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How to Improve Internal Communication – A Practical Guide for a Multinational Company Owners

Once upon a time, internal communication was only really used to arrange the office Christmas party.

These days, figuring out how to improve internal communications is something on which companies in all industries spend billions every year.

That’s because all of the evidence shows that companies with great internal communications make much bigger profits than those without.

But there are serious challenges involved in improving communication between departments in the workplace – and between individuals on a team which could, these days, be separated by oceans as well as the languages they speak…

In this article, we’ll look at some practical ways to improve communication in an organisation which is multinational. We’ll also take briefly discuss the benefits of doing so.

  1. Why is internal communication important?
  2. Is what constitutes good internal communications strategy changing?
  3. Ways to improve internal communication in an organisation
  4. Establish your goals – to be open, central and accountable
  5. Adopt a multi-channel approach to reach all your employees
  6. Translate and localise your message where required
  7. Record spoken meetings and circulate
  8. Reap the rewards
  9. Celebrate as well as overcome!

Why is internal communication important?

Good internal communications ensure that everyone in your company understands what it is doing, and why and how it is doing it. They link employees together in a coordinated, concerted effort towards the company’s goals.

On the other hand, bad internal communications result in mixed messages, confusion, wasted hours and reduced productivity.

That’s not to mention rumours, the risk of uncoordinated activity and a general feeling of disconnect and obfuscation.

Is what constitutes a good internal communications strategy changing?

Internal communication has always been important. But the modern workforce is more switched on to the need for it than ever before:

With every passing generation, employees want to feel more like they’re part of the team. They want to be connected. They want to collaborate. They want everything to be clear and transparent…

More than ever, they want some feedback and discussion about goals, the company’s plans to reach them and their own performance while working to reach them.

To a large extent, these changes can be laid at the feet of social media – and of several generations who are used to living life where a constant stream of interaction, shares and likes is the norm.

But whatever the cause, the outcome is known:

Most members of the modern workforce, with almost no variance by role or industry, want to know that they are listened to and valued for their contribution.

Ways to improve internal communication in an organization

Once you have identified a need for improvement, it’s time to think about how to achieve it.

The specific challenge we will continue to call back to during the course of this article will be the additional layer of complexity presented if you operate a multinational or multicultural company.

However, most of these lessons can be applied to any organization:

1. Establish your goals – to be open, cohesive and accountable

These are three of the most important features of any company with great internal communications.

They are even more vital in situations where different departments, individuals or workers and management don’t share a language:

Goal 1: Openness – operate an open door policy

Having a system where employees can ask questions is vital.

Some simple systems which can help you operate an open door policy include:

  1. Suggestion boxes (physical or online – both should have anonymity as an option).
  2. A feature in the company blog or newspaper where employee questions get answered.

These kind of systems are of great benefit to employees. They encourage team members to have the confidence to speak up and know that they will be accepted.

Creating a company culture of acceptance of the inquirer is vital. You should never demonise people who ask questions. Questions are good! People who ask questions should be encouraged to do so.

Because as well as being good for employees, they are also highly useful to you as a leader or business owner. They give you the information you need to identify problem areas and locate ways to improve.

Important sidenote: it sounds a little obvious, but your system should actually provide the answers which your employees are looking for.

There are few things worse than being brave enough to raise your hand but be left feeling that the answer you were given was a stock response or an attempt to pass the buck.

Goal 2: Cohesion – consider a single platform or centralised message source

A multi-channel approach to internal comms is sensible. It means that your employees will receive the same cohesive message no matter what device they prefer.

But that does not mean that different channels should be used by your team on an ad-hoc basis:

You do not want some of your team chatting on Skype while others are part of massive email chains while a few others talk independently on some other messenger app they prefer.

De-centralisation of communication like this can be a problem which is exacerbated by the traditional department set-up which most companies still have…

Your IT department might be in a location that’s physically separate from your sales team, who rarely need to interact with your HR team who work in an annexe, and so on and on.

Some organisations have found success by mixing up workers from different departments in the same space. Others simply understand the one basic rule:

Keeping your internal comms unified and cohesive is the only way to get things done.

Goal 3: Accountability – don’t pass the buck

One thing which all good internal communication strategies have in common is built-in accountability.

When information is transmitted or when an answer is provided, employees need to know that the person providing it is telling them something which the sender will be accountable for. Everyone is following the same path. There is a clear record of what that path is.

This goes both ways:

Internal communications also keep your employees accountable. Some companies have accountability groups where a handful of people meet regularly to ensure that no one is being missed by the system.

2. Adopt a multi-channel approach to reach all your employees

Talking about openness, cohesion and accountability is very important. But this creates significant challenges where not all of your employees speak the same language.

The best solution for your business will probably differ from others. If you have a small team you may be able to survive by using something like Skype.

But for a large, multinational company there really is no excuse to rely on some combination of emails, Skype and half a dozen other messenger apps. Or not to have clearly delineated lines of internal comms.mang

There are a huge variety of communication platforms available these days. A centralised platform can help you:

  • Streamline and automate repetitive internal comms jobs
  • Measure whether you are succeeding at reaching your audience
  • Integrate multiple channels, so employees can access on their device of choice

3. The importance of reaching frontline workers

This latter point is particularly important for frontline and deskless workers. These team members may not necessarily have computer access during their standard working role. They also may not have a company email address.

