An Overview of Internal Communications: Tips and Challenges

Categories: Campus community, Communication

As I suggested in my October 15th post, internal communication can be a challenge. In an effort to improve communications on this front, the President introduced the topic at a meeting with Senior Managers this morning, with the promise that we will return to the issue in subsequent meetings.

To frame the discussion, Deans, Directors and Vice Presidents asked Managers to explain how they communicate within their areas, to identify the challenges they face, and to offer suggestions for improving communications at the College.  Here is a summary of their responses.

Meetings

  • Weekly meetings for management teams and groups with a “report out” model
  • Regular all staff meetings (monthly), mostly report out with some question & answer
  • One-on-one with direct reports at some interval (weekly, quarterly)
  • Quarterly meetings on topic of interest or importance
  • Annual retreat to set agenda and discuss strategy (full staff)
  • “Just in time” meetings, immediate and brief as needed
  • Meeting by subject, project, or topic, group follows the subject rather than hierarchy
  • Weekly teleconference to set agenda

Tools

  • Minutes and agendas should be shared broadly, within department and across
  • Departments should develop an annual communications plan
  • Outlook calendar as preferred way to manage meeting invitations and schedules
  • Regular email updates, weekly or less frequently, to serve as a complement to meetings
  • Email bullets from direct reports to managers on a weekly basis
  • “Just in time” or urgent email with timely information
  • Informally float and “visit” with staff
  • Vary the medium to reach different audiences, blogs not for everyone, and not everyone has convenient access to a computer
  • Shared web-based project chart or management tool

Style

  • Communications often mirrors the hierarchy in terms of how information gets out
  • Important to hear from the top with clear direction and priorities
  • Important for leadership to be open to questions and model openness
  • More “before the fact” communication with key stakeholders

Challenges and Suggestions

  • Lateral or “department to department” communication is frequently noted as concern
  • Changes in organizational structure don’t really tell you how to get things done
  • Impact of decision not always thought through in terms of all stakeholders
  • Need to be more clear in setting expectations for those who are communicating out
  • Should be considering who needs to know what by when and state clearly
  • Must balance amount of time with benefit, more communication requires more time
  • Invite people from other departments to attend meetings from time to time
  • Create a community email digest with important updates to minimize amount of email
  • Pick up the phone, don’t use email when a phone call or a “face to face” can work

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