Want to Create a Culture of Communication? Don’t Forget the Four C's

Whether you’ve had recent changes in leadership, undergone a new acquisition, work with a geographically dispersed staff, or it is just another Tuesday in the office, internal communication strategy should be on your mind. Often included in the ‘nice to have’ section of an annual plan, internal communication is, in my opinion, an opportunity to reach one of your most important and influential audiences – your employees. And, even a few small steps over time will eventually create a true culture of communication.

Consider this: Each day, we ask our employees to represent us in the best possible light, solve problems (or, better yet, stop them from happening in the first place), convince others of our importance and position in the marketplace, and bring us new clients and other committed employees like themselves. These expectations are mission critical, yet, according to Gallup’s 2013 “State of the American Workplace” study, only 30% of the U.S. workforce is engaged in their work.

This lack of engagement can come from a number of places, but communication tends to be a consistent driver. And, studies show this can lead to less productivity, lower profitability, higher healthcare costs and turnover. In fact, the same Gallup survey found that “Only 41% of employees felt that they know what their company stands for and what makes its brand different from its competitors’ brands.”

If lack of engagement is a top of mind issue, internal communication should be as well.

Using the Four Cs to focus your internal communication

Whether you create an intranet, launch a blog, establish employee ambassadors, host town hall meetings, develop a recognition program, or just post to a bulletin board, internal communication will be most effective if it focuses on the Four Cs: clear and consistent messages, collaborative strategy and execution, and communication choices.

  • Clear – As with all communication, it is vital to ensure your internal communication is clear. Establish a defined set of communication drivers (e.g., employee recognition, brand awareness, confidence in leadership, etc.) and ensure each communication piece you create clearly falls under one of these drivers. This will allow you to streamline clear messages and avoid strategy creep.
  • Consistent – Just as important as clarity is consistency. Frequent communication with employees give you the opportunity to stay top of mind. Just as it takes time and consistency for deals to close and brand recall to increase, it will take a consistent effort to create a culture of communication. But, this effort will lead to informed teams, improved passion, and more engagement. The best way to ensure consistent communication is to create a plan and calendar. Even if you are starting small, a little bit planning will prevent you from pushing your efforts to the back burner.
  • Collaborative – We all know that pulling someone into your process makes them more likely to engage, and the same is true with internal communication. While a true culture of communication is created top-down, the best culture of communication is one where many people are participating. Establishing ambassadors through the company, creating an employee spotlight piece for your internal blog, or simply sending out a survey to ask for input and opinions will help to ensure your employees are invested in the efforts.
  • Choices – If you are going to take my advice on the survey, here are two great questions to ask: 1) How do you prefer to receive communication from the company; and 2) How do you like to be acknowledged. A strong internal communication plan is one that allows for choices. We don’t all learn the same way, nor do we communicate the same way; and, we don’t all like to be acknowledged the same way. Giving people choices for how to receive, digest and participate in internal communication will, yet again, engage them in your efforts.

By following the Four Cs of internal communication, you will start to create a culture of communication, which will help you attract and retain the best and brightest as well as positively impact your bottom line. As you are making final tweaks to your 2015 plans, I encourage you to move internal communication from the ‘nice to have’ column to the ‘must include’ column – even if just in baby steps. If you do, I’m certain you’ll see that while internal communication can be fun, it isn’t fluff.

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