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07 February 2005  
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Home - Technology Life - Article


The importance of internal communication

Internal communication is essential for every organisation, but very few are able to manage it efficiently, writes Sudipta Dev

Internal communication is considered a vital tool for binding an organisation, enhancing employee morale, promoting transparency and reducing attrition. Ironically, while everybody understands and talks about the significance of internal communication, very few are able to manage it efficiently. Both the long-term and short-term fallout of ineffective internal communication can be damaging for an organisation. It can start from the spread of rumours to disillusionment among employees to a gradual destruction of the company’s brand image. Worse, it may also lead to the slow death of the organisation.

When Deloitte and Touche Human Capital conducted a survey among American CEOs who were asked which HR issues are very important to the success of the organisation, 95 percent of them said “effective internal communication.” Simultaneously, only 22 percent agreed that they thought it was being delivered effectively. “I agree with the conclusions. In most organisations the quality of communication is either not effective or is absent. In the IT industry, human issues are even more important because people are an asset to the organisation; their skill-sets are the capital, their mindset is the driver,” says Sanjay Mandlik, corporate champion-HR & TQM, Emerson Network Power (India). He strongly believes that the HR person should be highly qualified in understanding the communication process, and should champion it with full ownership.

P K Sridharan, president, India operations, Hexaware Technologies, concedes that there is a gap between desire and action. “However in recent times companies have begun to realise the significance of their internal customers. But I believe that besides having effective internal communication, it is critical to have an efficient delivery mechanism.” He points out that there have been several instances in the past where internal communication failed as the delivery mechanism for it wasn’t perfectly ‘oiled.’

It is well-known that the root cause of most internal problems being faced by a company often stems from ineffective communication. “Industry standards like P-CMM in Level 2 include communication as one of the key process areas. In high-context cultures like India, the delivery of the message is as important as the message itself. It is therefore necessary to identify the best possible methods to reach your message to the target audience—in this case, your employees,” explains Sunder Rajan, general manager-HR, Infinite Computer Solutions.

According to Rajan, the IT sector faces unique issues peculiar to the nature of the industry. With employees of most IT services companies spread across geographies onsite, offshore and onshore, internal communication is a challenge. “However, because most IT employees are technology-savvy, the use of technology can largely address this issue. Intranets, e-mail, e-newsletters and video conferencing are some tools that can be used effectively to drive an internal communication programme,” he states.

In recent times, companies have begun to realise the significance of their internal customers

P K Sridharan
President, India Operations
Hexaware Technologies

To get the desired result, the credibility of the information source must be strong

Manoj Mandavgane
General Manager, HR Icici Infotech

Internal communication ensures that initiatives are implemented and followed at a local level

Gauri Deshmukh
HR Head
Sas India

Several organisations fail due to ineffective communication even though they have competent people

Sanjay Mandlik Corporate Champion, HR & TQM Emerson Network Power India

Vital link

Effective internal communication helps the organisation to meet its objectives. It is the vital link that enjoins everyone to deliver his best. “Communication is not a language, but it involves trust, relationships, control and delegation. It also creates transparency within the organisation. Many corporates create their value statements by giving the right space for the communication to convey the right message to the people,” states Mandlik. He says that several organisations fail due to ineffective communication even though they have some very competent people.

Notes Sridharan, “In recent surveys conducted across industries, and especially the IT industry, money is a distant second reason why employees opt to be part of an organisation. The primary reason by far is a sense of direction clearly communicated by the top management to employees so that they feel a sense of belonging to and responsibility for the growth of the company. Successful organisations build this loyalty through effective internal communication.” He affirms that it is also desirable that employees get to know of company developments before they become public. This helps in raising the morale and motivation of employees, and thus increases productivity. Internal communication also helps stimulate much-needed feedback from employees to top management.

Gauri Deshmukh, head of HR at SAS India, lists the following reasons why internal communication is so important for an organisation:

  • It provides information and encourages sharing by driving and supporting the organisation’s short-term and long-term goals and objectives.
  • It ensures that these initiatives are implemented and followed at a local level.
  • It ensures that knowledge-sharing and communication processes are part of the daily workflow across all functions of the business.
  • It helps drive ownership and shared engagement.

Whose responsibility?

While the ultimate onus of internal communication rests with the HR, it is a shared responsibility since marketing, public relations, corporate affairs and others are all involved in the process.

Internal communication should take place as a series of steps and not as an isolated event. “Well-planned and delivered internal communication can drive the culture in an organisation. The most important thing is the credibility of an information source. To get the desired result from the audience, the trust factor must be strong,” states Manoj Mandavgane, general manager, HR, ICICI Infotech. He opines that while formulating internal communication strategy, the following factors should be taken care of:

  • The purpose should be clear.
  • The timing and medium are important.
  • Language must be used carefully.
  • The tools of communication should be effective.
  • When people are vulnerable, their tolerance for ambiguity decreases, so they need to be told clearly to feel secure.
  • Communication has to be supported by action.

Ways and means

The channels of communication are intranets, e-mail, newsletters, periodic speeches by the CEO / managing director, open house sessions, etc. Sridharan asserts that while formal channels are important, it is imperative to make informal communication a continuous effort. “Many a time our COO will discuss

the latest achievements in Hexaware during lunch in our common canteen. Our chairman sometimes discusses the path of the organisation while travelling in the bus with employees for a picnic,” he recounts, adding that most of these informal forums also enable two-way communication, which gives the top management a fair idea about how the company is perceived among employees.

Apart from the regular initiatives, ICICI Infotech has made its knowledge management (KM) portal a single window for communication; it includes presentations, information about new clients, and other company details. There is also an active discussion board. “Anybody who logs into the computer comes to the KM site to mark his attendance; this might be anywhere in the globe, including the client site,” informs Mandavgane.

Those organisations which have understood the significance of internal communication encourage employee feedback to continuously improve the process. Curbing the grapevine of misinformation is not easy; it needs constant vigil and continuous effort to enable best practices in internal communication—something that very few companies are able to do efficiently.

The fallout of bad internal communication
Short-term impact
  • Spread of misinformation.
  • Erosion of employee trust and confidence.
  • Conflicts between employees and management.
  • Misinformed employees can make wrong decisions.
  • Internal brand image suffers.

Long-term impact

  • Dissatisfaction among employees leads to higher attrition.
  • Lack of coherent and shared vision.
  • Low employee morale results in lower productivity.
  • Impact on company's stocks.
  • Organisation's external brand value suffers.



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