Effective Ways to Improve Internal Communication

Your business vision is a foundational element of the company's culture. 

An excellent vision attracts excellent people, while a small one is not worth wasting time writing about. Why start the journey if you don't dream big?

The greatest visions connect everyone and every task to the big-picture vision. Let me give you one example that emphasizes the power of sharing one vision. 

According to an urban legend, during a tour of the NASA Space Center, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy introduced himself to a janitor mopping the floors.

"Why are you working so late?" Kennedy asked.

"Mr. President," the janitor responded, "I'm helping put a man on the moon."

I know you want the same devotion from your employees. Ensure you are constantly reviewing your vision and sharing it with others. The boldest vision inspires when it reaches everyone, from the janitor to the CEO. 

Here is where internal communication steps in.

Regardless of the position held in an organization, everybody knows what to expect from the Sales department. There is no question about what the roles of Accounting and Human Resources are. And it is clear what happens in the Production department. 

Of all the company's departments, the purpose of Internal Communications is the hardest to define. It is not helping that numerous definitions are floating around, each different from the other, pulling out a different focus and function.

Before COVID-19, we presumed Internal Communication was important. 

What we didn't know was how crucial it was. During the quarantine, when the other departments were silent, the focus shifted to internal communication. In a few days, internal communication transformed from a department we had barely heard of into a central hub, an excellent platform for managers to transmit information and a trusted source for employees.

In this article, we look at the definition of internal communication post-pandemic. We explore its forms, challenges, and importance and drill down into boosting internal communication. The last chapter will be dedicated to internal communication during crises, especially during the pandemic.


Introduction

Until recently, internal communication had a poor reputation, primarily because its function was misunderstood. Many people think that the role of the internal communicator is to spread the executives’ messages, trying to instill a sense of community and create workers’ adherence to the company culture. 

Sharing general information like benefit options, dress code, or conduct at the workplace is not internal communication. Your employee handbook should cover all these topics.

Our workforces are continually evolving. Thanks to advances in technology, globalization, and recent global health crises, the working environment has changed beyond recognition. Informed, engaged employees are your company’s best asset, and effective internal communication is how to achieve this. It is the essential internal structure that holds your company together.

The role of Internal Communications has never been more significant than the past two years, during the Covid crisis.  With the spotlight on internal communications, this previously overlooked discipline suddenly became the leading actor, playing a crucial part in the business.


The Importance of Internal Communication

Successful internal communication moves things forward daily and is one of the biggest factors that affects your bottom line for the year. If you want a great workflow and avoid unnecessary slowdowns, you and your employees need to strive for a healthy environment where everyone collaborates and communicates.

A great internal communications strategy improves business performance. And while that is a key output, it's not the only benefit of effective internal communication. 

Here are eight more reasons that demonstrate the importance of internal communications in today's changing workplace.

1. Internal communication boosts employee engagement and productivity

Start the right conversations across your organization and bring leaders, partners, and employees together to focus on internal strategies that increase engagement and productivity. Employees want to submit their ideas and opinions. Encourage them, give them value and a voice.

Promote open two-way communication. Avoid the trap of sending top to bottom mass emails that no one reads. Efficient internal communication creates a channel for feedback, debates, and interactive discussions. When employees are actively engaged, they are motivated to work harder and do better quality work on the job.

Managers can set up these types of conversations easily through internal communication platforms. There’s no need for long time-wasting meetings.


2. Internal communication provides people with a sense of purpose

Employees want to be kept in the loop. They want to understand your vision and goals and the path to get there. The millennials and GenZ’s are the digital natives in the age of social media, who rely heavily on comments, sharing, feedback, and interaction. They want to be heard, contribute, and be a part of a team.

To provide this affirming employee experience, it’s effective and motivating to share information about a company’s missions and achievements regularly. Reaching goals together increases the feeling of belonging to a team and progress.

3. Internal communication lets you control the message

Employees don’t like being kept in the dark and don’t appreciate learning about important company news from an external source. The best way to avoid this situation and control the narrative is to make internal news available all the time, not just during times of crisis.

Modern technology has significantly transformed internal communication, from the days of written memos and faxes to emails and instant messaging. Communication apps are a part of our lives; most of us connect at some point during the day, particularly at work. Make this a huge opportunity to communicate with every employee in real-time, regardless of where they are or what device they use. Use accessible and reliable channels and remain in control of your message instead of leaving information susceptible to individual interpretations.


