Whether you call it internal communication or employee engagement there is one thing that I think is essential. It is important for all forms of communication and that is to understand your audience. There are many ways we try to ensure we make that connection with external communication activity but often we forget about it when we are looking at conversations with the workforce. After all if we are working in-house then we are part of that workforce so surely we already understand things.
Understanding the audience has to sit alongside understanding the business. It has to start with spending time on the frontline of the businesses whatever that is and that needs to happen in the early days of joining an organisation. Communication has to have an honesty and authenticity and that is only possible if we can see things from the perspective of the receiver of the message.
It still surprises me how many people working in communication roles whether in-house or agency still don’t really understand what the frontline of the business entails. In my current role I think it is vital to have been on patrol with police officers and to experience what they face on a daily basis. All new members of the team will be encouraged to take time to do that so they have a better grasp of the business.
Really understanding the work is important when times are tough and people are under pressure. That is the time when an honest approach even when it isn’t presenting the best possible picture needs to be in place. Employees will not listen and engage with what is being shared unless they feel it comes with an understanding of what they face. After all when systems or procedures are not working the staff will know and we lose credibility if we don’t accept that position.
I hope that more people providing communication support to businesses and organisations will take the time to walk a mile in the shoes of the employees.