Considerable evidence demonstrates that a great internal communications strategy within organizations improves business performance. And while that's certainly a key output, it's not the only benefit of effective internal communication. Here are seven defining reasons that clearly demonstrate the importance of internal communications in today's changing workplace.
1. Internal Communication Provides 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 appreciated, 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 both effective and motivating to regularly share information about a team or a company's achievements. Reaching goals together increases the feeling of teamwork and progress.
From a business value perspective, 77% of employees who say they work at a company whose purpose is activated and aligned with them personally are engaged.
2. Great Comms Let You Control Your Message
Employees should never learn about important company news from an external source. The best way to control the corporate narrative is to make internal news available all the time — and not just during times of crisis.
Regardless of the platform (we're big fans of utilizing smartphones), two main ingredients are necessary for ensuring 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 when forced to respond to increased news dissemination on social media. They saw the importance of 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. IC Empowers Middle Management
Most companies still 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. And it's of particular importance to millennials and Gen Z-ers who sometimes feel ill-equipped for their new roles.
Millennials have the highest number of college graduates according to a report from the Pew Research Center. However, Randstad found that many millennials 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. Internal Communications Help Fulfill Your Brand Promise
A company's reputation is only as good as its brand promise. This is 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?
The answer? Better internal communications with frontline employees.
Clearly-communicated goals, well-trained staff, and happy faces will significantly improve a customer's brand encounters and drive increased revenue.
Customer experience has been an increasingly pressing mandate for marketers in recent years. A Gartner survey found that 89% of companies are expected to compete on the basis of best customer experience, versus just 36% a decade ago, as market saturation continues to erode traditional product and service advantages.
5. In a Crisis, the Importance of Internal Communications Is Clear
Timely and careful communication with employees and external stakeholders is key to surviving crises without escalation. However, internal crisis communication research has found that during a crisis, managers communicate with employees significantly less.
Not only does internal communication help you control 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 situation, no matter your company's size, structure, or industry.
6. Effective Comms Help Retain Talented Employees
The Great Resignation is real, and it didn't start with the pandemic. US companies had an average turnover rate of 22% in 2018, with 15% attributed to voluntary turnover. Further, the majority (81%) of employees who left voluntarily did so for better job opportunities.
Millennials in particular are known to job-hop. 40% say they're willing to change their position within the next two years.
It is the role of internal communicators to reduce 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 both want and need to know their employers. A well-functioning internal communications system and the transparent work environment it creates will give your company an edge in today's highly competitive market.
7. Good Comms Enhance Transparency
Informal communication has its advantages and disadvantages. Grapevine or word-of-mouth communication often reaches those who are out of reach of more formal channels. Likewise, it's sometimes more trusted than official transmissions. In addition, the grapevine can help improve relationships between employees and spread practical know-how that can make work more effective.
On the other hand, informal communication can distort the meaning of information. It feeds the rumor mill and spreads misinformation that's difficult to control after the fact.
When it comes to the importance of internal communications, building trust is key.
Solid, formal internal comms processes can help increase the advantages of informal communication. For example, it will enhance clarity and help employees interpret information accurately.
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. When it comes to the importance of internal communications, building trust is key.