By design, companies often focus their attention on external factors – clients, market standing and competitors – in an effort to generate new business or increase profitability. While it’s often overlooked, a similar effort should be placed on a company’s internal community: the employees.
As a consulting CFO, I have seen how internal communications can be a thorn in a company’s side, particularly for businesses with dispersed offices and lacking a true “home base.” Without a centralized business location, employees don’t have the opportunity to meet informally, converse in the halls and physically work with each other, which leads to more independent employees with externally focused mindsets. It turns into an “out of sight, out of mind” situation.
From a business perspective, a lack of communication from top-level management through the company can have multiple consequences, including job security fears, lower retention rates or a lack of overall understanding of the company’s objectives. This may be a result of apprehensions about disclosing too much company information or simply not understanding how important internal communications can be.
What does good communication look like?
There are a variety of ways a company can engage their employees and foster a business environment that encourages good communication, including frequent new hire notifications, sharing company financials or holding company-wide get-togethers. Also, it’s important for company leaders to take the time to engage with their employees by providing feedback on individual job performance and soliciting feedback on what they or the company can do to improve. This two-way interaction builds mutual trust and respect, and company will be more aware of each individual’s skillset and passions, which can be leveraged on future projects.
Collaboration among employees is another important form of internal communication, particularly among various disciplines and office locations. Through a comprehensive understanding of other job positions in a company, employees are better qualified to ask for help or direction when questions arise. However, without open, regular communications, there are fewer opportunities for building relationships, and these important connections may never be realized.
How do you introduce an effective internal communication strategy?
A strong internal communication strategy must be carried out company- wide, from the CEO to the unpaid summer intern. Everyone must be on board and willing put in the extra effort for the betterment of the company.
Identify people who can be advocates of the importance of internal communications. People who are in a position of authority or are well-respected among their colleagues can make great advocates. With a team in place, you can work to identify key issues and common communication breakdowns. For example, a centralized communications platform may be the answer. This type of tool can be repository of internal information, such as calendars, processes and procedures, news items and opportunities for employees to pose questions and share best practices.
Once the structure is in place, it needs to be communicated and reinforced regularly. With the help of your team, unroll the internal communication initiative throughout the company with enough energy and resources for it to hold. Otherwise, it’s just another great idea that won’t be fully utilized. Continuous education on both the benefits of internal communications as well as how to best utilize company tools will be key to the strategy’s success.
Employees don’t want to be left in the dark. When employees feel isolated or unimportant to the company’s growth, it can lead to poor job quality and high turnover. Through regular engagement and motivation in a collaborative, open work environment, employees of all levels can be more productive.
Mike Wilfley is a Consulting CFO with vcfo. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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