Communicate With Precision and Purpose

Simpplr is introducing an innovative Live EX platform feature to transition into a new era of Internal Communications. The world of internal communications is evolving. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic changed the employee experience. Many workers found themselves isolated, and leaders had to learn to institute technological changes to cross those divides and provide clarity around organizational priorities and values. 

In response, we will be producing a series of articles about the secret to great internal communications that help build a culture of caring and improves the employee experience.  In this series, we will share thoughts, insights, and the effects of each step on your company, business, or organization. 

Let’s start with part 1.

Communicate With Precision and Purpose

We are learning new ways to create effective internal communication strategies to accommodate the post-pandemic era. There is an extensive need to be more personalized in messaging and filter out, if not eliminate, noise entirely. Without clarity, outside narratives are created, and false stories can take the place of truth. Employees also deserve a single source of truth for all critical company information. Most of all, if you want to accomplish the goal of social and cultural cohesion, especially across a distributed workforce, there must be a superior communication method, system, and message binding your organization. 

If we have learned anything from the past two years, it is three things: 

  • We need to communicate with precision and purpose. 
  • We must listen for “in-the-moment” feedback and sentiment.
  • We have to course-correct, reaffirm, and celebrate employees and accomplished goals with new agility.

If you can achieve this, you can provide a world-class employee experience worthy of the talent we attract.

What is Communication?

Communication has many meanings. Let’s define the word and concept of communication to avoid confusion. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, communication is described as the “imparting or exchanging of information or news.” That includes “the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings.” It is also the method and means by which the information, news, ideas, and feelings are delivered. Now, put that into the context of a business situation or environment. 

It’s important to call out a couple of keywords in that definition: successful and sharing. To me, this harkens back to the notion that communication is not a one-way street. How do you know if recipients have successfully conveyed or shared ideas or feelings? You ask the recipient. We will get more into this in the next blog, but I want to bring this up to ask: By its definition, how do you know you are communicating if you aren’t following up with the audience?

Think of how much information is communicated to the average worker and how much they are responsible for. Policies and procedures? Human resources may have large volumes of vital employment data and resources that employees need to know. But are they accessible and consumable by everyone? 

What about change management? New initiatives can be stopped right out of the starting blocks if they are not appropriately distributed and explained in a manner that everyone can understand. Daily news and messages from the C-suite? These are only examples of what can be lost or discarded in the mire of so many details that are heaped upon your employees. Consider, then, what can be accomplished. It all starts with the right strategy and form of communication.

What is Your Form of Communication?

No matter where they are in the growth process, every organization has a form of internal communication. Think about it. If you are in the first phase as a startup, you may still have those jogs between cubicles, conversations at the water cooler, leaving notes on desks, email blasts, and immense amounts of information transferred via interoffice instant messaging. Better yet, you might (gasp!) still call people on the phone. Guess what? That is your communication system. It may suffice for now. But how do you scale? If you’re going to handle desired growth, you need to address your communication forms and the appropriate system to drive it.

Some technology is doing its jobs by encouraging workplace collaboration between employees and bringing them closer together as teams. The tech should be purpose-built, contributing to the workplace experience, company culture, and the social interaction of employees. Some, however, are failing. They contribute to siloed or loss of information, lack of productivity, and increased employee turnover.  

Whether a business is a startup, approaching IPO, or they are the sacred unicorn, all must have a successful internal communications strategy. This strategy must include the appropriate technology to handle scale and partner with leadership action. Without them, efforts to impart information, facilitate knowledge exchange between employees, and build a cohesive company culture become impossible goals. In fact, antiquated methods and software are impediments to growth. 

The more mature the communication strategy, technology, and communication itself, it can be leveraged to benefit the company and its employees. If you are still dependent on sticky notes, large volume three-ring binders for reference information, and emails to share information and high-level policies, you are undoubtedly well behind the internal communications standard set for success.

Every organization, company, or business needs to implement a strategy to communicate effectively, share information, and enable collaboration with employees at every level. But that is only the first phase. The content and quality of the information disseminated and transferred are equally vital. 

