HR & Management

International teams have made internal communication a struggle

5 min read

10 November 2017

One of the challenges of a fast-growing business is internal communication – something Adam Twidell believes is crucial to a successful and happy workplace.

In the early days of PrivateFly, good internal communication was a fairly straightforward task and seemed to happen naturally. But, as we’ve grown and built teams in multiple locations and time zones, I’ve discovered that keeping everyone up-to-date with relevant information has become much more complex.

Some of it is about having a structured and process-driven approach. So yes, inevitably there are more meetings. And more briefings. But I try to keep these as short as possible and focus on day-to-day informal communication.

This is still a work-in-progress and we’re learning all the time. But here are my tips for keeping communication flowing, in a fast-growing business.

(1) Invest time and effort

There’s no more important audience than your team. Allocate an increasing amount of marketing/HR to internal communication as you grow. A company cannot succeed unless you keep everyone updated on key happenings, and where the company is going. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking this will all happen organically – it won’t.

(2) Repeat yourself

People are busy. I’ve learnt that most will need to be told something more than once, and in different ways, to get the message across. So while you might cover something in the team meeting, that doesn’t tick the box. You’ll probably also want to have an in-person conversation about it, and send an email too.

(3) Target and segment

I have always been a big believer in being as open as possible. And in the beginning I shared almost everything with everyone.

I still believe transparency is crucial, but it’s no longer practical to operate that way. In a growing organisation, with more and more to say, the flow of information can get overwhelming, and important messages lost.

So I now have to give more consideration to distilling the message and working out how best to communicate it to different groups. Not everyone needs to know the detail every time.

(4) Use instant messaging for quick and instant updates

Emails can be the right medium for longer updates – but there’s a risk they can get buried in an ever-increasing inbox. And while an internal company magazine or intranet is a great for large organisations, most SMEs don’t have the budget.

We’ve found instant messaging is a good way to get a quick update across with impact. (And add an image to really get your message across – as relevant here as it is for customer communications).

(5) Check in with people on a regular basis

Internal communication is a two-way street. We have processes to invite ideas and feedback, including surveys to ask people how they’re feeling. But for me it’s equally important to stay in tune personally with my team, on an individual basis.

So I make time for regular, informal one-to-one chats. This might be over a coffee but I also like to go for a walk or a cycle on the office tandem – it’s so good to get out of the office. And I like to drop into department meetings unannounced too.

(6) Reiterate and reward

People feel tuned in if you have a defined workplace culture and shared sense of belonging. This has always been a strong feature of life at PrivateFly, but we’ve had to make a conscious effort to develop this as we’ve grown.

When we re-branded earlier this year, it was a great opportunity to involve the whole team in redefining our company values. We now reiterate these on a regular basis through competitions, workshops and reward programs – including a peer-to-peer recognition scheme.

And while it gets more challenging as numbers rise, it’s essential to create regular opportunities to socialise as a team. Going out is great – and we do this often. But it can also be as simple as a regular lunchtime barbecue or bring and share lunch in the office.

This article is part of a wider campaign called Founders Diaries, a section of Real Business that brings together 20 inspiring business builders to share their stories. Bringing together companies from a wide variety of sectors and geographies, each columnist produces a diary entry each month. Visit the Founders Diaries section to find out more.