If I could wave a magic wand and solve one problem for the founders and executives I have worked with over the years, it would be to place more emphasis on internal communication.
Creating a company starts with a bang — an explosive idea that traverses the mind day and night at breathtaking speeds. It's exhilarating and mission-driven, which means that it is often frantic and chaotic. As the company wobbles into reality, this is the very time that communication processes need to take a starring role.
Unfortunately, as many of you know, communication is often taken for granted in growing organizations. Internal updates are blasted through Slack, half-written in project management software, buried in meetings that get off track and distributed through a smattering of calls, emails and texts. In those efforts to communicate are processes that are stressful to the receiver and may leave people never really feeling like they have a handle on what is going on.
But there is a better way, and it all starts with a solid foundation. Here are five fundamental strategies to help you improve your company's internal communication processes:
Get your employees on board.
Your communication processes may need a complete overhaul. However, if you are going to make companywide changes that will impact your employees, you will need to get full buy-in. There are countless project management and collaboration platforms out there. Whatever you choose, make sure people are comfortable with using it and using it respectfully. It also doesn’t hurt to put together a quick starting guide or tutorial for those who are new or technologically challenged. The last thing you want is for someone to not get the full benefit of a tool because they are stressed about where to begin.
Remember that words matter.
Before you can change how your team members communicate with each other, you need to be certain that you can explain your thoughts and intentions to your team clearly. Your words matter. When your people understand where you are trying to go, they can do a better job of helping you get there.
To do that, team members need to have a crystal-clear understanding of what your company does (and perhaps does not do). Each member of the organization — no matter their role — should be able to give a 30-second elevator speech about what it is you do.
For example, if I tell you that we are a Next Generation 911 company, that does not tell you anything. If I tell you that we are a tech company that helps 911 centers leverage ever-evolving technology to shorten response times and save lives, you get a much better understanding of what we do.
Ensuring that your team members know what your company does helps them bake that mission into their words and their work. Your ability to communicate effectively with your employees helps you communicate effectively within your industry and raise your profile among your target audience (peers, colleagues and future customers) by providing a better picture of how you serve them.
Understand your "why."
One essential aspect of improving your communication processes is creating great internal anchor content to inform your marketing and digital strategy. You can take that internal "why" and expand it to a document that explains why you do what you do and how it benefits your customers.
Your "why" statement is the underpinning of your message and your brand voice in the market. Make sure to get your mission statement, values statement and other internal strategic docs in order so you have an anchor to support your messaging. As soon as they are in place, you can share them with your team and use them as a basis for your external content.
Make the most of your creative team.
Whether you hire experts or use an in-house team to design and implement a companywide communication strategy, it is essential to understand that creatives are different from salespeople and managers. When you continuously interrupt a developer, writer, designer or other creative team member, it can interrupt their ability to get into flow and do meaningful work for your organization. It can also make it hard for them to be productive when you're scheduling meetings in the middle of the day when they are most likely in the middle of a project. Be thoughtful about how you communicate with your creatives and ask them for their preference before scheduling meeting times; your due diligence will pay off in the long run.
Learn how to listen.
Just because we learn to say words early in life doesn't mean we learn how to communicate effectively. Talking is only half the battle; if you don't learn how to listen to your team members' needs and concerns proactively, it will be harder to get their buy-in on your vision for the company. Many of the roadblocks that they face can be overcome by listening first and speaking second.
When you receive requests, feedback or constructive criticism from your employees, it's essential to focus on the verbal and non-verbal cues they offer you. Avoid the urge to interrupt — if you're focusing on your response, you are not fully tuned in to what they are saying — and ask follow-up questions to gain more clarity. When you understand what they need from you, you can craft an appropriate response to improve internal communication and make your team members feel closer to you.
And don't forget to take the time to celebrate each other and have fun. If you're not a company that does cheesy birthday celebrations or after-hours parties, that's okay; you can still create a space for social conversations on your Slack channels, whiteboards or sticky notes in the break room. Wish each other "happy birthday," celebrate wins and recognize tough weeks. Your team will thank you!
Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies.