What do your weekly team meetings, swag from your yearly leadership conference, and the bulletin board in your lunchroom all have in common? They are all internal communication tools HR leaders can use to foster employee engagement. The question is, are they using them wisely?
Internal communication has always been important but it has become crucial in the last few yearsas the pandemic forced many companies to move to remote work environments, and the corresponding economic downturn caused layoffs and budget cuts. Also, the rise of digital channels like Slack and social media has changed how we consume information, making it necessary for leaders to refine their strategies. And as Generation Z moves into the workplace, teams are becoming more diverse and socially conscious, demanding a say in company policies. Smart HR leaders prioritize internal communication strategies to ensure employees feel valued, included, and heard.
There is a strong correlation between trust and communication at work. This year, Gallup reported that 21% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they trust their organization's leadership, down from 24% in 2019. Trust is built when employees feel inspired by leaders and see how their work contributes to the company's success. Gallup also reports that when leaders show three specific actions, 95% of their employees fully trust them. These three actions are:
Inspire confidence in the future
Lead and support change
It's important to understand that clear communication must be two-way. When employees strongly agree that they have the opportunity to provide honest feedback at work, they are more likely to have confidence in their leaders to manage challenges successfully.
These recent events and trends have made it necessary for leaders to invest in effective internal communication strategies to retain top talent, build a positive workplace culture based on engagement and trust, and drive business results. If you haven’t already, now is a time to make regular and proactive communication an integral part of your business growth strategy.
Tools and Channels of Internal Communication
Internal communication occurs digitally on company intranet platforms, emails, messaging channels like Slack and Teams, collaboration tools like Asana and Basecamp, and internal social media accounts. Every meeting is a communication channel, from weekly team meetings to annual town halls and conferences. Annual employee engagement surveys are internal communication tools. Formal written policy and procedure memos and announcements are old-school (yet still used) forms of communication. Finally, for in-person work environments, environmental branding and decor are effective communication tools. This includes bulletin boards, posters, murals, wayfinding signage, branded merchandise and apparel, and more.
How Can Strong Internal Communication Strategies Change Your Business?
No matter the business sector your company operates, the product or service you provide, or the environment your team works in, internal communications are crucial to the success of your business in several ways. Here are just a few.
Employee engagement: We’ve already established that communication fosters trust and confidence in leaders. It can also keep employees engaged. Communication enables employees to feel more involved in their organization's goals, understand their roles better, and be more productive at work.
Employee retention: Engaged employees are more committed, loyal, and motivated, improving job satisfaction. In short, employees stick around up to 5 times longer compared to businesses that don't do a great job with internal communication.
Employee empowerment: Employees feel more empowered and valued when they are kept informed and involved in decision-making processes. This empowerment can lead to increased initiative-taking and a sense of ownership in their roles. Effective internal communication channels facilitate sharing of ideas, feedback, and suggestions, leading to continuous improvement and innovation.
Team collaboration: Effective internal communication fosters collaboration among employees and teams. When team members can easily share ideas, information, and updates with one another, they are more likely to work together efficiently and cohesively, leading to better outcomes and stronger teams.
Alignment with company values: Effective internal communication reinforces core values, which enables employees to understand the organization's mission, purpose, vision, and behavioral expectations, leading to a more positive and cohesive work environment.
Better change management: Without effective communication during periods of change, employees may resist or struggle to adapt, leading to uncertainty, disruptions, reduced productivity, and ultimately, failure of the new initiative or the employees' desire to stay with the company. Clear communication helps employees understand the reasons behind changes, reduces uncertainty, and facilitates smoother transitions.
Crisis management: In times of crisis or emergencies, timely and transparent internal communication is critical for disseminating important information, ensuring employee safety, and maintaining business continuity. This helps prevent rumors and misinformation from spreading, which can make the crisis worse. Clear and transparent communication from leaders helps to maintain a sense of calm and confidence during an emergency. Knowing that the organization is taking appropriate actions and keeping employees informed reduces anxiety and uncertainty.
Brand advocacy: Internal communication plays a significant role in conveying brand messaging to employees. Well-informed employees who feel connected to your company's mission and values will become brand advocates. They will represent your organization positively, internally and externally. Their advocacy can help to build a positive brand reputation and customer perception.
Integrating Brand Strategy into Internal Communications
It’s helpful to think of internal communications as an internal brand messaging strategy. The goals of either strategy are similar: to create a positive and ongoing emotional connection to your company. For employees, the connection should also inform how employees interact with each other, their leaders, and customers. You want them to think about the brand in every decision they make and everything they do.
You do this by creating a brand campaign to introduce and explain your internal messages and then reinforce it by weaving the brand into the daily workings of your company. Every touchpoint is a chance to influence how your employees experience the workplace and your brand.
Creating a Purpose-Driven Culture Through Internal Communication
ABM Industries Inc. is one of the nation's largest facility management providers. ABM engaged the Phase 3 team to help bring their internal mission, Make a Difference, to life so that every employee could easily understand, believe, and act upon it. The goal was to create a strong, purpose-driven internal culture. We collaborated with the leadership team to develop an employer brand platform that aligned ABMs internal culture and raised the service bar among employees.
We started by defining ABM's culture of service, speaking with leadership throughout the organization to understand what Make a Difference means to them, to employees, clients, and the community. We developed a unique narrative, visual expression, and authentic photographic style that conveyed the message across a series of videos, posters, an email campaign, and a manifesto brochure. These pieces told how individual ABM employees live out the Make a Difference mission daily. The campaign was rolled out to 25 offices across the country. 130,000 employees are now sharing and living a single, meaningful mission.
Launching a New Company Initiative
New company initiatives are an excellent opportunity to enhance employee engagement through internal brand communication. Effective internal communication ensures that all employees are aware of the new business initiative, its objectives, and how it aligns with the overall vision and strategy of the company. When employees understand the goals, they can work collectively towards achieving them.
When a popular sportswear company adopted Microsoft Teams as their collaboration software, they asked Phase 3 to develop a campaign that would tease the launch and help employees understand the benefits of the new program. The "Love, Work" campaign featured a poster series of "love letters" from work to their employees, highlighting the many benefits of Teams, from productivity to remote meetings to a paperless workplace. We recommended high-energy photos of employees that aligned with the brand’s aesthetic and showed the benefits of Teams in action. Challenging the concept of what constitutes a "board meeting," the campaign painted a picture of a kinder, easier, breezier workplace—catering to the needs of modern employees in a way that was loving—and lovable.
In summary, internal communication is a crucial aspect of maintaining a healthy business. Effective internal communication keeps your employees up-to-date and informed about company developments. It fosters a sense of community, strengthens engagement and loyalty, and, in turn, improves productivity and morale. Every employee touchpoint is a chance to influence how your employees experience the workplace and your brand. You want them to think about the brand in every decision they make and everything they do.
The Phase 3 brand team is experts at building internal messaging platforms and campaigns for clients that reflect their overall brand and authentically engage employees. For more case studies and information about our capabilities, contact us today.