4. Internal communication improves the employee retention

According to a US Mercer turnover study, US companies had an average turnover rate of 22% in 2018, with 15% attributed to voluntary turnover. Well-known for job-hopping, millennials and the younger generation look for workplaces that promote ongoing conversations and constant communication. If you fail to provide them with, they won’t hesitate to change their position for a better job opportunity.

The good news is that it is much harder for an employee to leave a company that values individual contribution and promotes a healthy work-life balance. Employees want to work for companies that share their beliefs, visions, and norms. Internal communication must be a priority when trying to attract talent or retain it.

5. Internal communication has no borders

Remote work is the future, and it is already here. According to a Strategy Analytics report, over 40% of the world’s working population will be mobile by 2022. These were the predictions in 2016, four years before the pandemic.

It is easy for remote teams to feel isolated when internal communication is just a set of occasional emails from above. In addition, distance often makes it harder for team members to feel they belong to a team. For a global workforce, you need a new approach to your internal communication and encourage overseas branches to express their points of view.

It is also crucial to consider local culture and diversity & inclusion principles when communicating with colleagues in a different country. The message of the communication should respect any cultural differences in terms of behavior and customs. Effective internal communication assists in overcoming any language and cultural barriers.

6. Internal communication fulfills the brand promise

According to the specialists from Gartner Communications, “Employees who feel well-informed become a company’s most credible ambassadors externally, while they may become its fiercest critics if they do not.”

Effective communication is the key to strengthening the reputation of a company. When employees share information about their workplace, they become your brand ambassadors. This form of brand-building is not hard to achieve. Well-informed and engaged employees happily contribute to their company’s Employer Branding.

7. Internal communication enhances transparency

Literarily, transparency is the quality or state of being transparent, easily seen through. In an organization, transparency means no secrets. People want to know things; they don’t like being surrounded by rumors and secrets.

Any internal communication strategy needs to be built on transparency. Transparent communication fosters trust and boosts employee morale. When employees are well-informed, they are motivated to do their best and communicate their needs to the employer. According to Jamie Hutchinson, a workplace with transparent communication is a more collaborative and trustworthy workplace, with information being openly shared between employees and across levels of the organization.

8. Internal communication calms people in a difficult situation/crisis

In times of crisis, internal communication is an essential tool. Communicating fast with the right people in the organization can reduce stress and get things done without redundant escalation. However, Crisis Management and Communications research has found that managers communicate significantly less with employees during difficult situations. 

Efficient internal communication helps you contain the narrative and supports short and long-term crisis management. Short-term management communication addresses the incident itself, while long-term strategy focuses on preserving the company’s reputation, which can easily be affected by false rumors.


Main steps to creating a strong Internal Communication strategy

Your internal communication is not set in stone (pun intended). Quite the opposite, it is an ongoing process requiring regular check-ins and work environment adjustments. 

Step1 Where are you now?

I like to think you probably have some internal communication processes in place. The first step is analyzing the current situation – your audiences, communicators, and the performance of the existing communication.

  • Audience - learn who is working for you. Collect data about the number of employees, locations, and their favorite devices.
  • Communicators - see who is currently involved in shaping the internal communication and who is responsible for what.
  • Performance -  understand how your current internal communications perform and engage your staff.

Step 2 Where do you plan to get there?

After evaluating the current situation, you can plan what you want your internal communication to be. Define your objectives and ensure they align with the overall company direction.

  • Future focus - Start with your company’s vision for the future and decide how internal communications best fit in.
  • Objectives - When creating your goals, be specific about your goals. Ensure they follow the SMART logic.
  • Goals - Internal communication is most effective and valuable when it aligns with overall business goals.

Step 3 How will you get there?

Once you know your destination, it is time to decide the best tactics and most effective communication channels to take you there.

  • Channel selection - You shouldn’t rely on a single channel, yet be aware that no employee can stay up-to-date with numerous channels, emails, and company announcements.
  • Audience targeting - Split employees into distinct groups based on their preferences and target them with best-suited messages.
  • Communication task - Craft a list of all the main communication tasks scheduled for the year. 

Step 4 How to find out if it worked?

