3 tips for communicating with your internal customers

browningyork Communication audiences, Communication lessons, Engagement

The term internal communication means many things to many people. The specifics of what is involved, who is involved and the channels that are used can vary greatly between organisations. Factors such as the number of employees, the roles they do, where in the world they are based and so on can make a real difference to what effective communication looks like. Consequently expectations of any formal internal communication roles can vary, as can the extent to which these roles are centralised or locally-based.

Regardless of the formal structure, someone somewhere should have a strategic overview of the types of communication required to make the organisation successful and the employee groups who need to be communicating well as part of that. At an operational level, these communication requirements should reflect the policies and processes your organisation adopts. This usually creates situations where you have professional service or support departments who need to communicate with their internal customers.

In theory, communication with your internal customers should be relatively straight-forward, as you are all “on the same side”. However, in reality, anyone who has ever tried to communicate internally about finance processes or IT requirements, for example, knows this is sadly not always the case. This is counter-intuitive, so what is going on? And what can you do about it?

Tip 1: Objectives and priorities
Whilst individual and team objectives should all point towards the overall organisational strategy and vision, by definition these will vary from person to person and department to department. Where this becomes a problem is when different objectives create conflicting priorities. For example, when protecting the organisation from data protection risks means the IT department must carefully assess the credentials of a new software supplier, but the department that wants to use the software supplier needs to get their data analysed and their project finished for the CEO next week.
What can you do: look into how to introduce objectives that recognise we’re all in this together. Improve mutual understanding between departments to remove the suspicion “they don’t (want to) understand us”.

Tip 2: Dull subjects
It is harsh but true to say that the presentation your colleague is going to give at an international conference about their exciting new discovery is far more interesting to them than the new process for filling out their travel insurance forms to get there. And, realistically, few of your non-IT colleagues are going to get too worked up about your new data facility. However, there are associated benefits to individuals in each of these scenarios and some communication must be made to stick.
What can you do: I have blogged before about communicating dull subjects. Focus on the benefits and make it as quick, simple and painless as possible to follow any processes – make it easier for them to remember what to do than to do something else.

Tip 3: Mutual respect
Communicating with internal customers is much easier when teams and individuals understand others’ roles a bit better and the part that everyone plays in your organisation’s overall success. In any organisation, but particularly larger, more complex ones, it is very easy for teams to focus solely on their own work and lose sight of the bigger picture, with the emergence of silo working. Other departments come to be seen as barriers rather than colleagues and a lack of respect creeps in.
What can you do: show interest in others’ work and what they are trying to achieve. In my experience, most people just want to be understood. Find that mutual ground where you have a shared focus.

If you need help planning and delivering communications with your internal customers, please get in touch to see how I can help you.

Until next time
Sarah