Deskless employees make up more than three-quarters of the workforce. Yet it is relatively common for them to have little access to company information, policies or the kind of engagement with them which is relatively easy to foster for desk workers in the same office or on the same network.

Smartphone apps are leading the way here. With so many people having a phone these days, it is a platform with which almost everybody will be familiar – almost certainly the overwhelming majority of the millennial and younger generations.

Having your internal comms be accessible via their smartphones means they can read important notifications, sign to say they’ve seen them and ask questions which will enable them to do their job better all in the same place.

4. The importance of including satellite workers

In the modern workspace, distributed, satellite and home workers are another important group to consider when building your internal communication strategy.

Mentioning office developments, in-jokes and nearby events might serve to bring your local team together. For distance workers though, this can lead to a greater sense of alienation.

Consider having a separate strategy for your satellite team or carefully building them into your main one.

5. Translate and localise your message

When your internal comms need to reach employees who speak different languages, it is time for translation – and possibly localisation – to come in.

Some of the areas where this is good practice include:

  • Your company handbook
  • Brand guidelines
  • Internal training programs
  • Newsletters
  • Announcements
  • Meetings (some organisations sensibly provide interpreters in business meetings)

Having a single cohesive message in multiple languages ensures that each of your employees receives and understands the information in the same way.

They also make it much easier to ensure that every employee properly comprehends elements like safety training or branding – because they have had it communicated to them in the way which is natural for them.

As well as practical benefits such as this, you shouldn’t underestimate the amount of employee trust and goodwill you can generate simply by making every member of your team feel as if their needs are cared for.

This can boost employee happiness, job satisfaction and retention levels.

6. Record spoken meetings – and circulate

There is more than one reason why minutes are taken:

The most obvious is the fact that everyone tends to remember the discussions which take place during spoken meetings differently.

Another is that many multinational companies find that – despite many or all employees having an excellent level of a shared or “floor language” such as English – there is still plenty of unfortunate room for different interpretations, or a lack of true comprehension, to arise.

Meetings can involve multiple speakers, accents, regionalisms and more. All of which are a challenge for even high-level non-native speakers. Sometimes even for native speakers!

For both problems, circulating precise minutes afterwards is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

7. Reap the rewards

Having a workforce with a diverse range of backgrounds adds to a company’s strength.

For instance, you will find that great internal comms strategies will boost your external communications too:

What could be better for members of your sales team who are interacting with people from a different culture than already having a certain familiarity with that culture thanks to colleagues at work?

If you have an organisation full of bilingual individuals you may stand to benefit in other ways too. Various studies have been done which indicate that bilingual people are better at multitasking – as well as sometimes at paying attention, strategy and organisation.

Those are the kinds of people who are often a good fit for special projects. Having already brought these team members onboard through your inclusive communication practices, you will be ready to reap the rewards of having full, motivated access to their talents.

8.  Celebrate as well as overcome!

Plus, a multicultural company or office can be an exciting and interesting place to work.

Celebrate that cultural and linguistic diversity whenever the occasion presents itself. Here are some fun ways to improve communication in the workplace:

  1. Potluck food days – pretty much everyone loves a tasty bite to eat. Why not set up potluck food days when everyone brings in a little something of their homeland’s cuisine? It’s a great way to build bridges and make everyone just that little bit more appreciative of everyone else’s culture.
  2. “Diversity days” – these have an unfortunate twang of corporate-speak to their name, but they are actually a solid idea. Especially if you foresee or suspect you already have a problem with intercultural communication. Be very careful not to create any sort of “us” vs. “them” attitude through your messaging and to include all groups equally if you want this to work.

The most important job

In multinational organisations, your most important internal comms job will always be to show that you are aware of and equally appreciate team members who do not speak your company’s go-to language – or who do so only after having put in the hard work to learn it for themselves.

An attitude of inclusion will encourage them to speak up when they have trouble getting on the same page as everyone else.

Again, having someone ask questions can be a very good thing for everyone involved:

Because, at a very basic level, if someone can’t repeat what they’ve said and explain it simply enough for someone else to understand, it might be said they’re not doing the best job of communicating in the first place.

Become one of those companies with great internal communications

Assessing the areas where you are succeeding and those where you could do better is an early step to take when creating your own successful internal communications strategy.

The best approach is usually to select a team to oversee all of your efforts so that they too can be kept open, cohesive and accountable.

This team can then decide where to focus to improve internal communications, when to call in outside language expertise and what platforms you will use going forward.

About the author


Julie Giguère

Julie Giguère is the Managing Director of Asian Absolute. Holder of degrees in Specialised Translation and Law, Julie’s career before Asian Absolute saw her manage translation projects for the Bank of Montreal as well as at major Language Service Providers in France and the UK. These roles were a natural fit for Julie, a passionate communicator who speaks fluent French, Spanish and English.