The final step of implementing a strong Internal Communication strategy is about tracking results and implementing a cycle of continuous improvement.

  • Measurement - There are different KPIs to track how achievement is progressing and identify the improvements needed.
  • Two-way feedback - Be open to asking, collecting, listening, and reporting employee feedback.
  • Evaluate and evolve - Use the best available technology to track and analyze the more successful channels. Review your strategy regularly. Share the results and their impact on the company’s entire performance.


Improving internal communications in the workplace

A lot has been said lately about the benefits of remote work. While they are numerous, remote work also leaves some employees feeling isolated from their work and disconnected from their teams and employers.

The “Great Resignation” affects businesses all over and puts renewed emphasis on employee engagement and, consequently, on internal communications. In this ever-changing work landscape, your internal communications strategy needs to be proactive, extensive, and creative to foster connections between remote teams.

The excellent news is that internal communication leads are planning significant culture, process, and system changes. According to the Gallagher State of the Sector report, just 5% of organizations will maintain the practices they had in place in 2020. 

Now is the perfect opportunity for businesses to rethink how they communicate with their primary audience - the employees.

How can you improve your internal Communication strategy?

While there is no single perfect formula for effective communication in the workplace, there are techniques that will boost your reach and impact. Whether it is the need for a two-way flow of information, clarity of message, or frequency of communication, these internal communication tips will positively influence productivity and overall results. And that’s because they work. 

Tip 1 Reach every employee

Remember the story about the janitor from NASA?

Sending a company-wide email is easy. Ensuring that email is read and understood is a different story. In every business, there is always a group of hard-to-reach employees. Some may be remote, working from home, or will not have access to the necessary technology. Others may be sitting across your desk but choosing to ignore the messages.

Ultimately, it is not the location or the role that makes an employee immune to your internal communication efforts. Allowing employees to connect to your internal communication app using their favorite devices opens a two-way channel. Information flow goes smoothly in both directions, and everyone feels engaged and motivated.

Tip 2 Sharing is caring

If employee happiness is one of your goals, you must remove the barriers to information sharing. Too often, businesses operate in silos. Some managers consider that information is power and hold essential news and data back from their workforce. However, companies need to take the opposite view of this matter.

To improve internal communication, creating and providing employees (especially dispersed teams) with a central hub for collecting relevant news, sharing updates, and tracking milestones is crucial. A lot of communication will occur outside this hub (email, chats, social media), but having a virtual central location for news will positively impact your team.

Tip 3 Engage, not announce

One common internal communication mistake is delivering one-way information, expecting it to be understood, and moving on. The purpose of internal communication is to keep employees updated on company changes, progress, and future. However, ensure your audience has the opportunity to respond to these messages and be involved in this discussion.

To drive engagement, you must encourage employees to ask questions, write comments, and give feedback. Show them that all ideas are welcome, and employees will improve their game.

Tip 4 Lead by storytelling

Storytelling has been one of the foundational pillars of civilization, shaping our perceptions of right and wrong for decades. Keith Quesenberry, an associate professor of marketing at Messiah College, said, “People are attracted to stories because we’re social creatures, and we relate to other people.” This means that the human brain responds differently to being told a story than to watching a PowerPoint presentation.

Nothing triggers curiosity and engages people like storytelling. People care about organizations and leaders that they feel connected to. Thus, storytelling is particularly compelling when it comes from leaders. But the old top-down communication model doesn’t work anymore. As a manager, you don’t want to “talk at” your workers, but “talk with” them. As Seth Godin says, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories that you tell.

Tip 5 Keep the message simple

People find it hard to absorb multiple or complex messages, especially in the internet age. As Nicholas Carr writes in his book, The Shallows: “Every intellectual technology embodies an intellectual ethic, a set of assumptions about how the human mind works or should work.” This means that the immense volume of messages and the web’s design are changing our brains, drifting away from deep thought toward more rapid response; we are losing our ability to think deeply and focus. 

When you are crafting a communication, please keep it simple. Use a common language to evade “being lost in translation.” Be brief, and do not burden employees with excessive data. Be direct and concise in your communication: short, to-the-point messages are easy to comprehend. You want to send the right message, to the right people, at the right time. 

