What is internal communication?
— February 21st, 2021
Internal communications are often defined as how an organization communicates across its departments. At its basic level, this is true, but there is so much more to internal communications, and its importance is becoming more and more evident in today’s hyper-digital world.
Internal communications expert Rachel Miller of AllThingsIC defines internal communications as “the way a company interacts with its people and they interact with it.” She goes on to add a tagline to that definition: “I think the purpose of internal communication is not telling people what to do. It is to create shared understanding and meaning. Only when this happens can employees work together towards a company’s goals.”
And so, we come to the crux of it: a good internal communications strategy ensures everyone at an organization is aware of and aligned with the core purpose of an organization. In this way, organizations can rest assured that everyone is pulling in the same direction. There’s no confusion about strategy or objectives, all staff members, from board level right down to new hires, know what the company is about.
The ultimate guide to internal communications strategy
What are the advantages of internal communications?
Within that broad definition, there are myriad advantages of internal communications. A strong internal communications strategy will help an organization to:
As globalization continues apace, multicultural workplaces have become the norm, and as younger employees (Millennials and Generation Z) join the workforce we’re also seeing more multi-generational workplaces.
Building relationships and common purpose between all the different groups in an organization can have a positive effect on work culture and can encourage better employee relations.
Gain a better understanding of the workforce
Two-way communications – through enabling comments on newsletter articles, sending out regular surveys, inviting feedback on organizational changes – opens up the door for organizations to get to know employees better which in turn leads to middle managers who understand what their employees are thinking, which in turn leads to better-informed decision making.
A LinkedIn survey revealed that for many employees, having a sense of purpose is a key factor in whether they’re happy in their job: 74% of participants said they wanted to feel that what they do in their job matters.
Internal communications can be the tool to give employees that sought-after sense of purpose and make them feel valued: use it to highlight achievements or to be clear about specific tasks or projects they're working on and how these fit into the overall organizational goals.
Keep everyone informed
With the social media boom it can often happen that staff first hear of news or changes in their organization from outside sources. A regular, well-structured internal communications plan means organizations can take control of the messages or news employees hear. This is important in order to maintain staff morale, motivation, and trust.
Develop a multi-channel approach to internal communications
Corporate communications aren’t, or shouldn’t be, solely focused on one single channel. A good strategy uses different channels through which to communicate with employees: email, intranet, enterprise social networks, and video, as well as offline channels such as notice boards and “town meetings”. By mixing up the delivery channels organizations can reach more employees including remote workers and front-line staff with no set desks.
But first, you’ll need to understand what’s working now (or not, as the case may be). Organizations could be devoting time and budget to a particular channel that is simply not getting through to employees. Consider identifying employees across the organization in different roles and different circumstances – remote worker, front line worker, manager, Generation Z, new hire, long-term employee – and ask for their feedback on how they consume corporate communications.
Involve employees to maximize authenticity
Internal communications can be an effective tool to establish workplace trust and openness. Involving employees in your corporate communications, by “cultivating and amplifying authentic employee voices” organizations can gain more mindshare among employees, according to Gartner
Enlist employees to tell their stories, whether it’s about the culmination of a successful project, a specific achievement, or simply the way in which they overcame specific challenges at work.
What are the best internal communication tools?
Internal mobile apps
Integrating new technology such as an internal mobile app is an excellent way to reach today’s employees. There is a great deal of research to show that modern workers are considerably more effective at communicating through mobile. For any employer hoping to enhance employee engagement, this is a great option.
Businesses should work on a way to seamlessly integrate any new apps into their existing internal communications, along with ensuring employees are well-informed about how the new technology will be used and kept up to date throughout the process.
Focusing on digital messaging is another great method for developing strong communications throughout the workplace. For any business hoping to either improve or incorporate digital messaging, it is useful to introduce:
- A weekly email newsletter
- The use of single emails for must-read messages
- A manager briefing pack
- The use of email as part of a multichannel strategy
Campaign outcome surveys
When working to improve communications among employees, it is essential organizations dedicate the time to measure how well any tools already introduced are succeeding by examining how employees are responding to them. A great way to do this is by introducing Campaign Outcome Surveys.
By sending out a survey to random employees, organizations can develop a strong baseline for how the methods they already have in place are succeeding. Whatever new information is gathered in the survey can be used to try and improve communication throughout the business.
By carrying out a second survey, organizations will be able to easily measure if these additions have been a success.
Having metrics in place will allow businesses the opportunity to analyze the success rate of any communication plan they are currently using. These metrics will provide accurate and insightful information about the organization’s digital channels.
This will allow for informed conversations with business leaders, the ability to focus on areas where engagement is lower and allow for changes mid-campaign.
Having a crisis plan in place
By having a crisis communication strategy in place, organizations can be sure they are prepared to deal with any issues that arise and can act quickly to prevent the problem from spreading further. If a problem should arise, it is important organizations are prepared to not waste time in reaching out to their staff.
If employees feel they are not being updated sufficiently and regularly about what is happening it can lead to uncertainty and unease that will have a damaging impact on their levels of productivity and the standard of their work. Both of which can lead to further issues for businesses.
The ultimate guide to internal communications strategy
What is the difference between internal communication and external communication?
Unlike internal communication, which revolves around the exchange of information among employers, workers, and team members within an organization, external communication is centered on the exchange of information and messages between an organization and other organizations, groups, or individuals.
These two types of communication are essential to a businesses success and when used together they result in:
- Better Strategic Alignment
- The alignment of brand image from the inside and out
- Unified internal and external messaging
- Increased understanding of audiences
- Everyone is on the same page
- The building of trust among employees and customers
- Helping employees become brand ambassadors
- Everyone is up to date with company news and industry news
- The creation for more engaging content
- Handling rapid corporate changes more effectively
- Building a strong community around the brand
Examples of Communication Barriers
Physical Separation- Communicating in person has many advantages like being able to witness a person’s gestures, body language, and other non-verbal cues. However, the number of companies offering their workers the opportunity to work from home is constantly increasing, which means communicating face-to-face is not always an option.
Businesses can prevent this from becoming a communication barrier by making use of regular conference calls and video meetings to stay connected with remote employees.
Wrong Communication Channel- Organizations must be careful in selecting the best communication channels to send out their intended messages. If a message is being communicated through the right channel, it will greatly increase the overall effect it has. When using any communication channel, it's beneficial for employers to keep messages clear and concise, similar to if the interaction was taking place face-to-face
Not Understanding Audience Needs- Businesses must engage their audience through their communications.
By failing to do this, audiences will likely become bored and miss key information. Some methods for engaging audiences include:
- Setting the stage and making sure everyone is up to date
- Asking a question to get the audience intrigued
- Avoiding answering questions in complicated or technical terms (industry jargon), unless the audience is very familiar with the topic
Distractions- It’s important to be aware that even the smallest distraction can disturb someone who is attempting to focus on a conversation. Before commencing a meeting business leaders should take the time to ask all attendees to turn off their electronic devices. If the meeting is happening over video, participants should be encouraged to close down any other tabs on their computers to prevent any unwanted sounds or notifications.
Simple steps like this can make a big difference in ensuring clear communication and prevent employees from missing key takeaways.
Importance of internal communications
Having strong internal communications in place is essential for any successful organization as it works as a way to connect, engage and motivate employees. If workers feel connected and like they are being kept up to date on company matters, it will boost their morale and productivity levels significantly.
It is important workers feel like they are a valued part of the company and that they have the freedom and platforms to communicate their opinions, concerns, and ideas.