Companies that do internal communications well have more engaged employees and are more productive and profitable. Keeping everyone in the organization well-informed is essential to achieve this. For internal communications professionals, this is a no-brainer. After all, we live and breathe good communications practices. A source of frustration for many of us, however, is getting other parts of the organization, including senior management, to understand its importance and to invest in it adequately.
IT departments may also see the benefits of improving internal communications functionality within their organizations. After all, they are often some of the most prolific users of internal communications channels to keep employees updated about software and hardware upgrades, outages and security issues.
According to the Gatehouse State of the Sector report on internal communications, respondents in only 62% of organizations felt like the leadership teams agreed on what the role and purpose of internal communications should be. It also found that only half had a long-term vision for their internal communication function.
Among the barriers to internal communications being a success cited in the Gatehouse report were:
- internal technology not being fit for purpose in 54% of cases,
- lack of resources or budget in 44% of cases,
- not being involved in strategic business decisions in 43% of cases,
- 30% said they don’t feel supported by leadership.
A key theme emerges here that internal communications professionals not only don’t have the support from management they need to make internal comms a success in their organizations, they also don’t have the right tools to deploy information to ensure that employees are kept in the loop.
Why internal digital communications are needed
Changing technology is shaping the future of internal communications – employees expect that it will be easy for them to access the information they need and they don’t want to have to waste time looking for it. At the same time, employees are also fatigued by too much information, also known as information overload.
Sending emails and placing information on a company intranet site just doesn’t cut it anymore. Employees are bombarded by so many emails its no longer a reliable channel to send important information. Intranet sites are too cumbersome to navigate and many employees don’t even bother checking them at all.
Printed material is expensive to produce and becomes obsolete very quickly, and is therefore no longer a reliable or desirable option for effective internal communications.
Digital channels are frequently used in all aspects of life, and internal communicators need to harness this in order to keep up with what employees want and expect. Modern internal communications software solutions can help to deliver positive results by reaching employees in new and innovative ways.
But if you don’t already have the budget for it, how do you convince your management team to invest in new internal communications software when you’re already struggling to get them to value internal communications in the first place?
How to convince your boss of the value of internal digital communications?
Whether you’re an internal communications professional or an IT professional, if you’ve identified benefits to using internal digital communications software in your organization and you don’t know where to start when it comes to persuading your boss to authorize the expenditure, here are some steps you can take to get their buy-in.
Ideally you should present this in a formal business case or proposal, but you may also need to meet face-to-face to negotiate the details:
1. Clearly outline the benefits of improved internal communication
There is a wealth of information on this, with countless research papers outlining the positive outcomes for businesses that engage in effective internal communications. From increased profits to being more competitive and attracting and retaining the top talent in your industry, there are lots of statistics you can find to present to your boss about the importance of this.
2. Clearly outline your organization’s internal communication needs
To be convincing and to win your boss over, you will need to demonstrate the specific uses that the software will have in your organization.
You should conduct a thorough needs-analysis - engage with colleagues and representatives of company management to get a solid understanding of the communication needs of the organization. It’s important you carry out this step – finding a generic proposal on the internet is not going to address the specific and unique needs your business has.
3. Clearly outline the ways the software will improve communication
What are the challenges your company faces with internal communications? What are the issues that you need to address? How will this software help you to overcome these? For example if you are hoping to invest in alerting software, you can point out how important messages will have a cut-through rate of 100% compared to other channels.
4. Clearly outline the ways that the software will save money overall
Poor internal communications could be costing your company a lot of money every year. When people don’t have the information they need, they spend valuable time searching for it. They are also more likely to make mistakes which could be costly.
Systems your organization has in place to communicate, such as email, could also cost the company more money than its worth. For example when employees spend time emailing back and forth or seeking clarification. Or dealing with the sheer volume of emails received every day. Or even when they ignore these emails, that also comes at a cost (as mentioned above: mistakes can be made!)
Similarly, other inefficient systems and processes cost the company in terms of salaries and other resources. This includes inefficient meetings.
If the software you are looking to invest in will overcome these challenges, estimate what the cost savings to the organization will be compared with the price of the software.
5. Propose to run a pilot project
Many software vendors will allow you to have a demonstration or a trial to determine if the product is fit for purpose in your organization. This can allow you to run a pilot project where you use the software, and you can determine via qualitative and quantitative data whether or not the software has helped to improve internal communications.
Even if you aren’t able to try before you buy, proposing a pilot program for a short period of time to gather results (say six to 12 months) might be enough to get your boss over the line if they are only committing to a smaller budget initially.
6. Demonstrate how improved internal communications aligns with your company goals
Look at your organization’s corporate plan. What improved internal communication outcomes can you align to your vision, mission, objectives and goals?
What are other organizations in your industry doing in this space? What is best practice? How can your internal communications help to position your company as a leader in your industry?
Internal communication should never be an afterthought or something on a checklist: it should be firmly embedded as a part of your company’s business model.