Considerable evidence demonstrates that a solid internal communications strategy within organizations improves business performance, and while this is certainly a key output, it's not the only byproduct of effective internal communication.
Here are seven more reasons why internal communication is more important than ever before:
1. It Gives Us a Sense of Purpose
As employees, we want to understand our goals, know the plans for getting there, and feel confident about the value of our contributions toward those plans. We want to feel valued, listened to, and part of the team. This is especially true for millennials and members of Gen Z, who rely heavily on feedback and face-to-face interaction. Having grown up as digital natives in the age of social media, they're used to a constant flow of comments, sharing, and feedback.
To provide this affirming employee experience, it's effective and motivating to regularly share information about what a team or a company has achieved. Reaching set goals together increases the feeling of teamwork and progress.
From a business value perspective, 73 percent of employees who say they work at a "purpose-driven" company are engaged, compared to just 23 percent of those who don't.
In addition, a recent global survey of 26,000 LinkedIn members, conducted by the research firm Imperative, found that 73 percent of its participants want a career in which they feel that their job matters.
2. It Allows Us to Remain in Control of the Message
Employees should never learn about important company news from an external source. The best way to control the corporate narrative internally is to make internal news available all the time—not just during times of crisis.
Regardless of the platform (we're big fans of utilizing smartphones), two main ingredients are needed to ensure that information is reaching all employees:
- A flexible and quick editing process with a short approval chain. Designing such a structure is similar to the challenge companies faced years ago in response to upticks in social media by replying to posts within minutes or hours—not days.
- Interactive and reliable channels accessible to every employee. This enables companies to remain in control of the messages they send, instead of leaving information susceptible to individual interpretations.
3. It Empowers Middle Management
Most companies cascade information from the top-down through their hierarchies. However, this trickle of information often results in delays, limited feedback, and a complete dependence upon the individual communication efforts of each person in the chain.
Decentralized or location-specific communications channels streamline this flow of information from HQ to frontline workers by empowering middle management. This presents both a more effective way of distributing information and an opportunity to train better managers—something particularly important for millennials and Gen Z-ers who often feel ill-equipped for their new roles.
Although millennials have the highest number of college graduates according to a recent Randstad and Future Workplace study, many feel unprepared to solve conflicts, negotiate, or manage other people. They believe they lack the required soft skills and aren't capable of overseeing older generations.
4. It Helps You Fulfill the Brand Promise
A company's reputation is only as good as its brand promise: the value or experience that customers can expect to receive with each interaction.
How can large, distributed organizations with thousands of middle managers ensure a consistent brand promise?
Better internal communications with frontline employees.
Clearly-communicated goals, well-trained staff, and happy faces will significantly improve a customer's encounter with the brand and, it stands to reason, enhance revenue.
Customer experience has been a pressing mandate for marketers in the past five years. It was the top area of marketing technology investment in 2016, and it led innovation spending again in 2017. A 2015 Gartner survey found that 89 percent of companies are expected to compete on the basis of best customer experience, versus just 36 percent in 2013, as market saturation continues to erode traditional product and service advantages.
5. In a Crisis, Internal Communication Leads
Timely and careful communication with employees and external stakeholders is key to surviving in crisis without escalation. However, internal crisis communication research has found that managers communicate significantly less with employees during a crisis.
Not only does internal communication help you steer the narrative about crisis situations, but it also supports short and long-term crisis management. Short-term management addresses the incident itself, while long-term plans are more focused on preserving the company's reputation and enacting measures to prevent negative situations from repeating.
By putting organizational structure, plans, and channels in place before a crisis hits, internal communication allows you to handle any situations, no matter your company's size, reputation, or industry.
6. It Helps Retain Talent
US companies had an average turnover rate of 22 percent in 2018, with 15 percent attributed to voluntary turnover. Further, the majority (81 percent) of employees who left voluntarily did so for a better job opportunity.
Millennials in particular are known to job-hop. Up to 40 percent say they're willing to change their position within the next two years.
It is the role of internal communicators to minimize these figures by providing constant feedback and engagement opportunities for employees that decreases turnover rates.
Whether you're trying to attract talent or retain it, employees need to know their employers. A well-functioning internal communications system and the open work environment it creates will give your company an edge in today's highly competitive market.
7. It Enhances Transparency
Informal communication has its advantages and disadvantages. Grapevine word-of-mouth often reaches those who might have otherwise missed the original transmission and it's more flexible than formal internal comms. The grapevine can also help improve relationships between employees and spread insider tips that can make work more effective.
On the other hand, informal communication can distort the meaning of information. It fosters rumors and misunderstandings that are difficult to control after the fact.
Solid, formal internal comms processes can help increase the advantages of informal communication. It will slow down the rumor mill with frequency and help employees interpret information.
Employees put a high premium on transparency in their interactions with different levels of management, going as far as naming it the top factor in determining their happiness and satisfaction in the workplace.
Providing both—a rumor-free environment and transparency—is central for a generation of employees (and customers) who are skeptical to the core.