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INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS Nine Steps to an Effective Employee Communications Programme

Since founding an internal communications practice more than a decade ago, Fleishman-Hillard has helped hundreds of clients from large public corporations to mid-size non-profit organisations develop effective employee and member communications plans. At their heart, most of our programmes are designed to help an organisation meet its goals often during difficult circumstances or times of change. While the strategies and tactics are tailored to fit the needs of each client, the most effective programmes are based on the tried-and-true approach described below. 1. Assess the situation. To develop an on-target plan that isnt created in a vacuum, we typically start the process by collecting input from a variety of sources often through one-on-one executive interviews, employee surveys, focus groups, an audit of existing communications materials, etc. The information and insights collected are then used to craft key messages that resonate with employees, address key issues up front, and build a tactical plan that applies the right mix of communications channels. 2. Develop a core communications document. This document, which is drafted with input from management and the above research, serves as the platform for all future communications. It articulates the business priorities/goals (i.e., a handful of must wins), the supporting case for change, key messages to be used in all future communications, desired employee behaviours, and other foundational concepts. For the most powerful results, it is critical that the content of the core document is generally consistent with external messaging used for the media, financial community, and other key audiences, as well as employees. 3. Align senior management. One of the most critical aspects of a successful programme is securing the buy-in of senior leadership. Without their support and involvement, the initiative likely will fail. Typically, the alignment process begins by sharing the core communications document and soliciting and ultimately incorporating this crossfunctional groups input. At this time, its also important to make sure the executive team understands their role in the communications process and the importance of walking the talk. 4. Engage middle managers/supervisors. Time and time again, research shows that these individuals are some of the most influential in an organisation. By making them a regular part of the strategic information loop, they will become more engaged in the companys efforts and thus better engage their employees. We recommend building a plan that incorporates talking to managers often; providing them with training and tools; and, making them your primary communication channel.

Please contact Carrie Scott +32 2 230 05 45

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5. Begin a dialogue, not a monologue, with employees. Organisations gain quicker traction if employees play a role in the companys success. Engage them by creating a dialogue. Employees who feel theyve had a voice typically serve as some of the most ardent and effective company ambassadors, both internally and externally. For example, provide two-way channels that allow employees to ask honest questions (and then respond with honest answers), share good ideas (and then implement them companywide), and express their concerns (and then address them candidly). It will be critical to listen to employees and address their concerns head-on. 6. Determine the right mix of communications channels. In general, less is more when it comes to a companys communications channels especially if the overall programme reflects the right balance of traditional and non-traditional vehicles, formal and informal means, and one-way and two-way channels. 7. Measure and report results to drive accountability. To generate momentum and quickly address challenges that may arise, measure progress against the must wins and report the results back to employees. Progress may be visually represented through graphs or charts at each of the companys locations as well as reinforced through CEO messages and manager discussions. 8. Establish a system of reward and recognition. According to behavioural psychologists, training while important brings short-term performance improvements, whereas constant recognition and reinforcement provides much longer lasting performance improvement. This may take place formally through performance evaluations and annual employee awards, and informally through on-the-spot rewards from supervisors. The criteria should be business-based measures (e.g., increased sales, reduced expenses, exceptional customer service, etc.) as well as desired employee behaviours (e.g. teamwork, open communication, flexibility, and accountability). 9. Stay the course and sustain communications. There is no silver bullet that will make a company successful overnight or turn the tide on challenging issues. Its a marathon, not a sprint. Effective communication is a matter of discipline the day-in, day-out conversations that address questions and issues candidly. Use the messages and channels initially put in place to keep the information flowing and continue the dialogue. By doing so on a regular basis, employees will have a foundational understanding and context through which they can filter major business changes, announcements, events, and news.

Please contact Carrie Scott +32 2 230 05 45

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