Here’s How to Fix 3 of Your Most Pressing Internal Comms Problems
“What metrics do you care about?” is the most important sales discovery question of our time. As revenue and people leaders alike recognize the importance of having a solid internal communications strategy, this essential question now fills up most work inboxes.
The list of how to measure internal communications is varied, growing, and (hot take 🔥) imprecise. It includes but is not limited to: employee happiness/satisfaction (an eNPS score of 30 is considered good), employee retention, email open rates, all-hands attendance, survey completion, “productivity,” and qualitative feedback.
With the tech market entering into unknown economic territory, it’s a good time to audit and adjust processes to balance organizational efficiency and employee experience. Internal comms leaders need refreshed metrics for an evolving hybrid workforce.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. And you can’t develop an updated internal communications strategy that’s appropriate for a hybrid environment without assessing and being honest about what’s not working.
Common internal comms mistakes and how to fix them
Businesses and organizations may be unique in their own right, but many experience nearly identical internal comms challenges. Let’s take some time to dive into some of the most common internal communications problems companies face. We could write a whole series of posts on all of the different internal comms problems you can face at work. For now, we’re just going to target the three we see our customers (and ourselves) deal with the most.
Problem: Dealing with too much (aka maybe you had too much too fast)
Do you feel like your plate is a little too full at work? You aren’t alone. Americans are working 1% more hours on average than they were at the start of the pandemic. They are not, however, producing 1% more revenue or are 1% more satisfied by the work they do.
According to Reclaim.ai, the amount of time people spend in meetings has gone up since February 2020. Now we’re all averaging about 7.3 more meeting hours. This additional time spent communicating and working contributes to burnout and stress. And unfortunately, the American Psychological Association (APA) says these feelings are at an all-time high.
Alarmingly, the APA also states that 6% of Americans reported cognitive weariness, 32% reported emotional exhaustion, and an astounding 44% reported physical fatigue—a 38% increase since 2019. That inability to think or focus impacts revenue.
A lack of focus due to information overload deflates motivation and resigns many of us to work on small pebbles (low-grade tasks) vs. big rocks (the deeper work that will make an impact). How can anyone expect to effectively communicate with teammates when they’re overloaded?
Solution: Rethink the way you manage meetings and use your tech stack
If we’re all spending more time in meetings, we should make sure we’re using that time well. Meeting audits and precise meeting guardrails are the key to success here. This might seem basic, but giving more thought to the way you handle and plan meetings can help. Take a look at our 4 Ps of a meeting template to see an effective way to plan and structure meetings.
When you’re rethinking the way you handle meetings, also take time to consider the best way to end them. Sometimes knowing when to call it a day, or move the discussion asynchronously, can be enough to improve your meeting cadence.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of meetings on your calendar, consider giving yourself and your team a break. Think about what adding a no-internal meeting day to your week would look like. This can give everyone some much-needed focus time for important tasks and also lets you keep long-standing meetings with clients.
Now that you’ve had a chance to rethink your meeting time let’s think about your tech stack. Believe it or not, it’s pretty easy to use a tool daily for work and still not know the best way to utilize it. Make sure everyone is getting the most out of your team’s chosen software and tools by laying down some best practices.
Take time to think about the purpose of each tool when you’re going through this exercise. What are the problems and use cases your tools solve? Do you and your team feel like those tools are meeting those needs?
Check out our Cards on Slack etiquette and "what tool do I use when..." to see what we mean. This little bit of direction acts like a guardrail for your employees. Eventually, those guardrails create easily repeatable rituals that can help reduce decision-making fatigue and the cognitive load that comes with it.
Problem: Internal communications are everyone’s problem, but not everyone’s job
Time for another hot take 🔥: Internal comms leaders are overloaded with work and information, and it isn’t reasonable (or even feasible) to expect them to handle creating and distributing every communication at the company.
Even if your company doesn’t have a department or position devoted to internal communications, we’re willing to bet that there’s a small number of people (or maybe even one person) that creates and documents the most important memos, PDFs, directions, and forms.
It’s dangerously easy to get caught up in this way of working, and eventually, it can cause pretty big org-wide issues. This is a sure-fire way to create information silos and turn helpful employees into accidental knowledge hoarders. It’s absolutely important for managers, individual contributors, and other workers to know when to document or how to share their knowledge. Creating an actionable internal communications process that only one team or individual follows won’t help anyone.
Internal alignment and operational efficiency are issues that everyone, regardless of title, should care about if they’re concerned about growth and profitability. Not every team, however, has the cross-functional visibility to observe where departmental silos create friction.
Solution: Train employees on the right way to handle internal communications
We know what you’re thinking. “Do I really need to train employees how to document knowledge or message someone in Slack?” We’re not saying that you need to train people how to do basic things that they likely already know how to do. We are saying that giving people a little direction on etiquette, proper platform usage, and formatting can go a long way.
Templatizing your internal communications processes is essential. Setting concrete procedures and protocols helps cut down on confusion and makes it much easier for people to get involved.
Develop and share templates, how-tos, and other resources to show employees the right way to communicate. These resources should be accessible, easy to find, and even easier to run with. The goal of this is to make it so that any employee can feel empowered to create and share important information on their own.
Plenty of people learn from example, so be sure to get leadership involved by having them be the gold standard for internal comms. For example, Guru’s CFO Dennis Sevilla shares regular updates on the market and how it impacts the company via Guru’s new announcement feature. His informative and accessible updates aren’t just helpful; they also show people the right way to structure important information in Cards.
Problem: Mistaking Consumption for Comprehension
You assume that sending an e-mail (or PDF, video, Teams message, or whatever your communication method of choice is) means that people:
1. Read it
2. Understand what you’re trying to get across
Most of the time, you’re lucky if people get to number 1. Views and impressions are only one dimension of knowledge consumption, and they don’t necessarily guarantee that a human will take the action you want them to take after consuming. There’s a big difference between reading a message you were sent and understanding the information you just received.
Solution: Test ways to ensure people understand the messages you send
Don’t worry, you don’t need to become a proctor and give people elaborate tests for every project update you send through Slack. There are plenty of simple and effective ways to ensure that people understand the comms they receive.
Consider being direct and including a statement of intent at the beginning of your message. A simple sentence that says, “After reading this document, you should understand our new process for requesting PTO,” tells people what to expect and also subtly lets them know that if they don’t understand, they need to reach out.
Create a feedback loop for communication that involves accountability on the part of the communicator and the recipient. Guru calls this the Golden Rule of Internal Communications. For example, when an employee receives a notification that isn’t designed for their specific audience, they’re encouraged to be radically candid and ask that the sender be more specific about what they are asking employees to do.
Feel free to get creative with this. Some people like to give short quizzes that sum up the main points. Others like to include little “Easter eggs” at the end of communications to reward readers and add some fun to their day. Our most recent “knewsletter” ended with this:
You made it to the end of the Knews! As a reward, you can read about the history of whipped cream and watch a crow softly saying "Woo!" for 50 seconds.
Whipped cream and crows didn’t have much to do with our updates. Despite that, they did cause a chuckle or two and subtly gave us a way to incentivize people to read our knewsletters from beginning to end.
Better internal comms = better work
Mental and physical stress happens because an abundance of information leads to a scarcity of attention. Internal communications leaders care about creating signals through the noise, providing clarity as kindness, and helping employees hold time and (mental and actual) space to do their best work.
So, reduce the number of projects you’re working on, establish, templatize, and educate your leaders and team on your comms best practices for internal alignment. This impacts everyone in your organization! Without a scalable way to measure if people understand and take action on what you’re sending, most communication metrics are one-dimensional.