By Claire Smith, Account Manager

While many businesses invest significant time in building their company’s brand and communicating with external audiences, few give the same attention to internal stakeholders and brand ambassadors – their employees.

Increased employee turnover, poor customer service and low productivity are just a few of the side-effects of poor internal communication. Staff morale can plummet if communication is ambiguous, unfocused or worse, non-existent. Employees may feel like they cannot voice their opinions, because they have never been asked. They can end up working in silos with no clear direction, seeing little opportunity for improvement. And critically, disengaged employees can affect a company’s productivity and bottom line.

The importance of internal communication becomes very apparent in times of crises or change, like when a company is undergoing a restructure or when profits are on the slide. However, if you only turn on your communication when you have bad news to announce, employees will quickly become cynical, wary or downright scared of each last minute staff meeting or email that lands in their inbox from management.

The solution is simple. Engage regularly with your employees, taking into consideration things like content, language, frequency and channels. Good communication helps to ensure that employees know what’s happening in the business, are aware of the business’ direction and understand how their efforts are fundamentally linked to the business’ results. Great communication sees staff motivated, productive and transformed into walking-talking promoters of your brand, which is good for sales and employee retention.

Thinking about putting together an internal communication program? Here are a few things to consider:

Get buy-in from the CEO or MD. The ability to communicate well was once viewed as a skill that was ‘nice to have’ but these days, it’s a necessity.

For many CEOs, communication (whether it is external PR or internal communication) may not be a top priority. Many find it hard to get together with their employees because of timing or logistical issues. Others simply avoid sharing information altogether. Recognise the importance of getting out and communicating with employees to earn trust.

Research all options. Ensure that, regardless of the chosen communication method, you are reaching every employee within the organisation. For example, how appropriate is an email communication to employees who work in a factory?

1. If you’re part of a small company a simple approach could be a weekly email to staff to keep everyone updated on what’s happening within the business.

2. Monthly or quarterly newsletters are a good choice for larger companies. This provides a platform to showcase achievements, teams or individuals that are performing well, new contracts won and photos from social activities.

3. Meetings with the CEO: This can be anything from ‘brekkie with the boss’, ‘lunch with the leaders’ or quarterly all-staff meetings. It does not have to be a formal affair, just a good opportunity for every employee to hear from senior management.

4. Company intranets can be updated regularly with relevant information for staff to visit at their leisure.

5. Social activities: communicating and engaging with employees does not always have to be about facts, figures, strategies and plans. Consider events without a serious agenda, such as regular staff drinks, team building sessions and celebrations.

• Avoid being secretive. If you are open and honest with your employees they are more likely to trust you. If the company hasn’t had a glowing quarter, don’t smooth it over – say it like it is. Your staff will appreciate the honesty.

Commit for the long haul. Internal communication is not just a one-off email to staff. Once established, employee relationships must be cared for and given the attention they deserve. Be consistent and strategic, develop a clear communication plan and stick to it. It’s worth the investment.