While it is true that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to internal communications, there are certain areas of focus that make the chances of success in your organisation more likely.
Emma Rodgers, strategic manager (Marketing and Communications) at Stoke City Council summarises these as:
- A function that is both strategic, tactical and in the DNA of your leadership – effective communications with your staff should inform your strategic and tactical decision making, be understood by your leadership and be built into everything that your organisation does.
- An organisation where employees are treated as its biggest assets – it is vital to recognise that your employees are your biggest investment and should be prioritised accordingly. In times of change or celebration they should be the first to know and organisations should work with them so that they can become the biggest advocates for your work.
- A place where it is OK to talk about failure and to be open and honest – this is particularly important in the ever changing world of local government where transformation and shifting expectations are common. It is important to create an organisation where it is acceptable to say when things do not work and move quickly onto something that does. An atmosphere where openness and honesty are commonplace can help to create an environment where all grades of staff are empowered to do their best.
- An organisation that listens and where employees can have their voice heard – effective internal communications recognises the importance of two way communication, rather than broadcasting messages. This approach helps employees to feel valued and cleat about the role they play in delivering your organisation’s vision.
- Communications that are creative and tailored for your employees – it is not enough to rely on communicating in the same way all the time. Effective internal communications is regularly refreshed and tested with employees to make sure it suits the culture of an organisation and the needs of staff. It is also unafraid to try new things.
In addition, successful internal communication must also be aligned to your wider communications strategy and ultimately, your organisation’s corporate plan.
To achieve this, it is vital that you familiarise yourself with the mission, aims and objectives of your council as well as the opportunities and challenges that are present both now and on the horizon. The most effective way of achieving this is by speaking to colleagues from across your organisation, particularly your chief executive, leader and senior teams to understand the areas of focus and concern that are facing your council, as well as their ambitions for the future.
Successful internal communications can also only be achieved by fully understanding who your internal audiences are. Tactics or strategies that work in one authority may not suit another due to differences in demographics, technology, organisational priorities, geography or culture. It is vital that your approach to internal communications is based upon an understanding of who your people are, the different roles that they play, what they need and where you can use communications to connect with them.
To help frame your research into who your audiences are, it may help to ask:
- Where do our employees live?
- What roles do they perform?
- Are they desk-based or community-based?
- What are their experiences of working for the council?
- How long have they been in service?
- What do they want to hear about?
- How do they consume information?
- What do they want to say to us as well as hear from us?
- What things might stop our message getting through to people?
Once you have a clear picture of who your employees are you will be better able to develop messages, channels and activities that address their needs while fulfilling the requirements of your wider organisational strategy. With both of these things in place, your internal communications can begin to flourish.