Colleagues chatting

How to make internal communications redundant

No, this post is NOT about destroying the careers of my colleagues and clients.

But it is about understanding our role as internal communicators, where we can best offer support, and when it’s time to step back and acknowledge that our efforts have been successful and it’s time to allow the internal community to take over.

One of the clearest indicators that employees are engaged is quite simply participation. Generating conversation on intranet forums and internal social media platforms serves as a clear signal that employees feel connected to the organisation.

So how do we encourage participation?

Getting collaboration and conversation right is rooted in workplace culture. Expecting employees to contribute and discuss issues, over and above delivering the day job, ranges from a great opportunity to have your voice heard, to ‘yet another’ demand on employees’ time, depending on where they sit on the engagement spectrum.

People need to see the value in contributing. They need to know that their opinions will be taken seriously, but also that this is a ‘safe’ environment for discussion, where time spent in conversation with colleagues is valued.

One of the best ways to initiate this is for leaders to take part in discussion forums and engage with internal platforms. Getting involved sends a clear message that internal dialogue is actively encouraged. Engaging in different types of discussions demonstrates the power and breadth of internal platforms and their value to the business. Of course, I’m not suggesting that the CEO should be indulging in hours of chatter around his or her favourite movie-genre or their passion for clubbing/ wake-boarding/ bee-keeping. However regular, visible interactions that reveal more about their personal interests, as well as their passion for the business, are important in encouraging others to get involved.

It goes without saying that social interaction, whether in person or online, really does require that personal, not just professional, element. Where employees are unwilling to participate, to share their views and opinions on work-related and non-work-related matters, and to be part of a wider conversation, it’s hard to believe they’re engaged and the associated, negative impact on productivity can be significant.

The starting point for internal comms teams is to determine the right channels for employee interaction – what’s the overall purpose? What should each channel support/ deliver? And what should success look like this time next year?

Establishing the platforms, tools, training and inductions necessary to support participation, as well as working with leaders to establish new skills or habits, is an essential element of the internal comms role. But participation won’t come out of nowhere, so an immediate priority is to work through the tactics required to support engagement by making the platforms attractive to employees and convincing them they’re worthwhile. Take the opportunity to understand what people need and want; crowdsource ideas for ongoing participation; and consider the best mechanisms to kick-start engagement such as company-wide competitions, exclusive live feeds from internal events, and rewards for the most active users. Internal comms teams should set the bar high from the outset, by elevating the status of content on internal platforms to the quality employees expect in their personal lives. That means less company broadcast, more opportunities for comment and conversation.

To operate effectively, internal comms platforms must earn the trust and respect of users in the same way as external social platforms. Showing that management respects employees enough to act upon their suggestions, while resisting the temptation to interrupt conversation, is a balance worth achieving.

Employee engagement is neither owned by HR, nor internal comms, nor indeed business leaders. It’s the natural connection that employees have with the business. So while our job as communicators is to support, plan and potentially activate internal conversation, true engagement comes from the employee community. User-generated internal content is more powerful than comms / HR input. Supporting a community that can self-regulate and ultimately collaborate is the real sign of internal comms success.

All that remains now is to step back, and let the communications flow.

Written by Claire Rudall, Managing Director, Corporate & Brand.

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