Imagine your company is a sports team: sneakers laced, muscles loose, water bottles full. Your next big competition is right around the corner. What will it take for you to win? You could answer that question in a variety of ways, of course, but at least one thing is necessary: communication.
Teams that communicate well execute strategies and reach their goals together. (Ever seen an alley-oop dunk? That’s communication.) On the other hand, teams that miscommunicate or neglect it all together are more likely to fail on both accounts. Team success requires communication. By the same token, the success of any business depends heavily on healthy internal communication systems. Without them, your team cannot win.
Maybe you’ve already read our earlier post about treating your internal communications more like content marketing. (It’s a good place to start.) In this post, we’ll further explore the real-world value of internal communication for your employees, your organization, and your customers.
Let’s unpack those one by one.
1. Employees Engaged
First, healthy internal communication systems engage employees. And make no mistake: An engaged workforce is a productive and profitable workforce. A 2016 Gallup meta-analysis found that companies with higher employee engagement scored 20% higher in productivity (sales), 21% higher in profitability, and 40% higher in quality (fewer defects) than companies with lower engagement. Engaged employees are invested in their work, their colleagues, and their company. They don’t just show up at work; they show up to work.
That all sounds great, but how does internal communication fuel such behavior?
For starters, the right internal communications system connects employees to their company’s vision and values. This can begin as soon as new employees do, in the initial states of onboarding and training. By implementing effective internal communications strategies—training videos, employee handbooks, whatever—companies can quickly engage new team members through education.
Of course, implementing the right strategy may be the hardest part. Which gets to our second point: To boost engagement, internal communications must also accommodate employee preferences and expectations. Choosing the right strategy means understanding the makeup of your workforce: How many employees? What generation(s)? What about the nature or setting of your daily work? Only after considering questions like these will companies begin to truly engage their employees with internal communication.
For example, a tool like Slack could be effective for, say, a remote team of young coders already accustomed to mobile communication (and emojis). A small staff of seasoned middle school teachers might have different preferences. And that’s okay. Either way, choosing the right strategies and channels of communication for your team is an essential step to boosting employee engagement.
2. Company Aligned
Second, healthy internal communication aligns your company by linking organizational goals with the employees’ personal goals. It’s not hard to imagine a team of employees who love their jobs but who unknowingly work toward disparate goals—even goals at odds with the company vision. So it seems engagement alone isn’t enough; personal goals and company goals must harmonize.
Thankfully, the right internal communications strategy, while catering to employee preferences, will also serve organizational goals, such that employees at all levels of the company are working toward common ends. It does so by creating a rhythm of routine reminders and updates about the status of the company. But it also opens up platforms for employees to communicate with one another and with leadership. This prevents a top-down approach to internal communication. For employees to get on the same page as their company—for the company to attain greater alignment—they need opportunities to celebrate wins and share company success stories.
At Lemonly, we do this through a Slack channel called “props,” where team members periodically give shout-outs to other employees for a job well-done. It’s a way to celebrate how employees advance company values and achieve company goals in their daily work, thereby strengthening the DNA of the organization as a whole.
Company alignment also means that everyone on your team can answer the “what?”, the “why?”, and the “how?” of your organization’s work. Clearly, this pertains to the onboarding example above, but it goes further. A successful internal communications strategy must function at the daily level to meet all the various communication needs of your company—office memos, policy updates, staff scheduling, and on ad infinitum. Getting your team on the same page is one thing; keeping them on the same page through the ebbs and flows of daily, monthly, and yearly operations is another. Both require consistent, clear, and strategic communication.
By the way, notice here how company alignment (via internal communications) relates to another hot topic: employer brand. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employer brand is “essentially what the organization communicates as its identity to both potential and current employees. It encompasses an organization’s mission, values, culture and personality.” Every company has a brand image, a message they connote to the wider-world. The question is whether it’s the message they want to convey.
If your employer brand is positive, prospective employees will think, “Wow, I want to work there!” and current employees will think, “Wow, I love working here!” If, on the other hand, your employer brand is negative, well… you get the picture.
Healthy internal communication will help build a positive and consistent employer brand for your organization—positive because employees are engaged and, as a result, more satisfied with their work; consistent because you’ve cleared up any ambiguity surrounding the vision and values of the company. (This is one of the many reasons we prioritize core values and company culture here at Lemonly. As CEO John T. Meyer puts it: “Your communication is your culture. Your culture is your communication.”)
In the end, attending to your internal communications may also be an investment in your organization’s brand writ large—an investment in attracting and retaining the right people for the job. And that’s an investment worth making.
3. Customers Satisfied
Now let’s imagine you have implemented and begun to execute a fresh internal communications strategy in your company. Employee engagement has spiked; your team comprehends and stands behind the vision and values of the company—but now what?
The third benefit of healthy internal communication is simply the upshot of the first two points: customer satisfaction. A well-oiled machine does what it was made to do. And a finely-tuned organization comprised of engaged employees will increasingly satisfy customers by exceeding their expectations. From this perspective, internal communication is a means of keeping the promises you make to your customers (i.e. your brand promise).
In a recent article, Ross Cranwell, author for Stella Connect, reminds us that a brand only exists in the minds of customers. Perception just is reality here. That’s a scary thought—unless, as he writes, “you’re committed to following through on your brand promise, and you move heaven and earth to do it.” A healthy internal communications system may make moving heaven and earth for your customers just a little bit easier.
If your company is a sports team, customer satisfaction might be a good gauge of your “scoring record.” As we have seen, though, customer satisfaction depends on company alignment, and company alignment, in turn, depends on employee engagement.
Considering the complex dynamics between these three relationships gets us closer to grasping and experiencing the real-world, home-run value of healthy internal communication in your company.
Stay tuned for more juicy internal communications content. In the meantime, sling us your questions, comments, or suggestions here.