When a football player fumbles the ball, it’s a simple mistake that can lead to complex problems. Fumbling internal communications can derail organizational goals due to a lack of clarity or transparency. It’s not smart to hide or sugarcoat bad news, but building trust and rapport with your team through transparent, honest, sincere internal communication is a brilliant idea.  

There are plenty of business cases for better in-house communications. According to a blog post from consulting firm, Vantage Partners, companies surveyed estimated that ineffective communication and collaboration cost “an estimated $12,506 per employee per year – based on an average salary of $66,967.” The post cited that “poor communication” can impact operations and talent and might cost U.S. companies up to $1.2 trillion annually.

Business Communications 101 

Internal communications is any form of organizational messaging designed for in-house use by teammates. Internal communications can come from the C-suite, middle management, or a variety of other people and departments, depending on the organization. Often, internal communication reinforces company branding and culture. It might also distribute updates on policies and initiatives. Internal communications can be one-directional or used to spark a discussion.

The flip side of internal communications is corporate communications, including press releases, press conferences, social media, and email marketing. Corporate communication is public- or customer-facing, while internal communication is, well, internal.

Let’s look at four steps that can make internal communications more understandable and transparent:

1. Be Clear, Concise, and Informed   

Simple, clean, authentic communication without unneeded words and that embodies the “voice,” “intentions,” and “spirit” of the sender, minimizes the risk of misinterpretation. Fewer but more specific words make messages easier to understand. 

Get your verbiage right the first time, including words we tend to throw around but might not be able to define if pressed. You’ve probably heard people use the term “flotsam and jetsam” to mean “this or that” or “odds and ends.” But those two words are highly distinctive in maritime law, and there can be legal ramifications for anyone who happens to mix them up. If you make a similar error in an email, stockholder report, or speech, the results could range from laughable to disastrous. 

2. Little Things Mean a Lot

Things that might seem simple often aren’t. Punctuation, for example,has the potential to wreak havoc in written communications. 

Maybe you’ve seen this example before: “Let’s eat, Grandma!” versus, “Let’s eat Grandma!”

Or how about this: “On rainy days, I enjoy painting a nice fire and my books.”

This article from DigitalSynopsis.com includes the eating Grandma example and reminds us that it’s not only commas that can get us in trouble. All kinds of punctuation pitfalls can make you look bad. Consider the differences in another of the article’s examples, where one stray hyphen can cost you $75:

Twenty five-dollar bills equal $100.

Twenty-five dollar bills equal $25. 

In all seriousness, punctuation – and spelling, for that matter – can be tricky, and when you get it wrong, some people won’t cut you any slack. However, they just might laugh at or criticize you. Worse, ill advised, poorly worded, or otherwise mismanaged internal communications could influence a teammate’s level of engagement or reinforce their decision to leave the company. That kind of fallout can cost an organization in reputation, morale, and even financials.

3. Get an Out of the Jar Perspective

As CEO of Medix, I find it invaluable to seek the perspectives of trusted teammates from various vantage points within the organization. These priceless allies can read my communication through a different pair of glasses and are better positioned to anticipate reactions from my audience. 

I think of it as an “out of the jar” perspective because when you’re inside the jar, you can’t read the label. If I can get “out of the jar” perspectives from multiple key teammates, I’m more likely to communicate to my audience in a way that is sensitive to other points of view. 

If not properly vetted, erroneous information can spread, so ideally, there should be a department, or at least key staff, who can lend their expertise. If there is no specific communications department, human resources is a likely source for this support.

4. Don’t Be the Only Proofreader 

Have teammates with strong writing skills proofread for you, combing for typos, misspellings, and other writing mistakes. We can be too close to our own work when we try to proofread it and therefore more likely to overlook errors. If possible, print a hard copy of your communication and proofread that too, because the human brain tends to spot more errors this way. Another suggestion is using one of the free software tools available to make proofreading faster, easier, and more effective. 

5. Strive for Transparency  

Transparency isn’t just for the C-suite, it’s for everyone.

Making internal communications as transparent as possible by being honest, forthcoming, and confident (but not arrogant) positions leaders for teammate trust and loyalty. Most people handle the truth better when it comes with honesty and openness, but handling that same truth when it’s just been blown out of hiding is a much bigger ask. There might be no greater cause of lost trust, respect, and goodwill than a whiff of deceit. 

Being transparent in internal communications shows teammates you trust them enough to be open and respect them enough to be honest. Confidence tends to grow in workplaces with transparent leadership as communication at all levels improves and teammates become higher achievers who are more accountable and willing to speak up early when things go sideways.

When it comes to internal communications, there’s a lot at stake. These five steps will better position your messaging so your audience perceives it the way you intended, and it’s an effort that will preserve not just your reputation, but time, money, and the loyalty of those relying most on your communication: your teammates.