Today’s guest contributor is Megan Marie Ritter, an online business journalist with a background in social media marketing. Her writing covers everything from entrepreneurship and small business strategies, to virtual communications technology and global business strategies. Connect with her on Twitter today!
A successful company is comprised of a strong team of individuals.
While you might be experiencing good communication between your suppliers and customers, a business will collapse if its internal communications are not given some degree of attention. Having an effective internal communications system in place is a vital ingredient for the success of any business.
When an operation has a clearly-defined strategy in place and everything goes according to plan, good things are sure to follow — and that’s icing on the cake.
It turns out that just as there are distinct and important principles for external communication, so are there important laws governing the rules of internal communications.
5 laws of internal communications
I’ve distilled these rules down to five key learnings.
1) Communicate in actionable information
Anyone can easily distribute information. If you’re interested in commenting about earnings, it takes no effort at all to attach a revenue spreadsheet to an email and click “send.” And in some isolated cases, for instance, if this is an email between two members of the finance department, this might be all that is necessary.
However, in most cases, expecting your employees to do their own data analysis is asking for your email to be ignored.
Why? Because the information needs to be actionable. And if you want to be effective, the action you desire is just as important a piece of information as the reason you want it. Raw data is useless without some accompanying analysis, but what’s more useful is the ultimate conclusion the employee is supposed to draw from the information you’ve given him or her.
To ensure you’ve crafted an actionable piece of communication, ask yourself these questions before sending it on its way:
- What is the problem?
- Why is it a problem?
- What needs to happen to solve this problem?
- Who needs to do it?
If your message does not answer all of these questions, there is a very good chance that the change you desire will fail to materialize.
2) Your employees are adults
This is essential, because it deals with respect. Your employees are adults. More than that, your employees are responsible, intelligent adults (because otherwise you wouldn’t have hired them!). It’s absolutely vital that you communicate trust, respect, and appreciation your employees, and important that you reinforce this perception every chance you get.
An employee who does not feel trusted or respected by his/her boss will likely not be compelled to give it in return. If your employee feels your trust and confidence, they will be more receptive to communications and more willing to adjust their behavior if you request it. Indeed, trust and respect are essential aspects of employee cooperation with management.
3) Communication is two-way street
It’s vital to ensure that you solicit commentary and input at every communication point. Each time you communicate, ensure that there is an open request for input on the decision that has been made. This facilitates openness, ensures that your instructions do not sound patronizing, and communicates respect.
In some cases, this can be just as important as including actionable information at all. Especially if the communication is not a particularly pleasant one, the solicitation of input lets employees know that you’re reasonable and interested in their feelings on the subject. Even if the point is not really negotiable, you can benefit from being open to employees airing their grievances on the subject.
4) Rumors travel faster than truth
It’s important that you never underestimate the speed and power of gossip and hearsay. You can never be sure that you’re the first person informing your employees of a piece of information. Even if the communication hasn’t leaked, it’s important to need to take responsibility for your managers in case they face unexpected questions.
A quick email to them a day or so before the general communication helps to prepare them for any questions they might face. In this case, it makes sense to anticipate possible questions that managers will face and deliver special communication to the managers so they know how to deal with those issues ahead of time.
5) Substantial change takes time and repetition
If you’re looking on enacting substantial change within a company, don’t expect to just send a memo and be finished with it. Rather, think of communication as a process that occurs in degrees, with each message making it through to a few more people each time. Change will happen gradually, and reversal is unfortunately always possible.
Don’t be discouraged when change does not happen overnight.
Rather, stick to the actionable information and repeat, repeat, repeat.