Why Internal Communications is Important to Business Success
When it comes to doing business, a lot of companies focus primarily on external communication — customer service and support, messaging and branding, advertisements, even dealing with vendors and other companies — but there’s often a lack of focus on internal communication. Believe it or not, it can make as much of a difference in your business as external communication.
What is internal communications?
Internal communications (or IC) is a collection of practices intended to keep employees at all levels focused on what really matters and to make sure everyone is engaged with the company’s goals and vision. Internal communication doesn’t just mean more meetings — although that can certainly play a part. It means de-emphasizing office politics and placing more energy into feedback, collaboration, and transparency.
How internal communications can benefit your business
Better internal communication isn’t just a hopeful idea. Many successful companies have improved morale, productivity, and their bottom line by taking steps toward better communication.
For example, TED, known for its signature talks, have shortened all their meetings to 18 minutes or less, based on research showing that’s how long a listener can generally pay attention to a speaker. So they abolished long meetings and not only made more time for their employees, but improved communication in the process.
Another successful company that’s improved their IC: Amazon. Because research has shown people will stop reading an email or message after about 100 words, that’s where most internal communications stop. Employees must put more useful information into fewer words, which are absorbed more easily by others due to their brevity.
Share the company’s vision.
One way to increase employee engagement and improve communication is to reinforce your company’s vision. Give your employees a clear view of where the company is headed, and reinforce their place in it, so they can come to work with an increased sense of purpose and better productivity.
One company working actively at this approach is Starbucks, which invested in the idea that employees are “brand ambassadors.” By making sure the employees are engaged with the company’s values and vision — and supporting them throughout — they’ve increased employee happiness and loyalty.
A vital component of communication of any kind is transparency — being open about company successes, challenges, financial developments, major changes, and important decisions. This builds trust among employees and makes them feel like they’re truly a part of the company. Transparency also has the benefit of reducing rumors and gossip, controlling and managing misunderstandings, and otherwise helping curb the problem of misinformation (see more on misinformation below).
Foster cross-departmental communication.
One of the biggest impediments to productivity and efficiency within a company is “the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.” Unclear management hierarchies, lack of transparency (see above) and poor communications practices can all make for confusion and lead to stress and inefficiency in everyone’s workday. Creating channels for departments to share information helps everyone work better and helps employees maintain peace of mind.
Transparency and cross-departmental communication works best when it’s supplemented by a sense of inclusiveness. What does this mean? Basically, it means communication is a two-way street. Employees are more motivated when they feel their input and experience is valued and welcomed, instead of feeling like they’re passively receiving mandates from on high. When they truly feel like they’re part of the process and can help improve that process, they’ll become more engaged in their roles and work better.
Prevent misinformation. Here’s another reason why good internal communication is vital — when employees don’t know or understand what’s happening in the company, all sorts of things can happen. Rumors can get started, incorrect information might be spread within and without the company, and confusion and resentment can start setting in. At best, this hampers efficiency and stresses everyone out — at worst, this sort of misinformation can damage your company’s reputation.
Help guide employees through change. Any kind of major change within a company can be stressful and disruptive. Restructuring, layoffs, or major reorganization can lead to fear and insecurity and even lead to employees leaving for what they presume will be greener pastures. With proper internal communication, preferably managed by someone with education and expertise in the field, can allay those fears and help the company get through changes more smoothly.
Results of Better Internal Communication
While these are positive practices to put to work on their own, there are proven results to fostering better internal communications within your company. These include:
- A more positive work environment and organizational culture
- Higher employee engagement levels
- Increased productivity
- More trust
- Improves relationships between employees and management
Ultimately, all of this — more motivated and engaged employees, in particular — means higher profits for your company.