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Internal Communications: 3 Things Most Brands Get Wrong

Arianna O'Dell

Good internal communication is essential in any organization. Unfortunately, poor internal communication is often not immediately apparent. The damage caused is frequently insidious, taking time to make itself evident.

Without valid information, other things will fill the void, such as rumor and gossip. These potentially dangerous speculations may affect staff morale and could even appear in the press.

Even if that is not the case, poor communication may result in an unmotivated workforce. In 2015, a Gallup study showed that 70% of US. workers were not engaged with their jobs. There is no indication the situation has since improved. This lack of fulfillment costs companies dearly. McKinsey reported that an engaged workforce could push up productivity by 25%.

Lack of motivation, often caused by issues with internal communication, can be responsible for a high staff turnover. Reporting on resignations by Millennials in the workplace, a Randstad survey estimated it costs the US economy over $30 billion a year.

With a direct correlation between the bottom line and communication, how do brands get it wrong? Let’s look at the three biggest mistakes they make when using internal communications.

1. A one-way flow of jargon

Communication is a two-way interchange of thoughts and ideas. Too often, brands see internal communication as little more than a cascading downward flow of information. Missives flow from top management to employees. That’s not communication; it’s broadcasting.Studies have shown that involving workers in the communication loop adds to their engagement. Furthermore, by listening to their suggestions, brands often see productivity increase. After all, these are typically the people interacting with customers or working in production.

Some in management find it hard to accept employee participation in the communication chain, fearing a loss of control. However, such loss of control typically does not occur. Many companies have implemented social media style processes. Only suggestions or comments liked by a certain number of peers are forwarded to senior management. 

A related mistake concerns the language used. The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) reported that only 20% of the employees surveyed thought their management was good at communicating. And for sound reason.As a workforce becomes more diverse in age and geography, the need for uncomplicated language grows in importance. The IABC said that a mere 21% of communicators kept their language simple and jargon free. That leaves 79% of the workforce at risk of feeling confused and disengaged.Simple language has another advantage. Trust. Convoluted sentences by senior management can be viewed as sales talk, attempting to hide an unpleasant truth. An easy-to-read message avoids such dangers.

2. Failing to plan for change

Having invested in an intranet, brands can be strangely complacent when it comes to future planning. Too often, they believe their systems will last for several years with few or no changes required. This can be a dangerous mistake.Demographic trends are affecting the workforce like never before. Since 2016, Millennials have represented over half of it. They are being joined by Generation Z. What separates these employees from the previous generation is their reliance on technology. Both have a deeply ingrained familiarity with it and expect to find the same culture at work.With limited budgets, many brands continue to rely on traditional ways of communication.

 Methods of disseminating information that have worked for years, such as email, are quickly falling out of favor. However, many established methods of communication have merit and shouldn’t be abandoned without cause.Forcing people to change is likely to lead to failure. Older staff members may avoid social media as too whimsical, while emails will frustrate Millennials. Systems increasingly need to accommodate all forms of exchange.Changes are taking place within the structure of the office itself. A Gallup study in 2015 found that 37% of employees had worked remotely, compared to a mere 9% in 1995. This trend is expected to grow significantly. 

The challenge will be to ensure that these remote workers receive the same information as their colleagues in the office.Technology itself is evolving rapidly. Planning for internal communication is an ongoing and dynamic process. But it should be done with measurement processes firmly in place.

3. Lack of analysis

Enhancing the bottom line and improving customer satisfaction is the goal of all brands. Motivating employees is critical. But how do brands discover whether their internal communication is helping or hindering? A mistake made by many is the assumption their systems are functioning well.A survey by Poppulo and Ragan Communications concluded that 60% of companies do not measure the effectiveness of their internal communications. With Millennials taking up the management positions vacated by retiring Baby Boomers, expectations are changing. As Gen Z numbers increase in the workforce, the dynamics will shift further.

Analysis has become essential. It’s easy to check whether an email has been opened. But it doesn’t prove it’s been read. Reports show that as many as 121 emails arrive on an office worker’s computer daily. Busy staff are adept at opening and then ignoring any that don’t catch their interest.Interesting and relevant content has been shown to increase readership. Only by gauging the response can brands discern whether staff agree with their assessment of what is noteworthy or appealing. Feedback is the best way to evaluate how well messages are received.Feedback might come from many sources. Surveys, social media likes or dislikes, and even questionnaires give insight into how employees are listening to what’s being said. 

Analyzing the data obtained will help measure whether people understand and act upon that information. This knowledge can be used to improve the quality and distribution of information.

An expensive illusion

A statement often attributed to Bernard Shaw is “the single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” That sums up these three mistakes.

Management announces rather than communicates, comfortable in the mistaken belief that their employees have heard. They send messages to a perceived homogenous workforce when it’s increasingly diverse. And without analyzing who is listening or how the delusion is complete.

The cost of perpetuating the illusion is high. Dissatisfied staff costs brands money in productivity, and eventually the good ones leave. Too much is at stake to continue as one of the 60% that don’t know whether their internal communication systems are good or illusory.

With a full suite of mobile-integrated tools, Whispir is help companies create successful internal communications programs. Current and future needs can be supported through our full suite of mobile-integrated tools. Get in touch with one of our team members today.