Internal communication is essential for many reasons and this piece is an attempt to stress the importance of healthy dialogue between employers and their employees.
Employees are, in many ways, 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 may not be projected in a positive light. Staff’s knowledge is gold dust, they need to know everything possible in order to promote a product, impart information and retain great customer contact and care.
I asked HR Consultant Harriet Cadman from Harriet Cadman Consultancy Services Limited for her opinion on the importance of internal communication. Harriet has worked from global corporate brands to start-up new businesses, from investment banking, media and entertainment, to social care companies.
These are Harriet’s key pieces of advice:
- Communication is key in your organisation
Whatever the size of the business, ensure you regularly engage your workforce to ensure effective and strong internal professional relationships and the messages being communicated have the same guidelines, so you are all 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 also feel valued by involving them in employee engagement and decision making. This approach will always ensure the company achieves maximum productivity due to a motivated and inspired workforce operating as a team.
- Two way communication
Always make sure your communication is up and down the hierarchy; everyone then feels 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 your staff, keep it varied and appropriate to the subject, don’t always just send an email and hope that people read it. When relaying important company information or a major achievement for example, a company meeting is very effective. However if you need to state clear and concise facts, then an internal group email is appropriate.
As a writer, I am fully aware of the importance which writing plays in brand creation, and this is just one small part of the much larger picture. A brand is not just about your product, it represents your ethos, values and goals. If your biggest asset isn’t fully on board, why would your target audience choose you?
Large corporations often struggle with internal communication. For example departments refusing to share information or lacking an understanding of the importance other departments bring, and how they also shape the company.
Smaller companies can suffer from over familiarity and a general lack of respect in a day-to-day working environment, often with employees feeling 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? And emailing can create the same problems.
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.
I think there are five issues you ought to consider before you start to write any internal emails:
- What is your email about?
Is your email about sharing company information which your employees should know about? Is your email purely about touching base and letting people know something useful? Or are you informing departments about something positive, for example, IT has not only hit all their targets but have actually managed to smash all known projected targets? Or do you have to let your staff know that redundancies will be occurring in the new year?
There is no point in waffling, your staff are busy and you need to engage quickly and effectively with them all. However, you must try not to offend.
Your email may be regarding nothing particularly positive or negative, just letting people know about new software or policy. In which case try to remember to make this sound interesting and let them know how this email’s info will help, otherwise they will not bother to read to the end. It must remain relevant and explain how this email will help enhance their experience at work. Through writing in this manner, your employees are more likely to respond positively to informational emails and appreciate your communication, as 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, however, it can be easily construed that management are only interested in those who are hitting huge targets. Others can feel as though they are failing. In order to prevent such misinterpretation, always thank all your staff for their continued hard work and loyalty right at the start of your mail. Then move on to share the great news and how this helps the company as a whole. 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.)
- Company tone
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 organised brand guidelines into their marketing strategy, but it really is worth considering. If you are working in an establishment without these, you need to think about what type of tone you feel the 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.
I doubt I need to state that 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 — for example if you need your staff to be reminded about your drug and alcohol policy you must make sure your language is strong, plain and easy to understand, so there is no room for misinterpretation.
Whatever the content, try to make sure your language is clear and 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 required 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. However, open communication works best in many situations and helps prevent upset between teams as everyone is included. Many offices add ‘high priority’ to their email subject line to capture their staff’s attention, however if your email actually isn’t, don’t write this and save it for when you have an email which actually is high priority — you’ll receive a far better response.
- Naming and shaming
This is a terrible idea — bullying, passive aggressive tactics will not encourage a workforce. Bare in mind, an angered member of staff can take action against you, possibly resulting in an employment tribunal over an email which is deemed inappropriate. If you have received an email which has upset or angered you — do not answer it immediately. Take your time to really consider what is being said. Is it poorly written and open to misinterpretation? Or should you take further action? Do not write back a hastily written, ill thought out response. Emails written in a heightened state will not help you sort the problem. Take your time and 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. Office gossip can create enormous stress, and if this occurs as a result of poor communication, it will only leave a sour taste in the mouths of your greatest brand assets.
With many thanks to Harriet for sharing her considerable HR expertise.