Six Key Business Results you can Achieve through Internal Communications
Many companies still struggle with making the business case for internal (employee-focused) communications, or IC. Why? The perception still exists in many leaders’ minds that ultimately IC is about “keeping employees informed,” “making sure everyone knows our strategy,” or “helping people feel good about where they work.” A luxury, or "nice to have" addition to the communications mix rather than a vital business function.
Today, that perception of IC is more than a little dated. Internal communications is rapidly evolving, becoming more technology-infused, strategic, and impactful. Modern IC professionals are focused on engaging leaders with employees, facilitating knowledge sharing, and building conversations across organizations in ways that deliver tangible value.
So what kind of value can you get from internal communications? Here are six measurable business results with a significant return on investment that can be traced directly to good internal communications practices.
Reducing regrettable turnover. Creating a clear line of sight into the connection between effort and career growth, linking day-to-day tasks to company strategy, and promoting organizational purpose are all contributors to increased employee engagement. Regrettable turnover is expensive, and good internal communications can create and maintain the connections and conversations that are an essential part of making employees feel more committed and engaged.
Reducing information security risk. The technology team has been getting after you for years to change your password to something more complex than “password” and resisting the temptation to reply to that strange message from the CEO. Why? Because the average cost of a data breach to your company is $4 million. The IT department is equipped to address technology risks, not human behavior. But internal communicators are in a position to directly change how your team thinks and acts when it comes to technology security. Employee communication programs supporting IT risk management, when done well, can help your company avoid losing…well, everything.
Improving crisis management preparedness. What will your employees do if a crisis threatens the reputation of your organization? Internal communicators in the new permeable enterprise are your gateway to preparing and mobilizing your staff to defend your brand and respond appropriately when issues arise. With every employee a potential brand advocate (or detractor), the conversations you create to help employees think of themselves as stewards of your reputation will set the tone for how they engage the public, and influence the value of your brand after a crisis for years to come.
Changing your organization. Organizations are constantly changing, yet most large scale organizational change efforts fail. Why? Most organizations do not have change management expertise in house to help them structure and reinforce change over time, and may not be in a position to hire a consulting firm to help them though the process. Fortunately, change management skills are becoming more and more common among internal communications professionals. Look to your communicator to help you find and leverage influencers in your organization, develop messaging that aligns staff to your vision of the future, and create a communications strategy and plan that accelerates the enablement and accountability work streams driving your change initiative. IC is not a complete answer to change management by itself, but the right employee communications can greatly improve your chances of success and help change "stick."
Amplifying the power of your brand. As the marketing and PR departments will remind you, brand building, advertising and social media campaigns aren’t free. Fortunately, you have a volunteer brand ambassador army at your disposal who are ready to help you get an exceptionally high return on your messaging investment. Brand messages are shared eight times more by employees than when shared by your official corporate social media accounts. And the reach of the average employee’s social media networks is estimated at four times or more than their employer’s handles. That’s a lot of added reach for very little added investment.
Increasing CSR program participation. More than 50% of millennials say they would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values, while 90% want to use their skills for good. In the ongoing war for top talent, internal communications amplified through your employees will bring job seekers to your company, not your messaging. The millennial generation trusts the opinion of their friends and online reviews over ‘official’ channels to help them both purchase products and select their next career destination. Internal communicators can help improve participation in your events and programs, and provide employees with easily shared media to help them celebrate their successes. (Deloitte’s Impact Day is a great example of a firm-wide program that heavily leverages internal communications to drive participation) And nothing demonstrates your culture of engagement and involvement in good works more than your employees’ social media posts about your corporate social responsibility program.
These are just a few examples of how good internal communications practices can positively impact your bottom line, help you manage risk, and avoid costs. As I hope you can see by these examples, there’s a lot more to internal communications than just corporate news. With the right IC professional in place, you can create significant value for your organization.
Jeff Zwier is a senior communications and change management professional based in the Chicago area. You can read more about his perspectives on internal communication, change leadership, and business communications overall on his Art and Science of Business Communications Blog.