An effective internal communications strategy can foster strong relationships in the work environment and help form the backbone of a successful organization. Lisa Gick, vice president of employee relations at Macy’s is among the speakers at the Marcus Evans 6th Annual Internal Communications & Employee Engagement Conference next month in Orlando. In this edited interview, she explains the connection between communication and employee engagement and how investing in both can reap dividends for any organization.
What are the hallmarks of effective internal communications?
A strong internal communications strategy builds relationships and contributes to a sense of ownership within the organization. Both of these concepts are fundamental to employee engagement.
There are many considerations that help us get there.
- Evaluate the audiences for the message. What are the unique features about each that might require we tailor our message to convey the important meaning within it.
- Simply construct and execute. Overcomplication brings confusion and delay. Explaining for each audience “Why is this important to me?” as part of the message helps achieve understanding more quickly, and that means greater success with progress.
- Be clear, concise and conversational. To be accessible through our communication, we need to write like we would speak to someone — friendly and approachable.
- Don’t forget logistics of delivery. Not one single source of communication suits everyone. So how do we layer our messages to be sure those who need them capture them?
- Foster feedback. Without it, we can’t be sure our messages are understood. Creating strong and dependable pathways for feedback give us insight as to how we might tweak and adjust our messaging to achieve the alignment we need. At Macy’s, we are always identifying effective ways we can create feedback loops to be sure messages are well understood.
What role can effective internal communications play in providing better customer service?
At Macy’s, the customer is at the center of our thinking in everything we do. When we approach our internal communications strategies and tactics, we’re focused on creating alignment with our mission, values and priorities across the organization. Doing this provides a great platform for adopting key information and concepts that drive a great customer experience. A strong, internal communications program helps us make sure we have the greatest success in achieving that.
How important is it that any internal communications strategy involves plenty of two-way communications?
Communication can occur in many ways. But when we talk about communication as key to employee engagement, two-way communication is certainly what gives it meaning. Two-way communication that allows for dialogue creates strong relationships in the work environment, and that influences individual and organizational success. When relationships are strong, there is trust, pride, advocacy, and many other captivating features that drive an engaged work community. Being connected provides the kind of feedback that’s important for us to understand how our employees feel about the organization, fosters the kind of confidence that gives way to more innovative thinking and promotes highly productive and vital collaboration. The idea of two-way communication is fundamental to how we operate.
In a down economy, change to working practices is inevitable. How can maximum benefit be harnessed through employee communications for the good of the organization?
For a lot of organizations today, change has become a regular part of the landscape. The best way to lead through change is with information and the compelling way we develop and execute the communication program that supports it. I think it’s risky to underestimate the interest, need and value employees find in information during these times. When leaders “overly-filter” to arrive at their message, or don’t take the time to get the critical feedback on what they’re conveying, it can be viewed as less authentic and prolong gaining alignment. It’s a fine balance we must find, but the more timely, open and honest we can be, the more quickly we will gain trust, commitment and partnership with the change and raise our capacity for successfully moving through it.