Council workers are responsible for delivering many public services, so it is essential they have access to up-to-date information about their role, their council and an appreciation for the challenges facing local government. Communication in the workplace was always a challenge and the pandemic, and the shift to remote work, reminded us of its importance to keep workers engaged and effective. With many of us still working at least part of the time from home, effective communications are key to the smooth running of your council. This will ensure your team performs at their best; connecting, engaging and aligning your employees.
The majority of us still work from home. To keep our councils running smoothly, we had to maximize the effectiveness of our communications. Seamless communication enables us to improve the productivity of our teams by engaging and aligning employees.
“Whilst there is a huge emphasis on external communications in councils, communications within a council can be forgotten. Setting up a strategy for your council will boost employee engagement, nurture company culture and help your team perform their jobs well.”
Phil Brown, Partner and B Corp Consultant at The Growth Activists
Here are our top tips for solving common communication challenges within local councils.
1. Improve Accessibility of Files
The places and times we work have changed significantly with Covid-19. The fragmentation of workforces has increased the need to improve accessibility of digital resources.
It is easy to take the accessibility of files for granted when you work in the office and are able to login to intranets, SAAS platforms and shared drives. What if you are forced to work remotely but still need to access the council’s files, information, and resources?
The importance of accessibility to digital information has become increasingly important with increased flexibility around where we work and when we work. This can easily be achieved by using one secure online cloud platform for storing information, whether it be Sharepoint, OneDrive, Google Drive, Dropbox or Microsoft Teams. If you have multiple repositories for information and communication, then work towards consolidating them into one.
2. Develop A Communication Strategy
Local councils are often focused on their external communications, reaching residents, businesses and other stakeholders. With internal comms taking a back seat, managers often struggle to know where to start. A simple internal communications strategy should include three things:
- Channels – What channels you communicate in, and when to use each channel according to the different types and priority of communication.
- Messaging – Communications pillars and key messaging; what is it we are going to be communicating to the workforce?
- Audience – Who we are communicating to.
3. Use Social Media to Your Advantage
To be effective in communicating with your workforce, it is important to understand ‘where’ they are. Many employees are already active on social media, and by observing and learning from this, councils can create new approaches that mimic these behaviours for internal communications.
When setting up an internal engagement strategy it’s important to research (interview and survey) a cross-section of your workforce to discover which channels they use. People have a range of preferences for consuming content – some like email, others like their managers to let them know what’s important, others still prefer corporate social channels like WhatsApp and Facebook Workplace.
The conversational and real time nature of social media helps to encourage interaction amongst employees. Social media improves conversations across all departments and levels, keeping workers engaged and assisting them in achieving goals.
4. Communicate broadly but be focused in what you say
Research consistently shows that employees feel overloaded with information, which means they can struggle to find, understand or engage with important council messaging. The way to ensure that key council messages are reaching all workers, is to tailor and then broadcast them on all of the channels that have been identified in the research. This means that messaging reaches the different communication channel preferences – for some they will see the key message once or twice, for more engaged employees the message will hit them on multiple channels so engagement and understanding is higher.
It’s also important to keep the communication simple with one or two messages. People fail to take meaning from communications that try to do too much. Be simple and be clear. There is a temptation in government to overstuff comms with lots of activity and news from multiple areas. The comms plan needs to prioritise which type of messaging is most important, and which messaging NOT to do.
5.Internal Communications should be two-way
Effective communication should enable information both ways. As important messaging goes out to workers, what are the mechanisms in place for feedback? Councils should provide platforms or a process for employees to share their ideas or concerns. Not only does this help employees feel heard and engaged, it provides a way for leadership to listen to the voice of the worker. A workplace social media channel allows this to happen immediately and also allows conversations between people, increasing their feelings of being valued and creating a sense of belonging in the team.
It is important to create a space of psychological safety in these feedback channels. Executives want to hear the truth so processes and policies about internal channels need to make sure it is safe for employees to give their real opinions. This can be tricky and needs guardrails and guidelines so feedback doesn’t veer into crusades, bullying or pure criticism. It is important for leadership to be engaged with these channels and leading the way on how to communicate.
It’s not always about size
It is easy to overlook internal communications when there are other priorities and day-to-day work plans that need to be done. Capability and capacity are the main blockers for developing and implementing an internal communications strategy and plan. If you are in this position but know how important communication is, you can look to hire a professional to bring in proven frameworks and approaches to make your internal comms come to life.
A communication consultant can help councils that want to talk with their employees more effectively. They create tailor-made communication strategies with your council’s needs in mind. Each organisation needs a different approach and the power of the strategy is in getting the mix of channels, messaging and frequency right. Smaller consultancies are ideally placed to assist councils as they are leaner and more agile than big consulting firms. You get the experience and capability of the big consulting firms that state and federal governments can afford, but with a budget more suitable for councils.
The Growth Activists can help you develop an internal communications strategy and plan to better engage and motivate your workforce. Contact us at email@example.com for a chat about how we can turn proactive thinking into practical action.