The role of HR in smooth internal communication
Internal communication professionals often say, that if their job is done well, it is quite invisible. We often take smooth exchange of information & engaging messages for granted, don’t we?
If you ask us to define internal communication, we’d say that it is a very dynamic and multifunctional process that is related to the way information, ideas, messages, and feedback are exchanged among the individuals and departments within an organization. We’d also say that it is a super crucial aspect of organizational functioning and plays a vital role in ensuring that all employees are aligned with the goals, objectives, values, and strategies of the company. It helps create a cohesive, productive, and engaged workforce.
Let’s discuss the role of internal communication & how it involves HR professionals, think about must-haves, most common challenges & their solutions.
Internal communication: key purposes
From a message congratulating you on your birthday, a handbook encompassing everything you need to know about the policies on the use of the company’s phone or car, to knowing who to go to when you want to discuss your career development or a conflict with a co-worker – internal communication encompasses many things. Here are some purposes of internal communication:
> Information sharing
Internal communication is the primary means by which important information is disseminated throughout the organization. This can include announcements, crucial policies, new procedures, updates about the company, and insights on projects and fun initiatives.
> Employee engagement
We love to say it and repeat it – engaged employees are happy employees. Keeping employees engaged means keeping them motivated and committed to their work. Communication channels like company newsletters, online meetings, and digital platforms can be used to engage employees by keeping them informed about the vision, mission, and progress of the company & allowing them to feel a part of a team.
Internal communication helps align employees with the strategic goals and objectives of the organization. Internal communication helps to keep the vision alive – when employees understand the big picture and their role in achieving it, they are more likely to work towards common goals.
> Feedback and improvement
Two-way communication channels, such as surveys, suggestion boxes, and other opportunities to leave public or private feedback are crucial for employers to gain valuable insights for improving processes and addressing issues. It is also important for employees to feel like they are heard, and that their voice is appreciated.
> Conflict resolution
Even at the best teams with the best culture, some conflict is inevitable. Effective communication can help resolve conflicts and misunderstandings among employees or departments. By providing a platform for open and honest dialogue, internal communication can help prevent issues from escalating.
> Knowledge sharing
Sharing is caring! Internal communication can facilitate the effective sharing of knowledge and expertise among employees, which can lead to increased innovation and problem-solving capabilities within the organization.
> Culture fostering
Internal communication also plays a role in building and reinforcing the company‘s culture. It helps in conveying the organization‘s values, ethics, and desired behaviours to employees & demonstrating those in action.
> Change management
During times of change, such as mergers, acquisitions, organizational restructuring, or even smaller changes within teams or departments, internal communication is critical for managing and guiding employees through the transition.
> Compliance and policies
Internal communication ensures that employees are aware of and adhere to company policies, legal requirements, and ethical standards – they know where to look for needed information and refer to it at any time.
> Employees who are dissatisfied with their company’s communication are four times more likely to leave
> According to Gallup, compared with disengaged teams, engaged teams show 24% to 59% less turnover, 10% higher customer ratings, 21% greater profitability, 17% higher productivity, 28% less shrinkage, 70% fewer safety incidents and 41% less absenteeism
> Effective internal communication can boost employee satisfaction by up to 40%
> Companies with effective communication practices have a 50% higher employee retention rate
> Good internal communication encourages idea-sharing and innovation. According to Deloitte, organizations with strong communication are 3.5 times more likely to be innovation leaders.
> 33% of employees report that a lack of open and honest communication leads to workplace conflicts
> Only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategy and direction. Effective communication helps align employees with the organization’s goals
> Communication is crucial during periods of change. A McKinsey study found that 70% of change programs fail due to poor communication.
What is the role of HR in internal communication?
Who else knows all & sees all within the organization, if not HR? It is quite obvious that among many jobs of HR professionals, they must at least somewhat add to facilitating and strengthening internal communication within an organization. Here are some common roles HR specialists have within internal communication:
> Helping to develop communication strategies
HR can work with other departments and leadership to develop effective communication strategies. This includes identifying communication objectives, target audiences, key messages, and appropriate communication channels.
> Ensuring compliance
HR can help ensure that internal communications adhere to legal and regulatory requirements, such as those related to labour laws, workplace safety, and data privacy.
> Facilitating employee feedback
HR can establish mechanisms for collecting feedback from employees and conveying it to relevant departments. This can involve surveys, suggestion boxes, and regular feedback sessions.
> Training and development
HR can provide training and development programs on effective communication & other relevant skills for employees and managers. This can help improve overall communication within the organization.
> Conflict resolution
HR can play a role in mediating and resolving conflicts between employees or departments, which may involve facilitating open and constructive communication.
> Onboarding and orientation
HR can ensure that new employees receive comprehensive information about the company, its culture, policies, and procedures during the onboarding process.
> Crisis communication
In times of crisis or emergencies, HR can assist in crafting and disseminating critical internal communications to keep employees informed and safe.
> Change management
HR often leads change management initiatives within the organization. Effective communication is essential when introducing changes, and HR can help manage resistance through clear and consistent messaging.
> Employee engagement programs
HR can design and implement employee engagement programs that promote communication and collaboration, such as team-building events, recognition programs, and feedback mechanisms.
