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Annemarie Atema 'Your employee as internal customer'

Annemarie Atema 2021 02 Annemarie Atema

Internal communication; there are books full of it. I myself have one on my bookshelf: Internal Communication as a Management Tool. This book is by Huib Koeleman. According to sources, Koeleman is one of the most important thinkers on internal communication in the Netherlands. He describes internal communication as follows: 'Internal communication is the offering of messages from senders to recipients who are part of the same organization, with the aim of achieving organizational goals and/or individual goals. In this process, sender and receiver may switch roles.'

Pooh, quite a mouthful. To summarize: colleagues talk to each other about work and they can both benefit from it. With this short summary, I do not want to trivialize internal communication. On the contrary, internal communication is enormously important but is often 'accidentally' forgotten. Organizations mainly focus on external communication. What does the customer want, is there sufficient CTA (Call to Action = are visitors urged to call / email / place an order ...) on the website, how do we profile ourselves to the outside world, are we found well online etc. etc.

Your employees as your ambassadors

Who better to tell you that your schnitzels are the best than your guests? 100% true. You've got your act together when you hardly need any marketing and your customers act like true ambassadors. That does super well on a birthday. However, this is not always immediately the case. In that case, at least make sure that your own people are the best ambassadors. How do you do that? By keeping them well informed and involved in achieving organizational goals.

Good working conditions that are neatly defined are one thing, but engaging your people in the organization is synonymous with motivating your people, as far as I am concerned. The competence of your organization is more than the sum of knowledge and experience of all employees. But to actually turn 1 + 1 into three, employees need to be motivated and informed, need to communicate with each other. That makes them ambassadors.

Involve = Involved

My colleague Laurens Kruize recently wrote a blog about it: Holacracy as a counterpart to the top-down business model. I really believe in that. You get more back from your people if you involve them in the process. Of course, sometimes there will be issues where you can't involve everyone, think of a reorganization where jobs are at stake. And there will also be situations where you think "Not right now, because informing them will impede the process" (note, critical questioners, you may sometimes experience as disruptive but keep you alert). In the end, it's all about being taken seriously. Every person wants that. Involving employees makes employees engaged.

And oh yes, also not an unimportant one, internal communication is not the "property" of the communication department (should that department or employee exist). Internal communication must be fed by the managers, the 'enthusiasts' and motivators (no, this word is not in the dictionary but you know what I mean) of the organization. This does involve a bit of top-down so. Nothing wrong with that in this case.

The employee as internal customer

In short, it's not that complicated, is it? You really don't have to implement a full holacracy business model for this. If we think it's important, to want to communicate "transparently" to stakeholders and customers, we should certainly do the same to employees. They are your internal customers. So treat them the same way. There is nothing difficult about that.