A good internal communication plan is critical to how your business operates and functions. Despite that importance and everyone’s good intentions, we have found that not all internal communication teams have a strategic internal communication plan in place. And that lack of a plan typically shows up in many ways: from how the team operates, to communication with employees, and in a lot of cases, the impact it has on the business.
An effective internal communication plan helps build employees’ trust in leadership, facilitates different teams working together and aligns employees with company goals.
What is Internal Communications Planning?
Effective communication in the workplace is crucial. Building an internal communication plan is an optimal method to impact employee engagement, which improves retention rates and productivity in the workforce, not to mention business results.
A well-developed plan clearly defines how teams and departments communicate with employees and what is required to achieve important business goals. It should be tied to the organization’s strategic plan including its mission, vision, values and business-critical KPIs.
Why do you need an Internal Communications Plan?
An internal communications plan is a necessity for a multitude of reasons. When a strong communication plan is in place, employees tend to be more engaged, which in turn leads to loyalty, motivation and productivity. Without a plan, it can lead to poor internal communication that can have a negative impact on your business with lower employee morale, reduced productivity levels and, in turn, undesirable business results.
Having a clear-cut plan provides a roadmap on how to communicate with employees on a consistent basis so that they feel informed on organizational news, business updates and especially goals for the business. By staying aware, employees know when and where — and most importantly, how and why — they can take action to help achieve these objectives.
A well-constructed plan keeps communicators centered on key efforts so that they’re working on projects that are crucial to the business in an effective and efficient manner. In doing so, they operate as true business partners rather than simply running a glorified arts and crafts department.
A solid plan also helps define what communication strategies are important for the organization to focus on and what the timeline will look like for implementation. A plan guides the team on how each initiative will be valuable to the employees and the organization and what impact it’ll have on the business.
Most importantly, creating a strategic plan ensures that business leaders are aligned on the significance and impact of internal communications and how it serves key business needs. There’s a secret bonus hidden in this part that works very much in your favor: since your senior leaders will have a hand in agreeing on what’s in your internal communication plan, you end up with a great strategy they’ve all said “yes” to, which makes it a whole lot easier for your communication team to say “no” to other requests that always tend to distract you from doing your most strategic work.
How do we create an easy-to-follow Internal Communications Plan?
There are many different ways to create an internal communications plan. It’s important to find a method that works for your organization and crucial to stick by it once you find it.
Review your current Internal Communications Strategy
Before you begin developing a plan, assess your organization’s current situation. Conducting background research ahead of creating a strategy will help you understand the business needs and employee wants that will be instrumental in the success of your plan.
It’s the perfect opportunity to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of your current internal communications program and find the gaps that can help or hinder your success.
Some important questions to ask as you evaluate your internal communication strategy should be:
- What’s your current situation: How is your current strategy performing? Who is currently involved with your plan and who can you add to improve it? How close did your last plan get you to achieving your goals?
- Create a list of strengths and weaknesses about your previous internal communications strategy. If you didn’t have one, determine goals you are trying to achieve by creating a plan.
- Conduct a company-wide survey. Surveying your employees is an effective and direct way to gather their feedback.
- Conduct the same kind of survey with just your leaders/managers to find out what they need/want/expect from your team and your communication efforts.
- Review existing communication tools to see which ones are effective and the impact they have on your workforce.
- Where do you want to be?: What are your overall company internal communication goals? Are you investing in a new communication platform or revamping current tools?
- Define communication priorities that support your business objectives such as increasing employee engagement scores or behavior changes and increase in motivation.
- Determine which tools are best suited for your communication priorities from internal communication platforms to collaboration tools to instant messaging to video conferencing. Each service serves a different purpose and some goals may require a combination of multiple channels to ensure business objectives are being met.
- How you plan to get there: What do you need to achieve your internal communication objectives? What content and resources will be beneficial for your employees?
- How long it should take: How many resources are needed to reach your objective? Determine between how long it should take vs. a realistic timeline for your team.
- Set realistic goals for your plan taking into account implementation and planning so that you can take more efficient steps towards updating your internal communications strategy.
- Who’s involved: What departments and functions are a part of your team? Is leadership engaged and involved from the get-go?