Tip 6 Make a schedule and stick to it

One of the frequent errors of the communication strategy is to overwhelm your employees with tons of messages in a short period and then keep quiet for a while. This start-stop approach will disengage employees and proves inconsistency from your side. Employees will soon feel forgotten, especially those working remotely, as they rely on regular updates to stay connected.

Schedule all your communications: send notifications, conduct routine checks and surveys, and release daily updates. Set up a regular cadence so your employees know when they can expect to receive a newsletter. 

Tip 7 Get social media on your side

The ubiquity of social networks is reshaping internal communication. Most people are accustomed to consuming information on the go. Yet, many businesses are cautious regarding social media apps and platforms. There is a perception that people will become less efficient and they will show signs of presenteeism if they start using these apps.

However, times are changing. Using social media is a great way to boost internal communication. Private social networks, like Slack, allow your business to create different groups and chats where employees can share information and insights with a click of a finger.

Tip 8 Listen rather than tell

The previous steps are pointless if you don’t know how to listen. Quite often, listening is more important than publishing information. Listening is a critical step towards a happy, engaged workforce.

Again: internal communication is a two-way street. Listening to your employee builds trust and makes them feel valued. These lead to higher levels of employee retention in the long run. 

Placing people at the center of your business requires that you understand them. A key to effective internal communication is not communication – it is listening. After all, we have two ears and one mouth, so I think this is nature telling us we should hear more than we talk.


Takeaway

Now you have the complete picture of the internal communication subject: from the definition, types, importance, and tips to improve communications between your employees.


Frequently asked questions

How to definine of internal communication?

Let’s start by getting the terminology straight. Should it be internal communication (singular) or internal communications (plural)? Is there a difference between the two, and if so, what is that difference? 

In this case, there is a clear-cut and straightforward answer.

Internal communication refers to the comprehensive way a business communicates with its employees to keep them in the loop.

Internal communications involve the tools, tactics, and channels that enable internal communication

Thus being said, Internal Communication (also known as IC) refers to a group of processes or tools responsible for providing an adequate information flow and collaboration between an organization’s departments and colleagues. These processes apply both up and down the management/ employee chain. It also works among employees who are interacting with each other in the company.

When defining Internal Communication, we should not confuse it with employee engagement. While there are many similarities between the two –  employee communication, talking to managers, encouraging honest feedback – they are two distinct processes.

Internal communication is the action that uses information and interaction to fill in and motivate employees.

Employee engagement is the reaction you get from investing time, money, and strategy into communicating with employees. Salary, training, leave policy, and flexible work arrangements will have a crucial part to play in the overall levels of employee engagement across the company.

Solid internal communication nurtures company culture and builds employee engagement.


What are the types of internal communication?

Internal Communication is a broad term that covers many areas of business. While one of the classic examples of internal communication is an email from the boss, the truth is that this is just one small part of the bigger picture. Internal communication comprises many kinds of exchanges between leadership, departments, teams, and colleagues, covering a wide range of topics and issues.

As such, there are many internal communication types of communication in a business. Next, we take an in-depth look at seven key types: 


1. Leadership-generated, also known as downward communication, is the flow of information from the top-down, from leaders to employees. Leadership-generated communications focus on informing staff (primarily via email) of the overall business direction and strategy. In addition, their function is to make leaders visible, especially in larger organizations where some employees may never meet senior management in person.

2. Employee-generated, known as upward communication, encompasses all messages that travel from employees to managers. Of all the different types of internal communication, this one is the most overlooked, despite being very important.

Employee-generated communications should give everyone in your organization a voice, regardless of role, seniority, or location. The aim is not to inform your employees but to communicate with them.

3. Peer-to-peer or lateral communication consists of conversations on the same level between employees. Encouraging collaboration between employees is one of the key types of communication in business. When employees share with their peers, the benefits of internal communication quickly become evident. 

You aim to prompt conversations that support company culture, improve problem-solving, generate new ideas, improve collegiality and morale.

4. Information delivery defines the role of the internal communications department: every employee is fully informed on all organizational, legal, and procedural issues. Armed with knowledge and understanding, employees will offer better performances for the business. 

It is also vital to keep your communications regular and consistent. However, beware of overloading your employees with information. Research by the Harvard Business Review indicated that employees spend over two hours of the working day on email, and worse, it takes 24 minutes to get back on task after opening an email. Aim to maintain the messages simple and to the point. Now, more than ever, our workforces are complaining of work stress and burnout; our aim should be to reduce this, rather than add to their burden.

