Employee Communications

Employee communication is an essential part of business and HR’s role. Effective internal communication is important for developing trust within an organisation and is shown to have significant impact on employee engagement, organisational culture and, ultimately, productivity.

Effective internal communications is at the heart of achieving business outcomes and it’s something the whole organisation is responsible for. It supports the organisation’s smooth running, successful change programmes and good leadership on vision, strategy and values.

Why does communication with employees matter?

Communication is a critical aspect of employee engagement, which in turn promotes better performance, employee retention and well-being. Employees are more engaged when information flows freely and they’re aware of organisational activities and management decisions that affect their jobs. It’s also important for developing trust-based relationships between managers and staff, by demonstrating to workers that they are valued members of the organisation and are treated with respect.

However, despite the need for communication to be high up the agenda in all organisations, CIPD’s Spring 2017 Employee Outlook survey found that two-fifths of employees said they receive either limited information or none at all when it comes to their organisation’s strategy.

Challenges in effective organisational communication can lie across all areas of the system. Faced with change and complexity, senior leaders often struggle to communicate clearly and authentically about where the organisation is going and the impact on employees. Equally, managers can lack the skills, confidence and time needed to communicate well with their teams. Further, traditional ‘static’ intranets are often unwieldy and content-heavy; not designed for employee usability and this is a particular problem for people who’re used to personalised, on-demand content in their private lives.

Principles of an effective employee communications strategy

A truly effective approach to internal communication will be cohesive and strategic, and supports a culture of trust and openness. Successful communication:

  • is built on a shared sense of purpose and aligned to business strategy
  • receives attention and support from senior leadership
  • is driven by genuine dialogue
  • is part of the expectation of good people management
  • draws on a range of digital channels and tools
  • is reviewed and assessed for effectiveness.

The role of senior leaders and people managers

Senior leaders are a key communication channel to employees as well as the embodiment of the organisation. Where resources permit, communications professionals should partner with leaders to help them be authentic, clear and inclusive in their communication.

Good communication from senior leaders supports employees in their roles and wider organisational performance. Sharing information helps employees to make decisions and be effective in their work, and encourages them to communicate with and learn from one another.

Using social technology

Static intranets are increasingly seen as out of date and unwieldy repositories of information. In their place, or alongside them, social media is being used as a more effective communication tool.

Enterprise social networks (which work like an in-house Facebook) are a potentially game-changing shift in how internal communications work. Already, some organisations are seeing benefits from internal social media in:

  • enabling employee interaction and a sense of unity
  • quickly resolving operational issues, especially across a dispersed workforce
  • encouraging collaboration across teams or departments
  • giving employees greater voice
  • gaining insight into issues that affect employees and their work

Communication technology is a market in which new players are emerging fast. When looking at which type of system or technology will work best for an organisation, it’s important to carefully consider what employees throughout the organisation need to do and what help they need to achieve it.  

Two-way and multi-directional dialogue

The principle of two-way and responsive communication is extremely important. Good two-way communication supports the psychological contract and employee engagement, as employees feel listened to and valued.

However, with the advent of enterprise social networks, communication is increasingly becoming not only two-way, but multi-directional. Employees can share their views with colleagues at the same time as feeding them ‘upwards’ and quickly receive responses from colleagues or leaders in any part of the organisation. This marks a significant shift in the workings and impact of internal communications.

Assessing communications effectiveness

There are two key levels for evaluating communications effectiveness:

  • Overall culture of communication within the organisation – one effective way to measure this is to ask questions about communication in the regular employee attitude survey, for example covering:
    • whether employees feel fully informed
    • regularity and consistency of communication
    • employees’ sense they’re listened to
    • trust in leadership
  • Success against specific objectives – when launching a communications campaign it’s important to establish what the aim is, for example, awareness about a particular initiative or a change in perceptions or behaviour. Once the objective is established, it’s possible to measure whether the campaign makes a difference.

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