Internal communications affect your bottom line. When used properly, they can make your job as manager easier and can directly affect employee morale.
There has been a huge pendulum shift in expected employee behavior over the last 30 years or so. I remember when my father, who worked for AT&T, asked me to type up a disciplinary report on one of his employees. (He had me do it to help ensure confidentiality; even his secretary would not see it.) The gist of the problem? The employee was 5 minutes late to work every morning. The young man took the local bus, and his choices were to arrive more than an hour early or 5 minutes late. Today, that disciplinary action would seem ludicrous.
We hear a lot about how employees are being used and abused in today’s economy. Fewer staff members are expected to do more with fewer resources, and there is no expectation of so much as a pat on the back, let alone a bonus. Some employers are going so far as to promote non-exempt workers into “administrative exempt” positions just so they don’t have to pay them overtime. There are those who would argue that this is exactly the reason we have labor unions. Personally, I keep waiting to hear that the courts have gotten involved; someone is bound to sue.
On the other hand, I’ve seen employees who get away with murder. Because I do consulting work, helping companies set up marketing plans/strategies/campaigns, I often find myself in their offices, where I work with their designated staff to get things under way. I have been amazed at how many smaller businesses employ people who really don’t do much work.
They come in late; they leave early. They take half hour breaks. They nap in their cars during their lunch hour and return half awake to wolf down their lunch while reading e-mails or doing something similar that leaves their hands relatively free to stuff their faces. They’re chronically ill. They take the mantra, “It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission” to the extreme. They spend a couple of hours a day on Facebook, Twitter, or Match.com. If they don’t have their cell phones to their ears, they’re checking messages or are busy texting. And when all other distractions fail, they stand around and whine about their jobs. Just how much are their companies losing?
Managing staff is a difficult task on any number of levels. In my experience, the most common reason it is not done well has more to do with time than ability. Management oversight is not in itself deadline driven, so it gets pushed to the bottom of the list of things to do in any given day. Depending on the circumstances, eventually it gets addressed only when the situation becomes one of crisis management.
Marketing communication is more than just product promotion and branding. It includes internal communication as well. Taking the time to formally define proper employee behavior by having it in writing, along with the steps that lead to disciplinary action, are a company’s best defense against laziness, incompetence, lawsuits, and fraudulent claims of unemployment. In smaller businesses, employee handbooks often do not exist, or, if they do, they’re so out of date that they would be of very little use in court.
And internal communication can be about more than employee behavior. Internal memos or more formal newsletters can keep employees informed of the company’s well-being. I worked for a company that posted its sales figures daily. Knowing why our perks were being eliminated and why resources were being reduced and why tasks that had been sent out-of-house were now being assigned internally made the situation a lot more bearable. (As far as I know, no employee ever contacted the competition with our sales numbers.) Good internal communication can help maintain trust, a key ingredient in employee loyalty and morale.
It can be argued that, in this economy, internal communication is more important than ever, because employee attitude and behavior directly affect the bottom line. Failing to take advantage of something over which you might actually have some control is just throwing money down the drain.