Making Internal Communications a Priority

paul barton internal communications

The following is an excerpt taken from Paul Barton’s book, Maximizing Internal Communication: Strategies to Turn Heads, Win Hearts, Engage Employees and Get Results, available on Amazon or right here on our website.

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Employees are an organization’s most important audience, so internal communication must be a top priority if that organization is going to be successful. Internal communication is crucial to an organization’s success. Effective communication can propel organizational performance. Employees equipped with the right information can be a powerful influence on other employees’ perceptions and on external audiences, especially customers. Employees aren’t just the first line of defense to an organization’s brand; employees are the brand.

Of all the audiences an organization communicates with, I am convinced the employee audience is the most important audience for three simple reasons:

  • Employees directly impact organizational productivity, and thus, profitability.
  • Employees influence one another.
  • Employees influence external audience perceptions, especially those of customers, in ways that public relations and marketing efforts cannot.

The impact on performance and perception directly affects an organization’s profitability. In fact, studies repeatedly have shown that the more effective an organization is at communicating with its employees, the better it performs financially.

Since 2003, Towers Watson, one of the largest consulting firms in the world, has produced a series of reports consistently showing that organizations that communicate effectively with their employees also are the best overall financial performers. Towers Watson’s “Capitalizing on Effective Communication” (2009/2010) reports showed that companies that were highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over a five-year period compared to companies that were the least effective communicators. ROI Communication, a consulting firm devoted to internal communication, found similar results in its “ROI Communication Benchmark” (2013) survey. The ROI survey results revealed a strong positive correlation between how open an organization’s communication culture is and the organization’s earnings per share (EPS).

Let’s look at some specific reasons why the best communicators are also the best financial performers.

Increasing Performance Through Engagement

Common sense tells us that better information results in better and faster decision-making, and that’s certainly true for organizations communicating with their employees. What’s also true is that knowing what to do correctly and being able to do it quickly enhances productivity. Employees perform the work. Therefore, if internal communication is not your organization’s top priority, then all of your other priorities are at risk of not getting done correctly, efficiently, or maybe at all.

Engaging Employees

Getting as many employees as you can to become as engaged as possible in the organization’s success is a primary goal of effective internal communication.

Many things contribute to how engaged an employee is with his or her organization: how receptive the organizational culture is to engagement, how successful the organization is, how satisfied employees are with their salary and working conditions, how proud they are of their organization, how well they understand how their jobs contribute to the organization’s success, and how well they understand where the organization is trying to go and how it is trying to get there. Effective internal communication can positively affect each of those areas and help to engage employees in the organization’s success. Conversely, an organization without effective internal communications can never achieve its full potential. Even if that organization is doing well, it could do better with more effective internal communication and more engaged employees. A lack of effective internal communication could mean the difference between an organization being good and an organization being great.

Most organizations have mixed levels of employee engagement. There are those employees who are “all in” for the organization. Other employees are engaged some of the time and other times not so much. It may be “just a job” for some. Some employees may have become disillusioned and are seeking other job opportunities. And there may even be a few employees who are actively working to undermine the organization. Renowned internal communication consultant Roger D’Aprix says the more engaged an employee is, the more he will talk of “we.” The less engaged an employee is, the more he will talk about “me.” Effective internal communication can help engage employees and move those focused on “me” to “we” (D’Aprix, 2009).

Totally engaged employees bring many benefits to an organization including:

  • Engaged employees are more satisfied with their jobs and that reduces attrition, which saves an organization from the costs of recruiting and training new employees, and from the costs of lost productivity while new employees get up to speed.
  • Engaged employees work harder, smarter and safer. They are dedicated to success and will do what it takes to get the job done. They are often more creative in problem-solving and the overall approach to their jobs. They improve the quality of products and services. They follow established procedures and work safer, which saves lost labor costs and, more importantly, human lives. They go above and beyond their job duties to help colleagues and customers.
  • Engaged employees embrace new and better ways to do their jobs. They understand the need for change. They initiate and foster change. They trust their leaders. They are eager to learn more and eager to share information with one another. They take on new responsibilities. They are in a continuous-improvement mode. Instead of blaming others, they seek root causes for problems and they solve them. They celebrate successes and they are more tolerant when things aren’t going so well for the business.

References

D’Aprix, R. (2009). The Face-to-Face Communication Toolkit: Creating An Engaged Workforce. San Francisco: International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

Dunn, B. (2009) “Engaging Employees.” International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), San Francisco. June 10, 2009.

Holtz, S. (2004). Corporate Conversations: A Guide to Crafting Effective and Appropriate Internal Communications. New York: AMACOM.

 

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