The Value of Communication

When devising and establishing an internal communications strategy leadership must be involved, and the employee experience must be front and center in every decision. To create and initiate the type of communication shared, you must employ careful governance over the content. The content should be developed with objectives for each team, department, and segment of your employee population. 

You also cannot forget the social value of the technology and the information shared. The pandemic has taught us that crisis and remote work conditions can radically transform companies and employees. The saving grace of those situations was the flexibility of communication and what you say to one another.  And the effects of this understanding are being seen globally. 

A 2019 Global Enterprise Collaboration report predicted that the “global enterprise collaboration market size is projected to grow from USD 31.0 billion in 2019 to $48.1 billion by 2024, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 9.2%” over that period. This growth was primarily due to the increasing use of networking websites, mobile apps, and devices for collaboration, which are the key factors driving the enterprise collaboration market. What this report did not detail was the importance of content.

There has been an explosion in internal communications in the last two years, primarily due to the pandemic. In Simpplr’s State of Internal Communications 2022, a survey that interviewed internal communications professionals, reported the current trends and gave insights into the industry and where it is headed. Priorities have quickly changed in the field of internal comms, as well. What they found is that regarding the importance of communication:

The state of internal communications today, as the workforce recovers from the pandemic and adjusts to the new reality, over 60% rate communications above average. However, the most significant discrepancy is the employees’ perception of IC relative to the IC professionals themselves. This gap is worth paying close attention to because it highlights the importance of regularly gathering feedback and engagement data to ensure that the tactics and messaging deployed by IC are landing. On a positive note, there is an overall 20% increase in recognition of IC importance among management based on survey data captured in 2019 and a 10% uptick of lagging organizations that agree on articulating the importance of IC.

Various methods that IC uses to measure and evaluate the success of IC programs. 

Of those issues mentioned, each can be mitigated if not solved with the right internal comms tech, strategy, and content. This cannot happen without company leadership recognizing the value of internal comms and the importance of proper messaging.

Why should you communicate well?

Our words and messages have an impact on everyone and everything around us. The choice of those words, especially when you are in the communication field, is paramount to the success of your messaging. But if you are trying to communicate with a disparate, global workforce, several things could prove to be impediments. One is the hybrid work environment itself. 

Simpplr’s State of the Employee Experience 2022 found that 53% of workers were in a post-pandemic hybrid employment situation, with 30% working primarily or fully remote. The hybrid and remote reality are here to stay. However, the complexity of this workforce requires companies to deal with geographic differences, norms, laws, and cultures. 

There are always stressors and uncertainties associated with employees distributed across geographic or other structural boundaries. There is a dependency on correct information, messaging, and knowledge sharing in large global, multinational corporations. Additionally, locations can be in varying time zones and languages. With so many possible obstacles, you must start with your messaging and the type of communication you want to send to your audience.

Good communication isn’t just about being able to more accurately and concisely present information and ideas. It is about making sure that those ideas and vital information reach their destination—even if it is in the minds of your employees. Making your messages consumable means understanding the employee beyond their roles. What are their goals and values? Where are they emotionally? 

During the pandemic, IC pros and HR quickly picked up on this need, recognizing that the isolation was causing stress, burnout, and mental health issues. Additionally, the significance of culture became apparent. Employees want a voice. Communication with them must be translated in ways that are appealing and understandable. And if it is not, then this needs to be known so communication can improve. As we move into a post-pandemic time, those needs are not diminished. They should be incorporated into all of the goals of good communication. If you believe that these elements are not necessary, consider the effects of poor communication.

Poor or ineffective communication can be detrimental to any organization, no matter the size. When the wrong message or the lack of a message is a situation within your company, as stated before, others get to supply the narrative. The resulting story or gossip gives rise to uncertainty, causing apprehension and eventually creating a work environment full of dissatisfaction. Employees’ morale turns down, and productivity lessens. Furthermore, when employees feel left out, when content or communication is not specific enough to address certain groups or teams, it may cause issues of resentment.

