My interest in internal communication started when I worked within a couple of large organisations, namely Woolworths then Integral Energy. The roles I had were external communication focused and therefore I had no responsibility for internal comms and could be just an observer.

To me internal communication is about engaging your people, not just about telling them what’s going on. Nobody is going to be fully engaged or productive if they don’t feel like they play a part in the overall organisation. You can have the best employee communication system ever but if your employees aren’t engaged then it’s a complete waste of time.

That’s because employee communication is not just about newsletters, staff meetings and CEO speeches. It’s about every time anyone has a conversation, meeting or sends a written document within an organisation. It’s about the company’s website and it’s about what a company representative says in a media interview.

Senior executives of medium to large organisations are usually pretty good at telling the outside world about their operations, achievements and selling their wares but they forget or don’t see the need to tell their staff what’s going on.

To me it comes down to a two simple principles – respect and trust.

You should trust and respect your own employees enough and should tell them important company news first and the outside world second. This is particularly important when there is a contentious issue involved but also the right or nice thing to do when there’s good news to tell.

Employees are the best ambassadors for an organisation. Not surprisingly companies like Google which is continually named as an employer of choice is very good telling its employees how important they are to the company’s success.

The CEO or Managing Director is a key person in any employee communication. They should communicate frequently and in person. They should also be willing to address challenging questions, listen carefully and deal with the concerns and respond quickly to sensitive topics. Always ensuring they keep the ‘trust and respect’ part in focus.

The CEO needs to talk about the “big picture”, the “future” and in broad terms about how the organisation is progressing when addressing the front line staff. The vision needs to be clear and consistent. They also need to trust staff enough to tell them things that they probably wouldn’t share outside the organisation.

Internal communication is not a one-way information dump. Capturing feedback is of critical importance, and if you are not seen to be listening and acting on what you are told, why should people bother telling you?

The most important thing to remember in any internal communication program is to focus on the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ Ultimately people want to know how change within their organisation will affect them. They want to know if their job is safe, whether they will receive a pay rise, what benefits they will receive, where their new desk will be located and so on.

Remember it’s not hard to communicate with employees. It just takes a bit of thought. I’d love to hear from others who’ve had good and bad internal communication experiences.

Nicola