“Customers will never love a company until its employees love it first.”

A bold statement and one of several snippets of wisdom I heard at the Advanced Learning Institute’s recent Strategic Internal Communications conference in San Francisco.

Unfortunately many HR departments, especially in large corporations, have fallen victim to a robotic, ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’ mentality where they churn out communications without stopping to think about how the reader – your employees – will interpret the message. Coupled with the fact that when you’re dealing with thousands of people, it’s all too easy for your language to become process-based and impersonal.

Here are five more thoughts to help you check if your internal communications strategy is on track or needs a lift.

  1. Your employees are your brand.

Your reputation is in their hands. And yet, internal communications are only given a fraction of the budget and attention of external communications. What’s up with that?

  1. An employee who’s stopped caring can cost you dearly

In the USA, an estimated $350 billion in productivity is lost every year because of unhappy employees. And around 68% of customers take their business elsewhere because of bad or indifferent service.

  1. Language matters

Almost all the speakers at the conference, whatever their specialist topic, stressed the importance of speaking to your people like, you know, people. Be honest and straightforward in your internal communications, using language everyone can understand and relate to, even when it’s bad news.

  1. So does storytelling

‘Storytelling’ might have become a marketing buzzword, but there’s science behind its effectiveness. So why limit it to your big, flashy external campaigns? At Intel, there’s a team doing ‘internal content marketing’, which means they find and write stories that make people proud to be part of the company. And The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago has based an entire internal campaign on employees’ personal stories, making not just fans of its own people, but cheerleaders.

  1. And don’t forget employee-to-employee communications

When we hear ‘internal communications’, most of us probably think of those emails and posters and policies where it’s the employer speaking to the people. But how employees write to each other is important too. Change that, by giving them clear guidance, practical training and ongoing support, and you could see a change in your entire culture.

One final tip: how about we stop calling them “employees”, “resource”, “human capital”, “staff”, “asset”, “workforce”, “talent” and “personnel”? Calling them “people” is the first step to treating them that way.

This post was originally published on The Writer’s blog.