Internal Communicationsby Val Lawson
Communications policy and procedures
A communications and consultation policy is a particularly effective way of making clear the attitude of the organisation, defining the responsibilities of those involved in the process and detailing the means of communications and consultation that will be used. A good policy should include
- A clear statement of policy, including the purpose of communications and consultation; the fact that it is an integral part of every manager’s job, and the importance of communication as a two-way process and not a one-way exercise
- Details of the responsibility for communication at each level
- The methods of communication
- Arrangements for consultation and participation
- Arrangements for training managers and employees in the skills and processes of communications and consultation
- How the policy will be monitored.
The policy and procedures should take into consideration different media and methods. These will be based on
- Organisational culture
- Do people have access to email?
- Will they see a poster on the notice board?
- Do you have multiple locations?
- Are lots of staff out on the road?
- Will your internal systems support electronic bulletins or blogs?
- What’s accessible?
- Do people know how to use email?
- Is everyone able to read English easily?
As a general principle, it makes sense (where possible) to use existing meetings and methods of communication to share information on a regular basis and for updates on ongoing projects.
For exceptional situations, you may choose to arrange special events, possibly using a different approach. This will emphasise the importance of the information to be communicated and may engage interest more effectively.
Blogs and websites
As new forms of communications emerge and many staff use email as a routine part of their job, it is important to review company policies and reflect the potential impact of communications through these media on your company reputation. Blogs help ordinary employees show the human face of your organisation, but if they carry the company name they are also an extension of your brand, so employees must only blog with permission. You may want to set basic rules on what’s off-limits – such as price-sensitive information – but a light touch is best and shows that you trust your people.
Other new media includes pages on social websites, such as Facebook and MySpace, and employment contracts may need to be updated so that a breach of confidentiality or inappropriate postings are covered by disciplinary procedures and could constitute gross misconduct.
There should be a regular review of communications so that new media can be considered, either as an opportunity or a threat, and managed.
Who is involved?
The people who need to be involved in communications will depend on the level of news or information that is covered in each set of messages. Each must be endorsed and signed off by someone at an appropriate level in management, and this will be part of the overall policy and procedures. In larger organisations, regular briefings may be pulled together by someone in marketing. They will obtain sign off for board and corporate level news. If department or team news is added (with approval by the senior manager at each level), the process may still require sign off for the complete briefing at a senior level.
If briefings are published on an internal website (intranet) or sent out using a bulk email package, then IT staff may be involved. It is important that the staff involved in collating, drafting or publishing communication messages understand the need for confidentiality. This becomes even more important during change initiatives, when communications may be prepared for all possible contingencies – and many will never be needed.