What is Internal Communication?
Internal Communication's goal, apart from transmitting information, is to engage and motivate employees with the messages they share. As for HR, their aim isn’t just hiring people, but to keep them happy and engaged once they’re on board.
Don’t forget, Human Resources talks to employees A LOT. Something Internal Communications also wants to do. And since both departments address employee concerns in the workplace, it only makes sense for them to do it together. Especially if a company is experiencing a merger or is facing upheaval of any kind, HR and Internal Comms are the departments on the front lines. Working together makes this battle a little bit easier.
HR is the department that works the closest with an organization’s employees, no matter their title, rank, or seniority. HR also has the strongest grip on employee demographics, enabling them to discern the proper tone for effective communication and allowing them to understand the essential needs of its people. All of which is information that Internal Comms can also benefit from knowing.
What are the types of internal communication?
Identifying, nurturing, and promoting the various types of internal communication necessitates an understanding of their various goals, what tools work for different types, where each type fits into the larger internal communications strategy, and the appropriate tone or style for each.
The common types of internal communication are:
- Leadership and top-down communication
- Change communication
- Crisis communication
- Information communication
- Bottom-up or two-way communication
- Peer communication
- Culture communication
- Campaign communication
How to build internal communication within the company?
1. Understanding and Empathy
Getting to know the person (or in this case the department) sitting across from you is often the first step on the road to improved communication and understanding. Make a point of sitting down with the people that work in HR to talk about their tasks, problems, and achievements. You’ll see that there are several parallels between HR and internal communications, and you’re likely to realize that your challenges aren’t so far apart. If we make time to appreciate the motivations and goals of others we can become more in touch with their feelings and points of view.
Communication is a big part of this first step. As communications professionals, you’re likely aware that real communication begins the moment someone understands you, which means they’re listening. Especially at the outset, it’s key to put your own goals aside in order to really hear what others are saying.
Poor communication in the workplace can lead to a poor culture, significantly hindering workplace happiness. The same goes for your relationships at work. You want to create good feelings on both sides upon which you can construct a fruitful relationship.
Idea: Organize a breakout session in which your people can get to know one another, and use it to find a topic you can tackle together. This might be something small, like a newsletter about new meeting rooms or a company hotline, but it’s a great first step to getting everybody aligned.
The fastest way to gain respect from other departments is to treat them well and take steps towards aligning your mutual goals. Really listen to what HR has to say. Especially in these days of smartphones and instant messaging, time spent face-to-face holds enormous value. Sit down in person with somebody and leave your phone behind. This simple step is a great way of showing that you’re truly interested, enhancing respect while simultaneously serving to increase the attention given to the meeting.
Through active listening, we show that we’re genuinely interested in what the other person thinks, feels, or wants. But make sure you truly understand the message before responding in kind.
Idea: Does HR need help communicating health benefits or the newest engagement plan? Find a communication tool that suits the needs of both departments and start a campaign together.
3. Trust and Honesty
In order to gain trust it’s essential to be open with your views and emotions. Give honest feedback and keep your promises, even when facing challenges. Feedback is especially important here because it will be the basis for future growth. Don’t tell someone you liked something if you really don’t; and remember, while some honest feedback might sting, in the long term it will create a foundation of trust.
In addition, ask for the things you need. As in any relationship, it would be great if we could read minds, but we can’t—not even the Mentalist. Instead, ask when you need something. And say something when processes annoy you.
Idea: Set up a plan for crisis communication that involves both departments. This will come in handy if and when something goes wrong, and neither side will have to face problems on their own.
4. Positive Intent and Appreciation
Focus on win-win outcomes and show appreciation for work well done. Give compliments and thanks regularly. Acknowledge achievements and show gratitude whenever gratitude is due. It’s the Golden Rule, right? Treat all others as you’d wish to be treated by them.
This next point is especially important if you want this relationship to be lasting: people will do you a favor once, but if you fail to show appreciation, they might not do it again. Put some effort into actively thanking the other person and doing your best to return the favor.
Why are communication responsibilities falling on HR?
Obviously, there’s a lot more to internal communication than the settling of disputes. Internal communication is the sharing of business information between all levels of employees within a company. Staff meetings, emails, memos, and project collaborations are all forms of internal communication.
So, if internal communication isn’t in the HR job description, why are so many companies still depending on them to take care of it? The most common reasons aren’t about resistance to change. They’re basically fuelled by unawareness. These are three common reasons companies expect HR to handle the vast responsibilities of internal communication.
HR interacts closely with employees
Employees already know to seek help from HR when there’s a problem. This might suggest to some managers that all communication should be taken care of by HR staff. However, this assumption creates barriers between employees and upper management, often creating a trust issue.
An internal communications strategy hasn’t been established within the company
Companies who fail to establish a policy for internal communication allow information to be passed organically from one department to another. This can lead to a culture of mistrust and inefficient exchange of information. For example, if management expects HR to take care of sharing an important announcement, and HR assumed the responsibility belonged to management, employees learn the information too late. When employees gather important information from casual conversations in the breakroom, or worse, the media, they feel they can’t trust the company they work for.
That’s the way it’s always been
Everyone’s heard the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, companies that haven’t experienced the benefits of an improved internal communication strategy don’t realize their system is broken. Employees, HR, and sales may all be suffering the consequences of an outdated system, but with no comparison, there doesn’t appear to be a problem.
Why do we need to hire an internal communicator?
While not technically a member of HR staff, an internal communicator works closely with HR as well as management to create an internal communication system that effectively reaches all employees. Clear communication develops better working relationships and work environment within a company and improves employee satisfaction. Information is passed more effectively for increased success with project collaboration. As internal communication is aligned throughout an organization, the company mission statement becomes more obvious, helping to attract and engage customers. Here are 7 ways an internal communicator can help your business goals:
1. Remove distractions from the HR department:
The HR department in any organization has many important obligations. As the responsibilities related to internal communications continue to grow, HR professionals have less time to devote to the traditional demands of their job.
2. Improve employee engagement:
An internal communicator works to align internal communication plan so all departments share information the same mission for the company. Through the use of multiple channels like internal email, company intranet, and social media, an internal communicator shares vital company information with employees, helping build trust and enthusiasm for the company mission.
3. More efficient communication:
Without an internal communication strategy, you run the risk of alienating employees through miscommunications in a “grapevine communication platforms.” Uninformed employees feel neglected and don’t have the ability to trust management decisions.
4. Aligned internal and external communication:
A good internal communicator drafts communications for aligned messages within an organization and matches these messages to outgoing communication as well for a more aligned company mission statement.
5. Happier customers:
A great internal communicator keeps customers up to date on progress and answers questions as they arise.
6. Improved crisis management:
An effective communication strategy includes an internal response to crisis situations that affect the company’s reputation.
7. Greater feedback opportunities:
As communication strategies are implemented, an internal communicator seeks feedback from employees to improve the quality of internal communication and information sharing.