Effective internal communication will reap dividends over time. Rachel Brushfield explains the role it plays in building employee engagement.

What score out of 100 would you give your organisation for internal communication? How people feel affects what they do - or don’t do. Internal communication is a vital part of employee engagement, and it influences how people feel. Its absence can lead to employees filling the gaps, reading between the lines in a way you didn’t intend or joining the dots to create the wrong line. It is of particular importance in times of uncertainty, as is currently the case post-Brexit referendum. Being clear about your key messages and managing them rather than leaving them to chance is important.

Employee engagement is affected by a multitude of factors, including internal communication. It takes years to build and a moment to break. A clear, well thought out internal communication strategy helps stop it from breaking. This short article focuses on the role of internal communication in building employee engagement.

People like to understand what’s going on and feel nervous being in the dark. Internal communication helps employees feel involved and included, but it needs to reflect the organisation’s culture and values, and the right media must be used for the target audience in order to create the desired response.

Committing to internal communication as much as you do to external communication will reap dividends over time. Benefits include employee retention, a strong employer brand and positive word of mouth. The value of effective internal communication is hard to quantify, and the cost to the business in terms of opportunities lost if it is not done properly is immense.

Block out 15 minutes in your diary to think about these two question

  • What one thing could your organisation do to improve employee engagement via better internal communication?
  • What imaginative initiative would make your employees smile and engage them to work harder?

9 practical steps to effective internal communication

  1. Have a short morning meeting at the start of each week to connect with employees, make announcements and discuss the week ahead.
  2. Present your organisation’s philosophy to all new recruits and have an extensive induction programme.
  3. Plan biannual ‘away days’ off site for all employees, and combine them with imaginative cross-department team-building activities.
  4. Encourage proactivity with an ideas and suggestions box for work ideas and improving working life, with prizes for the best ideas.
  5. Create accountability for senior managers to host lunches / meetings to get to know employees better.
  6. Create task teams to brainstorm business challenges and give individuals accountability for forwarding the action.
  7. Introduce cross-departmental meetings to promote understanding and problem-solve.
  8. Introduce results updates and question and answer sessions with all employees, with different individuals and teams sharing case studies.
  9. Create employee forums and appoint engagement ambassadors to co-ordinate input into initiatives.

7 tips to engage through internal communication

  1. Personalise rewards – say it in writing, don’t use impersonal templates.
  2. Make it a priority for senior managers to ‘walk the floor,’ show an interest, and listen to employees’ feelings and concerns.
  3. Define key messages to build the employer brand and values, and map the employee brand experience journey.
  4. Make organisation updates regular, fun and informative times to enable connection and sharing.
  5. Celebrate successes.
  6. Don’t avoid bad news / difficult conversations – handled well, employee engagement can actually improve if you are open and address the tough stuff.
  7. Train senior managers in active listening skills.

7 additional ways to build employee engagement

  1. Give employees time off to pursue their personal dream.
  2. Match employees with projects that interest them.
  3. Adopt practices used in schools eg ‘houses’ to create connection.
  4. Have a ‘fun’ budget and get employees to share ideas about how to spend it.
  5. Give employees the day off on their birthday.
  6. Have a weekly lucky draw with prizes sponsored by local companies.
  7. Link rewards to employee engagement scores.