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Level up - Get your communications game going

3 months ago   •   4 min read

by Rebecca Wulff

Having worked at start-ups, in a big corporation and in an advertising agency, I have experienced many different forms of Internal Communication. But what are the biggest challenges? Where does Internal Communication go wrong and how to get back on the right track? Or how to find the track in the first place?

Passion + whatever = poison

All Start-ups have one thing in common: They are recently founded by a person with a passion. A passion so motivating that they built a business from the ground up. Passion is what gets the company going, what attracts customers and new employees and ultimately grows the company. The first hires might be people the founder knows from “far back when…” or someone they have been networking with - people who share their passion. So when the company is still small, colleagues are more friends than anything else as they probably spent a lot of late nights building up the company they love. They talk to each other, share what they are doing and also where they imagine the company going. But as the start-up grows, new people get hired who might fit the team perfectly, but the passion for the company doesn’t come as naturally. And this is the crucial point. Is the start-up able to light this flame in their new employees? Or does the “whatever”mentality take over, leaving people to perhaps have fun at work with their coworkers without sharing the same sense of belonging and sense of passion for their products?

So how do we get the equation away from turning negative and on to resulting in common culture and passion?

You have guessed right: Internal Communication. It often gets neglected as something only big companies need. But in a small company, it is what might make them or break them.

Big companies - We’ve always done it this way

Internal Communication is something that is quite established at big companies. There might be town halls, intranets, newsletters or even company newspapers. But what is communicated? Company numbers, the latest EBIT, who are the new apprentices, what are new initiatives to get more women to the top, efforts to become a more family friendly company, or to install chargers for electronic cars? While this is all valuable information and shows that the company is thinking ahead, do employees even believe what is said? Do they see action? Is what is said also lived?

There might be a small group of people who does see the changes and benefits from them. But most of the company hears something once and then never again - or it just doesn’t concern them. The thing is that employees have their own ideas of what could be improved but they are hardly ever heard - because it takes time to listen to ideas, to implement them. Or the phrase “We’ve always done it this way” stops any new idea in the first place.

The “whatever”-mentality has too often already hit most employees at big companies. They do what is asked of them and then they go home to rant about their boss, the company in total, their customers and their colleagues. Why? Because they have given up. They do not feel heard. They do not feel like their work matters. They do not have possibilities to participate where the company is going. In their mind, they have quit their job every morning before they go to work. Just because one simple thing is missing: Someone who listens.

So the challenges for Internal Communication in big corporations is to not only spread information but to listen and hear what is going on several offices down from the CEO’s. Recently, the term “Internal Engagement” has started to replace the more one-way oriented term of “Internal Communication”. This perfectly sums up the solution to the challenges at hand.

To conclude…

Of course these descriptions might generalise and they certainly don't depict every company. But they do tell a story and make a point: Internal Communication should not be left to chance.

No matter the size of a company, it is fundamental to give employees the feeling that they are heard and involved. Replace one-way, top-down communication with two-way engagement. Because only then can the passion of the founders - no matter if they started the company in 2019 or in 1919 - be shared amongst all employees now and in the future.

Internal Communication does carry the weight of sharing the company culture and adapting it while preserving its essence, it is the team that holds op the torch of passion for a company and spreads the flame. But they don’t have to do it alone. The whole company is there as a backup.

My advice?

Make the term “Internal Engagement” your own. Go the extra mile. Include people. Listen. Evolve and adapt over time. Communication is not a static thing. Level up.

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