Internal communications is a lot like dating.
Trust, transparency and consistent open lines of communication are key to a long, fruitful relationship. Unfortunately, many companies—both small and large—skip the courting process when communicating with employees.
Just like in dating, neglect over time breeds apathy and resentment. It’s essential to create meaningful, authentic touchpoints with your colleagues to build trust and preserve goodwill.
Internal communications has a direct impact on your company’s culture, morale and bottom line. Your workers can be your best ambassador—or your loudest detractors.
These golden rules for winning the hearts and minds of internal stakeholders will help you create and maintain genuine connections in the workplace.
Rule 1: Reverse roles.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. Communication preferences vary by demographic, region, role and a litany of other factors. An email won’t help someone who’s on the shop floor all day, and a printed flyer might not appeal to someone glued to a screen.
Understanding how people prefer to receive information is the first step toward crafting a relevant message.
Rule 2: Show appreciation.
Small gestures go a long way. Who doesn’t like receiving flowers “just because,” or hearing “thank you” from a significant other for doing a mundane task?
It’s so easy to surprise, delight and uplift your colleagues with small tokens to express appreciation. Here at Stratacomm, we recognize an employee each Monday with a “team player” award. It’s a small figurine that has become part of our cultural lore. The winner decorates the award before it gets passed on to the next person.
You can also show appreciation on a larger scale through a department lunch or by giving gift cards for completing a project.
Rule 3: Try new things.
There’s nothing wrong with weekly emails, newsletters, holiday greetings and roundtable discussions. Continue communication efforts that work for you, but also experiment with new touchpoints.
It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose or expensive. Encourage executives to walk the halls and factory floors to get people talking, or designate days where people can dress down or have special gatherings. If you have a tech savvy bunch, consider investing in more complex tools like creating a custom app to share information.
Rule 4: Pay attention.
Akin to reversing roles, knowing what makes your audience tick requires attention to detail. Did an employee recently complete a degree program? Do you have firsthand feedback to help explain to the board the value of summer Fridays?
Listen to the world around you and use those nuggets as opportunities to create meaningful touchpoints.
Rule 5: When in doubt, just ask.
People appreciate being asked for input.
The best thing about internal communications is that you have a captive audience to poll, question and survey at any given moment. Whether it’s a formal companywide survey or a lunch discussion about last week’s CEO roundtable, you have a built-in focus group to monitor morale and sentiment.
Laying a solid communication groundwork not only builds bonds, but when the need for change communication arises—and it will—your colleagues will be more apt to trust the sincerity of the message (and messengers).
Building trust never comes back void. That’s true for every kind of relationship.
Karah Davenport is the vice president of Stratacomm. Sharon Hegarty is Stratacomm’s managing director and partner. A version of this post first appeared on the company’s website.