The latest CIPD employee outlook survey found that fewer than half of our 2,000 respondents felt either “fully” or “fairly well” informed about what was going on in their firms. There were also low levels of agreement with the statement: “I trust the directors/senior management of my organisation.” Such findings reveal just how important it is to improve communications with staff as part of an HR (and business) strategy.

1 Have a shared purpose
Creating a shared sense of purpose is an important starting point for a strategic approach to communication. People need to understand the collective goal they are working towards and to appreciate the difference they can make.

2 Convince your leaders
Don’t assume that senior managers automatically recognise the need for effective communication. They can rely too heavily on more junior managers to convey key messages about their vision through the business, and they can often fail to communicate frequently enough in times of upheaval. Communication is a key skill that you should seek when recruiting leaders. And give both leaders and line managers the support and coaching they might need.

3 Engage your people
The CIPD has identified three main drivers of employee engagement: having the opportunity to feed your views upwards; feeling well informed about what is happening in your organisation; and believing your manager is committed to the organisation. Your approach to engagement will therefore inform your approach to communication – and vice versa.

4 Consider your channels
Many organisations are embracing new communication media. One company in our recent research into M&As and employer branding used a CEO’s blog successfully during a takeover. Some employers use social networking sites to engage their graduate recruits before they join the organisation formally.

5 Keep the personal touch
Employees value face-to-face communication highly. The challenge is to ensure that managers develop the skills and confidence to hold meaningful two-way conversations – even on difficult topics. It’s important to let people know that you value these attributes. Consider them as part of the assessment and development process for team leaders.

6 Work collaboratively
Responsibility for communications could rest formally with either HR or a specialist internal communications team. But it’s important that expertise from the different disciplines is shared in order to create the approach that’s most appropriate for your organisation. Joined-up thinking is important here. For example, ensure that communications about your reward offering reflect communications about your employer brand more generally – as advised in Employer branding and total reward, the recent report produced by the CIPD in association with Mercer.

7 Measure your results
Employee engagement surveys are a common method of understanding the effectiveness of internal communications. To be more sophisticated in measuring the success of your activities, it can be helpful to segment your audience and look at whether the right message is reaching the right people at the right time.

Key points

- Employee communication is essential to create an engaged workforce that’s committed to working towards a shared goal.

- Ensure that leaders realise the importance of communication and take time to share their vision for the organisation.

- Create communication that is two-way, not only top-down.

- Measure the success of your actions.