So how can Internal Communications (done well) drive organisational success?
It creates an in-house (free!) promotional machine
These days huge swathes of company employees can be found on social media actively talking about their companies (50% according to Weber Shandwick), sharing stories of organisational excellence or actively recommending products (or, disastrously, doing the opposite). Well managed this can provide a huge opportunity for companies. Research from Neilson revealed that messages shared by employees go 561% further than those shared on brand channels. In addition, 84% of consumers value recommendations from friends and family above all forms of advertising. Employees have more reach and trust than organisations, making them a more powerful conduit than any form of PR or Advertising. Using Internal Communications to ensure that what employees are saying about an organisation online (and in real life) reflects the true brand image can be an incredibly powerful way of building profile and sales.
It motivates people to drive your organisation forward
Engaged staff are a good thing for many reasons, not least because they are likely to have a positive attitude towards the organisation and its customers. But engaged teams can also have a significant commercial benefit, as they feel motivated to drive the organisation forwards. We’ve been working with the British Red Cross over the last couple of years on an engagement strategy to bring together its diverse and complex workforce of 4,300 employees and 19,600 volunteers. As a result, engagement is at an all-time high with clear organisational benefits: in 2019 a record 1,800 employees and volunteers signed up to shake tins for Red Cross Week. They raised £163,000 through their tins alone (up 43% on 2019), contributing to a 19% increase in the total raised (£598,000). This shows why it (quite literally) pays to wholeheartedly engage your staff.
It provides a route to expertise to inform strategy
Listening to staff through true two-way dialogue, which should be at the heart of any good employee engagement activity, can give you incredible access to expertise about your organisation and industry. This can enable senior leaders to implement changes that benefit the organisation, whether these are small tweaks or large strategic re-sets. In 2014 the New York Public Library decided to offer anyone on staff – over 2,500 individuals – the chance to shape the library through strategic conversations with senior leaders. Amongst other things, the result was a 20% reduction in wait times for books, improvements in the service to patrons and reduced staff workloads. Staff were energized by the opportunity to shape how the library worked. As a core team member put it, “We entered the process with the perspective of employees and came out with the perspective of leaders.” You should never underestimate the potential, enthusiasm or aptitude of your employees to help you define the direction of your organisation.
So, it may not be cool or sexy like its friends PR and Advertising, but there is no doubt that, done well, Internal Communications can be very, very powerful.