I had coffee on Tuesday with Michelle Glover, who was my boss when I was in Corporate Communications at Intuit. Michelle and I worked on internal communications for the company, which at the time had more than 7000 employees. She’s now at ROI Communications, an agency that specializes is internal communication, and the firm is going gangbusters.
I can’t help but believe their success, aside of course from the incredible talent they’ve acquired, is because companies – no matter how big or in what stage of maturity they may be – are starting to realize how important effective employee communications are to the bottom line. In an age when there are countless ways for executives to connect and have a two-way dialogue with their employees, a good internal communication strategy has never been more critical.
Every year, Fortune magazine comes out with its 100 Best Companies to Work For as well as its famous Fortune 500 list, and year after year, there is tremendous overlap between the two lists. Why is this? The classic book about employee relations, Contented Cows Give Better Milk, put it best:
From the start, the exceptional organizations have differentiated
themselves as employers of choice, thus enabling them to hire and
retain top-drawer people, and then differentiated their products and
services in the marketplace. Think it’s a coincidence? We don’t.
And neither do we. There are hard facts about the return on investment that comes with effective employee relations. However, being successful at it requires much more than an occasional email from the CEO, or quarterly all-hands meetings. Below is our “Top 10 List” for impactful employee communication:
1) Be Open, Honest and Direct. Believe it or not, most employees already know the truth, and half-truths only hurt your credibility.
2) Know the Current Employee Climate. Make sure your internal communications team, PR team, and/or HR team is taking a regular pulse on what your employees care about.
3) Prepare for Questions. Remember employees are looking for the “why?” and “what does this all mean?” every time you communicate.
4) Listen. Have a way to hear back from and respond directly to employees.
5) Be a Storyteller vs. Just a Teller. Bring your ideas to life, break down barriers and move people to action with stories that mean something to you and your employees.
6) In Times of Change or Crisis, Communicate in a Timely Manner. If there are rumors circulating, stop them before they fly. If you don’t know the answer, say so.
7) Say ‘Why’, Not Just ‘What’. In times of change, explain the root cause and impact of the change. Employees need to understand the importance.
8 ) Less is More. Be clear and consistent to communicate with employees on a practical level.
9) Communicate Your Passion. This can be a powerful emotional tool that enables you to connect with your audience and move people to action.
10) Maintain a Schedule. Have a plan that guarantees consistent communication (be that quarterly, monthly or weekly) to keep the group’s goals fresh and so that employees feel a part of the team.