Engaged, motivated and calm employees are the bedrock of any successful business but particularly in the professional services sector where a firm’s people are its most valuable asset. Yet all too often internal communications (IC) is neglected by firms with more attention and resources devoted to external comms strategy.
So what exactly is IC? Essentially, IC is the promotion of effective communications to all employees. While IC is often the responsibility of the HR, marketing or PR team, it tends to work best when it is overseen by someone right at the top. A well thought out IC plan will inform staff about all kinds of firm news ranging from key events such a significant lateral hire or even a merger through to client wins, internal promotions, pro bono activity, directory rankings and high profile pieces of press coverage. Done well and consistently, IC will encourage employees to take a more holistic view of an organisation, encouraging the sharing of information and preventing teams becoming siloed. It was also foster loyalty and productivity.
In times of crisis, the importance of a well thought out IC plan becomes even more critical. No one likes being kept in the dark and a lack of information will adversely affect staff morale leading to uncertainty, fear and possibly misinformation being circulated. Even worse, employees may find out about firm news from an external source. Once employees start to feel undervalued and frustrated because of a lack of communication, it can be very hard to get them positively engaged again, especially if they have been listening to rumours which encourage mistrust of or disdain for the employer. Far better to make sure an information vacuum does not arise in the first place.
In times of crisis keeping a regular schedule of internal announcements can help employees stay calm and focused on the job in hand. Even if there is nothing particularly new to say or, what needs to be communicated is negative, it is better to say something.For example, “we are following events closely and will let everyone know what actions we will be taking as a result, as soon as we can.” It will be reassuring for staff just to know that their employer is not ignoring any issue and is focused on dealing with it. Regular updates will also help engender a feeling of belonging to a competent machine which is on top of things, following processes and working towards a common goal.
The tone of internal communication is also important. Don’t forget that many staff will have some idea of what is going on so avoid appearing to patronise or finesse. Keep things open and factual but try and ensure an empathetic tone. Be honest and realistic about possible developments or outcomes and don’t suggest overly optimistic timelines.
Ultimately over communication is always better than under communication. Communicate, communicate, communicate.