5 Tips for Improving Workplace Communication on a Budget
Internal comms teams don’t always have a lot of budget lying around. So, when we want to make a big impact, we can feel discouraged. But there are things that you can do on a budget to improve workplace communication without breaking the bank or asking for more resources.
Tip 1: Avoid the Cascade of Communication
In a company with many frontline workers, the cascade model of communication is often used to get information from the top all the way down to your frontline workers. But unfortunately, not all managers or leaders are adept communicators. They don’t always share “the why” behind the message, they might forget or leave out key details, or worse, they might decide the message isn’t important to their teams and not pass it along at all.
We recommend finding a channel that can reach all employees directly. This is, perhaps, the best way to avoid relying on field leadership to pass a message down the line. But we also understand that there isn’t always budget for a new channel, so we wanted to share some other ways to avoid the cascade and make sure the message stays intact as it gets passed along.
So, what can you do?
- Create shift notes for your managers. A majority of managers report not feeling comfortable communicating, especially about tough subjects. Get ahead of this by preparing detailed talking points and notes to help your managers. And make sure you get some back up from a senior leader and leaders at each level to enforce actually using them.
- Tap into the channels you do have on location. If you’re in manufacturing, it’s likely you have kiosks for employees to use. In healthcare, there are often shared computers in workstations. Can you use those to get the really important messages across? This can be a good way to make sure employees see a message and make it easy for them to figure out where they can get more information regardless of how skilled a communicator their manager is.
Tip 2: Teach Employees and Managers How to Improve Workplace Communication
Workplace communication isn’t just about top-down messaging. It’s all communication that takes place at your company. In our first tip, we recommend making great shift notes and resources for your managers, but don’t stop there. Actually invest in teaching communication skills to your employees at every level of the company.
Often, managers are promoted because they are really great at their jobs—but not because they necessarily are great communicators. Can you embed leadership and communication best practices into their manager training? Keeping in mind that managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement (Gallup).
And focus on the communication skills of your line workers as well. Clear communication goes a long way towards improving safety, teamwork, and efficiency. Not to mention, creating learning and development opportunities for all teammates at all levels is key to retaining top talent.
Tip 3: Start Measuring What You Can
We know that not everyone has fancy dashboards or tools with analytics capabilities. Back when I worked in internal comms, we relied on email before we started using theEMPLOYEEapp. But we did not have an HTML email provider for much of my time there, which meant we were in Outlook and had absolutely no metrics. So, I get it.
But for too many IC pros, you stop there, thinking perhaps that you won’t be able to measure your success. But there are many ways to measure impact and it’s not always about fancy dashboards or open rates.
For one, you can do a content analysis or Internal Comms Audit of what you are currently creating, who the content is intended for (i.e. what audience?), what channel(s) it’s being shared through, and so on. You may find that a whole part of your audience is being left out or that you are producing way more content for your U.S. audience versus your international ones. That right there is a huge discovery and totally counts as measurement.
You can also use surveys and focus groups to gather quantitative and qualitative data. And often, IC pros might have more access to the qualitative, and that’s okay. That is also super important information that you can use to inform your strategy.
And improving workplace communication really is a team sport. So, don’t forget that you can ask other departments about their data. Can HR share their retention numbers with you and you can track if that improves over time as a result of your combined efforts? Can Operations share the number of safety incidents you’re experiencing and you can see if a safety comms campaign drives those down?
Tip 4: Create Workplace Communication Focus Groups
Like we mentioned, focus groups are a great source of qualitative data. But they’re a best practice for so many reasons. Focus groups are a great way to pressure test your comms campaigns, strategies, and new ideas. Does that complicated message about the strategy make sense to them? Do they like how Town Halls are currently run? You want to test out a new newsletter format, do they like it? Is it worthwhile to them? Do they think it’s great as it is?
But your employees are also a wealth of ideas and knowledge. Many internal comms pros are tapping into the employee voice more these days, but are you also including them in the communication process? Our client Joyson Safety Systems put together a focus group and that led to some of their best, most innovative ideas in 2020 that helped them engage their younger, frontline workforce.
Tip 5: Get Executive Leadership Involved
In 2020, we really saw leaders (and specifically CEOs) step up. More leaders are getting behind the camera and getting involved more in driving workplace communication and change management. This is perhaps one of the most important tips for improving comms at your company.
When leaders actually lead by example, amazing things happen. If you have a new tool or program, your leaders using those tools and encouraging others to do the same is one of the best secrets to gaining adoption or compliance.