Monday, September 16, 2013 :00am

The ONLY Excuse for Poor Internal Communication

By Robin Schooling

[Today’s guest blog post is from Robin Schooling, HR Leader with over 25 years experience and avid blogger.]

It used to, back in the days when the factory floor was far removed from the gilded offices of the company executives, that the Big Boss had a ready excuse to explain why Joe and Joanna Lunch Box didn’t ”know” what was going on in the company. While some company leaders ascribed to the theory that it wasn’t even important for Joe/Joanna to have information (ugh), the lack of communication and info sharing was often chalked up to time, distance and the way things were done.

In 2013, however, most leaders have come to understand that employees not only need to know what’s going on, but expect to know. After all, in their personal lives they have information at their fingertips whenever they want it. Much as they expect to hear breaking news on a favorite sports team in real-time they bring that same expectation to the workplace.

Yet, sadly, many organizations continue to fail at doing this elemental and easy thing – communicating and sharing information internally. I regularly have conversations with friends, colleagues and strangers when they say, “No one in our company told us about the new product/board member/merger – I heard about it on the news.”

Without effective internal communications it’s impossible for employees to achieve clarity, understand how their individual activities impact business objectives or take meaningful action.  And while face-to-face communication will neither go away nor diminish in importance, the use of technology has greatly enhanced the ease with which individuals in organizations can communicate up, down and sideways – including across the dreaded ”silos”.

No longer is the goal of internal communication merely to “broadcast” a message from on-high. Rather, the shift has been to one that successfully incorporates feedback loops that allows employees to share information with each other and with those traditionally”at the top” of the hierarchy. The focus can now be – and should be – one that seeks to gather input, facilitate involvement and encourage co-creation of content from all areas of the company. Discussion and dialogue are of critical importance and while internal communication should be purposeful and tied to business goals, strategies and objectives, an organization can also incorporate fun and personalization as they “brand” their internal strategy to fit their culture. By focusing on the importance of internal communication and collaboration, organizations have the opportunity to drive results around shared business objectives while building a true internal community in alignment with shared goals and company culture.

While organizations often cite aligning employees to business strategy as a top goal I’ve certainly heard enough anecdotal evidence to suggest this is often not accomplished even though today it’s easier than ever with our access to a variety of social collaboration technologies, channels and tools. No more do Joe and Joanna need to wait for the Big Boss to come down from on high, as if descending from atop the mountain, to share information. Joe and Joanna can now be, and should be (!), part of that continuous feedback loop. Now is the time when all organizations have the ability, and resources, to develop and implement successful internal communication strategies.

In my estimation, the only excuse the Big Boss has left to explain his/her ineffective internal communication practices is “I just didn’t care.”

 

With 25 years of experience in HR leadership roles, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries including gaming, health care, manufacturing and banking.  She is the managing owner of Silver Zebras, LLC – an HR consultancy where she assists companies with the development and implementation of HR strategies. An active SHRM Volunteer leader in the state of Louisiana, she has also served on boards for organizations focused on veterans and individuals with disabilities.  She has a popular HR blog at HRSchoolhouse, and is a contributor to the blogs WomenofHR and SHRM’s We Know Next. She can be found on twitter at @RobinSchooling.

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