Every business needs to effectively communicate internally in order to maintain operations, collaborate between departments, foster company culture, and communicate leadership priorities. Improving the effectiveness of your internal communications requires a plan and a strategy, ideally, one that takes into account the existing workflows your employees perform. Here are six steps to develop an internal communication plan that works for your business.
What is an internal communications plan?
An internal communications plan governs how different employees, departments, and divisions in your company communicate with one another. This plan touches all the communication channels in use by an organization, from face to face interactions to social media chats.
An internal communications plan isn't just about how an organization communicates internally, though. It's also about why the communication occurs. An internal communications strategy should be linked to explicit business goals. Every communication should serve to further one or more of those goals.
So, how can your organization go about devising or improving an internal communications strategy? The following steps can help you develop a plan best suited for your business goals.
Steps to improve your internal communication plan
1. Create a working group
A working group gathers information and collaborates on the development of your improved internal communication strategy. An effective working group is the strong foundation needed to make meaningful changes to the way your organization communicates internally. To create an effective working group:
- Assemble a diverse, representative group of your organization. Include colleagues and key stakeholders who come from different departments.
- Keep your working group small and manageable. Avoid exceeding 10 people in the group.
- Delegate information gathering to working group members to gain an organization-wide perspective.
- Establish business goals for your new internal communications strategies.
- Plan your meetings with specific agendas. Stick to the topics of discussion.
- Take notes on each meeting and delegate specific tasks to members prior to adjourning.
2. Perform a status quo analysis
Study the existing reality of your internal communications before setting out to improve them. Once your working group is established, you can delegate tasks to the members to gain insight into your current communications. A status quo analysis should include the following elements:
- Begin with a clear understanding of why you are improving your internal communications plan. Are employees disengaged? Are you implementing new policies? Are there new programs available to employees?
- Conduct surveys to understand how your employees communicate, the effectiveness of their communication, and employee engagement with communications from senior leaders.
- Review data analytics from various communication channels to see what it is effective.
- Segment audiences by salience of information, as well as preferred communication channel, just as you would in a digital marketing campaign.
Understanding the different communication preferences of your target audiences will improve employee engagement.
When you understand how your teams currently communicate, as well as what they like and dislike about the existing system, you can set more concrete goals to improve your internal communication strategies toward the achievement of your objectives.
3. Set actionable goals
Once you know where you are, it’s time to define where you want to go. Keep your working group's previously identified business goals in mind. Each of these objectives are central to the development of your internal communications plan, so you should attach smaller, actionable goals to them.
Remember to set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time bound (SMART) goals. For example, if your main objective is to grow your business, you can set explicit internal communication goals to achieve that objective. Perhaps as part of that objective, you want to develop an employee referral rewards program for recommending new hires. A SMART goal would include:
- Develop and announce an employee referral rewards program within 1 month.
- Hire 5 people from employee recommendations within 6 months.
- Hire 15 people from employee recommendations within 1 year.
You could also pursue multiple objectives simultaneously. If you also want to keep employees apprised of new policies and procedures – something many businesses have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic – you might develop a multi-channel approach that includes email, chat software, and video conferencing to disseminate any changes. Additionally, you might also include clearly defined communication channels, so managers are able to reinforce policies communicated by senior leaders.
4. Develop a tactical plan
Once you've set actionable goals for each of your main objectives, you must plan how you are going to attain those goals. In the examples above, a tactical plan would need to be developed for each goal. Here's what a tactical plan for each could look like:
- Employee referral reward program: Establish a program that rewards employees a $500 bonus when a job candidate they recommend is hired by the company and retained for at least 1 month. Communicate this program to employees via email, chat, and video conference meetings.
- Promote internally: Begin promoting high performers internally and hire externally for entry-level positions. Identify high performers by manager recommendation and review of past job performance.
Policies and procedures
- Multi-channel approach: Communicate policies and procedures updates to employees via video conference meetings. Follow up via email and chat.
- Develop communication channels: Clearly delineate division of teams and managers responsible for each in the organizational chart. Use managerial communication channels to reinforce the implementation of new policies and procedures.
You can (and should) make your tactical plan even more detailed than these examples. For each actionable goal, you set to achieve your objectives, make sure you develop a clearly defined tactical approach to meeting those goals. Everyone in the working group should know this plan thoroughly and communicate it back to their own teams.
5. Measure your progress
You should decide upon a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) at the outset, and then stick to them once your plan is in place. Your KPIs are used to measure the success of your plan against your initial goals. For example, if your objective was to grow your business, your KPIs might include data points like the size of your workforce, your annual revenue, or the size of your inventory.
Your KPIs should be selected based on your business objectives, providing numerical signposts for how well you are performing. Measurable goals make success objective and concrete, rather than a subjective assessment.
6. Evaluate your communication plan
Once your new communication plan has had some time to take effect, evaluate it. To determine what worked and what didn't, consider the following:
- Conduct follow up surveys with key stakeholders to determine what has improved and what unforeseen issues might have arisen.
- Monitor data like message open rates, response rates, help desk tickets, and more.
- Host a meeting to solicit staff feedback from every stakeholder in the company, from entry-level to senior leadership.
- Summarize findings, draw conclusions, and plan adjustments to your internal communications plan.
Internal communications strategies are dynamic and evolving
Refining your internal communications plan should be an ongoing and dynamic process that can respond to changes as they arise. By building a strong foundation with a core team that details actionable goals, you’re able to properly measure what works, what doesn’t work, and collect employee feedback in an actionable way. The result is a set of policies that smoothly facilitates internal communications and supports your business as it evolves in the long term.