Top 10 Ways to Improve Internal Communications

Lena Eisenstein
Communication is important in every industry. For local government, there is a heavy focus on improving communication and engagement with the citizens. While that's important, it's equally as important to not overlook the value of improving internal communications between the employees and the leadership in municipal governments. Be aware that your employees are often the ones who are on the frontlines greeting and meeting with the people. They can only do their jobs professionally when they have the most up-to-date information.

Budget restraints limit many municipalities from digitizing many of their processes. Today, many municipalities still rely on paper-based communication channels, weekly newsletters, bulletins, and noticeboards. Where managers struggle to engage with their employees, it has a trickle-down effect on customer service. It's obvious to constituents when employees aren't happy in their work.

Here are 10 ways for municipal governments to improve internal communications.
  1. Set the Tone for Your Vision and Values

Many local governments make the mistake of not establishing clear values and a clear vision for their workplace. For those that do, the vision and values don't always speak loudly enough throughout the organization. How well do you know your organization? Does your staff share your vision and values? Do you and your staff understand the priorities, opportunities, challenges, and threats in the coming days? By communicating your vision and values, it will motivate your staff to behave and act along those lines.
  1. Get Better Acquainted with Your Staff

Municipal government leaders can get better acquainted with their staff by making it a practice to touch bases with their subordinates personally each week. This provides an opportunity to hear their personal and professional worries and concerns. It also shows that you are open to communication and that you appreciate them. Be sure to give special attention to developing relationships with departments that you need to work closely with.
  1. Create a Strategy for Improving Internal Communications

One of the many benefits of establishing an overall strategy for improving internal communications is that it prevents you from merely winging it and not accomplishing what you set out to do. Be sure to consider your objectives, priorities, channels, and messages when developing an internal communications strategy. A written strategy will help you to focus on your priorities. It will also support your decisions when you need to approve or deny requests. Your messages should be timely, accessible, and engaging. As opportunities arise, think about ways to tell inspiring stories from across the organization.
  1. Use a Board Portal System for Email Communications and Meeting Preparation

We live and work in an age of digital transformation where the best tool for municipalities for email communications and meeting preparation is a board portal system. A portal is a highly secure platform that ensures your internal communications remain confidential and secure.

It's also helpful to develop a style and communications guide so that internal emails can be consistently formatted. Where appropriate, share communications across the entire chain of command. For example, when a city manager sends emails to all employees, department heads should forward it to their staff with additional context such as highlighting action items, discussing changes, or encouraging participation. Acknowledge emails within 24 hours even if you can't answer them right away.
  1. Get Feedback

Share best practices for communications and get support from your colleagues inside and outside of the organization. Third-party communications experts, professional bodies, and training opportunities can also be helpful in improving your internal communications strategy.

A good communications program requires feedback from virtually everyone inside and outside of the organization.
  1. Focus on Behavior

Communications specialists can have great influence on the outcome of a communications plan. They're able to project higher expectations on staff and have greater influence on them. Communications specialists are able to create aa greater awareness of the importance of security which helps to protect the government's reputation. Specialists are also typically aware that they need digital tools like a board management portal to help cultivate good internal communications.
  1. Give the Employees a Louder Voice

By announcing a goal to improve internal communications, it will encourage employees to offer their opinions and share their concerns. Your employees will easily become more engaged when they know their concerns and suggestions will be addressed. That should be reason enough to provide engaging ways for staff to participate and contribute. This is a sure way to generate some new ideas and a new sense of enthusiasm.
  1. Help the Managers Do the Talking

Managers also have a significant impact on their subordinate's attitudes and behavior around communications. Most managers focus the bulk of their time and energy on formal channels of communication but communication is really better when managers talk to their subordinates face to face.
  1. Take Advantage of Times of Change

The nature of local government is that change tends to occur rapidly. That's all the more reason for local government leaders to communicate early and often and to involve their workforce as much as possible to improve internal communications.
  1. Take Advantage of Times of Crisis

Internal communication is ultra-important in times of crisis. Good communication can prevent a small problem from becoming a larger one and at the same time, prevent the potential for bad headlines. When good internal communication has been established and is practiced across the board, it keeps employees apprised of the truth and this becomes especially important in times of crisis.

When any time of crisis occurs, it's crucial to get your organization's immediate response right, coordinate your messages, and remind people of your policies. In similar fashion to other types of companies, municipalities should prepare for crises and practice their responses. Don't forget to do a recap after every crisis to better understand what activities worked well and which ones were not as successful to better prepare for a future crisis.

Community by Diligent is your 'go-to' digital tool for secure communications and improved general communications today and in the future.
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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.