Effective internal communications in a changing business landscape – how to adapt to the new normal and improve engagement with your staff
Maintaining morale, considering your team’s health and wellbeing and ensuring your staff are bought into your business aims and objectives is crucial as we face a new economic landscape.
Many businesses will also be operating in vastly different working environments or will have introduced new working practices. Good internal communication can help any transition run smoothly – and keep your team on board as your business adapts.
This blog will guide you in developing an effective internal communications strategy, put the right channels and tools in place, and implement effective internal communications.
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Tip #1. Prepare for change. Change your plan!
Focus will be on the operational aspects of coming back to work, but it’s important not to forget your internal communications plan – it has a larger role to play at this time.
Take a step back and reassess your internal communications plan in light of new ways of working and other changes your business has to make. The big difference will be how, what and when you communicate to staff before they come back to the business. Your internal communications plan is a guide on how to communicate with employees consistently and regularly – treat them like your customers!
What can you do?
- Analyse your current internal communications – understand what changes need to be made
- Home in your strengths and weaknesses – and build from there
- Understand what you want to achieve from the plan and set objectives
- Work with other departments on the plan – it needs to cover all business areas
- Set up an internal communications group which has representatives from across the business
- Create a timeline of what you need to communicate and when
- Consider what needs to be communicated prior to opening your doors again
- Factor in how staff can feed back on the plan and how you will measure its performance
Tip #2. Consider your audience. Adapt your messaging and channels.
Your internal communications plan will focus on your employees, what messages you will communicate and how you will communicate with them. Each employee will have different needs and wants, and you will need to consider the different ways in which you can reach them.
You will need to consider your messaging carefully, balancing facts with empathy, considering local needs i.e. for multi-site operations/ out of UK divisions and making information clear and concise!
What can you do?
- Outline who your audience is and break this down i.e. entire business, manufacturing staff, office workers and management – you will need to do this for all sites/operations
- Your message for each audience will differ, so detail what topics you need to address, what information needs to be shared and why and when this information needs to be conveyed
- Consider how you will share these messages to each of your audiences – tactics and channels will differ for each audience i.e. manufacturing staff may not have regular access to email
- To help you do this – create a simple table covering your audience, message and channel
Tip #3. Get prepared. Gain the confidence of your team.
The biggest change to your internal communications strategy is what you need to communicate before operations start/build up again.
Your staff will have a lot of questions and concerns, so it’s important to ensure you cover all bases and strengthen engagement and collaboration with your workforce. Show great leadership by demonstrating that you have considered everything in order for the workplace to be safe – this in turn will generate commitment and loyalty.
What can you do?
- Put yourself in your employees’ shoes and consider the basics such as travel, workplace environment, hours of working, breaks etc.
- Gain feedback from different employees on what their questions and concerns are/ will be
- Create a list of FAQs and break these down into different themes, as for some staff, some
- areas will be more relevant than others
- You should explain changes to the workplace and ways of working ahead of employees returning to a site
- Consider how you will present your information in a clear and easily digestible format
- Create a ‘back to work’ checklist for your staff and include key dates
- Just like your external communications, it’s important to add a call to action!
Tip #4. Communicate instructions and guidance clearly. Ensure your signage does its job.
There will changes in processes, technology, ways of working and how operations will be run moving forward. New information, guides and instructions on processes should be accessible to all staff and communicated in the right way – and via the right channels.
Regardless of company type, signage will play a large part in your internal communications. Working with all departments across the business will ensure that all bases are covered, instructions are clear and signage is used consistently across the business/sites.
What can you do?
- Read Government guidelines to understand what regulations you need to adhere to (gov.co.uk)
- If you have changed processes, make sure your guides are clear, easy to understand
- and accessible
- Communicate new processes and guides to staff – consider which processes need to be communicated ahead of returning to work
- Update systems such as your intranet and shared server with this information, and update relevant print material
- Tour your facility and create a plan and checklist of signage requirements
- Make signage clear and visually impactful to avoid any misinterpretation – test it out on staff members.
- Once signage is up, again test this out on staff to make sure that it’s doing the job you want it to do!
Tip #5. Embrace new communications software. And ensure your staff can use it effectively.
Technology has transformed the way we work – with tools such as Zoom being at the forefront. This is not a short-term change. We need to embrace these platforms.
Teams may be split and be remote working on certain days, which means that virtual meetings will continue. Because of social distancing, ‘normal’ communication may be difficult in the workplace because of the office/room/ facility size.
Make sure that your staff know how to use communications software. Client meetings will now be done via video conferencing. Ensure your staff know how to use this technology confidently.
What can you do?
- Create a list of technologies that you use as a business and assess what information and guides exist internally
- Gain feedback from staff on which guides would be useful to have – and what staff concerns are, and ensure you cover them in some FAQs
- Update these guides to reflect the new ways of working and communicate these to employees using the identified channels.
- Set up internal webinars to help train staff on the use of different technologies
- Make sure that any key process changes are communicated to employees using a range of channels
- Factor in these guides and changes to working to your ongoing internal communications
Tip #6. Link up comms with HR. Ensure your core values are carried forward.
Internal communications have taken on a new role. It’s no longer just about keeping staff updated on your company objectives, news and values. Internal communications are playing a key part in organisational and behavioural shifts.
