Internal Communications: 9 Best Practices for HR
Not every organization has a dedicated Internal Communications (IC) team or person.
And guess who often has to pick up the slack?
While taking care of effective communication towards employees is one of the key functions of Human Resources, there is a difference between spreading people-related information only and implementing a full-on internal communications strategy.
In this article, we’ll share 9 internal communications best practices for HR based on an interesting discussion I recently had with IC expert Sarah Garson who works at a fast-growing HR tech company.
9 Internal Communications Best Practices for HR
1. Start with an Internal Communications Strategy
All good plans start with a strategy. So before you implement anything, think about the goals you want to achieve with your internal communications strategy.
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Do you want people to feel more involved with what’s going on in the company? Do you want to focus on creating a ‘we’re one big family’ kind of feeling between employees from different offices in different countries? Or do you want to inform people on where they can access certain information?
Or perhaps a combination of all of the above?
Two things are important to keep in mind when it comes to creating your internal communications strategy:
- Ask the people in your organization what they think. If, for example, they feel like they have no clue what is going on in the company in terms of the deals that are being closed or the internal positions that are open, addressing this is something you may want to include in your strategy.
- The company’s management has to be on board. This isn’t optional; without the management fully backing your internal communications strategy you may as well abandon the project immediately and stop wasting your time.
2. Get Management on board
This brings us straight to the second best practice.
In his article “The Need for Innovation in Human Resources is Real (and How to Get Started)” Jochen Bessemans gives a good example of the importance of the management backing the organization’s internal communications strategy:
A company of over 7000 people had just decided to start using an internal communications platform. Their main goal was to reach and engage their dispersed, mainly blue-collar workforce.
Within the management team, however, there was a heated debate about whether or not they should fully participate on the platform. Some members of the management were in favor of full disclosure whereas others just wanted to monitor what people were exchanging without allowing the workforce to send them messages.
Needless to say that the platform won’t save the day if all of the management doesn’t get involved.
3. Continuous collaboration between IC and HR
If your organization does have a dedicated internal communications team, it’s important that HR and IC work together closely. Both departments communicate with employees on a regular basis so it’s only natural for them to align on things like tone, form, and frequency for example.
What does this mean in practice?
Think of having a weekly meeting between someone from the IC team and HR so the former can be briefed on relevant topics for instance. This is a great way for IC to stay informed about what’s happening on the HR side and vice versa.
What’s more, if there are any questions or issues both teams can work together to come up with a suitable solution.
4. Work local, think global
Having offices in different countries is a reality for plenty of companies today. Whether you have entire offices abroad or just a couple of teams that are based on the other side of the world, this is something that has consequences for your internal communications.
Among other things, this means that you need to be aware of the cultural differences/sensibilities in your communications.
Let’s look at an example.
While things like the company’s strategy and the office interior could be (roughly) the same everywhere – because you want people to instantly know they’re in your company as soon as they set one foot in the door – there should also be room for each country’s unique culture.
5. The power of ambassadors
This is when the ambassadors come in the picture. Because how do you implement certain tools and technologies successfully or how do you organize an event when you’re not physically present?
Exactly, with the help of a local ambassador.
Let’s take a look at an example.
To celebrate the closing of a big global client, the company’s HQ in the Netherlands organizes some celebratory drinks on Friday afternoon. In the French office, however, people prefer to celebrate these kinds of things with a nice breakfast.
Having your team of ambassadors means you give them an ‘event budget’ and they get to decide what to do with it. So whenever you’ve got a companywide celebration, each local office can mark the occasion in their own way.
On a slightly more serious note, the same thing goes for the implementation of, for example, a new internal communications platform.
As with all new things, there will always be those who welcome a new tool with open arms and those who are a little more reluctant. A local ambassador can play an important role here both in communicating about the arrival of a new tool and taking away any initial concerns people may have about using it.
You may wonder what employee onboarding has to do with internal communications.
A lot, actually.
New hires tend to get swamped with information: practical info about where to park or where to have lunch, job-related info, and of course there is a whole bunch of new people (their colleagues) they need to get know.
But what about your internal communication tools such as the intranet and messaging systems?
Including a short ‘internal communications how to’ – perhaps in combination with a simple Internal Communication (video) Guide – in your employee onboarding can do wonders for new hires.
Not only does it give them an overview of the various platforms & tools that are being used in the company and where they can find certain information, but more importantly, it tells them who they can go to if they have any questions.
Because asking the colleague who is sat just next to them how they post a message on an internal communications platform is not necessarily something a new employee is comfortable with…
7. Less is more
If you’ve got too many different tools and systems you share information on, people don’t know what to use anymore or where to find what.
And while you may think things aren’t that bad in your organization, you’re bound to have at least email, video call, internal messaging and central cloud-based storage systems.
In other words: your internal communications tools can quickly add up.
Apart from centralizing the platform you store information for employees on and keeping the number of communication tools to a minimum, there are other things you can do to make sure people don’t get lost.
Have one ‘Master’ tool
This is something an HR professional shared during a talk I gave recently. In the company she works for, they use Workplace by Facebook as their number one tool.
As such, every employee in the company knows that – literally everything – is going to be shared on Workplace: documents, announcements, updates, you name it.
It’s on this platform that they’ll be able to click on a relevant link that will guide them directly to wherever a document has been stored.
No time wasted searching for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
An Internal Communication guide
We mentioned this already as something to use during the onboarding of new hires. But a concise IC guide is a great thing to have for existing employees too; if they need a quick reminder of the available internal communication tools or a few simple tips on how best to use these tools for example.
You could even create an onboarding version and an existing employee version of the IC guide.
8. Trial & error
Always try new things when it comes to your internal communications. Some of them will be a big success, others will be a big failure; what matters is that you try them.
My colleague from IC had a couple of examples, both of successes and failures.
A Weekly Digest
When it turned out employees were feeling like they ‘didn’t know what was going on’ in the organization a very simple solution was found: a weekly email.
Think of it as a weekly round-up of the most relevant, company-wide news: People announcements from HR, the latest deals that have been closed and fun, team-related news (like the marketing team that has run a semi-marathon for charity for instance).
A management Q&A
Especially in fast-growing companies, employees can start to feel disconnected from the management at some point.
While the management used to be around and easily approachable when the company was still a start-up, new responsibilities can quickly take up most of the management’s time when the company begins to scale.
An easy way to make sure the management remains available and approachable for its employees is via a monthly Q&A session that features a different member of the management team each time.
You can ask people to send their questions beforehand – on top of the questions that can be asked during the session itself.
If you’ve got the possibility to live-stream the Q&A via your internal communications platform so that people in other offices can tune in too that’s even better.
Sports in the office
Something that didn’t catch on was the idea to broadcast the matches of a big tennis tournament. That is to say, the matches were shown on the various screens in the office, but people didn’t seem to be overly bothered about watching them.
Last, but certainly not least: always gather feedback. Sometimes that feedback will be obvious and sometimes it won’t.
In the above-mentioned example of broadcasting a sports tournament, for instance, the mere fact that virtually nobody was watching the matches was obvious enough.
But when it’s a little more complicated to gauge whether or not something is working for people you’ll need to specifically ask for their feedback. Because that’s the only way to improve the way you communicate within your organization.
After all, internal communication is all about effective communications among everyone involved in your company!