11 laws of internal communications

How many laws have you broken lately?

Corporate communicators juggle various tasks daily, and sometimes, they get so busy that they overlook why they’re doing something, and what they hope to achieve. Follow these laws to right your ship.

1. The law of the myth of internal communications

Information out is not communication.

Perhaps the most fundamental law of all is that communication involves at least two active participants.

Too often, organizations claim to have communicated when in fact they have simply sent out information. Communication takes place over a period of time and, within business, should serve to move people along a path from awareness to understanding to, finally, actualization.

2. The law of candor

Employees are adults—give them the whole truth and nothing but.

The law of candor is really about treating people as adults. Openness, truthfulness, honesty and other similar values allow for people to participate with a level of trust. With trust established, there is an increased probability of support for corporate strategy at all levels.

3. The law of strategic leverage

If you are not focused on business strategy, you are playing in the wrong box.

Align all communications to leadership and strategy. Help each employee understand the journey the company is on, what the core areas of focus are and how they fit in and contribute.

Focus not on convincing leaders to support internal communication—show them the value by demonstrating a return on the investment they are making.

4. The law of context

Change is the real work.

The world of business has undergone significant change—change that is not only continuous but is occurring at a faster and faster pace—thus maximizing the need for managers and employees to make better and quicker decisions.

Build overall staff awareness and understanding of your business environment—focus efforts on getting them to a point where they can make effective decisions that are clearly tied to the strategic intent without having to seek permission from someone else.

5. The law of intent

Before communicating, get clear about what needs to change and what behaviors you are seeking .

Communication occurs constantly within organizations. Unfortunately, communication (or rather poor communication) is blamed for so many of the problems, mistakes and errors that occur.

The law of intent requires that before we begin communicating, we develop a clear understanding of our intent. A few key questions associated with this law must be asked:

– Why am I communicating?

– What will be different as a result of this communications?

– What behaviors need to be adopted by people in the company?

– What current behaviors need to be maintained, altered slightly, or stopped completely?

Once we have clarity with respect to these questions we can begin to plan a communication process to achieve our goals.

6. The law of connection and relevance

Connect the organizational journey to individual journeys.

The law of connection and relevance is about establishing a direct link between the journey of the company and the journey of employees.

Employee engagement, as we know, has rapidly risen to the top of the must do list for organizations. At the heart of engagement is a connection between each employee, their manager, their colleagues and the business itself.

We must work with this law to ensure that all we do, and all we ask of others involved in the communication process helps to establish a clear line of sight between corporate strategy and an individual’s job and interests.

7. The law of participant

Employees are participants, not audiences.

By title, this law of internal communication challenges us to change the way we think about and plan our communication processes. Allowing for conversation, dialogue and (perhaps most importantly) listening actively becomes a necessity rather than a consideration. If we choose not to allow staff to participate, our ability to engage and retain them will be diminished significantly.

8. The law of the water cooler

Enable managers to fulfill their roles.

Regardless of how communications happens, there are two things we need to be acutely aware of: the grapevine and the moments of truth that occur when an employee asks a manager or leader a question at the water cooler, or wherever.

The manager/supervisor plays a critical role so efforts to ensure they can perform this role must be made. Support them in every way possible; ensure they understand their role and what is expected of them. Managers are paid to guide the implementation of business strategy, ensure goals and objectives are met and to engage those they lead. The law of the water cooler reminds us to not only make sure they understand what they are there to do but to provide the support needed to ensure they can actually do it.

9. The law of appropriate application

Know what you are trying to achieve and use the appropriate tools to get there.

As the saying goes, one size doesn’t fit all and when it comes to communicating with staff, this law must not be forgotten.

Know what you are trying to achieve and use the appropriate tool (as determined by the tool itself and those we are communicating with) to get to that point.

10. The law of perception

Perception is, as they say, reality.

Know what the current realities are and how you can either use them or work past them if needed. Perceptions are rooted in culture, history and experience. Therefore, don’t beat yourself up if the perceptions are difficult to overcome. Just keep to the script and reinforce the basic messages with sincerity, openness and a desire to engage in conversation.

11. The law of continuous learning

If you are not continuously measuring and raising the bar, you cannot succeed.

We recognize that communications, while it can be planned and managed, is not the most precise process and therefore requires that we measure our progress and adjust as we go.

The law of continuous learning requires that we monitor, measure and implement changes based on what we learn—continuously.

Ken Milloy runs Milloy Management, where a version of this article originally appeared. This article first ran on Ragan.com in July 2011.

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