Are you making these 3 internal comms mistakes?
Navigating a new internal comms landscape isn’t easy. But when internal communicators make mistakes, the cost to the business can run high. We asked a panel of experts to weigh in on the biggest missteps internal communicators are currently making and how to fix them.
The three biggest mistakes internal communicators are making
As the saying goes, a business succeeds on the quality of its communications. That means when internal communicators make mistakes, the cost to the business can be insidious.
One study by Mitchell Communications Group found that miscommunication costs businesses $37 billion (or $26K per employee) in the U.S. and U.K. every year. But organizations that learn effective communication are nearly five times as likely to retain the best employees.
Understanding the critical link between business performance and effective communications, we asked a panel of experts to weigh in on the biggest mistakes internal communicators are making today, and what you can do to fix them if they sound familiar.
#1. Saying yes to everything
Internal communicators have proved their worth as strategic advisors to leadership – but that doesn’t come from being a yes man. Pushing out irrelevant comms is a surefire way to get employees to switch off and become disengaged, which can prove to be damaging for the business.
The job of the internal communicator is to cut through the noise to deliver timely insights to those that need them. Sending out a mass email that is only going to resonate with a select few will have the opposite effect when it comes to employee engagement. Research has found that 62% of the emails received by employees are not important to them directly. When combined with the fact that 70% of office emails are read within six seconds of arriving, this proves to be hugely disruptive to employee productivity. By one estimate, it takes up to 25 minutes to become re-immersed in an interrupted task.
"It’s about having an employee-first lens and identifying whether the comms you’re about to push out is actually relevant for them. If you’re going to constantly say ‘yes’ and send every piece of communication as an email to people’s inboxes, you’re going to lose them. As soon as they realize their second and third email isn’t relevant, they’ll lose trust in you and probably won’t open any further comms from you."
For those feeling pressure from leadership to post irrelevant communications, reconsider your role as a consultant. Know when to say ‘no’ and come back with an alternative suggestion. Instead of sending out a mass company email, consider how a targeted news article on a central communications platform could work in your favor. Think about how condensed but regular news updates could be more effective in grabbing and holding employee attention. Make use modern intranet technology to assist with breaking down mass irrelevant communications, cutting through the noise, and targeting only those that need to be in the know.
Why internal communicators need to say 'no' to leaders
Business leaders are the face of the company, but do they always know what’s best for their employees? Leaders that fail to understand the evolving employee-employer dynamic risk alienating employees at a time when engagement is front of mind. Here’s how internal communicators can play a pivotal role in coaching leaders through the next phase of work: when to say no, and how to do it effectively.
#2. Only sharing ‘operational’ updates, rather than ‘tactical’ comms
If it wasn’t clear already, hybrid working is here to stay. According to the ONS, in 2022, the most common working pattern was home-working, with employees only sometimes traveling to an office location. The benefits of hybrid working for employee engagement are many, but challenges are present in equal measure.
Internal communicators have had to pivot their strategies to target not only frontline and office workers but also those working from home. But one of the biggest mistakes internal communicators have been making is only pushing out ‘operational’ updates, rather than ‘tactical’ comms. Tactical comms are any type of communication that tie into wider business goals and are generally speaking designed to enhance culture.
Although operational updates are vital, it’s important that internal communicators also consider the social side of the employee experience. Without the office as a stable environment to encourage and nurture strong company culture, ICs need to think about how else they can engage and inform the workforce, while also fostering an inclusive culture of belonging.
"Companies can still be digital while having a sense of connection. Comms isn’t just about being operational, it’s about building a relationship and meaning across the entire company, and the right technology can make this easy."
Instead of focusing solely on relaying business updates, consider making time for more human storytelling. If your resources are already stretched, doubling down on user-generated content might be the answer. A social intranet that empowers employees to raise their voice and share personal insights doesn't just elevate communications but according to McKinsey can increase productivity by 20-25%. Taking a more collaborative approach to comms, where employee voices are leveraged as part of your strategy, helps to keep comms fresh and varied without adding to your workload.
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#3. Not using data to make informed decisions
One of the easiest ways to continue to evolve and improve strategies is to dig into the data – but many internal communicators are still neglecting this fundamental truth, either through lack of access, time, or training. But data can make a big difference; data-driven organizations are three times more likely to report significant improvements in decision-making compared to those who rely less on data.
As internal communicators seek to strengthen their foothold as a critical strategic force within the organization, having access to and being able to interpret employee engagement data will become more important. Gallagher’s State of the Sector 2022 report found that 61% of respondents believe that ‘data analysis and measurement’ is a skill that internal communicators should be developing in the coming year – coming out as the top answer.
"Before, content was king, but now it’s data that’s taking the crown. I think that in the future, the role of the IC will evolve into also being a data analyst. It’s important to mine the data we have to see what is working and what is most meaningful. What are the metrics that show the value of what it is that we do? Data helps us to improve."
Having a technology platform that gathers and presents real-time data and insights is key. Analytics on things such as engagement and interaction on articles, search terms, event attendance, popular topics, and how your apps and tools are being used can tell you a lot about what matters to your employees and how you can better support them at work.
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