The IC mix: 6 steps for creating an internal communications strategy for every employee
You wouldn’t organize a presentation without planning it first and considering your audience. So why would you jump into the deep end of creating an internal communications strategy without planning it, and tailoring it to your employees?
‘By failing to prepare, you prepare to fail’ is the old maxim wheeled out on many occasions. But this adage is non-more appropriate when applied to a business context. Without creating a plan, many businesses are setting themselves up for failure before the project has even kicked off.
What’s more, 85% of non-desk employees feel communication on the job isn’t good enough. The core of any internal comms plan is to make employees feel empowered and heard, so a plan that doesn’t cater for all the different types of employees is doomed for failure. Here, we divulge the 6 steps for creating an internal communications plan for every employee.
Why do you need an internal communications strategy?
- Provide a roadmap for consistency: by creating an internal communications strategy, it ensures all employees within an organization are on the same page and working towards the same goals.
- Keep the team focused on their goals: a strategy document is a point of reference for the internal comms team to keep them focused on the task at hand and help them to prioritize their workload. This is reinforced by the findings of a Deloitte study, which discovered only 31% of employees feel their organization’s purpose is clearly communicated.
- Enable conversations with stakeholders: preparing a strategy plan highlights the ways in which a business can improve to push it forward, and as a result enables conversations with stakeholders about what the organization can do to deliver on key business needs. Read our blog for more information about how to get the boss to say ‘yes’.
6 steps to creating a tailored internal communications strategy
Define your audience
Employees are at the heart of any organization, so they must be at the heart of an internal communications strategy. It is essential to keep your employees in mind when creating your strategy as it will ultimately be affecting them.
This is also a good opportunity to consider how your plan – whether this be to promote change or the introduction of a new procedure – will affect your employees, so you can begin to piece together a comprehensive internal communications plan.
In many organizations, there is a diverse mix of people who will all respond to information differently. Over 30% of people in employment in the UK are over the age of 50. These employees will react differently to those who are under 30, due to their differing needs. By defining your audience, you need to highlight who are the most relevant groups you need to influence to drive action.
In order to define your audience, you must first outline the different groups of job families within your business. Some ideas you may want to consider are: what are their current mindsets? How do you want them to feel or think about the communications? How do they tend to access communications? Defining these will enable you to focus on your audience and adapt the messaging as necessary for the different group segments.
Summarize the current situation
Before embarking on a new internal communications strategy, it’s a good idea to map out what has already been done and what the current situation is. Reflecting on the current situation will highlight any issues you have encountered in the past, ensuring you don’t make the same mistake twice.
A suggestion is to talk to stakeholders about the business needs and assess what processes are already in place, especially establishing what – if anything – works particularly well. For example, perhaps a certain job family responded more positively to a certain communications tactic than another. Remember this when drawing up your new plan as such information will act as the building blocks to the new internal communications strategy.
What are the desired outcomes?
Once you’ve assessed what’s already happening within your organization, the conversation naturally moves onto the desired outcomes. Perhaps the business is undergoing a cultural shift and all employees need to be on board?
It’s essential to keep in mind your audience when thinking of what your desired outcome will be. Each employee has unique needs, diverse views, and will react to news in different ways, depending on how it will affect their role.
This means that if your desired outcome is to get all employees on board with a change within the business, it’s integral to outline several desired outcomes, each categorized by a subdivision: for example, job title, seniority, etc. This will enable you to reflect on how the news will affect the segments of your workforce. By doing this, employees will feel listened to and empowered, which has a great effect on employee productivity:
Employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.
Tip: Remember to use SMART objectives:
- Specific – what are we going to do for whom?
- Measurable – is quantifiable and can we measure it?
- Attainable/Achievable – can we get it done within the time frame and with the resources we have?
- Relevant – will this objective have an effect on the desired goal or strategy?
- Time bound – when will this be accomplished?
A survey of 11,000 senior executives, leaders and managers from more than 400 companies found that only a third of senior managers could correctly identify their firms’ top three goals. Don’t let your organization be part of that statistic – use SMART objectives when creating your internal communications plan.
Begin developing the messages
So, you know your audience, you know exactly what has worked well in the past and you’ve defined the outcome(s). It’s now time to put all that hard work into practice and start developing the messages.
First of all, outline the most important messages that need to be communicated to your workforce. If you’re wondering how to structure the plan, a rule of three is a good place to start, as it’s easier remembering information in groups of three. Select the three most important messages that need to be conveyed, then add supporting points to reinforce the main topics.
Decide on the messaging tool
The message delivery is a crucial step in creating a powerful internal communications strategy. How you deliver the message holds as much importance as the content of the message itself.
The tool you use will be influenced by the diversity of your workforce. Perhaps the majority of your workforce are out in the field so don’t have access to a computer, meaning email communication is redundant. Instant messaging tools, such as Slack, may be too siloed in nature and can’t contend with mass communication.
A couple of options to keep in mind are:
- Email: most appropriate for those who have access to a computer; however, not such a good option for a field-based workforce
- Face-to-face: you can make a personal connection with employees, but it isn’t the most practical
- Intranet: a mobile-optimized intranet could be a good option if you have both office and field-based employees
- Internal social media channels: for quick pieces of internal communications this could be a good option as it is agile and instant, but best to avoid when dealing with more serious comms
Never forget to measure success.
Have you achieved your outcomes or SMART objectives? Is your means of communication the best to touch even your hardest to reach employees? By taking time to focus on the success of a campaign, it will provide deep insight into its success and most importantly, you will be able to adapt and develop your strategy and iron out any issues you may encounter along the way. Read more on our blog about how to measure success for internal communications.
There is no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to internal communications. Each employee has different needs, backgrounds and unique circumstances, so your internal comms plan must reflect this. By keeping your employees at the forefront of your IC strategy from the very beginning, it will increase productivity and ultimately, create a happier, more engaged workforce.