by Miriam O' Brien

20.10.2019 internal communications

Everything You Need to Know About Internal Communications Planning

What is Internal Communications Planning?

Building an internal communications plan is one of the best things a company can do to impact employee engagement and as a result, improve retention, acquisition and productivity of the workforce.

Statistics show us that better internal communication not only improves employee performance, but also benefits the broader organizational culture.

A well-developed internal communications plan outlines how teams and departments should communicate with each other to support the company’s business objectives.

 

Why Do You Need An Effective Internal Communications Plan?

It’s simple – great internal communications planning will make sure your employees are engaged in their workplace. An engaged workforce is significantly more productive, more creative and in turn provide higher customer CSAT levels than less engaged organizations.

There is a ton of research out there showing that employees work (and feel) better at their workplace when they are actually engaged in what they’re doing. 

Let’s take a look at some statistics.

  • Engaged employees contribute 20% more revenue compared to less interested employees
  • According to Harvard Business Review, 71% of managers of companies with 500 employees or more felt that employee engagement is one of the most important factors for a company’s success
  • Companies with engaged employees perform 200% better than those without, according to Culture IQ reports.
  • If you extend your investment in employee engagement by only 10%, you can increase your profits per employee by $2,400 per year
  • Fabick CAT, made a 600% return on investment, just by investing $500,000 in its people
  • Employees who are disengaged, cost companies $450-550 billion every year, according to a report from Gallup
  • Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave an organization than disengaged employees 

 

How do We Create an Easy-to-Follow Internal Communications Plan?

We Start By Answering These 8 Simple Questions.

There are several reasons why communication plans are needed.

For example, they will help employees with upcoming changes, address important issues in the company or the industry, and create a roadmap for turning strategy into action.

Anytime you need to get a message across to teams or employees, you should consider using a communication plan. It will show you how to transfer information properly and how best to articulate your point so that it resonates. 

What follows is a practical framework you can use to create your plan. Based on eight questions, this is a proven way to start crafting out your internal communications plan.

 

 

1. What’s Your Current Situation?

 

Before you start developing a new plan, you should assess your current situation. 

In other words, analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your current approach to internal communications. How close did your last plan get you to achieving your goals? Did you even have one? Even if you don’t currently have a plan, you should consider the following:

1.1 How close are you to accomplishing your internal communication goals? 

You should make a list of strengths and weaknesses in your previous internal communications planning. If you didn’t have a plan previously, you should start by determining the goals you’re trying to achieve in the future.

 

1.2 Run an internal audit.

Before you make any changes, you should analyze what’s currently working and what’s not. Hiring a consultant to help you with the audit will benefit you big time because they will provide you with a fresh and independent perspective.

 

1.3 Create and run a company survey.

Surveying your employees is an effective and direct way to gather their feedback. Workvivo offers a creative approach to surveys, with a huge library of “just for fun” questions and themes. 

Workvivo offers a creative approach to surveys, with a huge library of “just for fun” questions and themes. 

 

1.4 Sample group interviews.

It’s nearly impossible to talk to everyone in a large organization. For that reason, group interviews are an effective way to gather quality feedback. If you talk with a group representative of all teams and departments, you’ll get a 360-degree picture of your company.

 

1.5 Gather measurable data.

Do you have tools in place to track your internal communications? If you don’t, you need to find a tool that will provide you with everything from social interaction metrics like views, comments, and likes to survey result reports. 

 

1.6 Compare results based on time frames.

Having an informative and charted description of your current situation will enable you to compare the results of your internal communications plans from 2018, 2019, and so on.

 

2. What Are You Trying to Accomplish?

To develop your internal communications plan, you’ll need to know two things:

  • Where do you want to be? 

Do you want to increase engagement so you can benefit from less absenteeism and higher quality performance? Or do you want to change employee behavior and motivate people more?  

  • What do you need to do to make it happen?

You may need to hire an outside auditor who will show you what changes you need to make to get better results. Alternatively, you may need a new communication platform, one that will help your company function more like an actual community.

After you have answered these two questions, you’re ready to start working on the internal communications plan itself – the vision of where you want your company to be in the next 3/6/12 months. 

To do that, you need to have objectives and goals you’re trying to hit. They should be related to the way employees and departments communicate within your company.

There are 3 things you need to know before you start setting objectives.

  • Effective objectives begin from having a vision.
  • Make sure objectives have end dates.
  • The best goals are SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound).

 

3. Who is Your Audience?

Your company has several teams and department types that you should address in your plan, and you cannot use the same language when you speak to all of them. 

