An Internal Communication of an organisation is a part of its culture; it can tell a lot. Thus, it is important to have written guidelines so the staff and the volunteers know the key rules of internal communication: who, how, when, security, do’s and don’ts.
An internal communication policy is a document that outlines an organisation’s approach to its internal communication with its employees and volunteers.
The absence of rules in this sphere may lead to frustration and confusion, overloading each other with unnecessary information or constant channeling of it; missing important information; forcing some people to fulfil other people’s duties; overloading official channels with non-formal businesses, etc.
In 2021, the way organisations are operating has changed dramatically, with more people now working remotely, internal communication has never been more important.
- Objectives, key principles and target groups
- Types, Channels and Methods of communication
First it is worth mentioning the objectives of the document and for whom it is.
It may be addressed only to staff people, only to volunteers, or both. The Internal communication policies are usually created for the following purposes:
- To set clear channels and rules of communication;
- To provide guidelines whom to approach for different reasons, who is responsible for what;
- To provide security in the communication process;
- To prevent misinterpretations, loss of information;
- To prevent burn-out of people caused by frustrations and misunderstanding.
The key principles the communicational processes are usually built on are the following:
- Transparency and clarity;
- Respect and ethics;
- Easy access;
- Obligatory feedback to make sure the information is received;
- Respect of deadlines;
- “One piece of information by one channel, by one time”;
Types and Channels
Communication can be organised: in big groups, small groups, face-to-face. It is useful when the staff knows the frequency well and the schedule in advance. It usually includes systematic general gatherings; working groups meetings and face-to-face dialogues of a chief with the staff people.
Internal communication is done online and offline.
Speaking about online communication it is crucial to introduce a clear system of channels. If they are too many, people will start being confused and irritated. Every channel should have its clear purpose. For examples:
- Emails: for official communication; requires obligatory feedback within 3-5 hours. The server is usually the same for all workers.
- Google drive or One drive or Dropbox for storing information.
- Trello or BaseCamp: to manage tasks, deadlines, results, etc. as an obligatory everyday management tool.
- WhatsApp group: for quick reminders, sharing non-official information; not necessary for feedback. It is good to have some non-formal chats so not to flood official ones. It contributes to good team spirit as well.
- Phone: for urgent official communication. Obligatory to pick up always within the working hours (with exceptions for very urgent issues such as leading a meeting, having negotiations, etc.).
- Zoom or Google meet as space for online meetings.
For example, if you need to reach a person urgently you will not use the “WhatsApp” but rather call, knowing that it is not an official channel of communication.
A clear system will also prevent people from being overloaded by receiving notifications from all possible messengers: Facebook, Telegram, Viber, WhatsApp, Instagram, etc. If different colleagues prefer using different channels, for some employees it can become a real nightmare.
Every organisation chooses their own channels. These are just examples to illustrate how it can look like.
You can always put some regulations about official emails to organise the work in the most productive way. The things that might be important are the following:
Time. You can ask your employees to send the emails only within the working hours to avoid the feeling of being stressed by notifications coming late in the evening. If some staff is working according to their own schedules, they can always adjust the time of the delivery in the settings.
You can also set the same rule for informal messages and ask people not to send anything between 20.00 and 07.00. You can be almost sure that notifications will not disturb small kids or tired relatives. It is good to respect the private life of people.
Put realistic deadlines to the letters and ask people to do the same. If there is no deadline for an answer, you risk not receiving a reply at all.
Feedback. You can ask your employees to always send the confirmation that they have received and read the letter. Thus you can be sure they know what to do. Short replies are integrated now to emails. It is better to set a maximum time for reply. Not all people are happy about this rule as it adds lots of additional messages.
Reply to all. It is helpful to set a rule about this as well, especially taking into consideration the previous recommendations. For example, if a person just confirms that a letter is received, it is fine to reply to a sender only. But if it is any other piece of information, it is an obligation to “reply to all”.
Clear subject. It will be useful to ask people to identify very clear subjects of the letters, so a person can easily find a message later or pay attention to it quickly if urgent. Such subjects as “Hello!” sounds confusing. And vice versa, “urgent”, “not urgent” can be helpful.
No off top. It is quite a tendency that when replying to a letter on one specific subject, a person informs about another topic. “And by the way, come to the meeting tomorrow at 5 o’clock”. There is a big risk that a person will not come and will be right about it. The subject of that letter was different, maybe your letter would be carefully read later as it is not the priority now.
One letter, one message. This useful rule comes from the previous one. It helps people to follow the communication streams easier.
One message, one channel. If you have sent a message via emails, it is better not to duplicate it in various messengers, in corridors near the WC, etc. Only if it is not super important. But in this case, pick up a phone, if it is chosen as a channel for urgent things. And try to avoid catching people by sleeves in the corridors saying “I’ve just sent you a letter about …”. If you have set the rules clearly, you will receive an answer quickly enough. Ask a person how he/she is doing better.
Signature. A signature is the perfect opportunity to brand every message you send. It establishes and reinforces who you are as an organisation. By creating a cohesive email signature for each employee on your team, you create brand recognition in every person to whom your employees send emails.
Security. Europe’s new data privacy and security law includes hundreds of pages’ worth of new requirements for organizations around the world. This GDPR overview will help you understand the law and determine what parts of it apply to you. Full information is available here.
We hope that simple practical examples can help you to build a clear system which will help people in your organisation feel respected and motivated.
This is an example of the Internal Communication Policy from YMCA Scotland. We suggest paying particular attention to such items as cyber bullying, system of emailing, computer software, social networking guidelines.
The material is created within the project “ Governance and Quality Development” supported by Erasmus+, Key Action 2 programme.