The case for internal communications

About a month ago, I was in a lunch and learn session for managers, where the topic focused on what gets in the way of effective management. As we talked, the entire conversation landed on  various levels of frustration with internal communication. Lack of communication between departments. Lack of transparency with major initiatives, so that managers could align their work with the organization’s goals. And lack of regular communications from the top, so that employees could be effective ambassadors for the organization. We talked about how peoples’ natural tendency is to fill in the blanks and make something up, when communication is not clear.

Sound familiar? It might.  Here are some sobering findings from a poll of 23,000 employees from a number of companies and industries, cited by Steven Covey in his book “The 8th Habit.”

  • Only 37 percent said they have a clear understanding of what their organization is trying to achieve and why
  • Only one in five was enthusiastic about their team’s and their organization’s goals
  • Only one in five said they had a clear “line of sight” between their tasks and their team’s and organization’s goals
  • Only 15 percent felt that their organization fully enables them to execute key goals
  • Only 20 percent fully trusted the organization they work for

Effective internal communications are critical for ensuring that employees are informed and focus their attention on meeting the organization’s objectives. Studies show that a consistent internal communications program can result in

  • higher employee engagement
  • increased productivity
  • stronger employee retention

In fact, when employees are well informed about an organization’s objectives and priorities and understand how their role contributes to the organization, they can be the organization’s greatest advocates.

But how do you go about improving internal communication? A colleague of mine shared a wonderful resource from that advised conducting an audit of existing internal communications initiatives, by answering the following questions:

1. Methods: What are the methods you’re currently using for internal communications?

2. Resources: Who is involved in your communications initiatives?

3. Tools: What systems, programs and formats are you using?

4. Effectiveness: How are you measuring the effectiveness of your communications programs?

Here are a few examples of communication tools or formats that INXPO lists that can improve internal communications:

Communicating down (executives to employees)

  • Monthly or quarterly “town hall style” meetings, broadcast via the web
  • Monthly “fireside chat” program, featuring your CEO on webcam
  • Regular broadcasts featuring the leaders of each major unit or department
  • Quarterly “HR Update” broadcast from the VP of Human Resources

Communicating up (employees to executives)

  • “Let’s Brainstorm,” an interactive program for business leaders to solicit ideas from anyone in the organization
  • CEO Chat,  moderated Q&A with employees

Communicating across (peer interactions)

  • “Idea Storms” regular sessions where employees provide presentations on new ideas and receive feedback from peers
  • “Social Walls,” enabling employees to exchange ideas in an asynchronous manner.

What internal communications have you found most effective in your work?

Anita Rios


One response to “The case for internal communications

  1. Reblogged this on CTN – The Leadership Blog and commented:
    A fascinating blog post on internal communications – companies need to know when their conversations with employees are top down, bottom up or sideways. You may think you know but…


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