One impact of the global pandemic, and the steep rise in remote or hybrid workforces, is that many businesses have had to acknowledge the true value of their internal communications function. For many this has identified that they have a poor – or non-existent – strategy sitting over their communication activities which could lead to misunderstandings and missed opportunities.
With employees working from home, in flexible working patterns, or returning to the office it has been – and will continue to be – vital to maintain healthy, targeted, appropriate communications across your organisation. Research has shown that businesses with good communication practices see 47 percent higher returns to shareholders.
But how do you re-establish, or create, a good communication strategy when you need it the most?
Assess the damage
It’s hard to know how to improve if you don’t know what to improve so it’s worth examining what isn’t working in your current comms strategy.
According to the Gatehouse ‘State of the Sector 2020‘ report, some of the most common barriers to success are:
- Excessive, un-targeted communication
- Poor collaboration and buy-in with line managers
- A lack of IC measurement
- Little to no planning and long-term strategy
- Technological limitations, and a lack of investment in IC technology
If you struggle with any of these issues, take comfort in the knowledge that you’re not alone. More than 40% of organisations say the volume of communications is too high in their business, and almost as many cite hard-to-reach employees as getting in the way of successful communications.
That same report found that one in five IC professionals ‘don’t, or very rarely, measure their internal communications’. Before establishing your communication strategy, consider: are you tracking your communications, and are you ready to start?
Take stock of the tools you have and be honest about those that you are using. Consider creating a baseline by conducting a survey of employees to find out what they’d like to see from internal comms.
Head to the source
If your IC strategy has an engagement problem, it’s important to make sure the leadership of the organisation is bought in before moving onto the rest of the organisation. Securing buy-in from senior management and the C-Suite is essential. Over 60 percent of business transformation efforts fail, and if the people at the top don’t engage with improving IC efforts, nobody else will feel the need to. Turn your executives into IC allies.
Evaluate the relationship that managers and the C-Suite have with the function and determine whether that needs to change or improve. Invest time in communicating your own strategy and plan, including a focus on training the line managers, the inevitable facilitators of much of your messaging. Line managers can be seen as roadblocks but taking the time to educate them and buy them into your strategy could pay dividends in the long run. Sharing the results of your IC audit could inspire them to see the value in supporting your plan.
With clear parameters and goals agreed at board level, and line managers engaged with the execution plan, your IC strategy should have the support and traction it needs for you to roll it out across the organisation
Engage the engagers
One of the key comms metrics is engagement and if no one is reading or responding to intranet posts or company-wide emails, something is going wrong. ‘Shouting into the void’ is frustrating, costly, and pointless.
Engagement must be one of the core targets of your IC strategy so take the time to talk to the people that it is designed to serve. Getting a read on employees’ opinions on the current strategy is useful. Follow this up with a more detailed dive into what they’d like to see, and how they’d like to interact with the company. Bake this communication loop into your long-term strategy by making it as easy as possible for staff to provide feedback.
Refresh your tech
If you’re relying on an outdated intranet, or still delivering all your internal comms via email, then you will be fighting an uphill battle. A lack of investment in internal technology may have been an issue in the past, but the pandemic-triggered changes in working practices have seen more and more businesses investing in communication technology.
A successful internal communications hub, or digital platform will open the scope of your IC function, allowing for structured planning, meaningful insights and tangible results.
Your technology can help you to:
Organise content into campaigns:
Less than one in two teams make use of a formal planning document to create structure around communication content. Purpose build tools – such as Ripple’s Publisher – give you easy ways to tag your content and group it into campaigns, align it to particular teams or groups, and align your work to longer term objectives.
With the right technology you should be able to dive into analytics to learn how your content is performing against your KPIs, and tailor future communications to your findings. Ripple’s Campaign Dashboard brings your analysis right into the heart of your communication management hub, allowing you to track performance of messaging and campaigns, and identify influencers.
Target content to groups of employees:
You need the tools to be able to target campaigns or messaging specific people, groups or teams – regardless of the channel. This is particularly true for larger or more complex organisations. Ripple’s Planner gives you the ability to see your campaign plan and easily drag and drop to manage your execution plan and avoid inundating particular groups.
Manage a complex communication plan with ease:
Using purpose-built tools that are specifically designed to help you manage your internal communications strategies can create efficiencies and significantly improve the end result for your employees. Ripple was built by people who understand the challenges of Internal Communications and the tools within it are targeted at resolving the pain points of a successful IC comms strategy.
Whether you need to create a ground-up IC strategy or redress an outdated approach, you have a significant task ahead of you. But follow the steps through and develop a clearly thought through strategy, with the support from the company leadership, underpinned with the tools and the passion to see it through – and you will soon start to see the change in your employee engagement, and the resulting value to your business.