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Posted on 08.14.2018

Three questions to ensure internal messages hit the mark with employees

Internal communication can shape an organization’s culture and actively engage its workforce. A recent Gallup State of the American Workplace Report showed only 33 percent of U.S. employees feel engaged at work. Maintaining open and transparent communication between staff and management is essential to foster an effective and hardworking team, particularly in the ever-changing world of health care. Yet hospital and health care workforces can be among the most difficult audiences to reach – particularly clinical staffs.

The long-standing challenge of internal communication within hospitals, nursing homes and other health care environments finds its root in employees’ limited access to a “work desk” or computer for large portions of the day. This challenge requires clinical staff members to consistently update themselves – often through non-traditional means and after their shifts have ended – and pressures the management team to send concise, attention-grabbing messages. Add to that a 24/7 work environment and the reality that “full staff” meetings are not possible because patient bedside care cannot be put on hold.

Clearly, internal communications is not one size fits all and finding the most effective way to contact clinical staff can be difficult. So how do administrators and clinical managers get their message across in a timely relevant way? Ask yourself what, how and when to send internal messages to help increase engagement and awareness among hard-to-reach employees:

What is your message?

  • Have a purpose. Each message carries a specific purpose. Determine how important the information is to help you choose the most effective strategy to reach your clinical staff. Sending messages that do not fulfill a specific purpose – or that tackle too many goals in one communication – can cause your audience’s attention to dissipate.
  • How urgent is the information? Whether you are notifying staff of inoperable equipment or rooms, a change in management, or updates to health regulations, decide how critical and time-sensitive the information is and prioritize accordingly. Is this pertinent information your staff should see before their next shift or something they can learn about in a weekly meeting?

How will you reach employees?

  • Internal communication audits help communicators understand employees’ preferred methods of communication. Find out if employees want to receive information face-to-face from team leaders or if they wish to read information in staff emails or on the company’s intranet site.
  • Face-to-face communication can take many forms. Hosting mandatory departmental staff meetings, including the management team, is an effective way to update staff on new information from a credible source. Daily huddles (executed during each shift!) help ensure employees are informed of patient care needs and timely updates.
  • Digital and online communication can be measured through open and click rates to determine effectiveness – and can sometimes be analyzed by department, physical location, job title, etc. Multi-channel communications, such as companywide or department-specific emails, consistent e-newsletters or messages on the company’s intranet site, help ensure employees receive necessary information in an easily accessible (and personally preferable) way. Recent research indicates the top three most effective digital channels for internal communications are email announcements, videos and electronic newsletters.

When is the best time to send an internal message?

  • The best time to contact employees depends on quite a few factors. Because employees have differing roles, work schedules and priorities following their shifts, there is not necessarily an ideal time to send internal news. What is ideal to a department head on a cancer unit may be very different from a nurse assistant in the ED. This challenge emphasizes the importance of conducting an internal audit. Talk to your employees, find out when they are most likely to open and read internal messages and do what you can to send relevant, timely communications based on their needs and preferences. Email automation platforms, customer relation management tools, Yammer and other digital tools can help segment internal audiences and schedule deliveries based on their preferences.

The key to a successful internal communication program is to regularly measure its effectiveness and continuously improve. Avoid depending on a single delivery channel and instead utilize multiple platforms to ensure employees are getting your messages.

And don’t be afraid to reiterate your announcements! Message repetition leads to message retention. Discussing an important topic during staff meeting should not stop there: add it to the next newsletter and post it on your intranet site. Clinical employees face a multitude of distractions and communicating through different mediums will give you an advantage over competing demands.


Bailey Shelton wrote this as part of a 2018 summer internship with us. She will be graduating from the University of Tennessee Knoxville in May 2019 and will be an asset to any future employer!

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