4 ways to fix poor communications in the workplace
is ongoing challenge for many organizations and is increasingly becoming a prioritised business objective.
Effective communications have become crucial for organizations to thrive and stay competitive. Engaged employees are more productive and can add value across the entire business. However, in the current digital workplace it’s harder than ever to get people’s attention and ensure your communications are acknowledged.
“4 in 5 people think effective internal communications helps their job performance and 3 in 5 want their employer to keep them informed so they can share company news with others.”Sprout Social
Effective communication is one of the foundations to a positive and transparent company culture. Organizational communications allow the entire workforce to stay in the loop with company changes, information, news, and events, whilst allowing employees to collaborate, give feedback, and feel empowered.
According to a survey conducted by Sprout Social, employees want to be informed about company news as it helps them build better relationships with their peers, become an advocate for their company, and helps with their overall job performance.
14 steps to great internal communications
Poor communications in the workplace
Organizations who fail to effectively communicate are more likely to struggle to sustain standard business objectives such as retention of staff, employee engagement, productivity, and overall customer satisfaction.
Internal communication professionals are expected to understand and engage their audience and ensure employee goals are aligned with those of the organization. However, due to challenges such as limited resources, work style differences, and varied leadership styles, producing effective and engaging comms is a constant challenge.
“Companies that have leaders who are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that have leaders who are the least effective communicators.”Holmes report
Common reasons for poor comms in the workplace include:
- Limited or excess of internal comms channels available to staff
- Miscommunications/misinterpretations between colleagues or departments
- Overload of communications such as emails, Slack, Skype and WhatsApp notifications
- Inconsistency of communication
- Poor intranet platform
- Management and leadership styles
- Organizational or departmental conflict
- Lack of traditional communication methods such as one-to-ones
- Poor or no communication strategy
- Low employee morale
- Negative company culture
- High staff turnover
- Cultural differences amongst employees
In this blog, we will take you through four ways you can fix the poor communications within your workplace.
1. Implement a social intranet
Remote working, flexible hours, and digital workspaces have increased the importance of communication. The workplace has become so unique, it’s now crucial to implement software that will allow your entire workforce to communicate. Organizations are starting to dedicate departments and teams to ensure comms are managed efficiently.
Implementing a social collaboration platform such as an intranet is one solution to improving your internal comms.
Organizations create too many channels for employees to collaborate which creates confusion amongst employees over which platforms to prioritize. This results in the majority of comms being ignored.
An intranet provides one single channel for the whole organization to communicate and collaborate, which can help reduce an overload of information sent out via multiple channels such as Slack, email or WhatsApp.
Most intranets include tools with measurement capabilities, allowing you to identify how engaged your employees are with different types of channels and content.
“By using social technologies, companies can raise the productivity of knowledge workers by 20 to 25%”McKinsey & Company
An intranet connects your employees in any location or time zone and offers a centralized information platform for your employees to find company processes, news, events, information, and employee details. This allows comms professionals to create messages that will reach the entire organization and will then be stored for future users.
In addition, you can segment your users, adapting messages to the user needs and characteristics to get the right comms to the right people. This eliminates the problem of departments being overwhelmed with information or sending out comms with no relevance to the end user. You can also diversify your method to share content and use more engaging options to meet varied user needs, such as podcasts, blogs, videos, infographics, images, and PowerPoints.
Mobile intranets are also very effective as they can be accessed on most devices such as laptops, smartphones, desktops, and tablets. They allow your comms to reach your
2. Measure your communications – continuously
Relying on annual reviews to measure your employee engagement is a weak strategy and won’t determine if your communications are engaging your employees. Today’s generations want opportunities and thrive on recognition and feedback. To engage this workforce, organizations need to continuously innovate and create engaging comms.
“85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work”Gallup
Many comms professionals struggle to measure their internal comms due to limited qualitative and quantitative indicators, and therefore avoid the process entirely. However, to stay competitive you need to fix the problems: and to do this, you need to measure the current level of employee engagement with your content.
There are a variety of ways to measure how effective your current communications are:
- Using your intranet analytics – such as engagement rates (daily number of online users, their demographic, persona or location)
- One-to-ones and group discussions – understand more about employee wellbeing and satisfaction at work
- Email statistics – check your open and click rates
- Pulse surveys – find out your employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) or check the pulse of your organization on a regular basis
- Internal and external audits – allow third parties to assess your comms or create your own assessment internally
- Conduct exit interviews – find out why employees decide to leave the business
- Questionnaires and polls – find out what content and comms methods your staff find engaging
The resources available will determine what method is going to be most effective within your organization. If you don’t have an intranet, the most traditional method will be to conduct regular one-to-ones and get feedback directly from your employees. Once the results have been analyzed, you can then set targets which are specific to the feedback results and aligned to the organizations’ goals and objectives.
