Most internal communications methods are outdated and inefficient. Getting something that works means thinking logically and making things simple.
One of the biggest problems faced by growing companies is that the bigger they get the more difficult it is to keep in touch with employees. To keep them informed and to give them the opportunity of keeping their bosses informed. When most companies reach this stage, they usually resort to some form of internal communication. In cases where not all employees have access to computers, this communication usually starts with a notice board, then moves on to a printed newsletter. But, there is a better, quicker, more efficient way of communicating with employees.
Research seems to be showing more and more clearly, that most employees don't feel that they are being anywhere near satisfactorily informed about what goes on in their respective companies through memos, notice boards, newsletters and even the intranet.
Not only is that monthly or even weekly internal newsletter hopelessly out of date by the time it has gone through the time-consuming printing process and even more laborious corporate censorship, but the content is generally made up of what management think staff want to know. Staff generally regard printed internal communications as patronising - stuff the bosses want to shove down their throats.
Quite apart from which if any reasonably sized company really wanted to keep its staff informed another rudimentary survey of what employees actually want to know, would show that it would take a newspaper roughly the size of the Sowetan to even get close to doing the job.
And that's where internal radio comes in. Technically it is neither difficult nor particularly expensive to network and entire organisation to be able to receive broadcasts. In high noise areas like factory floors radios could be incorporated into ear protection devices which workers should be wearing by law and, as we all know, usually don't bother.
Being able to listen to their choice of music would be considerable encouragement to make a habit of wearing ear protection.
In the general office individual loudspeaker units would have not only volume controls but station selection as well.
But most important of all, to really make internal radio effective, it should be 'owned' and run by the staff and not just a mouthpiece for management. A professional radio presenter should be employed to not only present programmes but represent his fellow workers. All because the radio station is in-house and therefore small, does not mean it should fall into the hands of amateurs, particularly those in the human resources and PR departments.
Basically, the programming should consist of music for 50 minutes an hour or even more. Music piped into the system from local or national radio stations - enough to give the entire cross sections of employees music and entertainment of their choice.
All of South Africa's commercial and community radio stations would be quite happy to talk to companies about re-broadcasting arrangements.
The remaining ten minutes, at most, would be news. International and local news but also company news. Company news collected by the presenter himself and not just news fed to him by management. That five minutes every hour would deliver an enormous amount of corporate information. A managing director interviewed by the presenter on recent decisions, prospects, new products and all that sort of thing, would be far more credible and welcomed by staff than a managing director simply issuing a terse statement, memo or bulletin.
But the real beauty of radio is immediacy. An important board decision could be broadcast to employees within minutes.
Internal radio can be as sophisticated as one wants it to be. It could have requests from staff for particular music, it could have brief interviews with staff and with shop stewards.
But the key to it all would be the selection of a professional presenter. He or she should ideally be someone who is already well known. Whatever salary they wanted would be worth it because of the credibility they would bring with them.
And most important of all, no one, not the MD, the personnel director, nor any supervisor or shop steward should have access to the microphone. Everything should be done via the presenter who should also be in a position to determine the importance of the information.
Internal communications systems in South Africa are still extremely unsophisticated and naïve. Probably because up to only a few years ago it really wasn't considered necessary to keep staff informed not to mention entertained.
But from the point of view of sheer productivity, employees need to be motivated, particularly those doing mundane and repetitive jobs. Internal communication is not about pandering to the whims of fickle employees, it is about bottom line performance.
Radio is an quick an effective way of disseminating huge amounts of information.