In recent years, the workforce has experienced a dramatic shift. Baby boomers are retiring and millennials now make up the largest percentage of the workforce. Members of Generation Z are also starting to enter the workforce, as they accept their first career-orientated jobs. This dramatic shift in the workforce is making internal communications more important than ever before.
As the demographics of the workforce changes, the interests and needs of workers also change. The shift from a baby boomer dominated workplace to a workforce demographic that is primarily made up of millennials and members of Generation Z has had a dramatic impact on what individuals are expecting from their job. Current employees are becoming more demanding, especially with regard to how their employers speak to and listen to them. Today, employees want less office politics and more collaboration, greater transparency, and more feedback from their employers than ever.
In short, today’s workforce desires a greater sense of community and individual ownership. Internal communications has always been an important aspect of a successful workplace, but given the desires of today’s employees, effective internal communications has become more important than ever.
Developing a More Appealing Workplace
Whether you are the owner, the CEO, the head of HR, a manager or you play any other leadership role within a business, if you want your establishment to be as successful as possible, you are going to want to make internal communications an important area of focus. When the communication between employees of all roles – from higher ups to interns – is open, honest and is made a priority, the workplace becomes more engaging and more successful.
Unfortunately, too many organizations invest a great deal of time and money on external communications and relations, which are also important aspects of success, but they overlook internal communications with their employees.
Why is internal communications such a vital function in the business world and why is it more important now than it ever has been? Here’s a look at some of the key reasons why all companies should focus more on developing communications within the workplace.
Creates a Sense of Purpose
From the time we begin uttering our first words, we have a strong desire to understand “why”; why we are doing something, why we are being told something, why we are expected to act in certain ways, etc. As we grow, we cling to our desire to understand “why”. In fact, it seems as if our need to understand it becomes even greater with age.
This is certainly applicable to our work. We have the desire to know what our goals are, understand the plans for achieving those goals, and we want to be confident about the value of the contributions we make toward achieving those plans.
Employees not only want to feel as if they are valued, but they want to know that they are actually valued. They want to be listened to and be an integral part the team. This is especially true for millennials and Generation Z, who have a strong desire for feedback and interaction. Growing up in the age of social media has largely influenced the desires of these two groups. They are accustomed to sharing information, receiving feedback, and interactions.
Purpose isn't limited to simply illustrating goals to employees; it also involves actually visualizing the actions that every single person can make in order to contribute to achieving those goals. For instance, regularly posting and sharing information related to what a team or company has been able to achieve is extremely motivating and effective. When employees can actually see that they are achieving their goals together, it increases the sense of teamwork and progress.
Employees that work at a “purpose-driven” establishment state that they are much more engaged in their work than those who do not feel that they have a sense of purpose in their work. Moreover, the vast majority of people that are looking for work say that one of their top desires is to find a job that allows them to feel as if their position and contribution matters.
With a well-designed and functioning internal communications system in place, employees will be more motivated to work toward a common goal. By helping employees understand the “why,” organizations can significantly engage their workers in the “what”, which will ultimately lead to far greater success.
Stay In Control of Messages and Their Sources
Employees abhor the idea of learning about important information related to their workplace via external sources; i.e. sources that are not from their employer. The fact is that we live in a world where we can access the news via our smartphones, tablets, computers, watches and other mobile devices anytime and anywhere. This means that employees can easily learn information about their workplace from external sources than the employer. While many organizations find this intimidating, it highlights the importance of sharing internal information with employees at a rapid speed and making pertinent information readily available. This information should not just be available during times of crisis, but it should also be available on a day-to-day basis.
There are two primary elements that are needed in order to ensure that information comes from the proper source (the company), that it is timely, and that it reaches all employees:
- A well defined, yet flexible and fast editing process with a short approval chain that moves up and down the ladder.
- Companies must establish a rapid, interactive, and dependable channel that can reach all employees. Rapid and interactive means mobile. By establishing a fast, interactive and dependable channel for communication, companies can remain in control of internal communications.
Empowerment and Support for Middle Management
The majority of organizations trickle information from the top-down, through the ladder. This trickling of information that usually leads to delays, restricted feedback, and a the total dependence on the individual efforts of each person within the chain. Though there may be a constant stream of messages going out, most of those messages don’t reach the people that need to receive those messages; the individuals who actually do the work. By putting proper internal communications in place, this chain can be made much more effective.
Companies should empower middle management at all times with the necessary resources and information that will make it possible for these individuals to be the best possible leaders and communicators for their staff. Moreover, by providing information that isn't specific to a team via a location-wide or central communication channel will help ease the burden that is often placed on middle management.
Internal communication offers a very important opportunity for organizations to better understand their workforce, which allows for better training for managers. This is particularly important for millennials, as they tend to feel as if they are not properly prepared to fulfill new roles. Millennials often feel as if they are aren’t prepared to fill management positions, despite the fact that this demographic has the highest number of college graduates. Many of the people within this group feel as if they are unprepared to solve conflicts, negotiate, and manage other people. They feel as if they don’t have the necessary skills and aren't capable of managing employees that are older than them.
Effective internal communications can help improve this issue in several ways. Not only will it help to better understand a workforce, but it can also improve conversations between managers and employees.
Retains the Brand’s Promise and Satisfies Customers
The customers of your business expect that you will deliver your brand’s promise, and they expect that you will always deliver on that promise.
