Internal Communications: Connecting Employee Work to Mission

6 Apr

(This post is the 2nd of 4 in a series about my professional life in internal communications. Click here for the first in the series.)

Employees can only be successful if their work aligns with the problems to be solved: the mission, vision, and strategies the company is banking on.

But how do those employees get a clear sense of mission in an enormous company? There may be a dozen branches in the hierarchy between the employee making the product and the CxO setting direction.

Professional internal communications can help meet four process needs:

1. Clear sense of problem to be solved

Sometimes, there’s a mission statement that feels like a pile of adjectives – too “businessy” to be understood. A talented internal comms person can facilitate the leadership process of articulating the right message – and then work to publicize, explain, and repeat the message until everyone understands.

But just repeating doesn’t cover the bases. External messaging and customer feedback need to be connected to the divisional priorities and daily work of the employee. Communications can help managers bridge the gap, enabling mission-focus even in the midst of the information whirlpool.

By creating clarity around the mission, vision and strategy, employee engagement is increased and managers are more effective.

2. Strong collaboration and cooperation

Great meetings are the ones in which everyone comes away with a new understanding, a new decision, or a new direction. Professional support can not only facilitate individual meetings toward greater success, but study series of meetings for effectiveness – and make suggestions for improvement.

If work groups are formed around initiatives (i.e., creating “virtual teams” that work across functions), the initiative s are more easily publicized and promoted in communications that already reach across functions. The initiatives gain greater visibility and have greater business impact.

3. Expectation of excellence

Sometimes everything is wonderful: the sun is shining on the business, the customers are happy, the money is flowing, the employees are satisfied with the product. It is vital to celebrate these times, to publicize and communicate the good news, so that employees remember what it is like when their excellence has resulted in success.

At other times, the conditions are not so favorable – but it is rarely the fault of the line employee. More often,something in the market, the business, or the decision-making tree has changed – and the business is making changes to respond.

Bad times require communication even more. When changes are made to the plan of record, employees need to know that the changes are to make a better, more appropriate product. Everyone should be on board with wanting the company to succeed – how leadership chooses to get there needs to be clear to  every employee.

Communication toward excellence should drive better engineering, better manufacturing, better processes. At the same time, leadership should encourage “brutal honesty” in scorecarding and customer satisfaction processes – because all of these analyses should only serve to make the product better.

4. Confidence in Leadership

The larger the corporation gets, the farther the employee is from the decision maker, the head of the line, the driver of the bus. Employees at the bottom of the hierarchy are doing the majority of the work: if they don’t have confidence in the leader, they won’t have confidence in their own work, and the quality of the product suffers.

Communications can help by establishing a baseline infrastructure for messages to travel up, down and across the hierarchy. This infrastructure can carry the internal identity through branding, giving employees a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves. By communicating honestly and on a regular rhythm, leaders are seen as trustworthy, with transparent and laudable motives.

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