ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.4 Communication

ISO 9001:2015 Requirements

The organization shall determine the internal and external communications relevant to the quality management system, including:
a) on what it will communicate;
b) when to communicate;
c) with whom to communicate;
d) how to communicate;
e) who communicates.

1) The organization shall determine the internal communications relevant to the quality management system

Determining the internal communication system needed by an organization involves assessing its specific communication requirements, objectives, and resources.Organizations need to develop and implement a process (i.e., communication strategy) to determine which matters to communicate whilst taking into account its compliance obligations and the quality (reliability and consistency) of the communicated information. Communications may relate to the organization’s ongoing compliance to various obligations, milestone achievements, or sustainable resourcing. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how an organization can determine the internal communication system it needs:

  1. Start by understanding the organization’s overall objectives and goals. Consider how effective internal communication can contribute to achieving these objectives.
  2. Identify the key stakeholders within the organization. This includes employees at all levels, management, departments, teams, and any other relevant groups.
  3. Conduct a thorough assessment of the organization’s communication needs. This should include identifying what information needs to be communicated, to whom, and for what purpose.
  4. Consider the organization’s structure and hierarchy. Understanding reporting lines and decision-making processes is crucial for determining how information flows within the organization.
  5. Clearly define the goals of your internal communication system. These goals could include improving employee engagement, sharing important updates, fostering collaboration, and promoting a culture of transparency.
  6. Choose the communication channels that are most appropriate for your organization’s needs. These may include email, intranet, team meetings, internal newsletters, social media, video conferencing, and more.
  7. Develop clear policies and procedures for internal communication. Define who is responsible for what aspects of communication, how information should be disseminated, and any confidentiality requirements.
  8. Determine what information is critical for employees to know. This could include company news, updates on projects, changes in policies or procedures, safety information, and more.
  9. Establish mechanisms for employees to provide feedback and ask questions. This could include suggestion boxes, surveys, town hall meetings, or dedicated email addresses for inquiries.
  10. Recognize that different audiences within the organization may have varying communication preferences and needs. Tailor your communication approach accordingly.
  11. Evaluate the technology and tools needed to support your chosen communication channels. Ensure that these tools are user-friendly and accessible to all employees.
  12. Provide training and support to employees on how to use the chosen communication tools effectively. Ensure that they are aware of best practices and any security considerations.
  13. Before implementing a new communication system organization-wide, consider piloting it with a smaller group to identify any issues and make necessary adjustments.
  14. Assess the financial and human resources needed to establish and maintain the chosen communication system. Ensure that there is a budget in place to support these efforts.
  15. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of the internal communication system. Regularly evaluate the system’s performance and make improvements based on feedback and data.
  16. Recognize that communication needs and technology evolve over time. Therefore, maintain a culture of continuous improvement in your internal communication practices.
  17. Ensure that your communication practices comply with relevant laws and regulations, particularly regarding data protection and privacy.

By following these steps and tailoring your approach to your organization’s unique needs and culture, you can determine the internal communication system that best supports your organization’s success and objectives. Effective internal communication is crucial for fostering collaboration, engagement, and a sense of shared purpose among employees.The key to successful implementation is often through the involvement of all people within the organization; let everyone in the company know that you have started to introduce a new management system by holding basic awareness sessions for all employees. Make sure you retain records of attendance as this action will contribute towards satisfying the clause.

Communication is the key; communicate goals, plans, progress and milestones. Listen first then ask for feedback. Lack of communication seems to be one of the main root causes for errors in business. Keep people informed of the progress of the project; e.g. what’s been done, what’s to be done next and how the project is progressing against the plan. Make this process transparent and visible to all concerned; for example, place progress charts on the walls and notice boards. Employees that are not part of the implementation team may not be hearing as much about what is going on with the project and may think the project has faded away. Communicate its progress via newsletters, bulletin boards or meetings. Your organization needs to ensure that procedures to control internal and external communications and interfaces are in place. Particular care needs to be taken when dealing with communications from external parties, which might well include enforcement authorities, lawyers/solicitors, insurance companies, etc. In many parts of the world there is an increasing trend towards litigation resulting from injuries received in the workplace, so the need to manage the communication process is critical.