For example, if a large amount of your workforce is more engaged when finding out company news via a video, you may want to set a monthly target to ensure you send out at least two videos a month communicating company news.
You may discover in group discussions that your employees are overwhelmed with the amount of emails they receive. Creating a monthly newsletter instead of multiple comms each week can reduce the amount of emails.
Once you have identified the issues, you can then set targets and implement changes. However, you must continue to monitor, measure, and control your targets to continue to be innovative, improve your comms, and engage your workforce.
14 steps to great internal communications
3. Keep communications simple
One of the most important aspects of comms to consider is how it is received and understood by your employees.
You must be clear in your communications so the end reader or listener can easily digest the information. When sending out comms, you can’t be entirely sure the majority of your message has been understood. It is important to understand your audience and use the right tone in your content to keep your employees engaged and productive.
The style of management and the content being communicated will determine the tone. However, take into consideration how comms can easily be misinterpreted or perceived. For example, you send an email to the organization advising of a change to the working hours. The tone of your message is designed to be formal, however, may be perceived as harsh or cold by an employee. This results in employees becoming angry or rebellious towards the new change.
New processes may be challenging for your employees. For example, there is a new process for employees to submit sickness on the intranet; you may assume everyone can easily follow the instructions or guidelines, however, many employees may be confused and choose to continue with the old processes. To avoid conflict or resistance, keep messages simple and make it easy reading to enhance the user experience.
4. Seek out feedback and take action
Employee feedback is fundamental to organizational growth and can significantly influence your internal comms strategy. Many companies encourage feedback but don’t take any action to respond or acknowledge the information, due to fear of complaints or revealing employee unhappiness within the workplace.
Initial fixes for internal comms issues may be to increase the number of emails, messages, and internal memos. However, an overload of information won’t fix the problem: especially if the communications don’t add value for the employee. If your content does not engage your employees, it won’t be acknowledged and will result in internal operational challenges.
Professionals need to firstly open up channels to initiate communication and find out what the problems are. There are many channels to exploit such as the company intranet, where you can create company forums, polls, pulse surveys, and questionnaires. If you don’t have the digital tools, group meetings and one-to-ones are just as effective, though usually need more resource.
Pulse surveys and questionnaires are popular as answers can be numeric, making the results easier to quantify, evaluate, and find solutions to. However, taking a qualitative approach through group discussion or one-to-one meetings will allow you to find out more in-depth information. Assessing the body language and overall emotion of attendees towards certain problems makes it easier to find out genuine thoughts and real challenges for staff within the organization.
In addition, understanding employee interests, characteristics, and behaviours helps build a trusting relationship. This is not only beneficial for employee wellbeing; it also allows you to better understand your workforce and tailor your comms accordingly.
Not all employees will be willing to take part in meetings or questionnaires. You can make it mandatory, but even then this can prove difficult. Incorporating a participation rewards program is always effective in encouraging your employees to give feedback. It also helps increase the amount of data, giving you more accurate results and insight.
Once you have the feedback, you must take action. Questionnaires and one-to-ones are pointless if organizations don’t act on the results. You need to acknowledge the issues, find solutions, and implement change. The focus should be on understanding what comms engage your audience, evaluating the information and make the necessary changes.
“When leaders send out an employee survey but take no action on the results, it can lead to lower engagement than doing no survey at all.”Gallup
Valuable information can also be gained when an employee joins or leaves the company. Onboarding is a great time to find out the employee’s thoughts and first impressions of the business, such as how efficient they found the training.
Similarly, conducting an exit interview to find out why the employee is leaving and how they found their time at the organization is also highly valuable. The feedback will allow you to make necessary changes to recruitment and staff retention processes.
“When managers and workgroups discuss workplace issues openly, then act on those discussions, overall employee engagement increases”Gallup
Implement change to fix poor communication
Organizations are no longer just assessed on their profits or products, but also on their brand reputation and company culture. Relationships with stakeholders have become an integral part of building company culture and effective communication is the foundation.
Employees need to be given relevant information and the more value the content has to the employee, the more engaged and productive they will be: benefiting the whole organization.
Ensure the messages you send have a personal and professional relevance to the employee and will not be disregarded. Two-way communication is important, and employees should be encouraged to give their opinions and thoughts. Don’t send out messages and hope for silence: empower your employees and gain vital knowledge from their responses and feedback.
It is important to implement the right communication platform that will meet your user needs and allow you to measure engagement. The right targets must be set and continuously monitored to ensure your comms remain engaging and relevant. In addition, keep new processes and communications simple. Encourage employee feedback, listen, and strategically implement changes based on the results.