In Times of Change, HealthCare Leaders Turn to Internal Communications
Healthcare leaders recognize the importance of internal communication experts when it comes to creating awareness, understanding and support for organizational change. And it goes without saying that “change” is the new watchword of the healthcare industry.
From development of accountable care organizations, to cost reduction initiatives, to implementation of health IT systems and EMRs, to the creation of new ventures and partnerships, the magnitude and rate of change for healthcare workers are significant.
But not all of the messaging is getting through.
“We’re putting out more and more information, but seem to be getting less and less support for what we need to do,” declared a hospital administrator. And therein lies the problem. One of the most common traps we fall into is confusing information sharing with communication. The act of telling someone something does not necessarily equate to information received or understood.
So how do health system executives rally the troops to gain support for large scale change initiatives?
The answer is strategic internal communications, a purposeful approach to translating corporate strategy, activities and issues for the workforce, and developing messaging, methods and channels to reach, engage and rally support from internal audiences.
To get the most out of internal communications functions, healthcare executives as well corporate communications leaders, must first define the role of internal communications beyond that of simply disseminating information. Best practices demonstrate focused alignment of internal communication initiatives to corporate goals, engagement of managers at all levels as linchpins in the communications process, and expert communications professionals that serve as strategists and counselors across the health system.
5 Areas of Strategic Focus for Internal Communicators
Focused, strategic internal communication initiatives can build a strong sense of identity, purpose, values and culture among employees; facilitate strategic transformation and change; and engage leaders and staff in meaningful and productive ways.
The operative word is focus. Communicators must discern the difference between nice-to-do activities and mission-critical communications strategies and tactics. For most healthcare organizations, strategic internal communications will yield the most impact when focused on five core areas:
- Corporate Strategy – informing, engaging and building commitment to the health system’s vision, strategy, goals and major initiatives.
- Brand Alignment – creating a unified internal identity, sense of purpose, values-driven culture and brand experience.
- Change Management – informing and educating staff about major changes and the impact on jobs, work flow and processes; facilitating adoption of new practices.
- Issues Management – informing, rallying support for, and managing critical issues and unplanned events that impact staff, affect employee relations and damage reputation.
- Workplace Culture – engaging employees in major events, recognizing and celebrating staff achievements, and creating a sense of pride in the work and the workplace.
When Trust is Established, People Become Active Participants
Leadership is tested most during times of organizational transition. And nothing can derail progress like a workforce that is at best disengaged, but all too often just plain mistrustful of management’s intent. A well-developed, focused internal communications strategy and capability can change that – and facilitate organizational transformation by engaging employees in change management, inspiring staff to live and deliver the brand, and building commitment to mission, vision and goals.
The bottom line – and the impact on the bottom line – comes from realizing that better communications, not just more information, will drive success.