Internal Communication Case Studies
The Good: Tesla
First, let’s start with a good example of internal communications that ended up making the news. This was a company-wide email sent from CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk. The business magnate wanted to make very clear his expectations for communication going forward.
As you can see, Musk is giving company-wide permission to speak with whomever it is that can most quickly and efficiently solve any issues within the organization. He’s getting away from the office politics and bureaucracy that slows things down and focusing on solutions and direct communication.
The Bad: PayPal
The Ugly: Facebook
Another example of poor internal communication comes from an executive at Facebook, Andrew Bosworth. This one was leaked onto Buzzfeed news. And it didn’t look good for the business at all.
Someone leaked this internal memo. And years later, it led to a New York Times article on the subject. It was right around the time of a lot of other negative news coverage about the company. These internal communications were meant to be private within the company but have turned into public relations nightmares.
Why is Internal Communication Important?
Internal Communication and the Drive for Purpose
Those who do a good job will never tire of hearing about it. Quality employees like to have clear goals set in place so that they can have clear plans for achieving them. They also like to know that they are appreciated at their place of work.
Good internal communication has these things covered. Employees receive plenty of feedback and know when they are meeting goals.
Poor Internal Communication Hurts your Company
It’s an accident waiting to happen when team members are not communicating with one another. Good communication isn’t something that happens naturally. There has to be a conscious effort towards open lines. Otherwise, you’ll end up with miscommunication, gossip, complaining, and passive aggressive silence.
A communication problem has usually manifested itself in a very dangerous way by the time you’ve realized there’s a problem at all. Examples of this can be a colossal mistake, a toxic culture or the loss of a great employee or manager.
Unclear communication causes tasks to be completed twice. That’s no productivity hack. In fact, I’d say it’s just the opposite. Why does this happen frequently?
When lines of communication are not open, people see holes and fill them. They can do this while completely unaware that someone else is already in the process of fixing that hole. Thus, tasks get completed twice. That’s a waste of your resources, money, and your employees’ time.
Poor internal communication in larger companies may mean a huge separation from one department to the next. One department may be less willing to share information with those who are in a different department. We call this a ‘silo mentality’ because each department is isolated from one another like grains in a silo.
A silo mentality reflects very poorly on a company. People associate this issue as a management issue that trickles down to individual employees. Oftentimes the reasoning behind a silo mentality is because there are certain duties that fall between two different departments, like sales and marketing. One doesn’t want to share information with the other because they want their team to be more valuable to the organization. Other times it is a result of commission-based pay. Those employees see that keeping information to themselves can benefit their wallets.
Efficient companies don’t have silo mentalities and managers know that a silo mentality negatively impacts employee moral. As a result, efficient companies promote the sharing of information across all departments and everyone works as a team to achieve a similar goal.
Poor internal communication can lead to a lot of gossip in the workplace and other toxic employee behavior. Workplace gossip is unproductive and can hurt someone’s feelings. But those aren’t the worst implications of workplace gossip. Gossip divides a workplace and isolates employees. It can diminish trust in the organization, increase work-related stress, or even lead to legal repercussions.
What does gossip have to do with organized internal communication? Everything. Gossip gets started when objectives, information and intentions are unclear. If there’s something big going on in a company, like a merger, layoffs, or bankruptcy, and staff is not hearing about it from the direct source, the rumor mill will start turning.
Almost all customer complaints can be traced back to something not communicated effectively. Whether it’s slow shipping, quality of product, or quickness of service. When a customer understands the inner workings that are causing issues with their end product or service, they are less likely to become an angry customer.
But if everyone on your team is not aware of what is going on, how are you going to communicate with your customers effectively?
How to Communicate Internally More Effectively
Encourage More Frequent Communication
Create a culture in which frequent communication is encouraged. Encourage regular feedback, input and dialogue among your staff. As a small business owner, you set the tone. You create the culture.
Lead by Example
Managers shouldn’t have the easiest deal out of the bunch. Whoever is leading the team should be expected to put in just as many hours as those doing the footwork on the project or more. Managers should not lead only with orders. They should also lead by example. This also goes for communicating as well. If you want team members to communicate more frequently, the team lead should be reaching out more frequently as well.
Have Everyone on Board
Not everyone is so quick to follow the leader. So you won’t be able to stop at you and the managerial staff communicating frequently. You’ll also have to give staff reasoning behind why increased internal communication is so important. After all, checking in with someone and drafting updates will be another task on their list. So you should give them the ‘why.’ Let them know why frequent internal communication is important and ways that they will benefit from this practice.
Make the Vision Clear
Communicate company goals clearly. It’s difficult for staff to execute a strategy without having the full picture of what they need to achieve. It also makes work more meaningful when employees have a clear and visible objective.
A recommended method for this process is Google’s Objectives and Key Results goal system. Objectives are qualitative descriptions of your goal and key results are metrics that you use to measure progress on these goals.
Use Online Tools
People dread meetings. There’s a lot of reasons for this, but namely it’s because they don’t want to have to sit for an extended amount of time just to hear some information that is relative to their work and some that’s only relative to someone else’s. They’re long and drawn out. There’s more information than they need.
Online tools omit this. They get the point directly to the person that needs the information. Most of these tools allow for you to have conversations that are organized by project. Only those who must be involved will be in the loop with the project, though it remains open and able to be seen by others.
Routines increase productivity and encourage compliance with new expectations to be fulfilled. Communication should be a regular habit that employees are used to incorporating into their day or week. People want regular, real-time updates. Not email blasts once a quarter.
Train People in How to Communicate Effectively
Not everyone was born to write a memo. And not everyone is efficient at getting their message across. Some of your staff may need to learn the most effective way to communicate with the written word. In these instances, training employees well comes in handy. Have standard procedures for communicating messages within your organization so it can be done quickly, efficiently, and without miscommunication.
We saved the most important for last! Communication is a two way street. You cannot expect people to check in with you all the time and not accept the feedback that is being given. You must listen well in order to create a culture of communication as described above.
What does listening entail? It means surveying your employees frequently and asking them for feedback and ways in which you can improve your business for those that work for you and your customers. Those who are working closely with your product or service may see gaps that you’re unable to as a manager. So, ask! And then listen well. Make changes based on their feedback. Show your employees that communicating is valuable to your company and that you value their opinion.
Internal Communication Tools
An organization can use to many tools to promote internal communication. Our answering service uses Slack. This tool uses an instant message platform. The platform is organized, accessible and easy to search through to simplify internal communication.
This program allows members of your small to medium-sized business to have instant messaging and to build on the work of others on the team. With Yammer, you don’t have to worry about work overlap because you can see the progress of others and collaborate within the community to problem solve.
This is another internal communication tool for your business. Hipchat allows you to use their secure platform to have group chats, video chats and screen sharing.
Google drive is a file storage and synchronization service. Users create and store files in the cloud, synchronize files across devices, share files, and work on files simultaneously with this program. Google drive, like gmail and Google’s search engine, are completely free of charge.
Apply this to your small business
You may have wondered what Tesla, Facebook, and PayPal have to do with your small business. You’re not making news, no matter what you’re putting in your emails or office memos, right?
The lesson was much bigger for those big companies than it would be for your small business. But your small business will not be immune to poor internal communication. There may be no article in the New York Times, but you can still lose quality employees and your client base after too many internal communication snafus.
Now, try this…
Need help remembering how to improve the internal communication of your small business? Refer to this infographic from weekdone, another awesome internal communication product that we’re learning about.