. Don’t just stick to one channel. Use multiple approaches to ensure the message reaches everyone on their own turf, including modern channels via the personal phones of your people.
Employee well-being is vital to any business. It’s a complex matter, but we can all start with the basics of good communication. You can’t make everybody happy, but you can be open so everybody can decide if what you have to offer is what they need to be happy.
Daniel Kraft is the president and CEO of Sitrion. Sitrion provides millions of people with a mobile and socially enabled workplace that’s tightly integrated with SAP, Microsoft SharePoint, Office 365, and Salesforce. Kraft has been featured on TEDx.
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