WORKSHOP: Personal Trainer - I'm trying to persuade trustees and senior managers that an internal communications strategy will pay dividends. How can I do this?

STEPHEN BUBB, chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo)

All organisations, whatever their size, need to have communications strategies which cover their external stakeholders and their staff. Developing a communications strategy does not have to be time-consuming and you do not have to hire expensive consultants to do it for you.

Why do you need a communications strategy? First, you need to ensure that staff at all levels understand, and buy into, your vision and objectives. It is always a mistake to assume that because people at the top know what the organisation is about, everyone else will too.

Second, leaders have to ensure that staff are engaged in and actively support the direction the organisation is taking.

Third, a good communications strategy will increase motivation among staff. Staff invest a lot of time and effort in their job and like to feel involved and understand what is going on.

Fourth, a communications strategy will enable an organisation to effectively consult staff. If you have got good ways to communicate up and down the organisation, you often find that good ideas emerge. It is a mistake to think that bright ideas are the preserve of bosses and trickle downwards.

Fifth, managers need to have a feel for what their staff need and want so that they can implement procedures and practice more effectively.

Finally, if you have an effective communications strategy, you will be able to better handle bad news. The temptation is to sit on bad news and do nothing. But this is nearly always counterproductive and if you have a good communications strategy, you are better able to talk in an open and positive way about both good and bad news.

The Work Foundation has a Managing Best Practice series that gives case studies from other organisations. It has one on Internal Communications as part of this series, which certainly would be worth getting hold of.

A director of organisational development told me the Japanese theory of "nemewashi". To grow Bonsai trees, you have to ensure effective root binding so more time is spent on developing the roots rather than the top of the tree. In people terms this means spending time on getting people engaged and binding them in.

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