Also, consider what can happen when the distinctions needed for the global messaging distribution are not contained within the content. That message and information can be siloed or forgotten when not adequately prepared or sent.

Effective communication and messaging are strategic for companies, organizations, departments, and teams to build culture and camaraderie. It also can help focus on achieving goals, especially when change is imminent. So, your communication must be pointed and comprehensible. Every effort must be made that your language, style of communication, and message are received and understood.

Leaders and Communication

Leaders have a responsibility to ensure that they communicate well and that their messages are understood. It is core to their function and role. It is also a key indicator of their leadership capabilities.

 They need to use this skill to ensure that what they are sharing is understandable and relatable to their workforce. In a 2021 CHRON article, it listed one of the best skills for a leader or manager to have is good communication. It helps “ensure that your staff members understand your instructions and expectations.” The Gallup report titled Effective Leadership: How to Be a Better Leader reported that one of the seven expectations of leaders is to:

Communicate clearly. Learn the best way you communicate, and then learn how others like you to communicate with them. Share information and ideas that matter–because effective communication means you’ll need to convey compelling information that leads to more informed actions and decision-making. Don’t think of communication just as telling your followers things, but think of it as sharing information, asking questions, listening, and brainstorming. These are all important forms of clear communication in leadership.

The problem is that often leaders must be convinced to participate in communicating with their employees. So how do you convince leaders to communicate? Show data (internal communications ROI). Most leaders are compelled to act when they see clear empirical evidence that communication works to their advantage. 

The best leaders embrace the act of communicating to their employees and will do so in a myriad of ways. They engage, inquire, inspire, coach, inform, and do it all comprehensively. To be successful, leaders must factor in the diversity of those they lead, the roles of each worker, geographic differences, and social and cultural identities when communicating. Their messages have to be of excellent quality, no matter the format. Most of all, leaders must understand how and what they share affects their employee base and business. If it is ineffective, everything you want to accomplish as a leader will fail.

In their article “How Leaders Can Communicate Change to a Burned-Out Workforce,” Gallup suggested that leaders give “just enough information for their employees to absorb it.” Communicating in this manner is highly effective, especially during transitional times for the company. Right now, we are seeing an immense amount of change, from the return to work, incorporating permanent hybrid work environments, and the turnover effects of the Great Resignation. This communication process of small consumable amounts of information is called “chunking” each message. “To chunk information, leaders start by sharing the big picture to introduce the concept of the change and then quickly follow it with a short-term focus on the nearest milestone. That directs employees’ attention where it needs to be –in their own near-term performance and behavioral expectations, and on where to get help during the transition.” 

Purposeful and clear communication helps build relationships and develops the best in others by inspiring them daily. However, leaders must also demonstrate communication actively through listening and receiving feedback proving that they are accountable for the decisions they make. The Harvard Business Review Book “HBR’s 10 Must Reads on Communication” contained the article “The Power of Talk” by Deborah Tannen. It stressed that we not only communicate by what we mean but also interpret others’ meanings and evaluate one another as people. Guess what? Your employees are not only listening to what you say. They listen to what you don’t say and carefully watch your actions. That means your messaging should incorporate actions, primarily listening. Listening will be addressed in the next blog post of this series – stay tuned!

Make it a Habit

The habit of striving for clarity, simplicity, and precision in speech, writing, and action is one of the most admirable marks of character in a leader in any field. Communicating well is a difficult skill to learn. It can take a long period of time to develop how to be precise and transparent in our choice of language and our reflective actions—like listening. These skills can elude the most educated and experienced adults. With time and practice, you can form the habit of communicating with precision and purpose. But this is not for you alone. Think of the worth this incredible habit brings to your employees and organization. You can cultivate an employee experience and culture that they, in turn, can practice evolved communication skills between each other and your customers. 

In our next article, we will cover the art of listening, how important it is to be “in the moment,” and recognize the message behind feedback and sentiment.

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