For most leaders, “internal communication” is first and foremost about anchoring the strategic goals and messages of the company in their employees’ minds. But “good communication” is about so much more: the exchange of ideas amongst peers, the networking of employees and a value-oriented company culture. All of these factors play a massive role in an organisation’s capability for innovation. As such, internal communication should not only encompass the transfer of information and knowledge, but also the facilitation of ongoing dialogue amongst employees.
Intranet, employee magazine, enterprise social network and, in some cases, the trusty old noticeboard: when it comes to internal communication, companies tend to fall back on tried-and-tested channels, supplemented occasionally by temporary measures such as in-house fairs or info stands in the canteen. Yet more often than not, employees come to know the “really important information” via the office grapevine rather than via official company sources. Since direct communication amongst colleagues is an important – if not the most important – channel of corporate information, it’s essential for companies to strengthen and promote it. Measures that encourage authentic communication are often better at maintaining employee motivation than traditional, strategy-driven messages.
Opportunities for improving internal communication
- In-house BarCamp: One day, hundreds of new ideas – this is the promise of BarCamps, which now take place regularly in large numbers of towns and cities across the world. In a BarCamp conference, each participant has the chance to conduct their own session on a self-selected topic. The BarCamp concept also has great potential as an internal company measure, enabling employees to raise topics that are important to them and initiate exciting discussions. An excellent way of getting new processes off the ground!
- Mystery Lunches: Lunch dates with new, randomly selected acquaintances from different departments within the company: the ideal foundation for better networking and the promotion of new ideas across the company as a whole. Related goals include an enhancement of company culture and a strengthening of innovative capability.
- Job shadowing: Following a colleague round for a day is a great way to see things from a different perspective and get a sense of how other departments work. This, in turn, this enables the transfer of effective ideas and a better sense of shared understanding, while the reasoning underpinning certain processes and approaches is rendered transparent and understandable.
- Reverse mentoring: Where mentoring schemes are established in companies, they generally function in a top-down fashion – that is, leaders are made available to employees in a mentoring capacity. If the tables are turned, the results can be surprising. The chance to see the world from “the other side” facilitates a better sense of understanding and helps managers develop a greater sensitivity for the concerns and needs of their employees.
- Social days: Social days give employees the opportunity to spend one day a a year offering their support to a social project or institution. This might include helping in a kindergarten or an old people’s home or assisting with a social movement that delivers meals to older people. Such opportunities enable employees to look further than their own “four walls” – and when colleagues from different departments work together, it also creates an opportunity for them to form new contacts.
- Cross-team brunches: Another way of facilitating networking and forming new contact interfaces is through cross-team brunches, whereby one team typically hosts another. It’s a good idea for events like these to take place on a regular basis within the company – on a monthly basis, for example. On the next occasion, the invited team becomes the inviter and can organise a brunch for another department. Another variant of this is the “themed breakfast”, where a pre-selected topic is discussed over morning refreshments.
- Peer consulting: In peer consulting, a group of six to nine employees work together on a problem outlined by one of the participants. The session follows a structured process and is conducted under supervision. The problem might, for example, be a recurring challenge in the everyday life of the company, such as an issue on the side of the client. As another variant, the person presenting the problem might simply sit with their back to their group and listen.
- Co-creation areas: It’s important to provide physical spaces for collaboration, since these promote better cooperation and create space for resourcefulness to flourish. Creatively designed coffee areas can play a role in fulfilling this need. The central objective is on bringing colleagues together and improving communication.