5. Communicating change, especially in management and administration, is crucial to the success of your business. Such change will determine the difference between success and failure during the process of transformation.

When communicating change in organizations, the internal communications process should clarify exactly what is required of each individual. Trying to sugarcoat the core message of change will work against you. It’s better to bite the bullet, admit that significant adjustments are required, and set out a straightforward path to help employees make those changes.

While communicating about change management in the workplace, company culture needs to be foremost in your thoughts. 

6. Culture communication affects everything from onboarding and retaining staff to brand positioning, business stability, and financial performance. It’s intangible, but it impacts employee behavior and decision-making.

7. Crisis management comes to the fore when a business faces major disruption and unexpected challenges. Of all the types of communication in business, this one needs its section in your internal communication strategy. 

Crises, by their very nature, come without warning. Creating a successful game plan to be put into action early on can make a significant difference to the effectiveness of the company long-term. By planning, you will mitigate risk, keep staff safe and reduce the impact on your bottom line. Reach is all-important. Quite simply, you need to be able to connect with every single employee instantly, no matter where they are.


What is the purpose of internal communication?

Internal communication is much more than simply communicating data and information. For the process to be highly effective, it must incorporate each of the following everyday purposes:


A. Transmitting information (making sure your message is understood)

Every internal communications plan should have a strong focus on not just delivering information but also clarifying and explaining so it is readily understood by all. Selecting suitable methods of internal communication is crucial to delivering on this point. You need to be able to connect with every employee. But all too often, a large number of employees can slip through the net; remote workers, those not up to speed with technology. Without a regular flow of information and interaction, these workers can quickly become disengaged, increasing your employee turnover rate.

B. Implementing purpose and vision (bringing everyone on board)

When employees are informed and see the meaning of their work, they can understand their part in the bigger picture. Everyone is on board, working towards a common goal. With employees dispersed worldwide, managers are no longer able to supervise or share the CEO’s plan with the teams in person. When your workforce is spread across various locations, online and offline, you need internal communication processes. The pandemic has made us see how crucial internal communication is in a business.

C. Connecting people (reaching every employee)

The internal communication channels must build connections between leadership and employees, between departments, and individuals. With a widely scattered workforce, some working from home and others in the office, you need to break down barriers. Consider implementing internal communications software to help you reach out to every employee. It will give everyone equal access to the same information.

D. Boosting employee morale (recognizing hard work)

The purpose of robust internal communication is not only to inform and connect employees. It will also inspire them. By building a culture of recognition and purpose, individuals go above and beyond the limits to serve the higher purpose of their company vision. Knowing their contribution and working towards the same goal will also boost their overall health and wellbeing.

F. Building trust (making leaders visible)

Authentic and honest communication is one of the key pillars of a successful leader. When managing a crisis like the pandemic, communication channels from the leadership team need to be 100% trustworthy and open. You must use all your skills and techniques to establish and keep steady confidence in your leadership. Your internal communication definition needs to put leaders forward. If you put a face behind the message, your employees will be willing to step up to any challenge.

G. Getting feedback (giving employees a voice)

One of the common internal communication mistakes is the failure to listen to what your employees have to say. Implement two-way channels and give your employees a voice and a platform to use them. As a result, you fulfill one of the critical purposes of internal communication. The internal communications apps proved their value, especially during the pandemic. They provide the means for getting feedback from every employee, wherever they may be based.

H. Monitoring mood (gathering regular insights)

It’s critical to know the overall mood of your employees, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Only by keeping a pulse on the organization can you proactively address emerging issues and queries, correct misunderstandings, and adapt your strategy. An employee self-service software will help you conduct regular pulse surveys and collect data on your workforce’s health (both physical and mental), mood, and morale.

I. Measuring the impact (see the result of your strategy)

Internal communication is a complex process with countless benefits. But this process never ends with the closing formula of a message. Keeping a close eye on internal communication metrics is the secret to a successful strategy. If you want to optimize the impact of your messaging, you must continually track the effectiveness of your communications. The pandemic has had a positive effect in this area, with businesses becoming more aware of the need to monitor the impact of their efforts.


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