Even as more executives buy into employee engagement, few realize how to drive it. Our research on employee engagement suggests companies should focus their culture-building initiatives on promoting an organization’s purpose, fostering community, and building trust through transparency.

Luckily, technology is answering the call for heightened engagement and communication, and surprisingly to some, company intranets are a major player. When driven by communications in conjunction with senior leadership, intranets help initiate critical culture drivers — from feeling proud to work at a company to feeling aligned with its values. But technology is not a panacea. Improvements to communication and engagement must start at the top. Your company intranet is the conduit.

Leading Communications

Leaders set the tone for how employees engage with internal communications, which includes the content published on the intranet. Whether employees like it or not, leaders have essential things to say, and employees must follow their lead. Enhancing internal communication is imperative when leaders are supporting individuals during companywide change — whether this change occurs in upper management, to company policies, etc.

Here are four ways my company’s leadership team boosted communication and engagement during uncertain times — and how our intranet elevated the process:

1. Take accountability for a company’s culture. Business leaders have a major influencer on their staff members’ confidence, and how they respond to changes is just one part of that. Company leaders must demonstrate work culture in their everyday actions and communicate that culture so it’s not a guessing game for teammates. This must be done in both good and bad times.

For example, our company recently underwent a management change. Had the transition been left unmanaged, it could’ve negatively affected company morale. To prevent this, we sent out companywide messages that clearly outlined the hire of a new leadership member, focusing on the opportunity she could bring to the organization instead of shortcomings of the past. The overarching theme behind the message was to let employees know they didn’t need to pick sides.

2. Beat the drum with strategy, culture-building, and ongoing news. The best communications teams have strategies that help leaders be omnipresent. This requires an artful balance across mediums — intranet posts, videos, town halls, feedback sessions, site visits, etc. — with an editorial calendar that balances everything from company priorities to tidbits about a leader’s personal life.

During our leadership change, we followed our messaging up with an all-hands meeting (which we recorded for those who couldn’t be physically present). And after the new leader arrived, she wrote weekly intranet posts of what she learned, asked for thoughts and feedback, promoted her office hours, and more.

3. Supplement your ongoing operating rhythm with clear communication. Steady habits build great leaders, organizational trust, and culture — not any single event or outcome. If leaders only talk about strategy, employees will tune out. But if they only share stories and give employees recognition, then they aren’t doing their jobs, either.

Once our newly hired leader established trust with her team, communications remained constant. At this point, she started sharing more about her personal life, and using the intranet, she outlined her departmental strategy and vision. Continuous communication, transparency, and sequencing all allowed teams to feel secure and, in turn, follow her lead.

4. Identify teammates who can deliver messaging rationally. Use staff members who are strong at communicating in a calm, rational manner as a conduit to leadership across channels. Leaders rarely have the time or skills to do this on their own. It’s not the act of creating content that matters; it’s how the content keeps employees “in the know” and reinforces an organization’s purpose, transparency, and trust.

For our company, the transition was easier because we’d already established the open and constant communication lines before the change, thus building up some degree of trust. The new leader was able to tap into these processes to her advantage.

As we continue to build our organization, we must always keep communication lines open — especially during periods of rapid growth. And while the intranet is just one portion of an internal communications strategy, it’s our first step as leaders to ensuring team members feel engaged and part of the organization.

To learn more about the state of internal communication and how your company stacks up, check out my company’s whitepaper.