We've all been in this situation: a hushed rumor spreading through the office about a recent merger, sale, contract...or even a potential layoff. Who is privy to the privileged information of the hire-ups and what can be trusted by your peers? Business owners are always faced with the daunting task of limiting the flow of information to their employees while still maintaining a productive line of communication to share critical updates.
This is where internal corporate communications come in. Just as you carefully foster your external image and public profile, maintaining an internal communications strategy is just as essential to the livelihood of your business. Bridging the gap between senior management and their dedicated staff is a delicate, yet simple, balance to ensure water cooler talk is about last night's game, not the company's financials.
Below are a few strategies to keep the right employees in the loop – at the right time – while ensuring your team has a transparent view of the operations of their workplace.
Pick a Medium and Stay Consistent
Depending on the size of your employee base, an effective communications strategy can span anywhere from a staff meeting to an entire website devoted to sharing internal information about the company. The key is to establish a system that is predictable, clear and easily accessible. Whether it's a massive campaign or a simple check-in, your employees should know how a significant announcement is communicated and where they can access more information if desired.
Scale and Target Your Information
Let's be honest: not everybody needs to know every piece of information all the time. Keeping sensitive information sensitive is an important part of maintaining a cohesive operation, managing “leaks” and keeping productivity high. Most companies already have an informal process in place to govern how this works: executives and managers use their best judgment to share with their subordinates. We're all wary of instituting more processes and procedures to our already increasingly "corporate" lives, but establishing some rules can avoid a headache down the line. Building upon our previous tip to stick to a consistent medium, create a tiered system for the importance of the announcement, the method, and the speaker and the audience.
Remember, this doesn't have to be complete top-down experience; open the door to your employees to share their announcements, thoughts and activities with their peers. Not only does this spread the responsibility around, but it also gives your staff an opportunity to feel invested in the future of the company. Even on a more personal level, this could be dedicating a set time during staff or team meetings to speak openly without fear of reprisal, or individually taking employees or managers aside to hear their thoughts and concerns.
Measure and Remeasure
Avoid the feeling of ‘talking to a brick wall’ by checking in on your efforts to see how, when and who is listening. Resources, many of which focus on emails, are available to cheaply track open rates, click rates, forwards and overall effectiveness of your communications. As with most of the corporate functions, establishing benchmarks and reevaluating your efforts is paramount. For example, what is the point of having a weekly staff meeting if most employees snooze through it or schedule calls during it? If incorrectly managed, internal communications can be a complete black hole of employee working hours when factoring the time it takes to draft, format, proof and disseminate content to your employees. Keep a close eye on the effectiveness of your efforts and shake things up once in awhile.
Every company is unique, and there's no cookie-cutter approach to establishing communications between employees and management. However, there are some clear, underlying themes – most importantly that nobody likes to be left in the dark! We have only scratched the surface of an encompassing internal communications strategy, but hope we have provided you with insights that can help lay the foundation for a clear path forward.