2) The organization shall determine the external communications relevant to the quality management system

Determining the external communications system needed by an organization involves a systematic assessment of its communication objectives, target audience, message content, and channels. Here’s a detailed guide on how to determine the right external communications system for your organization:

  1. Start by defining clear and measurable communication objectives for your external communications. Consider what you want to achieve, whether it’s building brand awareness, increasing sales, improving reputation, or something else.
  2. Identify your primary and secondary target audiences. These could include customers, clients, partners, suppliers, investors, regulators, industry associations, and the general public.
  3. Conduct research to understand the communication needs, preferences, and expectations of your target audiences. This may involve surveys, interviews, focus groups, and market research.
  4. Analyze your competitors and their external communication strategies. Identify gaps and opportunities to differentiate your organization in the marketplace.
  5. Clearly articulate your organization’s unique value proposition. Understand what sets your products, services, or solutions apart from the competition and how this can be communicated effectively.
  6. Craft compelling and consistent messages that resonate with your target audiences. Messages should be tailored to address their specific needs and interests.
  7. Select the communication channels that are most effective for reaching your target audiences. This may include websites, social media, email marketing, public relations, advertising, trade shows, webinars, and more.
  8. Develop a content strategy that outlines what content will be created, where it will be published, and how it will be distributed. Consider using a mix of formats, such as articles, videos, infographics, and podcasts.
  9. Ensure that your website is user-friendly, mobile-responsive, and optimized for search engines (SEO). A well-designed website is often a primary source of information for external audiences.
  10. Create a social media strategy that aligns with your communication objectives. Determine which platforms are most relevant to your audience and establish a consistent posting schedule.
  11. Develop relationships with relevant media outlets and journalists in your industry. Create press releases and media kits to facilitate coverage of your organization’s news and events.
  12. : If your organization has investors, establish effective investor relations practices, including regular reporting, shareholder communications, and updates on financial performance.
  13. Develop a crisis communication plan that outlines how your organization will respond to and communicate during crises or unexpected events. Ensure that your team is prepared for any potential issues.
  14. Ensure that your external communications comply with legal and regulatory requirements, including advertising standards, data protection, and industry-specific regulations.
  15. Allocate a budget for your external communications efforts. Consider factors such as advertising costs, marketing campaigns, public relations expenses, and technology investments.
  16. Implement tools and metrics to measure the effectiveness of your external communications efforts. Analyze data to assess what’s working and make necessary adjustments.
  17. Continuously seek feedback from your target audiences and internal teams involved in external communications. Adapt your strategy based on feedback and changing market conditions.
  18. Consider cultural sensitivity when communicating with global audiences. Ensure that your messages are respectful and do not inadvertently offend or alienate specific cultural groups.

By following these steps and customizing your approach to your organization’s unique needs and industry, you can determine the external communications system that best supports your organization’s success and objectives. Effective external communication is crucial for building and maintaining positive relationships with stakeholders and achieving strategic goals.

By following these steps and customizing your approach to your organization’s unique needs and industry, you can determine what you will communicate effectively. A strategic and audience-centric approach to communication helps ensure that your messages are relevant, impactful, and aligned with your organization’s goals.

a) On What to Communicate:

  • Set Communication Objectives: Start by defining clear communication objectives that align with your organization’s goals. What do you want to achieve with your communication efforts?
  • Audience Research: Understand your target audience’s needs, interests, and preferences. Conduct surveys, focus groups, and market research to gather insights.
  • Content Strategy: Develop a content strategy that outlines the topics, themes, and messages you want to communicate. Consider what’s relevant to your audience and aligns with your objectives.
  • Key Messages: Define key messages that address your audience’s pain points, highlight your organization’s value, and resonate with your brand.

b) When to Communicate:

  • Content Calendar: Create a content calendar or communication schedule that outlines when specific messages or campaigns will be delivered. Consider seasonality, industry events, product launches, and holidays.
  • Real-time Communication: Be prepared for real-time communication needs, such as responding to crises, addressing customer inquiries, or seizing timely opportunities.
  • Consistency: Maintain consistent communication to keep your audience engaged and informed. Regular updates can help build trust and brand loyalty.

