Here’s how HR can maximize internal communications

Pros weigh in on why HR should care about internal comms, and how to strategically communicate with employees.
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Hannah Minn

4 min read

Good internal communication can leave your employees feeling cozy under a fleece blanket, sipping hot chocolate next to a fire. Bad internal communication can feel like, well, anything going on at Twitter right about now.

Stephanie Oribhabor, director of employee experience at Great Place To Work, spends a lot of her day making sure her colleagues have the information and resources they need to succeed. She’s always strategizing when it comes to internal communications, making sure employees are able to access information and that it’s helpful when they do.

Kayla Glanville is co-founder, CEO, and in charge of all things internal comms at Upaway,  a travel support and organization company. She has years of experience in internal communications at companies like Twitter (pre-Musk), and considers herself a “comms-focused founder.”

These two pros say a solid internal comms strategy is indispensable, and, yes, they told us why.

Remember the why. Your internal communications needs a why component that connects back to your employees’ so they know why they should care.

“Sometimes, I think that the why gets missed in messaging,” Oribhabor said. “Everybody wants to know the why and how [the message] impacts them personally.”

She pointed to a recent company-wide presentation where top brass broke down budgeting “to a very granular level” for everyone at the company. Employees could see how their work affected the bottom line, the company's future growth, and, ultimately, their bonuses.

“Everyone cares about [their bonus] at the end of the year, and in order to hit this, you have to understand everything else that either we’re on target for or we’re not, and it takes all of us rowing in the right direction,” she said. “We talked about the numbers and the business and talked about budgets and broke everything down. I think people were like, ‘I get it’...I visibly saw light bulbs going off in the room.”

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Oribhabor also recommended repeating the same information in different ways, using different platforms, and adapting the messaging to each channel.

“It may feel repetitive, but I think saying things in different ways more than once is very important,” she said. “You have to hit the different ways that people naturally work.”

Glanville agrees. At Upaway, an important message is sent and pinned on Slack to a company channel, it’s also DM’d and emailed to employees, and it’s then mentioned at the next company all hands, she said.

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She is speaking from experience. “If I just send it in Slack, maybe two people answer,” she said.

After having to chase down employees to participate in the company's inaugural engagement survey, she reworked comms for the next one: Slack, email, talk about it. Participation was much better, she said.

One source of truth. Despite this, Oribhabor and Glanville both said employees also need one, centralized source of information and knowledge. At Upaway, it’s productivity software Notion, and Glanville said it’s important to articulate who is responsible for its upkeep, its purpose, and how frequently it’s updated.

Oribhabor said Great Place to Work’s monthly newsletter is where her team deposits all the important “truths” her colleagues need to know.

“Our team members told us: ‘We want one source of truth. We want to go to one place and find out everything we need to know that month,’ and so we listened to that,” she said. “While we do communicate in different ways, [the newsletter] has become our main source of internal comms, because that’s what they said they wanted.”

Don’t forget to listen. Listening is a key component to good internal communications.

Oribhabor said Great Place to Work is constantly surveying employees. It’s critical their employee experience is consistent, and the responses reveal what else HR might need to tackle or address.

“We work really hard, and so I want people to find whatever it is that we’re trying to communicate to them valuable,” Oribhabor said.

It’s important that it feels like you’re talking to your employees, not at them, she added.

Be as transparent as possible. There’s obviously private and confidential information that isn’t sharable or there are plans that aren’t ready for prime time, but Oribhabor suggested that “sometimes silence causes more anxiety,” and telling employees, “We don’t know yet” can have a more positive impact than not saying anything at all.

Glanville runs the company with “radical transparency.” When you’re honest and transparent, she said, it creates psychological safety among employees to share feedback and communicate.

Plus, “employees can smell BS from a mile away,” she said.—AD

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.