Let me start with an apology. We don’t like to focus on the negatives here at Guru HQ, and we aim to be solution-focused in all that we do. (That focus, by the way, is sharpened with caffeine, a Hobnob, and some good humour, but we always do our best regardless.)
But it’s true that you need to understand, look for, and recognise the negatives in order to turn them around and make things better.
The simplest and shortest answer to the question “how do I know if our internal comms strategy is working?” is this: book an external health check.
An external company will always be more honest, free of (unconscious) bias, and oblivious to any internal politics. They will also have experiences of similar industries against which to benchmark your comms, and from whom best practice can be shared. A robust health check will take time and effort, and getting an external agency to do the heavy lifting will avoid burdening and distracting your own people. It’s also highly likely that, when gathering information on what is working and what isn’t, your employees will be more honest and transparent with external people, meaning you will get more useful feedback and guidance from a third party.
Oh, and finally, an external health-check is far less scary than it sounds. And, of course, it can reap huge rewards your organisation.
However, there are a few tell-tale signs that you may spot yourself that suggest your internal comms strategy needs some attention.
Constant or frequent miscommunication
If instructions are frequently being misunderstood or messages misinterpreted, then you clearly have a problem, and it probably doesn’t lie with the audience on the receiving end. Is everyone receiving all the information that they should be? All the time?
Is there inconsistency in your messaging? Are different leaders or departments communicating conflicting messages?
Is there a general lack of clarity across the business about your vision, mission, values, goals, or current priorities?
If you have a prevalence of rumours, gossip, or frequent misinformation circulating among employees, it may indicate a lack of clear and timely communication from official sources.
Declining employee engagement
Are there signs of apathy, low productivity, or even increased absenteeism or turnover? Perhaps your people don’t fully understand how their work contributes to your objectives. Or perhaps they need more feedback or better opportunity to have their say.
If your once-busy group chats have gone quiet, your forums or social channels are digital tumbleweed, or attendance at optional events has dwindled, then it sounds like your employee engagement is suffering. Low attendance at company meetings, events, or town halls suggests that employees do not perceive them as valuable or engaging.
We know that employee feedback is vital – both to the growth of the business and for the welfare of your people. If your employees don't feel comfortable providing feedback or suggestions, it may be a fear of repercussions, or a perception that their input is not valued. You may need to work on boosting promoting psychological safety across your business.
If your different teams or departments are not effectively engaging, communicating, and collaborating with each other, productivity is going to suffer. Silos and territorial behaviour are bad for business and bad for morale. A good internal comms plan will include detail on how to enable, encourage and enhance collaboration, and this has become even more important in our new world of hybrid working and flexible work patterns.
Increasing conflict or resistance to change
Employees resisting change, or a lack of buy-in for new initiatives or strategies could be due to insufficient communication about the reasons and benefits of these changes.
If minor misunderstandings are growing into more significant disputes, or if inconsistent comms are resulting in substantial errors or duplication of work, then these avoidable conflicts are going to really start to take their toll on morale, productivity, and overall employee experience.
Some of the above may simply be down to too little communication. Or too much! Or it may be down to the quality or tone of voice of your comms. But speaking and listening to your people about their experiences, dissecting their issues, and analysing the existing setup are the best places to start. By proactively addressing these warning signs, you can avoid an employee experience catastrophe and rebuild a more productive and harmonious workplace.