Understanding the dynamics of internal communication in the organization is of critical importance for leaders. Employees expect and need to know what is going on so they can perform their jobs with awareness, purpose and clarity. No longer just the audience, employees are now participants in the communication process.
Small organizations often take a hit or miss approach to internal communication under the assumption that their size is an advantage. The thinking often goes that everyone is already working together so news and information is naturally being shared.
In large organizations the internal communication program often becomes over-engineered to the point where flow charts are created to outline the process. I saw such a flow chart recently with decision triggers such as “Is it urgent or time-sensitive? Is it corporate policy or an announcement? Is it an HR matter? Is it fun?” Based upon how one categorized the type, urgency and importance of the message one could then determine the mode/method of disseminating the news. The flow chart also included necessary steps and procedures for submitting drafts for approvals (including which staff member – or their proxy – could approve) and estimated timelines. This particular organization shares information via email blasts, text messaging (to all employees), newsletters, interactive message boards, an electronic “Daily News” update and an internal TV network. I‘m pretty confident they’re evaluating reach, opens, clicks and similar measurements to regularly evaluate the effectiveness of their internal communication. This is certainly an example showing how access to resources, people and technology can serve to strengthen the process.
But what of the small or mid-sized organization that hasn’t reached such a level of sophistication? The needs are still there but the understanding of why effective internal communication is important and how to do it are often missing.
One organization I’m familiar with has around 60 employees who are all in one physical location. Their long-standing belief is “hey – we all see each other every day and everyone knows what’s going on!” Couple this with a reluctance to hold scheduled meetings, lack of technology, and a rigid hierarchy still unshackling itself from a command-and-control style to one that is more inclusionary, and internal communication is a mess. For while there is an aversion to meetings there still occurs a unofficial daily meeting when 50% of the management team members gather every morning for coffee. Amongst the chatter about sports and kids’ activities and food they share business and operational news with each other. Decisions are often made, next steps are planned, and items are closed; sometimes on major initiatives and quite often without the SME or initiative owner in the room.
The group members fail to look around the room when discussing a topic, stop the conversation, and pose the query ”Who’s missing?” It’s rare for someone to point out “We’re talking about a sales program and the Sales Manager isn’t here.” No one asks “Where’s Waldo?”
And that’s just at the top. Imagine how that information never trickles down to the rest of the organization so that employees can become participants in the conversation? How can staff members be part of the dialogue when they’re never even afforded the opportunity to listen in the first place?
So while a first step is asking “who needs to be part of this discussion or decision?” it leads to 3 Questions to ask regarding your internal communication:
- “Who must know?”
- “Who should know?”
- “Who would like to know?”
And don’t forget to go find Waldo.
this post first appeared at Silver Zebras, LLC