8 Steps to Building a Successful Internal Communications Strategy
Building and managing a successful internal communications strategy can be a tall order for organizations, especially large enterprises with a widely distributed workforce.
In this blog, we will cover the importance of building an internal communications strategy that drives business results, as well as the must-follow steps for implementing and managing a successful IC strategy.
Internal Communication Strategy Defined
Internal communications strategy includes a set of activities, procedures, rules, and regulations for creating and managing communications in the workplace.
Every strong IC strategy should provide answers to the following questions:
- What is the goal of employee communications strategy?
- Who is responsible for defining, implementing, and managing the strategy?
- How will the strategy be implemented and sustained in a way that delivers high ROI?
- How will the success be measured?
Even though many organizations are becoming more and more aware of the importance of having a clear IC strategy, 60% of them still don't have a long-term strategy.
The Importance of Building a Strong Employee Communications Strategy
Communication in the workplace can have a significant impact on employee and organizational success. With the emergence of remote work and distributed workforce, employee communications have become critical factors impacting employees’ working experience.
Let’s consider the main reasons why every organization should define and implement a solid internal communications strategy.
Align employees with corporate culture and strategy
According to research, 72% of employees don't fully understand the company's strategy. As poor workplace communication with a lack of transparency is the main reason for such a high number, having a good internal communications strategy can go a long way in driving better organizational and team alignment.
Improve crisis preparedness
2020 was a test year for many employers’ crisis management efforts. COVID-19 pandemic will have a significant impact on business continuity for organizations across the world. When organizations were asked about how they could improve their preparedness for the crisis, 29% of them responded with “Execute a more timely and robust communication plan.”
Increase employee productivity
The way employees and managers communicate with and among each other can also have a big impact on employees’ productivity. Moreover, employee productivity increases by 20 to 25% in organizations where employees are connected.
Keep employees motivated and engaged
Leaving employees in the dark can have a very negative impact on employees’ motivation and engagement. Yet, many employees still have a feeling that they are missing essential company updates. On the other side, 85% of employees say they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news.
Improve change management initiatives
Communication in the workplace is one of the most vital prerequisites for successful organizational change, such as digital transformation, mergers and acquisitions, and similar. Moreover, 29% of employees say that poor internal communication is why new projects fail.
Boost employee safety and compliance
Frequent, honest, and transparent communication is also crucial for improving workplace safety, reducing the number of healthcare accidents, and reducing healthcare costs. However, only 55% of organizations have a crisis communication plan in place.
How to Build a Successful Internal Communications Strategy?
Now that you know the benefits of workplace communications, let’s take a closer look into implementing a successful IC strategy.
1.Evaluate your current strategy
Before even considering implementing a new strategy, defining and understanding the current strategy’s downsides and bottlenecks is crucial.
In other words, internal communications professionals should know what needs to be improved in order to achieve better business results.
Some of the aspects of your current IC strategy you may want to assess include:
- Is your IC function producing relevant and engaging content?
- Is the content delivered via the proper communications channels?
- Is the content delivered to the right employees at the right time?
- Do leaders and C-level executives participate in your communications initiatives?
- Are your employees enabled and encouraged to join two-way communications?
2. Define goals and key objectives
Every successful internal communications strategy should have a clear set of goals and business objectives. However, tracking the success of internal communication is quite complex. It is why 60% of IC practitioners are still not measuring internal communications.
Even though measuring IC is not easy, this doesn’t mean it is impossible. Moreover, as internal communications touch many different business areas and parts of various employee journeys, it can significantly impact both business and people-related KPIs.
When we talk about IC, there are 3 different sets of KPIs to consider. Here are the examples:
- Internal communications KPIs such as open rates, readership, and click-through rates
- Employee-related KPIs such as employee retention, engagement, and performance
- Business KPIs such as customer satisfaction, workplace accidents, and employee advocacy
3. Identify employee personas
Today’s workforce is highly multigenerational. Meaning, employees can have very different preferences regarding what type of content they want to consume. Furthermore, employees on specific job functions, such as frontline workers, may not have access to various tools that deskbound employees use.