Define your audience
Organizations have various different teams, departments and functions that need to be addressed in your internal communication plan. Your strategy should try to engage everyone across the business but the same messaging can’t be applied to all.
It’s important to segment out your audience so that you’re catering to the different functions, locations, organizational levels and departments. When creating your plan, it’s important to have content that targets specific audiences even when it’s internal. Mapping out your content strategy can help address information overload and should focus on delivering relevant information to the right employees.
Organizations need to ensure that they are constantly reviewing their audience targeting to make sure it aligns with their internal communications strategy.
Set SMART Objectives
A useful place to start when creating goals is to develop S.M.A.R.T. objectives. Think about where to take your internal communications plan and strategy. Ask yourself:
Specific: Define what your goals are in clear, simple terms
Measurable: Create quantifiable targets that help you see progress towards your goal
Attainable: Ensure your goals can be achieved within your specified time frame and with the resources you have
Relevant: Create objectives that will have the desired effect on your goal and align with your business model
Time-bound: Develop a timeline to keep your team accountable
What’s your strategy for Internal Communications?
Once your team and organization have aligned on goals, it’s important to develop a strategy before diving right into actions without a plan in place. Take a look at your organization’s roadmap and determine what approach will help best serve your goals. There are a few steps you can take to ensure that your strategy is aligned with your goals:
- Review your internal communications plan on a consistent basis. It’s necessary to review and update your plan based on what’s working and where you stand room for improvement.
- Audit your communication channels. Evaluate what tools are working for your employees and where any gaps lie so that you can fill it. Remember, not all communication tools work for every employee so get feedback for what’s needed.
- Analyze your data. It’s essential to take a look at your numbers whether it’s log-in rates on your modern intranet or click-through rates on a newsletter but most importantly data from employee engagement surveys to determine how well your communications is actually performing.
How will you measure success and progress?
Measurement should line up the SMART objectives you set. Ensure that when you create those goals that you also take time to check in on how well you’re doing on a monthly basis. Test new tactics in your strategy to see if it’s a success or if you need to pivot resources towards a new direction. Depending on what priorities you have set, what you measure will vary. It can be valuable to create a monthly report to share with executives and leadership to show the impact that internal communications has on the workforce and how well (fingers crossed) your strategy is working. And be sure to measure both the outputs (how many clicks, likes, downloads, forwards, shares, attendees, etc.) and the outcomes (what did employees think/feel/do differently once they engaged with your content. Hint: your business leaders only care about outcomes. While impressive to you, they don’t care at all if your corporate video won 17 awards. They only care how that video moved the needle they are constantly watching.
Identify your internal communication tools
It’s important to determine which internal communication tools your organization needs to create and share content. Different tools are designed for different types of communication. Evaluate what you already have in your technology toolkit and how your organization utilizes each platform. There are countless enterprise collaboration tools available, find what works for your organization.
Depending on the size and geographic locations of your organization, you can communicate through several channels, such as:
- Face-to-face communication: The best approach to building a personal connection with employees
- Email: Great method to communicate with employees that are desk-workers and for long-forms of personal communication.
- Modern Intranet: A virtual headquarters that contains high-level communication from departments and locations across the organization.
- Online Chat: Great for instant communication and need to collaborate with a coworker.
Having multiple kinds of technology is key to empower employees to work efficiently. Not everyone communicates the same way so it’s important to recognize how to appropriately use each work tool to not only keep employees productive but to preserve company culture and connection. Just keep in mind that high-tech tools are there to help your business facilitate high-touch connections. And it’s those connections and relationships that drive the outcomes you’re seeking, not the tools themselves.
It’s safe to say that internal communication has become an essential part to having engaged, productive employees in a successful business. It’s not just about connecting leadership and executives with employees but also evaluating what organizations can do to improve collaboration and performance from within. After all, your business can’t be successful in the marketplace if it isn’t successful in the workplace.
Having a well-thought out and structured internal communications plan enables your team and organization to maximize the impact of your communication efforts. It establishes a clear direction and aligns employees towards the same goal.
Planning is one of the most powerful ways to ensure that you have a successful internal communications program. Guarantee your organization a higher rate of engagement, productivity and success. See how Simpplr can help you shine, book a demo today!