How to Manage Internal Communications

Communication in the workplace is essential for a healthy corporate culture and happy staff.

Humans are social creatures by nature, but sometimes communicating doesn’t come naturally to workplaces. For advice on how to reduce the communication gap between management and front lines, we consulted Sheira Hallam, head of communications at Coast Capital Savings; Anna Lilly, senior vice-president at the Vancouver office of Fleishman-Hillard Inc.; and Don Caplan, professor of business in the faculty of management at Royals Roads University.

Management by wandering around

One of the fundamental goals of internal communication, our experts agree, is employee engagement. “Owners are often passionate about their business,” notes Caplan, but sometimes this enthusiasm isn’t conveyed effectively to their employees, resulting in a missed opportunity. “Most surveys show that an employee’s manager is one of the top drivers of engagement,” notes Lilly. Caplan encourages managers to pop by regularly to keep in touch with their team but admits this comes down to personal style and may not be appropriate for everybody. “If you never do it and you do it suddenly,” Caplan adds, “they’ll just end up thinking, What’s he doing here?”

Get employees to participate

“The most common mistake made by organizations is focusing primarily on the belief that employees need only to receive information,” notes Lilly. Employees want to know they have an avenue for providing input for decisions, and Caplan 
emphasizes that employers need to “include people before 
the fact, not after the fact.” Hallam agrees, adding, “Don’t 
just tell them; give them an opportunity to experience it 
or participate in it.” She suggests mini-courses, activities 
and even contests to spark an interest in getting involved.

Make time for communications feedback

Hallam stresses the importance of two-way communication: “The decision makers need to hear from the front line. They are living with these decisions and know the barriers, so you need them to be able to talk to your decision makers.” However, once a decision has been made, it’s important to clarify the reasoning, especially if some employee input couldn’t be integrated. Caplan advises that “if you’re not going to take their advice, you need to go back and explain why you didn’t.”

Adopt a layered approach to internal communications

Good managers can be invaluable to a company, and by adopting a layered approach to internal communications, businesses can make the most of their managers’ skills. “Companies should equip managers with the tools to effectively cascade information down through the organization,” says Lilly, adding that they can then “engage their teams in a way that is natural and genuine,” ensuring your message resonates more clearly than just taking a one-size-fits-all approach.

Avoid email overload

Despite the obvious merits of frequent face time, email has often become the default means of communicating, so it is increasingly important to get it right when it comes to IT. Swamping inboxes with “send to all” mail on top of the usual daily deluge can become overwhelming and forces employees to sift through the haystack to find what is pertinent to them. Hallam warns against “email overload,” suggesting instead a daily e-bulletin, which should be a “quick and easy scan of what people need to know that day to do their jobs.”