c) With Whom to Communicate:

  • Audience Segmentation: Segment your audience based on demographics, behaviors, and preferences. Differentiate between primary and secondary target audiences.
  • Stakeholder Analysis: Conduct a stakeholder analysis to identify key stakeholders both inside and outside the organization. Tailor your communication approach for each group.
  • Employee Engagement: Internally, consider communication needs for various departments, teams, and roles within your organization.

d) How to Communicate:

  • Communication Channels: Select the most appropriate communication channels and methods for your messages. This may include websites, social media, email, public relations, advertising, webinars, in-person events, and more.
  • Multichannel Approach: Utilize a multichannel approach to reach your audience where they are most active. Different messages may be better suited to different channels.
  • Content Formats: Consider the formats of your content, such as text, images, videos, infographics, podcasts, and interactive content.
  • Consistency in Branding: Ensure consistent branding and messaging across all communication channels to maintain a cohesive brand identity.

e) Who Communicates:

  • Designate Responsibilities: Assign roles and responsibilities for communication within your organization. Determine who is responsible for delivering specific messages and managing communication channels.
  • Spokespersons: Identify spokespersons who will represent the organization in external communication, particularly in media relations and public-facing events.
  • Training: Provide training to individuals or teams responsible for communication to ensure they are skilled in delivering messages effectively and handling different communication scenarios.
  • Cross-Functional Collaboration: Foster collaboration between departments and teams to ensure a coordinated and unified communication strategy.

Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your communication efforts by measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) and gathering feedback from your audience. Adapt your communication strategies based on data and changing circumstances to ensure that your messages are impactful, well-received, and aligned with your organizational goals.

Documented Information required:

There is no mandatory requirement for Documented information, this clause requires organizations to ensure that relevant communication processes are established, and it specifies the need for documented information (documents and records) to demonstrate compliance. Here are the key documents and records required for ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.4:

  1. Communication Plan: Organizations should maintain a documented communication plan that outlines the key aspects of their communication strategy. This plan should include details on communication objectives, target audiences, communication channels, timing, and responsibilities.
  2. Internal Communication Procedures: Documented procedures should be in place to facilitate internal communication within the organization. These procedures may include instructions on how information flows between departments, teams, and individuals related to the QMS.
  3. External Communication Procedures: Documented procedures should also cover external communication processes. These procedures outline how the organization communicates with external parties, such as customers, suppliers, regulators, and other stakeholders, regarding QMS-related matters.
  4. Communication Records: Records of various communication activities should be maintained. These records may include meeting minutes, memos, emails, reports, and any other documented forms of communication. These records provide evidence of communication events and decisions.
  5. Distribution Lists: Maintaining distribution lists can be essential for tracking who receives specific communications within the organization. These lists can be particularly important for important announcements, policy changes, or critical updates.
  6. Meeting Records: Records of management review meetings, quality review meetings, and other relevant gatherings should be maintained. These records typically include agendas, meeting minutes, and action items, demonstrating that communication has taken place regarding the QMS.
  7. Customer Communication Records: When communicating with customers about quality-related matters, organizations should keep records of these interactions. This may include emails, letters, or other forms of communication.
  8. Supplier Communication Records: Similar to customer communication, records of communication with suppliers regarding quality-related issues should be maintained.
  9. Complaint Handling Records : Records of customer complaints and their resolution should be kept. These records help demonstrate that customer feedback has been received and addressed.
  10. Feedback and Suggestions: Records of feedback, suggestions, or complaints from employees or other stakeholders related to the QMS. These records can be used to track improvement opportunities.
  11. Performance Metrics: Records related to the performance of communication processes, such as response times for customer inquiries or the effectiveness of internal communication channels. These records are used for continuous improvement.
  12. Change Management Documentation When changes are made to the QMS, records should be maintained to document the communication and implementation of these changes. This includes change requests, approvals, and notifications.

By maintaining these documents and records, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to effective communication as required by ISO 9001:2015 Clause 7.4. These documents and records also support transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement in the organization’s communication processes related to the QMS.

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