We’re struggling in internal communication. The move to “social” within the enterprise is shifting our focus to tactics when we are still grappling with strategy.
What is internal communication for? Are we advocates for employees? Advocates for management? Internal propaganda officers? Magazine editors?
We exist to help create organizational competitive advantage. Our executional elements for that will include tactics and tools, certainly, but in the end, our messaging and measures must reflect our existential mission. Research from a few years ago (O’Neil, J. (2008)) shows that the answers to five questions can reveal *53% of the variance in employee comprehension of strategy, vision, values, etc. Here they are:
I am kept informed about the reasons behind company decisions. Nothing is more important to comprehension than reasons, and yet, organizations still persist in the belief that they’re not relevant or important enough to share. I think there’s a fear factor here — “What if they disagree with the reasons?” So what! Tell people plainly why you’re doing what you’re doing. They may not like it, but will respect you for sharing.
My business unit/function does a good job of communicating information to all employees. Perception of value is crucial. When employees believe the organization is good at internal communication, they tend to better understand the business.
The information I receive from my business/function is complete. Another faux pas is restricting information from internal communication. Employees are smart. They know when the sin of omission is committed, and in the absence of information, they will make up their own.
I am kept informed about major changes occurring within my business/function. When the answers to this question are poor, you’re almost guaranteed to have a workforce that doesn’t comprehend what you need it to. It’s shocking how many times leaders will assume that people don’t need to know about a major change, often claiming that because it’s outside of their area of direct responsibility, it’s not relevant.
I am kept informed about major changes occurring within the company. How can you operate your organization without keeping people abreast of the most significant changes? There are too many organizations which simply don’t think employees care. Good heavens, of course they care! Don’t you care about your organization? There are counter-examples, but the exchange relationship commonly associated with customer relationships usually doesn’t apply when you work for the company. It’s a less transactional, deeper and more substantive relationship with employees that leads to high performance.
Why not ask these questions every three months for a year? Quick, easy surveys, postcards after town halls, postscripts to intranet stories. Ask them and use the results to guide your editorial and manager communication activities. You might find the results more than compensate for your time.
*R2 = .526; F = 625; p = .000