Monday, June 17, 2013

Internal Communications to Improve Employee Relations

Posted by: Yvette Grimes, Stakeholder Relations on June 17, 2013

Does your agency value its employees? Does your office value its federal communicators? The answer should be an overwhelming yes.

We all know that employees are key to successful organizations. These days, when every week seems to bring new headlines critical of one government agency or another, internal communication is more important than ever. It can help keep employees motivated, assuring them that we are all in this together and that someone really is steering the ship in the right direction.

But how do you ensure that your internal communications effort is hitting the mark? Are employees getting the message? Sometimes we need to hear from employees to ensure they understand the key messages, and to ensure that the internal communications messages we have chosen are the right ones. This means listening, and opening the door for feedback. Employees should have opportunities to give feedback because feedback is a resource that can help agencies grow or improve.

A PowerPoint slide with the differences between what bosses present (pie charts, lofty vision statements) and what employees want to hear (how can I help?)
Flickr user Krishna De, Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 2.0

What is feedback?

Feedback comes in a lot of forms. Anecdotes you hear in the elevator or hallway are feedback. So are the quantitative and qualitative results of formal employee surveys like the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. You can ask for feedback, or it might just show up in your email inbox unsolicited.

Make use of many forms of feedback in developing and refining your messages for internal communications.

Why pay attention to feedback?

Feedback is a valuable tool for internal communicators. Feedback can enlighten communicators; it might raise an important issue previously overlooked. It could help us refine or improve our messages. Feedback also lets us know if we are reaching employees they way that we intended. It could help us adjust the communication channels we choose, reaching more employees with the right information.

How to get high quality feedback

There are various ways to gather feedback – polls, comments, surveys, questionnaires, town hall meetings, and more. If feedback is your goal, ask for it all the time. Ask questions like these:
  • Did you see that email from the director today?
  • What did you think of it?
  • Do you think the people in your office read it?
  • What could we have done differently to get more people to look at it?
Humorous survey results to the survey question, Do You Like This Question?
Flickr user Sean MacEntee, Creative Commons By 2.0
If you use something written, such as a survey, think carefully about the content of the questions.

Get a good editor to look them over, to ensure they can't be misunderstood. Try to show it to someone who's done survey research in the past to ensure your questions and scoring/response will get you answers to the questions you care about.

And keep it short. No one will answer your 20 questions about your messages, no matter how crucial you think they are.

With high quality feedback, we can strengthen internal communication and strengthen our agencies. Internal communicators can use feedback to reach agency employees, improving employee relations and increasing opportunities for discussion of important topics.
This discussion is brought to you by the Federal Communicators Network. We've published lots more on this topic. Read Your Employee Survey Data Should Drive Internal Communication Strategy... But Be Careful, as well as Emails Are Meant To Be Forwarded for more on internal communications in U.S. federal government agencies.

1 comment:

  1. Great advice about surveys, Yvette -- they really are a science and shouldn't be undertaken flippantly (I've learned this the hard way).


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