Is anyone in here listening?

As organisations grow and staff get dispersed to far-flung offices it becomes harder to maintain relationships through face-to-face contact. What are some of the better practices and tools to keep the majority staff feeling well-connected and well-heard?

What is now known as ‘internal communication’ evolved from the need to apply the same high standards of personal engagement usually reserved for clients to members of staff. This is a concept woven into the fabric of most human resources departments, and more often than not, an imperative that is embedded into an organisation’s strategy for growth.

There are more tools to help us talk to each other over distances than ever before and this is changing popular internal communication norms. But good internal communication takes more than simply providing people with the latest tools to talk to each other. People need guidance on how to use these tools if an organisation wants to maintain the same social etiquette that governs respectful face-to-face contact.

An organisation’s internal communication approach can also be a divisive issue among staff members of different ages, literacy levels and attitudes toward technology. Typically, younger staff regarded as ‘Gen Y’ want to take full advantage of social media, love email and often have less of a clear distinction between their work and private lives. ‘Gen X’ tend to prefer the directness of face-to-face contact and the human aspect of the phone. Stereotypes are useful to illustrate extremes but there are many more shades of grey when it comes to communication needs and preferences.

Our top ten tips for better internal communication

  1. Survey staff annually to establish a profile of their communication needs and preferences.
  2. Cultivate a style of written communication that is understood by the majority of people.
  3. Define categories of information and the individuals or departments responsible for circulating it.
  4. Create a set of protocols that list the organisation’s key internal communication tools and guide their everyday usage.
  5. Provide training when introducing a new communication tool, and only use tools appropriate to the culture of the organisation.
  6. Develop a social media policy that defines how members of staff should behave when they represent the organisation on social media platforms.
  7. Allow staff to opt-in or out of receiving non-essential information.
  8. Coordinate timing and delivery so that information does not appear in isolation and is not unnecessarily repeated.
  9. Use communication technologies as another part of the mix, but not as replacement for talking face-to-face.
  10. Provide a selection of communication tools, making sure not to favour a specific one unless everybody has the same level of access to it and knows how to use it.

By Alan Fitzpatrick