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Jamie Lawrence


Insights Director

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Taking command – tips to help CEOs get internal communication right


This article was written by George Lossius, CEO of Publishing Technology.

Why is internal communication so important to get right?

CEOs need a coherent and consistent strategy when communicating with employees and this is the same for all companies, whatever the shape or size. Business leaders who don’t address internal communications as a priority risk being at the helm of a workforce with unclear focus, ambition and goals, diminished loyalty and morale, and a distant relationship with management. Those who get it right can give employees a refreshing bird’s eye view of the business beyond the day-to-day grind of their individual roles, instilling confidence in staff and providing them with a sense of inclusion and clear strategic direction.

As my own company has expanded and diversified, communicating to staff at every level of the business has become increasingly challenging and as a CEO I am constantly learning about new ways to improve my rapport with those working for me. Some strategies work and some inevitably don’t, it is very much a case of trial and error, but I like to think that I am helping to generate a more collaborative and inclusive working environment.

1. One company, one voice
Multiple office environments can present a range of difficulties when it comes to internal communication. Frequently, offices develop working cultures of their own, which is not necessarily a bad thing. These need to be respected and nurtured but also managed carefully at the same time so that everybody is singing from the same hymn sheet and the overarching business strategy is the same throughout. It is also important, however inevitable, that no individual branch is deemed to receive preferential treatment simply because the CEO has more of a presence there.

It’s obviously impossible for one person to be everywhere at once; this is why it is important that the right management team are employed locally to convey your philosophy face-to-face. It is equally essential to make your presence felt as often as physically possible. I usually visit each of our major global offices at least four times a year, during which time I update all members of staff on how the company is progressing, major successes, what are the key focuses, any relevant changes that are being made and what I would like to achieve during the forthcoming months. I also take advantage of these visits to carry out ‘desk drops’ to engage with individual members of staff, which serves to help me better understand their individual roles, get to know them better and learn about the challenges they face, what drives them, what they enjoy doing and any improvements that can be made. There really is nothing better than this kind of face-to-face interaction.

2. Keeping up appearances
As part of this face-to-face strategy it is imperative that CEOs utilise this time well to collate feedback from employees. These one-on-one meetings with staff at all levels can reveal valuable information about your business that you might not have exposure to if you choose to only communicate with your management team. Employees will also feel more valued if their CEO takes the time out of their busy schedule to get to chat to them and get to know them better.

I decided to implement several schemes across the company to aid this process; most notably Teatime with George, where I randomly select several people in different departments to encourage them to interact more and ask me anything they want. We also created an Innovation Award that attracts a significant prize and encourages direct communication, and the Vitality Strand, where we focus on elements of our business and working life that employees would like to change or improve. The latter in particular has already had an impact on efficiency and is notably encouraging an environment of openness throughout the company. We are also implementing a job sharing/twinning initiative that will hopefully give staff an insight into what other employees in other departments do on a daily basis and experience life in their shoes.

3. The wonders of technology
If handled in the correct way, digital channels can offer CEOs a plethora of ways to communicate with staff and to encourage them to communicate with each other. A weekly email going out to the whole company from the CEO is strongly advisable, but don’t overdo it – sometimes less is more. A year ago, I started a weekly email newsletter entitled Publishing Times, which goes out to every member of staff each Friday. It’s short and succinct, yet informative and chatty in style. The idea is to update the company in a bite-size, digestible way on all the highlights of the week; the major successes, pitches that are being worked on, customer news, special mentions for individuals who are working particularly hard, new appointments, conferences and social events.

When we implement changes in the organisation, to help people take on board all the changes and to encourage them to think about them, and interact with each other and myself about them, we tend to inform people in manageable chunks of information spread over a few days/weeks.

We also decided to launch an internal blog. This allows any member of staff to contribute, collaborate, submit posts and discuss what they want to discuss. I contribute the occasional post, but am rapidly discovering that sometimes it is equally important for a CEO to sit back and let staff enjoy something for themselves as it is to make sure that they are being well-communicated to.

4. Different strokes
There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to internal communications and CEOs will need to discover what works best for them, what seems right for their company and what fits in well with their business strategy. Talk to members of staff and gauge how they want you to communicate with them, try different methods out and stick with what generates the most positive reaction. Don’t be disheartened if certain ideas don’t pan out, failure is often a bi-product of trying harder.

In my experiences over the last few years, during which I’ve experimented with a variety of different internal communication tactics, I’ve learnt that it is fundamental to approach this area with your eyes, ears and mind wide open and I’ve always known that a CEO never stops learning.

Beyond driving your company vision home and getting employees to perform at the top of their game, a good, successful internal communications strategy will also enable staff to feel like they are part of something big and that they form an integral part of the business. I have found that this is one of the most important weapons in the CEO’s artillery with every minute spent on a carefully considered strategy being a minute well spent.

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Jamie Lawrence

Insights Director

Read more from Jamie Lawrence

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