A good internal communication plan benefits your organization in so many ways.
It can build employee trust in leadership, help different teams to work toward major goals and align employee experience with your public-facing brand.
Here’s a look at the elements of an effective internal communication strategy and how to put a plan in place.
When to create your internal communication plan
There’s no magic number of employees when it’s time to build an internal communication strategy. However, it’s especially important to write and maintain a plan when your organization has:
- Different layers of management
- Multiple work locations or divisions
- Remote employees
- A temporary or short-term crisis (such as a global pandemic or a natural disaster)
A formal plan helps keep everyone in the loop and avoids gaps in internal messaging.
What belongs in your internal communication plan?
An effective communication plan should always be tied to the organization’s strategic plan and its mission, vision and values.
That creates consistency in your messaging and helps keep everyone focused on the same goals.
It’s a good idea to integrate your organization’s internal communication plan with your external marketing plan. Integrating your internal and external messaging helps align your company culture with your brand, which can help you retain talent.
1. Types of information to share
Your internal communication strategy should cover the types of information you choose to share with your people. Fundamentals include:
- Updates on progress toward company and team goals
- Acknowledgments of employee and team accomplishments
- Information about planned changes
A good plan also includes a feedback loop that employees can use to share:
- How they think the company is doing
- Changes they want to see or suggestions for improvement
- Concerns they have that need to be addressed
This kind of feedback can give leadership a clearer view of the company’s overall health. It can also identify small issues before they become big problems.
2. Guidelines for transparency
Even in very small companies, leaders should have a clear idea of what they want to share and what they want to keep private or share later.
Formalizing what to share and when to share it helps avoid situations where managers mistakenly give their teams more or less information than leadership intends.
The level of information your company shares with employees will depend on:
- Your organization’s core promise to customers
- Your company culture
- Your leadership style
For example, a defense contractor may need a high-level communication strategy that keeps employees informed without compromising sensitive or restricted client information.
A local nonprofit group, on the other hand, may need to provide more detailed information to engage employees and keep them closely aligned with goals and projects.
Whatever level of transparency you adopt as part of your plan, always be authentic and direct when you communicate with your employees.
3. A schedule for internal communication
A good plan outlines when employees can expect information, such as:
- Updates that go out whenever something occurs, such as reaching an important goal
- Regular meetings for messages that can wait
- Unplanned events that require specific communication
The exact schedule your organization follows will depend on your structure and how you operate.
For example, some organizations have monthly conference calls with leadership and managers, and then the managers cascade the information that can be shared with their teams.
Other companies have quarterly town hall meetings to give information to everyone at once.
4. Communication channels to use
Depending on the size and geographic reach of your organization, you may choose to communicate through several channels, such as:
- Town hall meetings (in person or via video conferencing)
- Company intranet messages
- Social media posts
- Other channels, such as mobile apps, video and email
When you’re choosing how to send your messages, think about the generational demographics of your employees and how different generations prefer to communicate – email versus text notifications, for example.
Then think about how you can keep your message consistent and clear across the different channels.
5. A plan for communicating with employees in a crisis
Your current crisis management or disaster plan should include several of the above channels for internal communication during an emergency.
Having a plan in place before a crisis erupts can help:
- Minimize lasting damage
- Provide actionable steps that build confidence, trust in your management and brand
- Pivot from feeling overwhelmed by a negative situation to a place of confidence and strategic focus
- Demonstrate support for your employees
Should you find yourself caught off-guard due to an emergency, however, setting aside an hour or two with key personnel to strategize and quickly develop a responsive internal communications plan is still feasible. There may be more trial and error in the execution of the plan, but getting alignment and a putting in place a coherent strategy potentially benefits management, your brand, your customers and, most importantly, your employees.
It’s impossible to plan for every unexpected scenario, but our magazine, “How to manage your business through a crisis” has several key principles for your plan to follow.
6. Ownership and plan maintenance
Senior leadership should always own and be the key ambassadors for the internal communication plan.
Depending on the size of the company and how it’s staffed, they’ll most likely be working on it with a communications, marketing or HR specialist to manage the plan itself and reinforce the messages that go out. That specialist may also be put in charge of updates, in collaboration with leadership.
To keep your plan up to date and aligned with your goals, review your internal communication in conjunction with your:
- Annual planning
- Strategic planning
- Any major changes in your business
One reason for including internal communication in these events is to determine what to communicate and the best way to cascade and reinforce key messages.
With proper planning and regular reviews, your internal communication plan will support your mission and goals, empower your employees and grow with your organization.
For more ideas on effective management, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to leadership and management.