By Anna Cornwallis

How to improve your internal communication

Without knowing anything about your business, I can almost guarantee that your staff’s biggest bugbear centres around poor internal communication. I know this because I’ve honestly only worked with one or two that are genuinely good at it. Oddly enough, it’s really not that difficult to get right, it just requires a bit of effort. And fundamentally it’s vital for business growth and success. So what are the essentials here and why do so many SME leaders drop the ball and let it slide?

Share the plan

You’ve spent a long time working on the business strategy and deciding on your goals and objectives, but how long have you spent communicating them to the rest of the business?

You can’t expect everyone to come on the journey with you if you don’t tell them where you’re going. Too often teams only hear about the plan at a granular level – the bit that management have decided affects them. Everyone works better when they know what the bigger plan is and when they understand how their contribution affects it.

Communication should be a key part of every manager’s role, and providing you have the right people in your management layer, they should be able to cascade information down to their teams. And, just as importantly, they’ll provide feedback up the chain too.

Listen as well as talk

Communication should be a two-way process. As well as ensuring you are disseminating information effectively, you need to provide the opportunity for your people to feed back into the business. It’s important that people feel that they are being listened to by management. Often some of the best ideas for improvements come from those who are closer to the day-to-day realities of the business – production, sales, customer service.

Match the message to the medium

One of the challenges facing businesses is how best to present information to employees so that it is consumed, understood and valued. There are a variety of channels that can be used from more traditional media such as employee newsletters and emails, to company chat software, and social intranets. Consider live online events to communicate to all employees simultaneously regardless of location and mobile intranets help to manage communication with remote workers. Video, surveys, interviews, live chat can all help to get your message over more effectively. Don’t rely on one channel, mix it up and include some face-to-face communication whenever practical.

Don’t be frightened to be honest

Often businesses decide not to tell their employees what’s happening, particularly when times are tough. But not communicating is far worse than being honest. Staff will fill the silence, create their own scenarios and, before you know it, rumours are flying around the industry and half the company is looking for another job.

I know you know this, but regular open and honest communication builds trust, loyalty, productivity and morale. If that’s not worth the effort, what is?

Follow through

Communication with staff doesn’t end with talking to them. Ensuring that your actions and behaviours are consistent with your words shows that you mean what you say. This should be true of your whole management team. Words are just that – it’s the action that matters.

And don’t forget to make communicating well with everyone in the business part of how you do business. It will be stronger for it.

So remember…

  • Communication is part of effective leadership
  • Schedule and commit to communication fora
  • Create an annual communication plan and stick to it
  • Don’t be frightened to be honest
  • Listen and act on staff feedback
  • Don’t just say it, do it.

 

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