The primary responsibility of local governments is to serve their community. From a communications standpoint, this can mean much of the focus often lies on externally communicating important updates and initiatives that will impact daily life for their citizens. As seen during COVID-19, municipalities understand the critical urgency of communicating directives, health guidelines and other resources to help assist and serve the public. However, with so much emphasis placed upon external communications, it’s unsurprising that communications within an organization itself can get less attention than is ideal.
A strong internal communications framework is critical for successful local government functions. Many municipalities already have existing frameworks in place. However, it is a good practice to go back and refresh internal communication plans periodically and take aim at common points that even the best organization can miss. These common pain points include lack of clear direction and goals, information overload and overall frustration with communication and collaboration to name a few.
Here are some best practices, tips and recommendations for how a municipality can strengthen its internal communications:
- Set strategic goals
- The first step in strengthening internal communications is by setting strategic goals and a clear vision of what the municipality wants to achieve when communicating with internal audiences. A clear goal will help establish expectations and clarify how personnel can help assist toward organizational goals. It will also prevent distractions by laying out standard operating procedures for receiving tasks or communications that lie outside of overall defined goals.
- Encourage open dialogue and communications
- Encouraging open communication achieves several goals at once. First, personnel become better acquainted throughout departments when information siloes are removed. This allows for a free flow of ideas and conversations that could serve to create solutions to problems. Encouraging open communications has also been shown to increase employee engagement by making them feel included and a part of the decision-making process, which then leads to higher satisfaction.
- Streamline communications
- Multiple communication systems and platforms are often utilized, especially with the recent uptick in remote work. As a result, information overload is likely to become an added challenge, particularly because important communications can get lost within the variety of platforms employees must navigate. To mitigate this, municipalities can streamline communications in a variety of ways, including reducing the number of communications tools to just one or two common and easy-to-use platforms. Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to what platform will be used.
- Establish points of contact across departments
- More and more municipalities are recognizing the importance of cross departmental communications, as it increases awareness of other initiatives. Deloitte reported that 56 percent of surveyed public sector employees saw a significant improvement in performance once cross functional teams were established. In order for cross functional teams to be successful, points of contacts should be determined so that important communication and tasks can be sent to the correct person more quickly, instead of being transferred from person to person.
- Establish regular meetings or touchpoints for accountability
- Even in the digital age where everything can be managed via email, it is essential to continue to meet on a regular cadence, whether it’s video conferencing during times of social distancing or in person in the office once health guidelines say it’s safe to do so. Meeting and conversing in person can allow the time and space for feedback that would be more difficult to share over email. It is also much easier to convey greater detail when speaking in person rather than email.
The public relies on local governments to communicate important information about their community. For this communication to be successful, governments need to get it right within their organization first. Every person within the organization shares a role in building strong internal communications. To ensure that everyone is on the same page around goals and vision, streamlining communication platforms and developing best practice strategies will serve to strengthen both the municipality but community at large as well.