Therefore, internal communicators need to understand their workforce and define employee personas based on various criteria such as:
- Job functions
- Job nature
- Geographic locations
- Spoken languages
- Content preferences
Defining employee personas can go a long way in enabling communicators to create content that the employees will want to engage with.
4. Create and distribute personalized communications
Once you define employee personas, it is much easier to create engaging internal communications content. Many IC professionals are struggling to get employees’ attention and engagement with their campaigns.
The biggest reason for that is content irrelevancy. In other words, not every employee should receive every piece of company information. Instead, the content should be hyper-personalized.
When you think about why people use social media, you will understand the importance of personalization. If our social media feeds were not so personalized and aligned with our preferences, we would surely not use them to the extent we do.
5. Distribute timely communications
Organizations with many frontline employees have experienced the importance of timely communications during the current pandemic. It has never been as essential to deliver trustworthy and timely updates to the employees.
Healthcare and retail workers, for example, need to continuously stay informed and aligned with new government regulations and company policies. If they are not always, or ever, sitting at their desks, it may be hard to reach them in a timely manner.
Therefore, timely communications should be one of the most critical aspects of every successful internal communications strategy.
6. Streamline your communication ecosystem
Today’s workplace communication ecosystems can be very complex. Moreover, some organizations use dozens of different communication tools and channels. Even though all of these tools aim to improve workplace communications, too many solutions can confuse and frustrate employees.
Such complex communication infrastructure is also one of the main reasons why vital information often gets lost.
Emails, which used to be one of the most significant means of workplace communications, are now considered one of the most unproductive communication channels.
It is not surprising as employees’ inboxes are full of information that doesn’t even need their attention. According to research, 62% of the emails received by employees are not necessary. As a consequence, emails are now considered as one of the biggest productivity stoppers among employees.
The best solution to get around this challenge is to consolidate your various business instant messaging tools such as MS Teams and Slack, intranets such as Sharepoint, document sharing tools such as OneDrive, and enterprise social networking tools such as Yammer in a single communications platform.
This way, employees will have a central place to access any information whenever they need it.
7. Implement an internal communication app
All the previously mentioned steps are hard to accomplish without the right employee communications apps. Such solutions are designed to empower communicators to streamline their communications efforts, better understand their employees' communication preferences, segment audiences, and, therefore, deliver more personalized and timely employee communications regardless of their locations and job functions.
However, in the sea of various communication tools available on the market, it may be hard to choose the one that best fits your organization’s needs.
When searching for a workplace communications tool, these are the must-have features to look for:
- Robust audience segmentation and filtering
- Content personalization is based on employees’ interests and characteristics, such as location, job function, language, etc.
- Easy content creation, management, and distribution
- User-generated content
- Integration with various communication channels such as intranets, email, Slack, Microsoft Teams, and others
- Push notifications for emergencies and important updates
- Integration with HRIS systems (e.g., Oracle and Azure) for easier user management
- Analytics, dashboards, and actionable communications insights
- Employee advocacy features such as external content sharing to all the major social media channels
8. Measure the success
Earlier in this blog, we discussed the importance of defining communications KPIs. However, limiting them doesn’t make sense if those KPIs won’t be continuously measured and assessed.
Yet, only 54% of respondents in a VMA group study agree that progress towards communications objectives is researched, measured, and evaluated with metrics and KPIs.
Here, proper communications technology plays a big role. Modern employee communications solutions enable users to tie communication campaigns to particular goals and KPIs, therefore empowering communicators to build and manage internal communications strategies with high ROIs.
Additionally, advanced internal communications solutions with real-time, AI-powered analytics are built to turn complex data into easy-to-understand, valuable, and actionable insights. For example, insights around why and which employees prefer one type of content over another can go a long way in significantly improving your internal communications strategy.
In the world of uncertainty and during these unprecedented times, internal communications professionals have become one of the most strategic business partners. They are responsible for keeping employees and other stakeholders informed, aligned, engaged, safe, and productive.
Therefore, building a strong internal communications strategy is not an option anymore - it’s an absolute must!