5 Internal Communication Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Mark Terry - October 16, 2019
Internal Communications

Employee engagement might not seem important when measured against the day-to-day necessities that keep your business running smoothly. However, an overwhelming body of evidence suggests that poor internal communication ultimately leads to reduced morale, productivity, and retention rates.

Reaching a dispersed workforce and engaging them with your organisational goals can be difficult. Particularly in times of crisis or systemic change, when disseminating important company information quickly is paramount. Yet many business leaders compound these problems by making the same basic errors over and over again.

In this article, we highlight five of the most common internal communication mistakes and how you can avoid them.

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Sidestep These Common Internal Communication Mistakes

1. Sticking with Antiquated Systems

Although mobile technology has become an ever more common feature of the workplace, many business leaders fail to realise the full potential of this technology. Instead, they persist with inefficient or antiquated alternatives, such as email or paper documentation.

However, as anyone with experience working in an office will know, emails can quickly become lost amid the relentless tide of correspondence. Similarly, paperwork is easily misplaced; pushed to the back of a drawer and forgotten at the end of a long working day. They still have a place within a corporate internal communication strategy, of course; but are they the most effective methods of communication?

Many older systems fail to meet the needs of today's flexible workplace. They aren't able to effectively reach the people you want to reach in a timely way.

Purpose-built social channels or internal comms applications are far better equipped to communicate information on a large scale. Content can be segmented by subject or demographic and made accessible to remote workers.

Such platforms tend to be more informal, which is important for Generation Z — a group that’s grown up with Facebook and Twitter, and therefore isn’t as familiar with more traditional forms of correspondence.

Indeed, by not leveraging mobile technologies, business leaders risk alienating a significant portion of their workforce and future talent.

2. Failing to Establish an Internal Communication Strategy

One of the more fundamental errors people make when it comes to internal communication is failing to create a comprehensive strategy. And it’s easy to see why.

Since the main purpose of internal comms is to keep employees up to date with organisational developments, events, or company values, it might not seem like there’s much more to it than distributing information as and when it becomes available. This isn’t the case.

To identify areas where your organisation’s communications infrastructure falls short, you need to review the processes that underpins it.

This will give you a clear idea of the challenges you face, from which you can set the specific goals. For example, increase engagement by 20% over the next three months, or a target number of responses to company surveys, and the steps required to achieve them. These should be shared with employees, both for the sake of transparency and to set a clear trajectory for your team to follow.

Additionally, implementing a defined strategy helps you measure the success of your initiatives. It provides the raw data from which you can gauge front-line responses, employee satisfaction, reach, and anything else you need to improve the flow of information throughout your workplace.

3. Overlooking Employee Feedback

While most businesses appreciate the value of employee feedback, not everyone makes the most of it.

In most cases, this is because poorly established lines of communication make it difficult for employees to express an opinion or raise concerns with management. Nevertheless, the result is the same: a lack of understanding of the wants and needs of the front-line worker.

Streamlining the channels by which employees interact with senior members of staff, on the other hand, paves the way for the sharing of new ideas that help drive the business forward. It also expedites the quickest process of identifying issues within the workplace and proves to individual workers that their contributions matter.

Though first you must find the platform or distribution method that best suits your organisation. In diverse workforces, it can be risky to assume that everyone wants to communicate in the same way. Internal communication should be a two-way street, after all.

4. Overcomplicating

At a more granular level, another common mistake is overcomplicating the information distributed.

Employees may not have time to sift through a 500-word novel masquerading as a company update. Information should be conveyed as neatly and succinctly as possible, with all extraneous content cut in order to place the focus squarely on the salient points. In other words, if it’s possible to say something in two words rather than ten, do it.

Apart from saving time, improving response rates, and increasing the chances that the information will be absorbed, it reduces the likelihood that something contained therein will be misunderstood.

So, while this kind of correspondence might feel rather formal, using clear and concise language — along with bullet points, italics, bolding, and any other visual aids — makes it easier for people to digest.

5. Putting Too Much Stock in the Trickle-down Effect

Lastly, there are those that put far too much stock in the trickle-down effect.

It might seem more efficient to simply communicate important company information to a handful of individual line managers and assume they’ll pass the information on to their charges at the most convenient opportunity. However, while it can have its advantages, it often complicates matters.

First and foremost, in busy workplaces, anything that’s not written down tends to be forgotten; even if the manager does pass on the information to the majority of their employees, there's every chance they've forgotten that Dave in accounting is off for the week.

Perhaps a bigger issue is that, by passing on the information second-hand, they fail to communicate the meaning of the original message. In either case, the top-level exec who thought they were winning back precious minutes in their day will have to fill in the gaps anyway.

Moreover, in situations where the announcement or update sparks debate amongst members of staff, it’s likely managers won’t be able to answer the inevitable follow up questions. Individual employees will either have to get in touch with senior management directly or sit on their queries — increasing dissatisfaction and uncertainty.

Tip: If company information is distributed by word of mouth alone, it'll be impossible to gauge how it's received.

Why a Dedicated Internal Communication App is the Answer

A lack of consistency in style, timing, and presentation of information can make it harder to engage employees effectively.

While there’re some employers who still fail to embrace the idea that employees have a role to play as unofficial brand ambassadors and storytellers on social media.

This raises an important question: what’s the best way to tackle these issues and improve internal communication within your organisation? The answer: a dedicated internal communications app.

To discover how Talkfreely’s flexible internal communications app can transform employee engagement and reach the people most important to you, get in touch with us today.

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