Two pieces of news regarding employee communications have caught our eye recently, both of which highlight the complexity as well as the potential of digital technology and communication in the workplace. We have already blogged about the mobile phone’s growing importance as a workplace tool, but this week we’re going to drill down into the dos and don’ts of improving internal communications to help you find a system that works for your business and your team.
It’s easy to put internal comms low down the priority list, particularly if you’re a small business where everyone works closely together. After all, isn’t it just about talking to each other? Well, yes and no. Regardless of the size and structure of your organisation, improving internal communications will streamline operations, increase productivity and create a happier workforce. According to a recent study, UK workers spend on average 43 hours at work per week and more than two-thirds of their workday communicating and collaborating, yet waste nearly an entire day each week on inefficient working practices. Yes, AN ENTIRE DAY each week. That’s one fifth or 20% of their time. An average of £8,000 per employee per year. Worth doing something about, I think you’ll agree?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of improving internal communications, it’s worth heeding this cautionary tale about monitoring employee communications. Clearly there is a careful balance to be struck between protecting employees’ privacy rights and the employer’s need to protect confidential company information, so you need to be open about how, when and why you may monitor your staff’s communications in the workplace, while also creating an atmosphere of trust. Technology which enables more efficient communication can be a huge asset to you and your team, but everyone has an obligation to use it responsibly.
Find the most appropriate internal communications system for you and your business
This could be as simple as a short weekly company meeting for sharing news, raising problems and generating new ideas or something more sophisticated like a bespoke company app to enable collaboration and information sharing. When you’re considering your options, involve your staff in the decision-making process so they buy into the idea from the start. If you impose a system they don’t like, it will be a waste of your time and money.
Embed internal communications in the company culture
Everyone in the organisation needs to understand the importance of improving internal communications and the role they can play in the process. Show them how they will personally benefit from the improvements and, if necessary, incentivise them to be proactive in their participation. It will soon become a habit which requires little effort.
Make it engaging
People like stuff which is fun, interesting or enjoyable. It may be that the basics of your internal comms function are perfectly serviceable, but engagement is low because your staff think it’s boring or unnecessary. Apply some creativity to get their attention, add an element of competition or reward, or invite them to come up with ideas to reinvent the system to make it more user-friendly or interesting to use.
Ensure it’s two-way
One of the most valuable ways of improving internal communications is to ensure that it’s a two-way process. It’s as much about listening as talking so have a system which encourages feedback and don’t forget to act on the input you receive.
Act like Big Brother
Improving internal communication is about collaboration not control. In an age of flexible working, staying connected with each other should foster team spirit, enhance cooperation and boost productivity, not make your team feel as though you’re breathing down their neck.
Persevere with a system that isn’t working
Every new initiative needs time to bed in, but whether you’re stuck in a rut with a system that’s no longer fit for purpose, or persisting with a new programme which isn’t suited to your organisation, don’t be afraid to have a re-think. Try to identify where the problem is; maybe a small tweak will sort out the issue or perhaps an overhaul is required, but either way, address it and move on.
Whichever route you take to improving internal communications in your organisation, the KISS principle applies (Keep It Simple, Stupid). Analyse what needs to be improved then work with others to find the best way to do it. You may benefit from external help if you’re struggling to see the wood for the trees, in which case, you can always contact us for impartial advice.