When I was a little girl, I loved my aunt’s cooking. Whenever I visited her apartment, she set a great table and always made one of my favorite dishes. As I grew, I came to appreciate another aspect of her culinary prowess. I noticed how, despite her small galley kitchen, my aunt was always organized. Everything was in its place and every tool had a purpose. In short, my aunt had a great system.

Years later, when I become an employee communicator, I often felt like an overworked cook in a chaotic diner. All too often, I found myself fielding countless requests to create a newsletter, shoot a video or send out an all-employee email. Sure, I could deliver tactics as fast as a short-order cook could sling eggs and hash, but it felt like all those pieces of communication didn’t add up to a nutritious (or effective) experience for employees.

Then I realized that my aunt had the answer to my problem: I needed a system. To effectively meet employees’ needs, my internal communication channels had to work together like a well-oiled machine. That way, employees know what each channel is for, and how to access the information they need when they need it.

Great restaurants offer a useful model

Before I share advice on building an employee communication system, let’s continue our culinary adventure by taking a close look at professional restaurant kitchens. Thanks to TV’s celebrity chef craze, and Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen,” I’ve come to realize the importance of the “brigade de cuisine.” Instituted by Georges Auguste Escoffier toward the end of the 19th century, the kitchen brigade system proved so effective that the concept is still in place in many of today’s top restaurant kitchens.

Escoffier’s system? He established separate kitchen stations, each responsible for a certain part of the menu. While each station is separate, all are coordinated and hum with precision. That’s how meals get delivered to the right tables at the right time, giving customers a consistently awesome dining experience that makes them want to come back for more.

By creating a cohesive internal communication system, you’ll give employees a consistently awesome communication experience.

How? A defined internal communication system includes 3 core elements:

1. Standards for channel usage

To provide consistency and quality in your channels, you need to set ground rules. While each channel may be a separate entity, consider how they work together.

Make sure you establish the following standards for each channel:

  • Purpose: A clearly defined purpose helps employees know what to expect and where to go for specific types of information. For example, you might use all-employee emails for breaking news.
  • Criteria: What makes content qualify for a particular channel? If the CEO is talking about a major organizational restructuring, that information does not qualify for email alone.
  • Audience: Employees want information tailored to them. So, specify your target audience(s) — the people who are interested in and impacted by the communication.
  • Frequency: Think about the cadence of your overall communication program. How often do you post new content on the intranet? Or send emails?

2. Guidelines for content development

Editorial guidelines, like your channel standards, ensure consistency and quality in all your communications. This makes it easy for employees to engage effectively in your content. Consider:

  • Length: Shorter is better!
  • Language: Keep it conversational and avoid jargon.
  • Customer-centric: Write with employees’ perspectives in mind.

3. Annual employee communication plan

Your plan should include these seven components:

  • Situation analysis: A summary of a situation — a snapshot that conveys what’s going on at that moment in time
  • Stakeholders/audience: Individuals or groups you want to reach
  • Objectives: Specific outcomes you want to achieve; what you want employees to know, believe or do
  • Strategies: Methods or approaches for achieving your objectives
  • Tactics/timeline: Tools you’ll use or actions you’ll take and specific times/dates for completing tasks
  • Key messages: Captures the story you need to tell
  • Measurement: A description of how metrics will be used to demonstrate effectiveness

Ready to get started? Think of your employees as customers and establish a robust internal communication system to give them a valuable experience — like diners at a restaurant with three Michelin stars. Your employees will keep coming back for more.

Origninally posted on medium.com

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