I might go further and say that the problem is no internal communication. Not in the true sense of the word: ‘the imparting or exchanging of information or news as means of connection between people or places.’
Here is an insight for you, drawn from my work inside 12 organisations in East Africa in the first seven months of this year.
So it is current and relevant. The number one barrier to productive company cultures is poor internal communication.
I might go further and say that the problem is no internal communication. Not in the true sense of the word: ‘the imparting or exchanging of information or news as means of connection between people or places.'
My observation is that few business cultures place any value on internal conversations, so they deprioritise it.
They seem to think it is more important to talk to bosses, owners, shareholders, or financiers. And of course customers... although no one would contradict that priority.
But failing to address and professionalise internal conversations is a false economy of your time and effort. Here are some plaintive cries that symbolise a communications vacuum.
Do you recognise any of these? Some readers will...because they are verbatim.
From the top: ‘Why don't our employees act like owners, and take more responsibility?'
From the middle: ‘We have instructed the staff, why do they still not comply?'
From the bottom: ‘We have no brand direction, so what are we supposed to do?'
Here are five things you can do this week, to begin making a difference. Try them; you'll be surprised at the momentum they will begin to create
Have a strategy
What do you want internal communications to do for your people and your company?
What is the current situation that you want to address? What channels will you use? How will you know it is working?
Use the right tools
Bill Gates says: "I'm a great believer that any tool that enhances communication has profound effects in terms of how people can learn from each other."
Your team is busy, so the last thing they need is an internal communications system that is bothersome and full of friction.
Fortunately, software exists to make it simple and painless. Consider company chat software like Slack, Yammer or HipChat, using cloud technology, such as Google Drive and mandating one platform for all your email, calendars, and documents.
There are too many words around already. And, as most of them are in emails, I think they are in danger of becoming innately negative.
A commonly cited statistic says 65% of people are visual learners.
Even for the remaining 35%, it is hard to deny that visuals are a powerful tool.
That is why great advertising combines striking imagery with succinct copy.
As Kim Garst of Boom Social says: "Visuals express ideas in a snackable manner." But make sure you produce internal communications well.
Staff members are as sharp eyed as any other audience and they will see cheap, hurried materials as a sign that you do not really care. Indeed, only last month, I had to correct someone for her observation that: ‘this poster's only for staff.'
Make it entertaining
"Fun is at the core of the way I like to do business, and it has been key to everything I have done from the outset" is how Sir Richard Branson explains his approach.
Recent surveys show that 88% of millennials want to work in a "fun and social work environment." Work can be fun and productive and so should internal communications.
Provide channels for feedback
Did you know that "feedback" is the shortest word in the English language containing the letters a-b-c-d-e-f? Notwithstanding, this interesting fact, encouraging staff feedback is vital to any company's survival and success.
Some of the feedback may be tough to swallow at the beginning.
But if you persist, the tendency to vent will give way to the urge to contribute more positively - believe me. And what is the value of a thought or idea if it is never expressed?
Chris Harrison has a 30 years' experience in marketing and advertising — Most of them spent in Africa.
He leads the African operations of The Brand Inside, an international company that helps organisations to deliver their brands and strategies through their people.