What is your organisation’s biggest asset? Is it the what, the where, the how or the why – the product you sell, or maybe the service you deliver? Or is it the who? The linchpin in any organisation, irrespective of industry, the engine that drives organisational success, is its people.

By Janine Oelofse

Most organisations are focused on growing the bottom line, and they do that by talking to their market – aka external communications. But how do you ensure your organisation operates at peak performance to maintain the market’s trust and loyalty? You talk to your employees – aka internal communications. As organisations worldwide begin to realise the importance of happy and engaged employees, budgets to support internal communication are growing.

Here are six reasons why talking to your employees will be the most important conversation your organisation will ever have.

1. Creates a sense of common purpose

To grow your organisation, your employees need to all be pulling in the same direction, with the same purpose and goal in mind. Effective internal communication helps employees understand the organisation’s vision and strategy. It allows them to collaborate with leadership and each other to make the right decisions and have the organisation’s best interests at heart. Employees want to know where their organisation is headed, how to get there and their role in the journey. An international poll of 26 000 LinkedIn members found that 73% want a career where they feel their job matters.

2. Builds connections

Organisations are becoming more complex as they grow and transcend geographical boundaries. The workforce reflects this through a blend of permanent on-site employees and contractors as well as remote workers telecommuting from anywhere in the world. Internal communication is the vehicle that unites this diverse workforce, offering equal access to information and a share in the conversation, brand consistency and a common purpose in executing company strategy.

3. Nurtures the company culture

Organisational culture is more than a buzzword – it builds your brand identity, shaping your growth and legacy, and entrenching your organisation’s values. It helps attract and retain talent, and influences employee morale – and hence productivity and work quality. Talking to your employees, keeping them happy and engaged helps develop and nurture the culture you want at the core of your organisation. The larger your organisation, the more crucial it is that everyone is speaking the same language and embodying the same culture. A clear internal communication strategy allows employees to take on board your organisation’s values. It helps them feel included, safe and valued, motivating them to go the extra mile for your organisation.
It’s a two-way street – good internal communication will help to entrench your organisation’s culture, and a positive, inclusive culture will in turn support good internal communication.

4. Ensures employees hear it from you first

An effective internal communication strategy puts your organisation in control of its own news flow. Employees can feel disempowered when learning about company news through a third party – especially if it’s bad news. In a digital world of always-on communication across various devices and platforms, a strong but flexible and agile internal communication strategy lets you inform employees of news within your organisation first hand. It also helps to control how they interpret the information. Even in day-to-day operations, rumour can distort how people interpret information and quickly devolve into a sharp drop in morale. Well-timed, transparent internal communication allows employees to understand what’s happening in the company and feel more part of the process. In fact, every organisational change that affects employees should be supported by a solid internal communication plan.

5. Boosts employee retention and morale

A good work environment helps organisations attract and retain talent – especially millennials, who are notorious for seeking greener pastures if they feel undervalued. They expect companies to do more meaningful work, to change how they operate and to take on board cutting-edge technology – and, importantly, to value their employees. When employees feel valued, they reciprocate by valuing your organisation. The bottom line is, there’s no better advertisement for your brand than happy, engaged employees – and that leads to happy, returning clients and a healthier bottom line. In New Media’s first-of-its kind survey of the internal communication landscape in South Africa, 87% of employees said they expected their employer to support them in balancing work and personal commitments. Money is no longer the primary driver for attracting and retaining talent – it’s about your organisation’s EQ.

6. Ensures you’re heard above the noise

The average employee spends up to three hours of their working day navigating a barrage of emails, so how do they know what message is important? A well-structured internal communication plan helps employees focus and stay on track as the collective drives towards achieving the company’s goals. New Media’s Internal Communications White Paper shows that 74% of employees still prefer to receive their communication via email, with 26% preferring the company intranet and 13% the company website. In a world of digital disruption and constant change, it’s more important than ever to have a strategy that lets your organisation:

  • Have a two-way conversation with employees
  • Communicate its strategy and goals in a structured way that cuts through the noise
  • Produce internal communication that fosters a culture of empowered, informed and engaged employees who become ambassadors for your brand.

Still not convinced? A 2015 study by Mental Health America found that unhappy, disengaged employees cost the economy an estimated US$500 billion a year in productivity losses. And why were they disengaged? The leading cause was a lack of trust, once again highlighting the importance of transparent, effective internal communications.

Healthy, transparent conversations with your employees make for a healthy bottom line.

In a world of constant digital noise, where time is money, watch this space for a future post on the importance of visual elements in digital internal communications.

 

With 28 years of media experience, seven of which specialising in internal comms, New Media digital editor Janine Oelofse is a specialist in strategic content creation and delivery across an array of digital platforms. Janine believes knowledge empowers people and is always updating her skills – sometimes successfully and sometimes not.