Does your organization have an internal communications plan?
It most definitely should.
Why? Because a successful IC plan:
- Facilitates knowledge flow across your organization, making it easier for everyone to access the information they need when they need it, and eliminating unhelpful knowledge silos.
- Ensures your employees know everything they need to know – from what hours they’re working week to week, to how much leave they have taken and when they can expect to be paid.
- Builds trust and engagement across your organization, which results in employees staying in their roles longer and higher productivity overall.
This last point is especially pertinent. According to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer, “My employer” is now the most trusted of any institution. In other words, employees consider communications from their employer as the most trusted source of information – so it’s imperative you have an effective internal communication plan that meets their expectations so you can reap the benefits of increased trust and engagement from your workforce.
Here are three tips for building a successful internal communication plan.
1. Integrate your external PR and internal communications strategy
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for synchronicity between organizations’ PR output and their IC strategy.
Those that aligned key messages between the two channels maintained greater employee trust, even if the news wasn’t positive. Perhaps this is why internal comms is now a major trust center in many organizations – in the Gallagher’s State of the Sector 2022 report, 85% of IC respondents said they are viewed as influential trusted advisors by senior leaders. This is a significant increase from just 67% in 2020.
As we continue to move on from the pandemic, it’s worth thinking about more strategic approaches to so-called ‘mixternal’ comms. Both internal and external communication are vital for directing your organization’s narrative among two vitally important groups of stakeholders – your customers and your employees.
With competition for talent intense (the number of open vacancies remains high, and productivity loss caused by a wave of quiet quitting is a real issue for employers), internal PR is set to become a huge consideration for businesses in the coming year. In 2022, 40% of internal communicators stated that their collaboration with marketing, PR, and external comms teams increased over the past 12 months – and the upwards trend looks set to continue.
To build an internal communication strategy that gels with external comms:
- Meet regularly with colleagues in marketing and PR to review key corporate messaging and plan content that aligns with common business objectives.
- Consider creating a joint ‘corporate comms’ unit to encourage strategic alignment and eliminate any knowledge silos between external and internal comms.
- Look for talent that will help you bridge the gap – HR and PR professionals both have the required skills, as do former journalists who can transition easily into a corporate comms role.
2. Make sure internal communication channels are accessible to everyone
Internal comms isn’t just about what you communicate in words. It’s also about the unspoken impressions key decisions create – even if you don’t mean them to. Your choice of internal communications channels is one of the most prominent examples of how this works.
Investing in channels that aren’t accessible to everyone in your organization suggests you favor some groups (such as on-site, desk-based employees) over others (like field workers or remote workers). This can leave certain groups feeling out of the loop, disregarded by senior management, and unable to make useful connections across the organization. As a result, employees disengage, and productivity begins to dip.
The potential impact on revenue here is alarming – according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 Report, disengaged employees cost the world $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. Meanwhile, a majority of remote workers feel less connected to their colleagues since beginning remote work.
Maintaining employees’ connection to each other and your organization is vital for employee engagement, so invest in channels that work for everyone.
Understanding communications channels during internal communication planning
A strong IC plan is all about choosing and managing your internal communication channels effectively. Your options are:
- Use a number of different channels to communicate with different groups of employees
- Use a single, centralized method of communication that everyone can access
Option 2 is by far the best strategy. Using different channels to communicate siloes knowledge into different employee groups, reduces employees’ ability to engage with the organization as a whole, and – from a strategic perspective – reduces business leaders’ visibility into internal communication.
A modern intranet or digital workplace is the ideal solution to bring everything under one roof. With cloud-based options available, and the ability to offer employees access via customized mobile app, no one misses key messages.
3. Involve stakeholders from across your organization
Whilst your internal communication plan will likely be created by a specialized team, it’s a strategy that will affect every single employee working for your organization. Certain individuals, groups, and departments will have needs that you won’t be able to anticipate on your own, so involving key stakeholders as you build, review, and implement your internal communication plan is vital.
Create a stakeholder panel for regular discussion and feedback on your internal communications strategy. Depending on the structure of your organization, you could include:
- HR, payroll, and line managers – for insight into day-to-day comms
- Senior management – to help align your internal communications plan with key business goals
- Marketing and PR – to align external comms with your internal communications plan
- IT – to implement and run any internal comms software your plan requires
- Representatives from each department – to address specific requirements, including distributed, mobile and offshored teams
With internal communications success comes improvements in company culture, higher levels of employee engagement, and the potential for better business outcomes.
To create an internal communication plan with the power to generate employee trust, you must engage key stakeholders early, ensure that the strategy is aligned closely with external PR, and opt for a single digital workplace solution.