The Issue With Digital Internal Comms

Here’s an obvious comment; if your organisation employs staff then internal communications is incredibly important. Good internal comms means staff feel valued. It can improve motivation and productivity. People are less likely to leave. And those are just the headline benefits.

There is a caveat here though. Good internal communications is not the same as ‘clever’. And in this case we’re looking at your internal comms and going digital; turning everything into bytes and pixels.

Before we go any further – and before a small army of internal comms account managers make small dolls of us to stick pins in – this is not an attempt to dish out a roundhouse kicking to all those IC/staff engagement/work community platforms vying for business. We’ve tried quite a few and most of them tell a pretty good story. And in the main, they can do some specific tasks pretty well, too. So let’s go back a couple of steps and clarify what we mean by ‘digital internal communications’.

What is Digital Internal comms?

Digital internal communications comes in many flavours. Some are project management or task oriented, or more focused on staff development, while others are bolt-ons to an existing intranet. There’s group messaging, chat rooms, department forums, and other attempts to gather people into communities and silos. Using email and attachments to talk to staff is, of course digital internal comms (let’s not dwell too long on the company which sent an email to all staff containing a 7Mb pdf file – which sunk the entire network.  Oops).  There’s some very inventive ideas out there. And they might well be a great fit for your organisation.

But there is that word – might – and it’s one to keep at the front of your mind. Because the problem with Internal Comms platforms is they are far too often viewed as a magic solution to improving your internal communications. Too many times it’s not the case at all, and for four main reasons.

What’s The Problem With Digital Internal Comms?

Is It Really Needed?

First, an organisation, by size, design or culture, can make an internal comms platform rather pointless. Let’s take a medium-sized, single site manufacturing business as an example.  Staff will be a mix of those in production on the floor and office, which immediately presents issues around reaching all staff – or specific functions – when you want to communicate with them. And when you have a single site operation, using tech to talk to your employees won’t help you try to promote a close working community in your business. Instead, you are introducing a rather more remote attitude. There is the risk of developing a disconnect between staff and functions rather than bringing people together.

They Can Cost An Awful Lot

Second, the organisation doesn’t fully understand the costs involved in using an Internal Comms platform. They take time and more to set up properly. The work needs far more people than you first think. In many cases you will need outside help to get the structure and approach right. And you need a team to manage the platform effectively. Put simply, and like it or not, they can gobble up resources.

No Plan? No Point

Which leads us to the third issue. Unless you have a comprehensive internal comms plan, implementing a shiny new digital platform can suddenly make it look rather threadbare. For most organisations, internal comms tends to be rather more ad-hoc, and done on an event-by-event basis. If you’re going to introduce a digital platform, you need to justify the investment made. And even with a detailed strategy, at an operational level your internal comms can very easily go silent for lengthy periods.

Rather like so many other digital tools, an Internal Comms platform is a fire you need to keep feeding, or it goes out. And what’s the point of spending your hard-earned money on a platform (and the associated training and support) which isn’t used after a few months?

It if walks like a duck….

Lastly, if your internal comms is not very good then a digital platform won’t make it any better. If you don’t have an internal comms plan, going digital won’t magic it up for you. And if you can’t write, don’t expect that little problem to suddenly disappear either. If anything, it will only magnify the problem. Which means you need to find expert help simply to do properly the fundamental point of internal comms; to communicate effectively with your staff.

Back To Basics First

What the points above guide you to is a need to take a much more fundamental look at your internal communications before jumping several steps ahead and thinking about using a digital platform. And once you get those basic problems sorted, you’ll tend to find you don’t need for a digital IC solution. Just by effective use of notice boards, internal email, securely storing employee contact details, plus using routes such as monthly salary notices, will prove perfectly acceptable for your staff. And if your business has an Intranet, taking a critical look at how it is currently deployed will quite likely make you pause before buying yet more software layers that overlap each other.

While you’re looking at how you communicate with your staff, you could do the one thing almost no-one ever bothers with; try asking your own staff how they prefer to stay informed and updated about the business. You may think it a great idea to have messages pop up on screen when someone logs on each morning, or to get them to install an app on their phones. But they might find such initiatives intrusive or pointless when they would prefer other solutions instead. Some of them might be distinctly analogue, such as having a town hall session each quarter or making sure the staff notice boards are updated regularly.

Caution – Big Potholes Ahead

We mentioned earlier that we are far from being luddites when it comes to going digital for your internal comms. But we do advise caution and making sure you have compelling reasons for doing so. And if you have read all that and still believe adopting a digital internal comms platform is the only way ahead for your business, then we sincerely hope it becomes a valued asset rather than a millstone. But for everyone else, internal comms can make a real, tangible difference to your business performance. But only when it is done right, and done well.

Digital Internal Comms can create more problems that it solves.

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