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StrategyDec 14, 2020

3 Steps for Enhancing Your Internal Communication Strategy

Caleb Steidley and Kaitleigh Booth

Only 29.3% of employees correctly match their company to its publicly advocated vision. Why is this percentage so low and what are the consequences of uninformed employees?

Poor internal strategic communication causes this deficiency. Company leaders need to be aware of and concerned about this shortcoming because its effects spread from entry-level employees to C-suite leaders—infecting the whole company. The importance of internal communication lays the foundation for building an impactful communication strategy.

What Is Strategic Communication and Why Is It Important?

Strategic communication, a company's ability to convey its vision to both customers and employees, forms the bedrock on which successful companies are built. Externally, strategic communication fosters brand recognition, public relations, and advertising. However, leaders often overlook the impact strategic communication has on productivity, employee morale, branding consistency, and revenue growth. All are enhanced through internal communication.

While strategic communication is essential both externally and internally, these two areas of communication should not be viewed as mutually exclusive. A unified message to your customers and employees has a significant impact on your company’s results.

If your company chronically misses business goals or falls short of growth targets, reevaluate your company culture, branding, and internal strategy in light of the company’s overarching vision and mission.

Companies with poor internal communication suffer from lower productivity, inconsistent branding, lower employee morale, and lower revenue. These issues can be remedied through an intentional internal communication framework that consists of three steps: inform, inspire, and reinforce.

1. Inform

As mentioned previously, a majority of employees are currently unaware of their company’s vision and only 29.3% of employees could correctly match their company to its publicly espoused strategy. Because so few employees understand their company's vision, informing employees through strategic communication has an outsized effect on business success. Informing is the first step in internally communicating your company’s vision.

Inform employees of your company’s vision by keeping the message simple, yet deep in meaning. Employees need to be informed of what the company’s vision is and how they can provide support, without feeling pressured (or forced) to do so. Providing employees with informational resources—such as company-wide meetings, newsletters, webpages, or even social media posts—while still leaving freedom in the conversation, will empower employees to form their own initiative to support the company’s vision. However, to ensure a balanced transfer of information, company leaders need to ensure that the conversation goes both ways. It is important to not only inform employees of the company’s vision, but also receive feedback about the vision from employees.

Opportunities for employee feedback on strategic communication tactics should be accessible and encouraged. Knowing employees’ preferences and needs ensures information is spread in the most effective manner. Feedback channels can accommodate employee preferences by offering a range of opportunities from anonymous surveys to one-on-one interviews.

2. Inspire

A common misconception is that business is not personal. In actuality, employees who are engaged in and motivated by their work outperform those who are not. Disengaged workers are more likely to partake in detrimental behaviors, such as stealing from their organizations, negatively influencing co-workers, missing workdays, or driving customers away. According to Gallup, active disengagement costs U.S. companies an approximated $500 billion per year.

A company vision should inspire employees—a mantra that adds purpose to work rather than another marketing slogan to remember. The question is how can company leaders inspire employees in a way that is mutually beneficial and long-lasting?

What company leaders say is not always what employees hear. Framing the narrative plays a critical role in communicating a company’s vision. Framing consists of guiding the conversation to highlight employee interests. Good companies make sure employees know how to do their work; Great companies make sure employees know how their work is impactful to the company and its vision.

A major U.S. airline demonstrates framing by empowering its employees to realize their importance in the company. The airline emphasizes that company well-being is tied directly to employee well-being, because employees are the company. The use of framing inspires and empowers the airline employees to become engaged, proactive workers, which is reflected through years of recognition for being a top-rated workplace and airline.

3. Reinforce

The final step in internally communicating your company’s vision is reinforcement. Just because the vision is written does not mean it is read (and even less likely, understood).

Although 95% of companies have a company vision of some sort, only a quarter are consistently enforced. To ensure employees are aware of their company’s vision, it is essential to actively and frequently have the vision readdressed, which can take the form of recurring company-wide meetings, newsletters, or social media posts. Company leaders must also reaffirm the employees’ role in the vision and remind each employee of their importance to the company.

Leading by example is another essential way to reinforce the company’s vision. Albert Schweitzer once said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others; it is the only thing.” If company leaders are not following the vision and mission, then why should anyone else?

Is Internal Communication a Priority at Your Company?

To foster a more impactful communication strategy, company leadership must adopt an internal communication strategy. The framework begins by informing employees of the company’s vision, followed by inspiring employees to stand behind the mission, and ends with actively reinforcing the message. Following this framework will improve internal communication, which supports productivity, consistent branding, employee morale, and revenue growth.

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