Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Alison Davis – CEO of Davis & Company. Her opinions are her own.
What is one thing you can do to set your employee communication efforts up for success? Creating an annual internal communication plan.
A well-crafted internal communication plan clearly defines your objectives—the outcomes of your efforts—and maps out when and how you’ll communicate. The best plans also have a measurement strategy, including employee surveys and focus groups, to ensure you’re staying on track.
Now you might be thinking: I don’t have time to spend on planning; I just need to get things done! But by devoting some time to creating a plan for the year ahead, you’ll streamline your employee communication efforts and create much better results.
Need more proof? Here are five ways an annual employee communication plan will help make your job easier.
1. Get buy-in for your efforts
Creating an annual internal communications plan is a great way to provide leaders and key stakeholders with an overview of your efforts and explain the “why” behind your strategy. When leaders see that you’ve done your homework and have a clear plan, they’ll be more likely to support it.
Tip: Invite leaders and key stakeholders, such as communicators or business area leads, to participate in the planning process. When an employee communication strategy reflects the insight and knowledge of those who have a stake in your plan, it’s more likely to gain the buy-in needed to be successful.
2. Focus on clear objectives
One of the most important steps in employee communication planning is establishing objectives: the outcomes you want to achieve as a result of your efforts. Setting clear objectives ensures that your strategies and tactics have a targeted purpose. They also give you a framework for measuring the effectiveness of your efforts.
Tip: When thinking about what you want to achieve in your employee communication plan, it’s helpful to group your outcomes into three buckets: what you want employees to know, believe and do.
Here’s an example:
As a result of this internal communication plan, employees will…
|• Our company’s strategy (mission, vision and values) and its progress
• Their role in supporting our company’s strategy
• Our company’s overall structure and how parts work together
|• Our company is headed in the right strategic direction
• Senior leaders are a trusted source of information
• We are working together as one team
|• Devote more time to participating in communication
• Provide feedback to senior leaders and managers regarding issues or concerns
• Support changes at our company
3. Stay on track (despite competing priorities)
Unexpected things may pop up throughout the year, such as a new senior leader project or a company policy change. But these issues don’t have to derail your internal communication plan, as long as you stay focused on your communication objectives and what you need to support them (your strategies).
Tip: If a new internal communication priority does pop up, see how you can support it by leveraging your existing channels. For example, if HR asks you to help communicate a benefits change, see how you can promote this topic in your current newsletter or regular manager huddles with employees.
4. Manage the workload
Another advantage of creating an internal communication plan is that it sets up a disciplined approach for managing your efforts. A good plan clearly maps out what communication activities will happen and when, as well as who is responsible for making them happen. And when you involve leaders and managers in the employee communication planning process, they’re more likely to take ownership of the tactics that they are responsible for.
Tip: Set clear communication roles and expectations for leaders and managers:
- Define what (and how) they should be communicating to employees. For example, the leadership team should explain the company’s strategic direction, and managers should explain what it means to employees.
- Set expectations: leaders should attend at least six coffee chats per year and managers should devote at least 15 minutes of each staff meeting to answering questions.
- Give leaders and managers regular updates on how they’re doing and recognize them for successes.
5. Measure the impact of your efforts
The best internal communication plans have a clear measurement strategy—how you’ll find out how effective your communication efforts are. Your measurement strategy might include methods, such as surveys, focus groups or intranet/newsletter metrics. By keeping tabs on your efforts throughout the year, you’ll be able to make informed decisions on what’s working (and what’s not), as well as what improvements should be made.
Tip: Take a look at your key communication tactics and build measurement opportunities into activities.
Here are some examples of how to do that:
|Activity||How to measure|
|Work with IT to set up monthly intranet reports, including number of employee site visits and which articles are most popular. IT can also help you track how many “opens” the monthly e-newsletter gets, as well as what articles they’re clicking.|
|Town halls||After each town hall, distribute a short, five-question survey to gauge employees’ understanding of key topics and suggestions for improving future town halls. Also, document any questions asked during the Q&A to determine communication gaps.|
|Open enrollment||Often a communication plan is designed to encourage a behavior or action, such as enrolling in a health plan. So, work with HR to set a goal (90% will enroll by the end of the month) and track progress.|
Pulling it all together
Now that you know why you should create an annual employee communication plan, let’s focus on what you should include in your plan. Here are seven key components of a successful plan:
|1. Situation analysis||A summary of a situation—a snapshot that conveys what’s going on at that moment in time|
|2. Stakeholders/audience||Individuals or groups you want to reach|
|3. Objectives||Specific outcomes you want to achieve; what you want employees to know, believe or do|
|4. Strategies||Methods or approaches for achieving your objectives|
|5. Tactics/timeline||Tools you’ll use or actions you’ll take and specific times/dates for completing tasks|
|6. Key messages||Captures the story you need to tell|
|7. Measurement||A description of how metrics will be used to demonstrate effectiveness|
You have lots of demands on your time. But making internal communication planning a priority will make it easier to manage these demands and set your efforts up for success.