Although local contexts are all different, there are some internal audiences that all councils will need to communicate with.
Communicating with the frontline
With many council employees working in frontline roles they can become one of the most challenging groups to reach with your internal communications. How do you keep your employees in their loop when they are out in the world?
Our top tips
Make it relevant
Frontline employees only have a limited window to absorb your messages so it’s important that you make them relevant. Think about what your employees will need or want to know about when creating your messages. An even better approach is to ask them what they want to read or hear about. Making your messages relevant isn’t about only communicating on waste issue with you recycling teams, or education news with your library teams – it is also about positioning broader themes or council wide initiatives in a way that clearly explains why they are relevant to frontline teams, and the role they play in achieving the objectives of the council as a whole.
Make it representative
You don’t just need to make the messages relevant to your frontline teams, you should also make sure that your communications represent your community-facing employees. Review your image library to make sure you have up-to-date images of people from across your frontline teams and make sure your content contains a good mix of information from across all parts of the council, not just your head office news.
Highlight the benefits
Frontline employees are busy people so it is important to keep thinking about the benefit your employees will get from reading your messages or engaging with your content. Does your message contain information that will help them to do their job more effectively? Will it give them a new opportunity to get involved in something? Is there a chance for them to be directly rewarded as a result of their participation? You won’t be able to award a prize for every piece of engagement (and nor should you) but remembering to think about the end benefit of your communication can help you stay on message and reach your teams more effectively.
Think about your language
While avoiding jargon or overly technical language is important for all audiences, it is especially important for communicating with frontline teams who may have less exposure to certain local government terms or phrases. Make sure your communications are in plain, accessible English and avoid terms that cannot be easily understood. Be sure not to patronise your employees, especially given that they are responsible for delivering some of your most vital frontline services. But make sure you are communicating with them in a straightforward, accessible way that enables them to engage with your messages more easily.
Consider your channels
Conduct some research into how your frontline employees currently receive information and most importantly, the ways they might like to. Those with regular IT access may like to receive information via your intranet, whereas those out in the field may prefer face-to-face briefings or hard copies of newsletters. If your employees are enthusiastic about technology you could consider text messaging channels, video content or social media networks to communicate with them. Look at what facilities are already available and where opportunities might be untapped.
Create opportunities for two way and three way engagement
It is important that your internal communications channels and messages do not just broadcast information. You also need to make sure that they provide opportunities for community-based employees to get their voices heard. Make sure your channels include facilities for teams to raise issues or share good work and visit frontline sites as often as possible to understand the work of your employees. Work closely with their line managers to make sure issues and concerns are noted and responded to. Where possible also include opportunities for frontline employees to connect with other parts of the organisation, perhaps through job swaps, town hall site visits or by creating buddy systems with colleagues in other parts of the council.
Manage expectations (including your own)
The ready availability of data can sometimes mean that the success of your internal communications is judged by the number of comments on a story or ‘hits’ on a website, but statistics are only half the story. If frontline employees are not visibly engaging with your content it does not mean your efforts have failed. It may be that your employees are just focused on their work, or do not like to comment in that way. Understanding who your employees are and the way they like to engage with your information is vital for understanding what good internal communications should look like within in your own council. Keep talking to your employees and their managers to make sure that people are happy, and if it’s not turning into ‘likes’ don’t worry – sometimes the most engaged workforces are the ones focused on delivering the best possible frontline service they can.