Navigating the Challenges of Effective Internal Communications in Small and Large Businesses
Effective internal communication helps your employees feel like a team. It improves productivity and morale, equips your staff to be brand ambassadors and helps you power towards your business goals together.
But achieving this is easier said than done! Regardless of whether you are part of a small business or a large organisation, there are challenges to delivering impactful and engaging communications to your staff.
Common internal communications challenges
Organisations of all sizes can struggle with employee engagement, trust, confidentiality and managing crises.
Engaging employees in internal communications is a universal challenge. Engagement is not the same as simply sending out emails. Employee engagement takes a wide range of forms across multiple platforms. Unless these are relevant, meaningful, and engaging for all employees, they will not feel heard and valued, and the aim of the communication will be missed.
Measuring engagement can be difficult too, as even if you can track who is attending townhall meetings, reading emails, or in a Teams group, knowing that your message has definitely driven the desire change is very difficult.
Fostering a culture of transparency and trust is also a challenge that transcends business size. Building trust among employees and maintaining open, honest communication is essential for the success of any organisation. But this can be tricky when trying to balance sharing confidential information (in order to be transparent with team members) with protecting business interests.
Trust can also be eroded when the external portrayal of the business does not align with what is communicated to staff, or staff lived experience. This disconnect results in dissatisfaction among employees, and staff may question whether information shared internally can be believed.
And never does ineffective internal communication come to light than in a crisis situation. Responding effectively to crises or unexpected events is critical in both small and large businesses. Crisis communication requires a well-defined plan and the ability to disseminate information rapidly and accurately, instilling confidence in employees during challenging times.
Small businesses run on effective communication
In addition to these challenges, there are a number of hurdles to overcome when designing effective internal communications in a small business.
Firstly, you will likely be constrained by resources. You don’t have dedicated employee communication teams, or perhaps even someone with professional communications skills. You might be tempted by flashy employee engagement tools, but not have the budget to invest or people to fully leverage them. Lack of experience and expertise in designing internal communications strategies means you are trying your best but always feeling behind the curve.
In addition, communication in small businesses mostly occurs informally and is based on personal relationships. While this can be efficient in some cases, it can also lead to information gaps, misunderstandings, and a lack of consistency in messaging.
Hierarchical relationships can also cause issues, employees might feel uncomfortable providing feedback or voicing concerns to senior management, inhibiting transparent and open communication.
These issues become particularly challenging when you need to have difficult conversations, or successfully implement changes (even when these changes are positive). Without a clear internal communications plan in place, employee morale, productivity and business performance can all suffer.
Large organisations need love too
Large organisations don’t get off lightly either. There can be very different challenges to overcome when designing communications strategies for staff.
Information overload has to be one of the biggest. Large businesses often grapple with an excess of information, meaning employees are bombarded with messages, emails, and updates from various departments and colleagues. This makes it hard to separate important information from noise, and when pushed for time, people find it so hard to know what takes priority that they stop reading everything entirely.
And this is before we factor in communications at different levels within an organisation. If there are CEO’s messages, HR messages, messages just for managers, and team-focused messages all going out to staff independently, they end up competing with each other for attention. Breaking down silos to ensure a joined up approach to staff engagement is critical.
Many large businesses also operate on a global scale, with employees scattered across different time zones and culturesm and speaking different languages. This geographical dispersion can make real-time communication difficult and lead to misunderstandings and cultural differences that affect communication quality.
And lastly, red tape slows down many organisations’ effective internal communications. Complex bureaucratic structures, lots of stakeholders and multiple approvers slow down decision-making and make it difficult for important information to flow quickly. This can lead to delays in disseminating critical updates, especially in crisis situations, and in a vacuum, inaccurate information and employee dissatisfaction spreads.
Start with an internal communication strategy
Effective internal communication starts with a strategy. It needs to be tailored to the specific needs and resources of your organization. Once you have established your internal communications goals, map out which stakeholders need to be involved, workflows and approval points, and any key deadlines or schedules for regular communications.
You can use tools to plan and distribute internal communications, depending on your budget. But a simple plan executed with minimal tools but based on a clear strategy will always trump fancy expensive tech solutions used without a plan.
Curate content for your staff based on your strategy. Share relevant and engaging content with employees, prioritising what matters most to them and the organisation's goals. And don’t mix up messages employees need to hear (for legislative or compliance reasons) with messages which are intended more to boost morale, promote wellbeing or enhance productivity (which are all important, but need to be clearly separated from things like health and safety or legal information).
And continually assess the effectiveness of your internal communication efforts, however you can. Use metrics like engagement rates, feedback, and survey data to make data-driven improvements.
In conclusion, effective internal communication is a vital component of success for businesses of all sizes. Investing in an internal communications strategy that delivers is an investment worth making, no matter the size of your company.
If you need strategic support to deliver impactful internal communications, I can help.