After all, your audience might consist of: 

  • Senior executives – an endorsement from a senior leader will validate your efforts and encourage other key executives to get involved.
  • Key stakeholders – these are the people most likely to be affected by organizational decisions.
  • Members of stakeholder’ teams – colleagues of your key stakeholders.
  • Experts in the subject matter – for instance, individuals from the HR department can tell if your internal communications plan will work.
  • Company support – Organize discussions with people from the IT, finance, HR departments etc, and they will tell you if your project is feasible.
  • Local representatives – If your company has many locations, involving people from other regions can provide you with fresh ideas and give you powerful insights into how well your plan fits into different work environments. 

 

4. What’s the Message You’re Trying to Spread?

How can you ensure that the story you’re trying to tell will engage your employees?

You should start by creating your basic concept, also known as the elevator pitch: a summary of the most important points you’re trying to get across. The shorter the better. After that, you can add and build the details.

Ask yourself these three questions if you need help creating a straightforward message.

  1. What do your employees want (and need) to know in order to work efficiently?
  2.  What’s the goal you’re trying to achieve? Faster communication? Clearer information?
  3. What is the news you want to spread to different departments?

After you have answered these questions, you’ll have a great framework for crafting your message into your internal communications plan.

However, you shouldn’t consider your internal planning as just a way to send more information to your employees. 

You should create and encourage two-way communication. If information only moves from the top-down, you’ll get very little interest from your staff.

Your employees need to be able to respond to information, express their worries, and share their ideas without fear of censorship. 

If this is something new to your company, then you must ensure that the people know how they can communicate and that they are free to share their honest opinions. 

It’s crucial to provide your employees with the tools and channels that empower them and give them a chance to express themselves. Its best to have a few well-supervised forums rather than many neglected ones.

Allow your employees to express themselves in a more casual manner. Informal communication among peers happens every day in every organization. Don’t try to silence it. 

Instead, build your company culture around it – encourage everyone to share their honest opinion. As a result, you’ll see massive improvements in company morale and employee engagement. 

If you want to *really* empower your workforce to share their opinion, create an anonymous forum.

People won’t be afraid of speaking up when they can do so anonymously, and you’ll see remarkable improvements in your company culture. Not to mention, you’ll have a lot of very valuable feedback.

 

5. What’s Your Strategy for internal communications?

Strategies are the specific methods you’re using to achieve your goals and objectives. However, the big mistake most communicators make is to jump from setting goals right to using tactics without first developing a strategy.

You should always look at the bigger picture and try to identify which strategy best serves your goals and objectives. The best way to do this is with testing, testing, and more testing. When you have specific data, you can narrow your objectives down to the ones that are most effective for your company.

There are a few things you can do to make sure your strategy is always on point:

  • Review your internal communications plan on a regular basis. High-performing companies regularly meet to review and update their plans. It’s a great way to evaluate which part of your internal communications plan is working and what needs improvement.
  • Plan out consistently. Your plan should be consistent across all of the communication channels and tools that your organization is using. As a result, you won’t have to change the way you communicate every time you start using a new tool.
  • Audit your communication channels. Keep in mind that one size does *not* fit all. You should look at what channels your audience is using most. In most cases, the channel that works for remote workers won’t work as well for your regular office employees.
  • Measure your internal communications data. Keep track of how well your communications are performing within your organization. Pay special attention to e-mail open rates, click-through rates, and survey feedback.
  • Share your internal communications plan. You want to be as collaborative as possible and get help from the right people when developing your communication plan.
  • Feel free to experiment with new channels and campaigns. Don’t be scared to try something different such as introducing new channels of communication (if you think they can work better compared to your current ones.)

While strategies provide a blueprint for you to achieve your internal communications objectives, tactics show the specific tools you’ll use to deliver on your plan.

 

6. What Channels and Tactics Should You Use?

Once you have a strategy in place, you should create tactics that help you achieve your objectives as quickly as possible.

When developing your tactics, keep in mind:

  • Existing and new communication channels.
  • Details such as roles for key members.
  • To review your tactics every once in a while and ensure they still support your strategy.

After you have established your tactics, it would be best to schedule them in a calendar. This will help you anticipate what’s coming your way so you can avoid any surprises.

Introducing a timeline will also help you because all of your suggested tactics will work together over a period of time. Make sure to include all the details when creating your timeline.

Now that you understand your current internal communications situation. You know your strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, you know what you have to do to move forward.

The next step is to assess all the tools you have available at your disposal and analyze what you need from each of them.

