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Don’t neglect your internal communication!

On this website, I once wrote that you can make the difference by means of a proactive internal and external communication.

Communication can only be really effective if the director himself/herself is working on it. However, good communication requires time and effort. I think this is the reason why it happens too often that someone of a lower rank within the organization has been put in charge of the communication. If communication is not being considered as a top priority, its impact will be too low.

What is important in terms of effective communication? Below, I will give you some “DO’s” and “DON’T’s” I have been experiencing when I had the end responsibility. Today, I am going to discuss the internal communication, or communication between peers. I am not going to discuss the external communication, although it is very important too.

Internal communication
  1. Regular oral and written communication. Regularly spreading concise messages is more effective than telling long stories, since short messages are easier to remember than long stories. These messages need to be oral as well as written. Oral communication enables discussions, with all their advantages such as respect for the employees’ opinions and a better estimation of what is really going on within the company. By definition, written communication is a ‘one-way traffic’ and a tool to express more nuances.
  2. Consistency and the power of repetition. Consistency is very important and can best be obtained by combining oral and written communication. Always dare to keep repeating your message! Don’t think that all of your messages will be read or heard. If you repeat your message, it will take root and get through. A policy can only be consistent if the employees understand and support it. Once upon a time, I got a nice compliment: a customer told me that my people had given him the same answer as I had when he had been asking questions about our method and strategy.
  3. Don’t wait too long to communicate bad news. You will always find an excuse to wait a little longer, for instance because not all details are fully known yet or because you first have to consider how to properly formulate things. Still, waiting is usually unwise since employees are aware of what is going on. The sooner the message is spread, the faster action can be taken. Good timing is essential. You should also avoid spreading the news completely out of the blue. It must be in line with prior communication.
  4. You don’t have to say everything but what you say, must be correct. Of course, this applies for figures, but it implies much more than just figures. Written communication offers you the opportunity to read everything (again). This is not the case for speeches and discussions, in which one can easily say too much or – worse - say the wrong things, especially when it concerns sensitive information. One of my habits is to draw up a list of the things I absolutely can’t tell. For me, this is more effective than drawing up a list of the things I can tell.
  5. The role of the works council. In the Netherlands, the works council plays an important role in a company’s internal communication. The works council must stand firm. In this context, I think the director gets the works council (s)he deserves. Bad works councils are uncommon, but there are badly functioning works councils. Another one of my habits is to have weekly informal discussions with some members of the works council. It is a great source of information. However, you should avoid that your relationship with this works council becomes too informal.
Internal communication is often being underestimated as a tool for sound management. I believe in the value of intensive internal communication (written as well as oral!). Repetition is also essential. It takes lots of time and energy, but you will quickly get a return on investment because it will enhance the performances within your company.

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