Internal communications includes all communication within an organization. Internal communications may be oral or written, face to face or virtual, one-on-one or in a small group. Effective internal communication - which can be said to be "downward, upward, and horizontal" - is a vital means of addressing organisational concerns. Good internal communication helps to establish formal roles and responsibilities for employees.
Effective internal communication is all about enabling employees to do their jobs to the best of their ability and ensuring that all of them are working together towards the same organizational goals.
Key Principles to Effective Internal Organizational Communications
1. Unless management comprehends and fully supports the premise that organizations must have high degrees of communications (like people needing lots of water), the organization will remain stilted. Too often, management learns the need for communication by having to respond to the lack of it.
2. Effective internal communications start with effective skills in communications, including basic skills in listening, speaking, questioning and sharing feedback (see
These can developed with some concerted review and practice. Perhaps the most important outcome from these skills is conveying that you value hearing from others and their hearing from you.
Guidelines for Effective Meeting Management.)
3. Sound meeting management skills go a long way toward ensuring effective communications, too. (See
4. A key ingredient to developing effective communications in any organization is each person taking responsibility to assert when they don't understand a communication or to suggest when and how someone could communicate more effectively.
Common Causes of Problems in Internal Communications
1. If I know it, then everyone must know it.
2. We hate bureaucracy -- we're "lean and mean."
3. I told everyone, or some people, or ...?
4. Did you hear what I meant for you to hear?
5. Our problems are too big to have to listen to each other!
6. So what's to talk about?
7. There's data and there's information.
8. If I need your opinion, I'll tell it to you.
Basic Structures/Policies to Support Effective Internal Communications
This communication can be looked at as communications downward and upward.
1. Ensure every employee receives a copy of the strategic plan, which includes the organization's mission, vision, values statement, strategic goals and strategies about how those goals will be reached.
2. Ensure every employee receives an employee handbook that contains all up-to-date personnel policies.
3. Develop a basic set of procedures for how routine tasks are conducted and include them in standard operating manual.
4. Ensure every employee has a copy of their job description and the organization chart.
5. Regularly hold management meetings (at least every two weeks), even if there's nothing pressing to report. If you hold meetings only when you believe there's something to report, then communications will occur only when you have something to say -- communications will be one way and the organization will suffer. Have meetings anyway, if only to establish and affirm the communication that things are of a status that there's not immediate problems.
6. Hold full staff meetings every month to report how the organization is doing, major accomplishments, concerns, announcements about staff, etc.
7. Leaders and managers should have face-to-face contact with employees at least once a week. Even if the organization is over 20 employees (large for a nonprofit), management should stroll by once in a while.
8. Regularly hold meetings to celebrate major accomplishments. This helps employees perceive what's important, gives them a sense of direction and fulfillment, and let's them know that leadership is on top of things.
9. Ensure all employees receive yearly performance reviews, including their goals for the year, updated job descriptions, accomplishments, needs for improvement, and plans to help the employee accomplish the improvements. If the nonprofit has sufficient resources (a realistic concern), develop a career plan with the employee, too.
1. Ensure all employees give regular status reports to their supervisors. Include a section for what they did last week, will do next week and any actions/issues to address.
2. Ensure all supervisors meet one-on-one at least once a month with their employees to discuss how its' going, hear any current concerns from the employee, etc. Even if the meeting is chit-chat, it cultivates an important relationship between supervisor and employee.
3. Use management and staff meetings to solicit feedback. Ask how it's going. Do a round table approach to hear from each person.
4. Act on feedback from others. Write it down. Get back to it -- if only to say you can't do anything about the reported problem or suggestion, etc.
5. Respect the "grapevine." It's probably one of the most prevalent and reliable forms of communications. Major "movements" in the organization usually first appear when employees feel it safe to venture their feelings or opinions to peers.
In the Ark Group, they believe internal communications is finally coming out of the shadows by demonstrating the value it brings to companies that address it at a strategic level.
Recognising that your internal audience is as important as your external one is the first step towards improving how your company engages with the people that live your brand. A well-structured and cross-functional approach to internal communications will drive cultural, behavioural and long-term change, ensure employee buy-in to business goals, encourage innovation and meet the information needs of the organisation.
Ark Group has followed the evolving role of internal communications and has supported its development with our strategic series of events and seminars. By bringing together key players and communicators, we aim to ensure that all organisations recognise this function as a critical business success factor.