(Note: This column first appeared on CFM’s website in October 2003. It remains an important message.)
Communicating effectively with employees always is high on the "to-do list" of managers. Too often that is exactly where it stays.
A recent  Roper study finds a substantial gap in perceptions between employers and employees on how well management communicates internally. Fifty-five percent of employers give themselves an excellent rating, with only 35 percent of employees agreeing with them.
Management isn't unwilling to communicate with employees. But it tends to overestimate how well the organization communicates and underestimates the potential problems poor communication creates.
You can typically identify a weak communication program when there is a heavy reliance on a newsletter primarily consisting of birthdays, babies and bowling scores. Or worse yet, it is loaded with personnel policies, administrative directives or "executive speak" that has no meaning or relevance to most employees.
A simple solution is to approach internal communications in the same way companies promote themselves in the community. Knowing your audience, their views and culture is a great place to start. This provides a structure for the type of information wanted and needed by employees.
With this sense of purpose, companies now are ready to survey the tools available to connect with the rank and file. There are many to choose from – electronic and print communications, employee updates and letters. In this review, don't overlook the human element. Regular face-to-face contact between management and employees is extremely effective, as are informed managers and supervisors who can explain management decisions in a way that is understood and accepted.
Good internal communications should not be viewed as an expense; it is an investment. The more favorably employees rate employers as good communicators, the more likely it is a company enjoys better morale, more loyalty and even increased productivity – all of which goes to the bottom line of any business.
Since Darrel posted these comments seven years ago, there are more digital tools in the internal affairs toolbox. Best of all, the tools support two-way communications.
Small companies such as CFM, with three locations, may take advantage of simple, informal informational networks. For the past three years CFM has used Yammer, a desktop application that allows all to post frequent updates on activities and announcements. More sophisticated global social networking systems are available.
“Social networking in a strictly internal capacity is something that businesses definitely should be looking to implement,” says Bob Pike, chief operations officer for SiteForum.
Pike argues that internal social networking “humanizes the internal communications of the business”, which in turn alleviates pressure from the internal support desk because employees look to the intranet first for advice on particular issues or problems, the article stated.
An internal social networking space specifically enables employees to discuss issues directly with colleagues and business partners, saving time and making the workforce much more efficient, Pike said.
Being in the research business, CFM, too, occasionally posts simple online surveys. Surveys are helpful to benchmark attitudes and pose questions.
Videos can become a great tool for internal communications. Cost of production is going down, and the type of platforms is increasing, such as Facebook, YouTube and internal websites.