I would almost defy someone to name a company in America whose employees wouldn’t include “better communications” as one of the top three things on their wish list for management. People not only want information, they NEED it — intellectually to do their jobs but also emotionally to provide the meaning and purpose we all long for regardless of what we do for a living. After years of counseling CEOs and other executives on internal communications, we’ve come up with the five essentials that are part of any good internal communications program:
- Honesty – If nothing else, communication from management to employees must be honest if it is to serve any useful purpose. People are smart — too smart, in fact, to be fooled by a barrage of non-specific corporate-speak masqueraded as employee communications. Unless the communication with your employees is perceived as authentic — containing the bad along with the good — it will be dismissed as propaganda.
- Relevance – What’s relevant to you as a C-Suite executive – share price, analyst reports, the latest adventures of one of your directors — may not be all that interesting (or motivating) to an employee on the factory floor. Think about ways to translate the macro-information of your business or industry to the micro-information with which your workforce can connect. For example, factors like industry capacity, order backlogs and competitive pressures could translate into more or fewer hours for a production worker; government regulations could impact workplace conditions and benefits.
- Accessibility – Large workforces often have a range of education levels, workplace configurations, languages and cultures. Make sure that the information you convey to your employees is presented in ways they can not only physically access (i.e. accessibility to information is different for an office worker with a PC on their desk than it is for someone driving a forklift) but also understand (think about the different education levels, languages and cultures in your organization).
- Integration – The most effective internal communication programs we’ve seen are ones that are so integrated into the business as to be almost unnoticeable. Communication is simply part of how these companies do business and does not stand out as something separate. In these companies, communication is more a culture than it is a program.
- Recognition – We’ve never met anyone who enjoys thinking that what they do doesn’t matter. Building authentic, values-based recognition into an employee communication program is one of the effective ways we know to increase retention, increase productivity and reinforce corporate culture, and should be a central component of any internal communications program.