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The Three Pillars of Internal Communications: Inform, Educate and Engage

The Three Pillars of Internal Communications: Inform, Educate and Engage
Abigail Cugini, Rea & Associates

When it comes to the basic objective of internal communications, the famous actress Judy Garland said it best: “Give the people what they want and then go have a hamburger.”

All kidding aside, it really is that simple. Give the people what they want. And what is it they want? Employees want to be informed about their organization’s goals and strategy, educated about the products or services their company provides to clients and customers, and engaged as a contributing, appreciated and value-added team member.

Now of course, people want more from their organization, but in regards to what we can control and how we can make a difference, our main goals as internal communicators are to inform, educate and engage employees.

According to Poppulo, a leader in internal communications (IC) research and employee communications software, 73% of internal communicators are confident that their company’s staff have learned something about their organization from a colleague instead of from their IC team. In my opinion, this is concerning for one major reason: the breakdown of information. It’s no secret that when you share information through the “grapevine,” the gist of what’s being communicated often gets distorted. Rumors start to swirl and employees make their own assumptions, and they may share those assumptions as facts. When the majority of your people are finding out firm news at the water cooler, it’s less likely that the news is 100% factual. The solution, Poppulo suggests, is to be more proactive – sharing as much news and being as transparent as possible with employees as quickly as possible.

I tend to agree. In my role as manager of internal communications (link to Meet a Member), I serve as an employee advocate to give them not only what they want, but what they need. Luckily for internal communicators, what employees want and need are in alignment. And it goes back to those three pillars of communication: to be informed, educated, and engaged about what’s taking place at the people level, client level, and firm level.

Here’s how I accomplish this.

Inform and educate
The best way to get started with communicating to employees is just to get started! It may be in the form of a weekly memo emailed to staff from the CEO (flex your ghost-writing abilities) or a daily refresh of your intranet with the latest client win or new hire spotlight. Perhaps it’s a post in Microsoft Teams (link to MS Teams Tips and Tricks article) or Yammer promoting a client case study or product one-pager. When your firm is on the brink of a significant change or announcement, your employees should be the first to know. When you clearly explain the parameters, you can trust that confidential news will stay within the firm.

Ask yourself this: Do your employees understand your firm’s strategy and the direction it’s heading? This is important information for them to reference frequently so they know how they as individuals can contribute, and it’s a great place to start (or continue) when kicking off internal communications.

When informing and educating your team, empower your principals and leadership group with knowledge first. Monthly, I share a leadership briefing via email with our principals and directors that contains important firm news (personnel changes, service strategies, policies, human resources programs, etc.) that will be shared with all employees in the near future. Within the briefing, I include a few bullet points on each topic that they should share and reinforce with their staff during their next team meeting. This serves two purposes. First, it provides your leadership team with knowledge, so they feel engaged and part of what’s happening across the firm. Second, it empowers them with the information they need to then communicate to their team so that staff is not only reading the message the IC team sends but also hearing it directly from their manager. It takes a person to hear a message three to seven times for that information to register, according to Mission-Minded. Any message communicated less is a waste of time and money. With this in mind, leverage multiple channels to reach your employees and always communicate the message at least three times.

You guessed it. Informed and educated employees result in more engaged employees.

“When employees feel like their workplace encourages active, company-wide communication to generate new ideas and get things done, they feel aligned with that workplace and its values,” shares Haiilo, a leading employee communications, insights and advocacy platform.

Haiilo points out that the more companies distribute meaningful internal communications, the more their employees will be engaged because they’ll feel like part of a “healthy, collaborative and positive environment.”

In turn, engaged employees are more productive employees. They’re more likely to care about their performance, actively participate in meetings and contribute new ideas.

Internal communications and employee engagement are part of a “virtuous cycle,” says Haiilo. You can read more about that cycle here.

Go have your hamburger
Like our dear friend Judy said: ”Give the people want they want, and then go have a hamburger.” In the case of employee communications, the “hamburger” is the reward, and our reward as internal communicators is an engaged workforce. As you begin or continue your IC journey, remember and focus on these three pillars to stay grounded and justify your seat at the table of business: inform, educate and engage.