How can HR specialists strengthen their role in internal communication?
As discussed, HR specialists can have many roles in fostering smooth internal communication. If you are motivated & have time to strengthen your role in making internal communication more effective, consider these actions to start with:
> Collaborate with other departments
You should work closely with departments like marketing, IT, and leadership to ensure a coordinated and consistent approach to internal communication.
> Use technology
Invest in technology and tools that facilitate communication, such as intranet platforms, employee engagement software, and communication analytics tools.
> Measurement and feedback
How do you know what’s working and what isn’t? Continuously assess the effectiveness of internal communication efforts through metrics and feedback from employees. Adjust strategies based on the results.
> Promote a culture of openness
Encourage a culture of open communication within the HR department and throughout the organization. Lead by example by fostering transparency and active listening!
> Stay Informed
Stay updated on best practices in internal communication and HR trends to adapt strategies accordingly.
Common struggles & solutions
Of course, even when a to-do list is clear, it is easier said than done. Professionals working in internal communication & HR face various challenges & the list can be quite lengthy. Here are some of the common struggles & issues to be aware of:
> Information Overload
Managing the volume of information and messages can be overwhelming. This makes it challenging to ensure that critical messages are noticed and properly absorbed by employees.
> Message Consistency
Ensuring that messages remain consistent across different channels and departments can be difficult, especially in larger organizations with multiple communication touchpoints.
> Audience Segmentation
Tailoring messages to different employee groups with varying needs and interests can be a challenge, as one size does not fit all.
> Employee Engagement
Keeping employees engaged and interested in internal communications can be difficult, particularly when employees are bombarded with information from various sources.
> Technological Hurdles
Managing and optimizing communication through digital tools and platforms can be challenging due to technical issues or employees struggling to adopt new software.
> Cultural and language differences
In multinational organizations, language barriers and cultural differences can hinder effective communication and understanding.
> Resistance to change
Employees may resist changes in communication practices, especially when transitioning to new technologies or communication platforms.
> Measuring Effectiveness
Determining the impact and effectiveness of internal communication efforts can be challenging, as it often involves intangible outcomes and requires robust measurement techniques.
> Information Security
Balancing the need for open communication with maintaining information security and data privacy can be a delicate challenge, particularly in industries with strict compliance requirements.
> Remote Work Challenges
In the era of remote work, ensuring that remote employees receive timely and relevant communication presents unique challenges, including issues related to connectivity, engagement, and isolation.
Open and two-way communication: feedback & whistleblowing
When it comes to internal communication, some things are nice to have and some are must-haves. Evidently, the need for open communication among employees is one of the most crucial aspects of effective communication. However, ensuring a safe space to be heard is also one of the biggest challenges that internal communication & HR professionals face.
As challenging as it might be, you must comply with whistleblowing laws. The new Whistleblowing Decree is set out to protect people who report violations of regulatory provisions that could affect the interest or the integrity of the public administration or a company. Companies that employ at least 250 employees are required to comply with the new Whistleblowing Decree since 15 July 2023.
It means that all companies with more than 250 employees must have whistleblowing channels to protect the identity of the individual whistleblower and to safeguard their confidentiality. In simpler terms – all employees must have an opportunity to convey anonymous feedback.
Of course, keep in mind that only the opportunity to leave feedback does little good if there are no set processes in terms of how to deal with voiced issues and conflicts. Allocating a person responsible for managing this communication channel & making decisions on how to properly deal with the problem at hand is critical.
We have a whole list of challenges to look out for when embarking on a journey to a more effective internal comms. Now, allow us to give you some advice that might help to address and overcome!
> Segment your audience
Again – one size does not fit all. Messages and the channels that the information is disseminated through should be determined based on the audience. Usually, the audience is segmented based on the employee specialization, department & other personal attributes. Personalizing it as much as possible is always a good idea.
> Leading by example
If your employees are reluctant to fill out important questionnaires or join internal initiatives, try upper management leading the way for the rest of the team. Your CEO uploading a picture from an internal initiative or writing a reminder about the deadline of an important survey can really go a long way.
These days there are so many communication channels to choose from and there is no way of telling which one will work for you and your team, so you must experiment and find the golden key. Good rule of thumb – make it as easy & convenient as possible. Another good tip – don’t overdo it, as having messages coming through multiple different channels can feel overwhelming and might have the opposite effect to what you’ve expected.
> Two-way communication
As touched upon before, an opportunity for two-way communication is not only a recommendation but a must in some companies. Besides having a chance to leave anonymous feedback, you might want to think about the opportunity for employees to react or reply to your messages, this way sparking the conversation.
> Show and (hopefully, kind of) let go
Best examples of truly engaging internal communication always have one ingredient – the participation of team members. Building upon the previous point of a need to have two-way communication in terms of team members expanding the conversation, this advice goes a tad further. The truth is, if you can lead the way initially, a big part of internal communication can become a self-driving thing.
Building on the last two points, it is always a good idea to notice, recognize, and reward any feedback, suggestions, or other examples of employees actively engaging in or even driving internal comms and initiatives.
Smooth internal comms play a crucial role in employee engagement, satisfaction, retention, and productivity. HR professionals have a big role to play in building effective communication practices & we hope this concise summary helps you and your organization.