This is true for both your consumers and the customers of your business. How can a company ensure this works within a large distributed organization that employ and rely on middle managers that are in the hundreds or even thousands? They depend on effective internal communications with their employees.
When goals are clearly communicated, a staff is properly trained and well informed, and the dynamic of the workplace is positive and happy, these factors will significantly enhance the interactions that customers have with the brand on a more consistent basis, which will have a direct and positive impact on the bottom line.
Several studies have shown that the experience customers have with a brand is the most important mandate for marketing agents. In fact, in 2016, it was the highest investment in marketing, and it continues to be the top investment in 2017, and will likely continue to be the highest investment in marketing in the coming years.
The best, most reputable and most reliable brands are developed from the inside out. By starting with your employees and ensuring that they are satisfied and confident, the reliability and reputation of your brand will be evident to your customers.
Internal Communications is Vital in Crisis Situations
Though all companies try to avoid crises, they can strike at any time. Having an effective internal communications plan in tact will help to ease the burden that a crisis can cause if and when one does arise.
The manner in which your employees and external stakeholders see a crisis, whether it’s in a negative, neutral or positive light, plays a key role in whether or not the incident will develop into a complete crisis. Despite the importance of internal communications, researchers have found that managers tend to communicate a great deal less with their employees when a crisis does arise. This has an direct and often negative effect on a company. Time sensitive communication during a crisis is vital, and it relies heavily on effective channels that need to be in place before a crisis erupts in order to all employees.
Not only can internal communications help to steer the perceptions that people have about a crisis situation, but can also help to support the management of a crisis situation, both in the short and the long term. Short term crisis management addresses the incident itself, while long term crisis management plans are more focused on upholding a the reputation of a company and putting measures in place in order to prevent negative situations from being repeated. By putting organizational structure, plans, and channels in place before a crisis situation arises, internal communications will allow you to more effectively handle the situation, no matter what industry your company is in, its size, or its reputation.
Internal Communications Create a Healthier Work Environment
A healthier work environment is important for the success of a business in many ways; however, it is vital for two specific areas: reducing a high rate of turnover, and attracting new employees.
There has been a significant increase in the rate of turnovers in the workplace in recent years. This increased turnover rate has numerous negative effects. For example, in the United States, it costs the economy $3 billion every year. Millennials, the largest demographic of today’s workforce, are famous for job hopping. As many as 40 percent of this demographic say they are ready and willing to change their position within the next two years. This constant shifting from position to position not only impacts the entire economy, but it also affects the bottom line of a business.
In order to avoid the negative effects that occur as a result of a high turnover rate, companies must focus on retaining their employees. Effective internal communications can help companies retain their workers. Why? – Because it provides employees with the constant feedback they seek, and allows them to know their purpose, which in turn increases retention and reduce the turnover rate. In the end, internal communications will ultimately save the company – and the economy – a great deal of money.
Whether your goal is to attract new employees or retain current ones, your workers need to be familiar with their employer. By implementing an internal communications system that works well and taking advantage of the open work environment it creates, your company will have a leg up in a highly competitive market, which means that you will have greater success attracting new employees and retaining current employees.
At the end of the day, the best advertisement for your company and brand is employees and customers that are happy and highly satisfied.
Reduce Rumors and Enhance Transparency
There are advantage and disadvantages associated with informal communications. Word-of-mouth can sometimes be an effective way for employees to better understand and relate to managerial information. For example, the information passed through word-of-mouth often reaches employees who might have otherwise missed the original message. Furthermore, word-of-mouth tends to be more flexible than formal communication. Additionally, information spread through the ”grapevine” can help to enhance the relationships between employees. Moreover, it can spread information and tips that could potentially improve the efficacy of work.
Despite the benefits of information communication, there are also certain disadvantages that are associated with it. For example, informal communication can alter the meaning of information, it can support rumors and misinformation, and it can be exceptionally difficult to control.
By employing effective internal communications, the benefits of informal communications can be increased. For example, by communicating timely information on a frequent basis, it can help to slow down the rumor mills. Moreover, it will help employees better interpret important information, as well as pertinent instructions.
Employees place exceptional importance on transparency. In fact, it transparency has been named as one of the leading factors that determine the happiness and satisfaction of employees in the workplace setting.
By offering an environment that is both free of rumors and transparent, you can eliminate skeptical employees and customers.
The Need for Internal Communications in the Workplace
Proper internal communications is a very powerful force. It helps to improve the work life of employees, which directly increases customer satisfaction, increases the profitability of a company, and enhances the overall performance of an establishment. Communicating with employees no longer takes second fiddle to external communications; internal communications plays a vital role in the function of a workplace. It is vital to the function of a business, as it both inspires and aligns an entire organization, from the top down and the bottom up. Internal communications is a key business function that inspires and aligns your whole organization. In short, internal communications must become an important part of the workplace if companies want to succeed in the constantly changing workplace and consumer market.
Several studies have revealed that internal communications budgets will likely be growing than shrinking in next few years. In fact, most companies expect that their budgets for internal communications will either remain consistent to what they are now, or that they will increase. With the top-down ladder slowly starting to unravel and younger generations moving into the workforce, internal communication and employee engagement are two topics that have gained a tremendous amount of popularity and will likely be here to stay in the foreseeable future. Internal communications should be at the top of the list of priorities for every company if that company wishes to succeed.