Communications review

Effective internal communication can add enormous value to an organisation, not least because it supports staff retention and buy-in to business growth and development. But even in well-run companies, you can’t take it for granted that internal communication is effective.

When it works well, good communication can raise morale, promote team working and generally improve productivity and performance. Communicating your business strategy so that everyone feels included in it and recognises the role they have to play is especially important in a small company that needs to get the most out of every member of staff.

We believe it is important to measure how effective communication encourages certain behaviours, actions and attitudes within an organisation. This begins with a thorough review of current communication activities, responsibilities, processes and related policies. Key performance has the specialist knowledge and expertise to undertake such an in-depth communications audit, which will help identify specific reasons for the ‘disconnects’ between senior management and staff. This offers a starting point for improvement.

It is just as important to explore how staff communicate within the organisation, both informally and through formal processes, like opportunities to contribute to your business plans.

A full audit of every aspect of communication is recommended.  The actual content (whether written, verbal, audio or visual) and the way this is produced and managed are both worth reviewing.

Drilling down into the thinking behind each communication activity and the expected outcomes, should be part of this evaluation process. And it’s important to recognise that the boundaries between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ communication are becoming increasingly blurred, particularly with the growth of social media networks that link employees to each other and people outside the company.

The audit should therefore include wider communication, especially recruitment material and information in the public domain, such as the company website. These will inevitably have an impact on how new and existing employees view the company and develop an understanding of their role within the organisation.

We usually recommend an audit of all your communication, including:

•    Recruitment materials and channels
•    Website
•    Intranet
•    Other online presence e.g. LinkedIn profile, directory entries
•    Staff newsletter
•    Team meetings
•    Informal events
•    Appraisals
•    Email
•    staff use of social media eg. Facebook
•    Corporate materials e.g. mission statement, annual report
•    Company policies and guidance
•    Specific instructions e.g. health & safety
•    Survey questionnaires
•    Focus groups/surgeries
•    Management briefings
•    Senior management meetings
•    Training and other learning and development
•    Feedback mechanisms e.g. complaints and comments

Looking at communication channels, individual responsibilities and processes, as well as specific end products like the newsletter offers additional insight into where disconnects may be occurring. For instance, are staff involved in producing communication materials?  Do systems allow information to be shared freely? Who controls the various company communication channels and approves content?

Assessment of individual responsibilities also provides useful information on any skills gaps and training needs. Understanding the processes involved in developing and delivering communication clarifies how data is collected and used, and the way individual feedback is recorded and given appropriate consideration.

We believe that a detailed review will flag up potential blocks in the process. For instance, what happens following staff appraisals to ensure requests for training are actioned? How are important messages cascaded from senior management to the rest of the organisation and does this rely on certain factors being in place? How are the staff who are out of the office for any length of time kept informed?

A thorough review should also look at how company policies and procedures impact on communication with and between staff. For example, is there guidance on how people use emails, or restrictions on talking about work via social media sites? A comprehensive audit should spot any inconsistencies in message, tone and language that could result in misunderstandings.  You also need to ensure that your internal communication is inclusive and compliant with legislation, such as the Disability Discrimination Act.

Key Performance can carry out an entirely objective communications audit, taking a fresh look at what is going on. We benchmark activities against good communication practice and ask those searching questions that may not immediately occur to someone more familiar with the company and its workings. This also helps us gain valuable information about the providers and recipients of communication within the organisation. That includes people’s preferences on how they communicate, what they feel comfortable with and whether the nature of their job makes some forms of communication easier to access than others.

It’s important not to make any assumptions about what’s best for an individual, particularly based on age or experience. For example, a long-serving manager may feel uncomfortable addressing groups of staff and not all young people will use SMS messaging. Again, Key Performance will approach the review process without any preconceptions about the people who work for the organisation, who in turn may be more willing to talk openly to someone from outside the company.

We use our findings as the basis for a comprehensive report with detailed recommendations on how you can develop an internal communications strategy. This strategy will incorporate indicators to help you measure how effective your employee communication activities are in the future.