How are you going to ensure that everyone is ready to participate in your internal communications plan? How are you going to engage your stakeholders and employees? What tools are in place to help create meaningful two-way communication?

Can your employees easily communicate with you? Could you run surveys, polls, pulse surveys etc? 

Is there a process that helps employees find and communicate content or information to their colleagues about the job that needs to be done?

Is there a way for your staff to articulate their feedback, share their ideas, or raise concerns they have? 

All of these forms of communication require different tools. However, before you start adding more tools to your digital workplace, you should consider the channels and platforms you already use.

Let’s look at the logistics. What are the internal communication tools currently available in your company? 

You’re far more likely to engage and grab your employees’ attention from across your organization if you use a variety of channels. This is because not everyone communicates in the same way. Some people prefer face-to-face meetings. Others prefer surveys and online chats.

It would be best to strategize potential tactics and channels with your team. Create a brainstorming session where everybody can share their opinions and ideas. This way, you’ll find the best approach to the internal communications process.

The best practices for internal communications are:

  • Face-to-face – the best way to create a personal connection and encourage change in your employees.
  • Meetings – the best approach when you want to communicate complicated ideas or get your employees’ feedback.
  • Notes – if you need to keep details from your meetings or reference certain dates, this is by far the best approach.
  • Emails – they work very well for those who have frequent access to their computers or phones. So… everyone 🙂 . 
  • Videos – when you want to appeal to visual and audio senses and communicate your story, you should create short videos to help get your message across.
  • Internal social media – this is the most effective way to build a company culture around collaboration and encourage rapport among team members.

Now that you’re familiar with the best ways to practice internal communication, you should decide how frequently you’ll use your channels (and how you’ll keep track of progress.)

 

7. How Will You Measure Your Progress?

Like the old saying goes, what gets measured gets managed.

Depending on the objectives you have set for your company, what you measure will vary. However, you should always try to measure every variable and piece of data you can.

If your main goal is to increase employee engagement in the workplace, you should take a look at:

  • Attention Rates

We already talked about how low employee engagement leads to problems within the company. Always make sure you’re checking your attention rates and look for ways you can improve them. 

To measure them, you should be tracking your company turnover, open rates, and click-through rates. This way, you’ll be able to calculate your attention (and retention) rates. Get a spreadsheet and update it with your most up-to-date information from the HR department.

  • E-mail Open Rates

This stat shows you how well informed your employees are about important company announcements. A low open rate shows you that people don’t pay attention to what you’re sending them. Plus, it means that your subject lines are clearly not working.

There are a ton of tools out there that will help you measure e-mail opens and see who opens your e-mails and who doesn’t.

  • Link Click-through rates

The link clicks will show you how well you engage your audience. A low click-through rate should tell you that the content you’re sending is not relevant. This means that you should change it up by identifying other audience preferences.

  • Used Devices

In today’s digital workplace, almost everyone checks their e-mail on their phones. You should keep tabs on which devices your employees are most likely to consume content. 

It’s very easy to measure link clicks, location, and which devices your employees use, regardless if you’re using Gmail, Outlook, or Webmail. 

  • Feedback And Responses Received

If you haven’t used surveys yet, you’re missing out. They are the best way to get an understanding of what engages your employees when it comes to internal communications.

Workvivo enables you to create social reactions and surveys for company teams. You can ask your employees anything – in a fun and engaging way. 

If you start collecting all this data, you’ll learn what content to create and how to better engage your employees. By tracking what content works best for any given situation, you’ll be able to segment your internal e-mails and increase engagement levels.

 

8. How Will You Stick to Your Internal Communications Plan?

Your plan should be more than a yearly record of tactics and messages. It should also help you establish priorities, keep everyone in the company updated at all times, and define your company culture. 

You should create a repeatable process and methodology for tracking how far you have come. 

For example, if you’re creating a weekly internal employee survey, you should have tools in place to review and send out your content. You can try using survey templates so you can easily build surveys in a fun and engaging way.

In addition, you should always keep in touch and book meetings with your fellow execs. This will help you stay on top of every situation and understand how your company is adapting to changes. 

You also need to make sure your senior executives are aware of what you’re working on and vice versa.

Ensure that your work is visible to your entire team. You want to be aware of what your execs are doing, in the same way that the rest of your team also desires transparency.

Commit to revisiting your plan regularly, even weekly. You’ll be able to check your progress, make adjustments, and ensure that you’re on the right track to hit your objectives.

You should adopt project management tools that enable you to keep track of your company’s progress. There are a ton of amazing internal communication tools you can look at, starting with Workvivo.

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