There’s a very good reason why young children ask the question ‘why?’ all the time. Wanting to know the purpose behind the things you’re being asked to do is a basic human instinct. At work, we want to know what our goals are and our company’s plans for getting us there.
At this time of year, motivating your employees is particularly important. A recent study by Hitachi Capital Invoice Finance showed that workers feel least motivated during the winter months. A quarter of respondents singled out January as the month when they’re least enthusiastic about getting the job done.
Good internal communications can act as a vital employee motivator by answering the ‘why’ questions – and that’s just one of the many reasons it is so important. The days of lifelong loyalty to one employer are gone, with employees becoming increasingly choosy. They don’t want to be dictated to – they expect their views to be listened to and acted upon.
There are many benefits for the employer, like improved morale, higher productivity and greater staff retention, if staff feel engaged. Good internal communications also help ensure that employees share positive experiences of their workplace with others.
After many years of being considered the poor relation to the likes of media relations and marketing, it seems that most companies now recognise how critical it is to communicate well with their employees. A recent Censuswide survey found that 80 per cent of C-level executives believe internal communications has become more important over the past year. Almost all respondents (99 per cent) said employee engagement was important to their business.
Interestingly, the same research found that significantly more respondents prepare for an internal team meeting (87 percent) than for a live media interview (54 per cent), showing that they believe the toughest audience can be their own team.
Of course, it is easy to talk a good internal communications game, but more difficult to put a strategy into practice, especially in large, geographically-dispersed organisations. Simply sending a weekly newsletter or email to the entire workforce about major company announcements no longer cuts the mustard. Because people want to feel listened to and cared for, successful internal communication should instead be an ongoing, two-way conversation, whether that be in person or virtually. It’s not just younger employees, who have grown up with social media, that expect fast feedback. Workers of all ages now want a higher degree of transparency from their employers.
For larger companies or organisations, internal communications require a coherent strategy and dedicated resource. The irony is that frontline employees – the ones interacting with your customers, who should be the ambassadors for your business – are often the ones who have the least access to information about the company. They’re the ones who are most likely to be disgruntled if they feel they’re not being communicated with, and to pass that negativity on.
At the other end of the scale, SMEs shouldn’t assume that because their team is small, and perhaps even all sitting in the same room, that a chat across the office is all that they need. They still need to ensure their employees are given the chance to be formally heard.
So how do employees want to be communicated with? Recent figures from the European Association for Internal Communication suggest that there’s still a big role for the company intranet – 74% of respondents view it as very important. Almost as many (73%) value a face to face chat, with digital media given the thumbs up by 60% of respondents, and traditional print endorsed by 43%.
Internal communications are particularly important when your organisation hits a crisis. As a rule, your employees should never find out news about their company from an external source. In an age when almost everyone has a social media account, this is more difficult than it used to be, so speed is of the essence. Organisations need to consider reliable methods of reaching all employees quickly.
So, when thinking about your overall communications and marketing strategy, don’t treat internal communications as an afterthought. If you feed their inner small child by regularly listening to them and letting them know ‘why’, your employees have the potential to be your most passionate brand ambassadors.