Ask an internal communications team to name their biggest struggle and they’ll likely answer that it’s handling an increasing workload with limited staff. Outside of large organizations, it’s rare to find a business or cooperative that splits the duties of marketing, external communications and internal communications into different teams. Instead, all of those duties (and others) are often placed onto the shoulders of one small group and, as the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic bring many organizations around the world to their knees, the struggle of doing more with smaller teams will become even more heightened.
If you’re wondering how to manage your workload, the following tips will help you accomplish more with a limited communications team while also implementing strategies to help your cooperative’s leaders recognize the value of internal communications. In helping your co-op’s senior managers understand the value and time demands of well-produced internal comms, you may just earn yourself a few new team members.
Similar to getting the most from every dollar when living on a tight budget, ease the burden on your small internal communications team by squeezing the most value out of your existing content.
First, recycle internal communications content whenever possible. Just as with external communications, your company’s internal audiences often need to see a message multiple times before it fully sinks in. This means you needn’t feel guilty about re-releasing a safety message or reusing an article you wrote a few months ago about workplace benefits. When recycling content, let a bit of time pass before re-releasing it to your workforce. This will prevent employees from tuning out the message and will help it feel fresh.
Second, upcycle old content by using it in new ways. For example, pull snippets from a popular employee blog post and expand each snippet into individual blog posts or use the snippets as copy for breakroom posters and digital signage. Video scripts can easily be transformed into newsletter articles while cooperative CEO speeches can be upcycled into blog posts.
The bottom line—don’t feel that you must continually create new internal communications content. Instead, focus your efforts on creating topnotch employee communications. Then, recycle and upcycle the heck out of it.
More than 45 percent of respondents to a Global Internal Communications Survey by Poppulo reported that projects developed by their internal communications departments were ad hoc, suggesting a lot of reactive, unplanned work. If the internal communications work of your team lacks a strategic approach, now is the time to change that. Approaching your employee communications efforts with a strategic mindset will guide your team away from juggling reactive, unplanned workloads. This shift will save you time, cut your workload and increase your organizational value.
While shifting from always reacting to your work toward slowing down and looking at things through a strategic lens can be difficult, it’s a worthwhile change. Developing internal communication strategies takes time, careful thought and interdepartmental cooperation. But that upfront work pays immense dividends in the form of reduced stress, fewer short order requests and, ultimately, a happier and more engaged workforce.
Approaching your team’s internal communications efforts from a strategy-first mindset starts with developing thorough project communications plans. Download our free communications planning guide and checklist to learn an easy and effective step-by-step process for creating internal communications plans.
How many coworkers have you known who are always complaining about being busy but who also never seem to accomplish anything? Being busy has become a badge of honor in most workplaces, but it shouldn’t be. You can fill every workweek’s schedule with menial tasks that may feel good to cross off a to-do list but that don’t hold any lasting organizational value. Instead, bring more visibility to your team’s work by minimizing low impact projects and working on high impact duties more often. High impact duties are those that align with the co-op’s strategic goals and have the potential to move the needle toward achieving those goals.
Whenever possible, eliminate unnecessary tasks from your team’s workload or find ways to automate as many of them as possible. Batch up any menial tasks that you can’t eliminate or automate and encourage your team to complete them during non-peak energy times of day. For example, if your energy drops off and mind fog sets in at mid-afternoon, that’s the time to focus on tasks that don’t require much brainpower.
After you’ve made more space in your team’s schedule by minimizing low impact projects, re-direct your efforts toward projects that align with the cooperative’s strategic goals. Give your team members the space needed to enter a flow state during their peak work times by implementing ‘unavailable’ cues. Examples of these cues include putting in earbuds, closing an office door or marking an instant messenger status to busy. Encourage employees to use the agreed upon cues to signal the times when they’re working on important projects and don’t want to be disturbed.
Want to learn more about the research behind flow states including the benefits, challenges and techniques for transitioning into a flow state? We highly recommend the books Stealing Fire and Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.
Tired of receiving short order communications project requests from across the organization? While you’ll never eliminate last minute communications requests (especially from senior leaders), you can implement a filtering system to minimize them.
As mentioned in a previous section, outline all interdepartmental projects within communications plans. The plans that you develop should cover a project’s goals, timeline, target audience, messaging themes and other details. Thorough communications plans give stakeholders a view of your work, establish upfront expectations and work wonders at minimizing questions. Knowing that requested projects must go through the communications planning process will also encourage coworkers to only approach your communications team with well vetted ideas.
If you don’t yet have one, establish a project request ticketing system. Think of it as your communication team’s equivalent of a help desking ticketing system.
Internal communications ticketing systems offer value on several fronts. First, by implementing a ticketing system, you’ll begin to accumulate data regarding your work projects—from amount of work to the time your team spends on each project. This data will be invaluable when the time comes to ask for additional team members. Second, when the workload becomes too much for your team to manage, you can point to the ticketing system as evidence for why some project requests must be postponed until future dates. Last, a communications ticketing system will help your team keep projects organized, which will lead to fewer mistakes, less frustration and more team cohesion.
While you’re learning how to accomplish more with a limited internal communications team, also look for opportunities to highlight your team’s workload and value to the organization’s leaders. One struggle that many communicators face when trying to highlight their workload to their co-op’s decisionmakers is that those decisionmakers are typically individuals who make decisions based on data. They are also the decisionmakers who often look at communicators with a critical eye, never fully understanding their value and workload. To shift their perspective, you must learn to speak in their language by approaching internal communications with a data-first mindset.
Although measurement is a weak spot for many internal communications departments, the current gap provides an immense opportunity for using data to drive strategic communications decisions. With the wealth of online tools now available, there has never been an easier time to collect data regarding your internal communications efforts and use that data to hone your strategy. Additionally, all the creatives out there can take comfort that developing data-driven work isn’t difficult. Instead, in many ways, taking a data-first mindset will simplify and elevate your work.
Our playbook, How to Use Data to Improve Internal Communications, provides an easy step-by-step process for using data to drive the work of your cooperative’s communications team. It also includes a suite of templates that will help you showcase the value of your work to co-op leaders and other stakeholders.
Handling large workloads with limited internal communications staffing has long been the norm for most corporate communicators. Accomplish more and deliver quality results by recycling and upcycling content, planning your team’s projects, focusing more effort on high impact tasks and implementing filters to minimize floods of project requests. Also, use data to improve your communications efforts as well as to make a case for why a larger team is needed to manage the workload.
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Cadenced Communications helps corporate leaders and communications professionals find the best rhythm of communications for their organizations.
Strategic and streamlined corporate communications bring organizational cadence by improving interdepartmental relationships, motivating employees, increasing productivity and more. Our useful tips, tools and resources are designed to help you begin improving communications in your company today.