Internal Communications Mistakes that Destroy Employee Engagement (and How to Fix Them)

Would it surprise you to learn that a staggering 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged with their jobs? Unfortunately, this recent Gallup statistic hasn’t changed much over the past few years so it begs the question—where are organizations going wrong? The answer: a failure to focus on and make a commitment to internal communications.

Much of an employee’s engagement level with his or her job depends largely on the quality of their relationships with their managers and superiors. And no positive relationship can be built without effective communications. Foul the lines of communications, and employee engagement will falter, inevitably dragging down business performance.

Here are a few of the most common internal communications mistakes that are made and that hurt employee engagement.  But with any mistake comes a solution.

The Mistakes . . .

Lack of Visibility of the C-Suite. Employees’ direct managers should not be the only ones communicating with them on a regular basis. Top executives (e.g. the C-Suite) also need to communicate directly with workers to ensure they feel like they have a stake in the bigger picture. An employee’s understanding of their organization’s mission, values, and initiatives directly contributes to engagement.

Appearing Robotic. Sending out the same cookie cutter office-wide e-mails will contribute to an organization’s messages blending into the background noise of spam and junk e-mails. Fall into this trap and many employees will probably ignore your messages entirely.

Not Using the Right Channels. Not all employees want to receive their messages the same way. Ask middle managers what channels to use to communicate with different departments. How do they like to receive work information? Where are they actually going to look for company announcements? Enterprises have a variety of options—e-mail, intranet, message boards, mobile apps, etc.  There is no silver bullet so why not try them all (especially the ones your employees ask for).

Lack of Consistency. Playing darts with your communications strategy will cause confusion and lose employees’ attention quickly. Randomly throwing out messages through different channels and seeing which ones stick won’t get you any closer to hitting the bull’s eye. Employees need to know when and how they should expect to receive information—consistency is key to making this happen.

The Solution . . .

Routinely Evaluate Internal Communications. Businesses must evaluate their content distribution and communications strategies on a periodic basis. For example, if employees aren’t actually using your company’s intranet because they can’t access it through their iPhone or Android mobile device, then stop spending time and money and find a tool that works and they will use.

Find out how they prefer to receive company information. For example, mobile apps with push notifications may work best for workers in the field who aren’t sitting at a computer for most of the day; concise e-mails or intranet messages may be best for employees in-office; and short monthly videos featuring company execs may make the messages stick better in a flood of texts and e-mails.

Internal Communications is a Top-Down Effort. An organization’s senior leadership must spearhead the company’s communications efforts. Company leaders are expected to pilot the direction of the business and be transparent about the process to stakeholders—most importantly, employees.

Notwithstanding the hype surrounding chat and peer-to-peer messaging, internal communications starts from the top.  Yes, interactivity and collaboration is important but lest the C-suite not forget that it must lead by example. If they do lead the communications efforts, others in the company will follow and do the same.

Add a Personal Touch. Personal touch in any relationship is key. Showing that you’re more than an e-mail signature is important to gaining trust and buy-in among colleagues, both higher up and subordinate. Achieving this doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.  It can be driven by town hall meetings, recorded videos, or live webcasts hosted by senior leaders. Adding personality and sincerity to your messages and ways in which you get the messages across will go a long way towards making employees feel more connected and engaged.

Jeff CorbinAs a corporate communications consultant for the past 20 years, Jeff Corbin is pioneering the use of technology in the communications industry as the founder of APPrise Mobile, a business-to-business/enterprise native app platform that includes theEMPLOYEEapp®, for internal communications; theIRapp®, for public companies; theCOMMSapp™, for external communications; and theCONFERENCEapp, for investor, analyst and other conference and event communications. Prior to APPrise Mobile, Jeff served as the CEO of KCSA Strategic Communications in New York City.

Jeff is a licensed attorney and before joining KCSA practiced securities and bankruptcy law in New York City. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. You can follow and connect with Jeff on Twitter, @jcorbinIR.

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