Great internal communication is key
Healthy dialogue between employers and their employees is essential
Employees are their company’s greatest brand ambassador and mouth-piece. An employee is often the first representative of a business. Pride in their work and working environment is paramount; without this the brand will not be projected in a positive light. Staff’s knowledge is gold dust: they promote products, impart information and retain customer contact and care.
Writing – a major part of brand creation
A brand is not only about your product, it represents your ethos, values and goals. And your staff need this reinforced in every aspect of their working environment, especially in internal comms.
Large corporations often struggle with internal communication, leading to warring departments.
Smaller companies can suffer from over familiarity and a general lack of respect. Employees can feel resentment towards their employer. This then plays out with back-biting, sarcastic comments and an overall ‘us and them’ attitude.
The English language is easy to misinterpret. We’ve all on occasions received a text message which has been difficult to comprehend — was that person being sarcastic? Were they being funny or just odd? Did they miss an essential word? Therefore, emailing creates just the same problems as texting.
Without a tone of voice, facial expression or body language to help guide your meaning, it can be difficult to read the true significance from a piece of written work.
There are five issues that need to be considered before writing internal emails:
What is your email about?
Is your email about sharing company information which your employees should know? Is your email letting people know something useful? Are you informing departments about something positive? Or do your have staff need to know redundancies will be occurring?
Don’t waffle, your staff are busy and you need to engage effectively. However, you must not be offensive. Your email may just be about letting staff know about new software or policy. In which case, make this interesting and let them know how the email’s information will help. In the end, It must remain relevant and explain how the email will enhance their experience at work. Ultimately, you are demonstrating how important you view their working environment.
A positive email is a great way to send a happy vibe around the office. But, it can be easily construed that management are only interested in those who are hitting big targets. Resulting in others feeling as though they are failing. To prevent such misinterpretation, thank all your staff for their continued hard work and loyalty, from the start of your mail. Then move on to share the great news and how this helps the company as a whole. Finally, end the email with another positive reinforcement and maybe a comedy image to ensure smiles all round. (Make sure this is actually funny and not cringe-worthy.)
Large corporations tend to have designated brand guidelines to ensure all data, images, type faces etc adhere to their brand image. Whilst these may not initially seem important in an internal email, reinforcing brand identity is still essential in reaffirming your staff’s sense of loyalty. Always check guidelines as they help show how the company wishes you to communicate and the preferred type of language.
Smaller companies may not have placed brand guidelines into their marketing strategy, but it is worth considering. Examine what type of tone you feel emails should adopt. Is your company very formal? Is a lighter, more low-key tone applicable? What type of fonts look best?
Sticking to a tone of voice is crucial as it helps embed your organisation’s image and vision in the minds of staff and potential customers.
Swear words and double entendres should be avoided at all cost — unless you’re a pantomime dame. Once you’ve decided upon tone, you then need to consider the type of language required. Obviously, in some instances uplifting and inspirational words should be used, but if the email is meant to be serious, don’t try to play with it. Serious, hard hitting language is perfectly acceptable. If you need your staff to be reminded about your drug and alcohol policy, make sure your language is strong easy to understand, ensuring there is no room for misinterpretation.
Whatever the content, try to use clear language which is not full of corporate jargon. You’re not trying to irritate or baffle your staff, you’re attempting to inform them.
Remember to add all information such as calendar dates or meeting points. The more information you include helps avoid future emails.
Is this an open email to all?
All of us receive far too many emails on a regular basis. Don’t send the email to all your staff if it is irrelevant to certain individuals. To prevent upset between teams, open communication works best in most situations. Many offices add ‘high priority’ to their email subject line to capture their staff’s attention. However if yours isn’t high priority, don’t write this. Save it for another time — you’ll receive a far better response.
Naming and shaming
This is a terrible idea — bullying, passive aggressive tactics will not encourage a workforce. An angered member of staff can take action against you, furthermore possibly resulting in an employment tribunal over an email deemed inappropriate. If you’ve received an email which has upset or angered you, do not answer immediately. Certainly take your time to consider what is being said. Is it poorly written, resulting in misinterpretation? Is further action required? Do not write back an ill thought-out response. Write back once you’ve cooled down.
Essentially do not write something you would not like to read. If you have to inform staff about bad news, do so in a delicate and understanding manner, but do not shy away from being honest and upfront. As a result of poor communication, stress can be created from office gossip, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of your greatest brand assets.
HR Consultant Harriet Cadman’s key pieces of advice:
- Communication is key in your organisation – Whatever the size of business, ensure you regularly engage your workforce. This ensures effective and strong internal professional relationships and the messages being communicated have the same guidelines. Resulting in everyone working to the same common goals and objectives.
- Centralised communication – To ensure the company principles and vision are adhered to, communication should originate at source i.e. HR dept or MD if relevant. This eliminates office gossip/rumours and enhances transparency. Ensure the message is delivered quickly to reduce any doubt from staff.
- Keep the messages positive – This ensures all staff maintain optimum morale and feel valued they’re involved in employee engagement and decision making. This results in a company achieving maximum productivity, due to a motivated and inspired workforce.
- Two way communication – Make sure your communication is up and down the hierarchy. This allows everyone to feel equal and there is an open and honest approach to tackling even the most sensitive information. Encourage an ‘open door policy’ from all managers.
- Vary the style – When communicating to staff, keep it varied and appropriate to the subject, don’t just send an email and hope people read it. When relaying important company information or a major achievement, a company meeting is effective. However, if you need to state clear and concise facts, then an internal group email is appropriate.
With many thanks to Harriet for sharing her considerable HR expertise.