What does leadership want to see from internal communications?

Internal communications haven’t always been a top priority for executives, but there are signs that status is changing.

In a post on his blog, executive recruiter and speaker John G. Self explains how things used to be:

In far too many organizations, the job of internal communications has been assigned to someone in PR — a good writer who also held several other responsibilities. They were buried in the organization and had little or no responsibility for strategy or contact with the “brass” in the C-suite. In essence, internal communications was an important after thought, not a valuable resource for the CEO and his team to use in improving employee engagement.

Now, smart CEOs are figuring out that internal communications are an integral part of their own job success, Self writes. Here are a few key results executives are increasingly looking to see:

1. A cohesive corporate culture working toward shared goals.

According to research from Metrus Group, only 14 percent of employees understand their organization’s overarching strategies. That’s far too low. Executives with big ideas and sweeping plans need employees who are on the same page and share their philosophy to really make those plans soar.

“The cornerstone of effective execution is awareness and understanding,” James O’Mara writes on the OnMessage blog. “This can only be achieved through persistent and consistent communication of the strategy.”

Communications strategist Doug Poretz adds, “Regardless of the exact situation, the players in the Knowledge Economy team do their work not as an episodic event in a series of episodic events but as parts of a dynamic team of collaborators.”

2. Employee retention and recruitment.

This goes hand-in-hand with a cohesive, engaging culture. The more invested in their work employees feel, the more likely they are to stay. It also boosts your organization’s reputation, which means the top recruits are more likely to want to work there.

Self breaks it down like this:

When companies fail to communicate effectively, this contributes to employee turnover. The cost of turnover is damned expensive even though few companies report it on their income statements. Not reporting this expense is not reason to maintain the status quo…In highly competitive industries in highly competitive markets, there will be important winners and big losers. The winners will be those organizations with the best employees who are fully engaged in their work and their company.

3. Creating employee leaders and advocates.

Along with alignment with company values, the Institute for Public Relations lists this as a reason for executive-level involvement in internal communications: “identify, describe, and celebrate role models among employees.” It also defines employee advocacy as “the voluntary promotion or defense of a company, its products, or its brands by an employee externally.”

Executives and PR reps can’t be the only cheerleaders for a company. An effective internal communications strategy can bring the advocates an organization already has to the fore, and give them the tools they need to amplify the message.

4. Knowing what they don’t know.

A good internal communication strategy includes measurement. Metrics such as reach and frequency across the various communications channels identify what messages are being delivered to which audience segments. By measuring interactions, repetitions of key phrases and storylines, sentiment analysis, feedback, and simple survey responses, communicators and executives can understand, objectively, how employees are responding to and engaging with your communications. Measurement enables learning what works best to spark employee interest and put an exchange of ideas in motion.

With that information in hand, executives and their communication advisors can craft language and execute plans that move the culture and performance of the organization at large.

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