Marketing teams will need to work with HR to ensure that information is disseminated to all employees and that their plans are executed.
Your values may have been tested at this time, but it’s vital that your core ethos – what makes your business what it is – remains at your organisation’s heart, and that it is embraced by everyone.
Your business culture may be forced to change – how can marketing work with HR to ensure that your business ethos is not lost or diluted?
What can you do?
- Add a strand in your internal communications plan which covers what role you will play in helping your HR team – what needs to be done and when
- If you have an internal Covid-19 task group, make sure it has marketing representation – they will need support in communicating new initiatives internally
- Gather feedback from staff to help improve communications moving forward
- Support HR in disseminating important information across the business
- Look at how you can help boost morale and confidence across the business – more regular communications, arrange virtual events, celebrate successes etc.
Tip #7. Support your sales and business development teams. Give them the information they need.
For business development and sales teams the way they operate will still not be the same – even after we emerge from lockdown. Face to face meetings and visits will still be affected due to social distancing rules – and many clients may prefer virtual options. Many conferences and networking events have been cancelled, postponed, or moved online.
Marketing support to these teams will continue to be paramount – ensuring the right tools, materials and resources are available to them. They will also need to have the right information about business operations to inform customers about new procedures and build confidence in your organisation’s operational capacity and capabilities.
What can you do?
- Make sure that the right information on opening hours and how customers can do business with you are clear and communicated to your internal teams
- Understand what the procedures are for customer visits and factory tours – can these be done virtually?
- What information needs to be communicated internally if these visits
- are in person?
- Make sure your sales teams know how to use virtual tools to hold meetings –
- communicate guides and tips on how to make these as effective as possible
- Through internal communications, share details of new customers that have come on board and share the sales team’s success – a morale booster in these difficult times
Tip #8. Make staff wellbeing a priority. Help your team navigate through a challenging time.
For most employees, lockdown has affected their business and personal lives. From mental health struggles and personal wellbeing to financial pressures and getting used to working from home, it’s been very challenging in many ways.
As we start to move towards the new normal, it will still be a difficult time for many employees in this transition. It’s important that internal communications play a role in supporting employees by sharing useful guides and resources, highlighting what support is available and how staff can reach out for help.
What can you do?
- Share Government and charity health and wellbeing advice – PDF guides, apps, website links or printed materials
- Share helplines and support resources and work closely with HR to identify specific needs
- Enable employees to maintain relationships with each other through Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype accounts
- Arrange counselling and wellbeing seminars for staff – these can be done virtually
- Address safety concerns by communicating measures you have put in place to create a safe working environment
- If you have staff working in different environments – e.g. some at home and some in the office – ensure that you have regular check-ins with all staff… and that no one feels ‘left behind’
Tip #9. Enhance two-way communication with staff. Benefit from increased engagement.
Internal communications are now at the forefront of marketing priorities in 2020 and are playing an integral part in marketing plans moving forward – this won’t change soon!
Staff look to their employers as a source of trust for clarity around government updates and changes – as well as confidence in business performance and sustainability. A lot of businesses are ramping up their communications to staff as they see this as being a critical factor to success. Informed, engaged and loyal staff will drive your business to recovery and will help keep your business strong and at the forefront.
But communication works two ways, make sure you ask your employees for regular feedback.
What can you do?
- Look at your current communication channels and assess the strengths and weaknesses of each as well as their role and frequency
- Introduce new channels which will boost effectiveness such as a company newsletter or intranet
- Make sure you consider your audiences and channels. Some staff may receive information via multiple points, others may not, but it’s important to communicate with all staff effectively
- Set up an internal communications group with representatives from across the business – they can act as champions and help you deliver your strategy
- Continuously gather feedback – and remember to factor in the dissemination of the results so that employees feel they are being listened to!
Tip #10. Be ready to evolve. Adapt your communications as the landscape changes.
Effective internal communication is the driving force behind productivity, morale, engagement, customer service provision, health and safety management, and much more. Employees will reflect on how you responded to their needs after lockdown and it will become a defining benchmark.
The pandemic has impacted individuals, businesses, industries, supply chains, your customers and countries around the world on a daily basis…and it’s not over yet. It is vital to stay on top of developments and adapt your internally communications plan accordingly and review it regularly – gathering feedback along the way!
What can you do?
- Communicating hygiene and safety procedures
- Sharing new company policies and ways of working
- Informing staff of essential information such as opening times and the ways customers can interact with you
- Consistent use of signage across your business and sites
- Sharing information on specific impacts of Covid-19 on your business
- Highlighting support available to employees on areas such as finance, mental health and wellbeing
- Disseminating HR information and changes to working practice
- Sharing and interpreting key Government updates on Covid-19
- Providing guides and tips on using new technologies and systems in place
- Sharing company news and successes – positive news to boost morale across your workforce
- Gathering regular feedback and changing and improving internal communications accordingly
Above all, this is a good time to forward plan and get back to basics. Take a step back, re-evaluate your internal communications plan and make sure it’s fit for purpose for the current situation – and remember it will change and evolve in line with what’s happening and government changes
If you would like to assess your current marketing position, from strategy to delivery, why not try our free online marketing diagnostic tool Snapshot360? Complete our online assessment and within minutes you’ll receive a 360 snapshot report which scores all areas of your marketing. Click here to take the test.