Internal Communicationsby Val Lawson
Options for delivery
Most communications take place either face-to-face or via written methods. Other means – typically delivered through some form of technology – may be used either instead of or alongside one of the more standard methods.
Face-to-face communication is both direct and swift, and should enable discussion, questioning and feedback to take place.
Where information is detailed or complex and where records are important, oral communication should be supplemented by written material.
When spoken methods are used it is important that
- The chain of communication is as short as possible
- The frequency and timing of meetings are carefully considered
- Managers are fully briefed on their subjects and able to put them across clearly and consistently
- Opportunities are provided for questions
- Employees are given both adequate information and sufficient notice to enable them to respond properly.
The main methods for delivering formal face-to-face communications are
- Group meetings
- Cascade networks
- Large-scale meetings
- Inter-departmental briefings.
Informal channels of oral communication obviously play a major part in the passage of information and instructions in any organisation: at the coffee machine, for example, at meetings or on the telephone. Inevitably, there will be a ‘grapevine’. This will pass news and information quickly, but is likely to encourage ill-informed rumour and must not replace other methods of communicating to employees.
You can use team meetings as a forum for regular updates. It’s useful to have everyone together hearing about what’s happening. Another advantage of being face-to-face is that it allows you to pick up any concerns – even if it’s just from facial expressions.
See Face-to-face methods.
Written communication is most effective where
- The need for the information is important or permanent
- The topic requires detailed explanation
- Accuracy and precision in wording are essential
- The audience is widespread or large
- A backup is needed to oral communication
- There is need for a permanent record.
The main methods of written communication are
- Company handbooks
- Employee information notes
- House journals and newsletters
- Departmental bulletins
- Individual letters to all employees.
See Written methods.
Other methods of communication include intranets, information points, audio-visual aids, electronic mail, text messages and ‘blogs’.
See Other methods.
Attention should be given to ensure information is understood by employees whose literacy skills are poor and, within a multi-racial workforce, by those for whom English is a second language.
It is equally important to consider and include isolated groups of employees, such as
- Night shift workers
- People in maintenance
- Sales teams who work away from base
- Home-based workers
- Employees in remote locations
- Part-time staff.
In larger organisations, it is also easy to overlook individual employees who work in an isolated set-up, such as telephonists, receptionists and messengers.
You have to find a means of getting everyone together that can include an update on what’s happening in the business. Remember that your people out on the road are ambassadors for your business – make sure they know what’s going on, and hear it from you rather than a customer!
Communication systems should not be taken for granted, nor should it be assumed that because information is ‘sent’ it is also ‘received’. There can be significant barriers between giver and receiver. See Communications monitoring and review.