Table of contents
- Key Takeaways
- What is Internal Communications?
- The Importance of Effective Internal Communication
- Key Principles of Internal Communications
- The Role of an Internal Communicator
- Types of Internal Communication
- Internal Communication Strategies
- Tools and Technologies for Internal Communication
- Best Practices for Internal Communication
- Challenges and Solutions
- Internal Communication in a Remote Work Environment
- What Can You Do to Improve Internal Communications in Your Organization?
In today’s fast-paced, interconnected world, effective internal communication is more important than ever before. It plays a vital role not only in transmitting information but also in building a strong and cohesive workforce. Good internal communication promotes transparency, fosters trust, and encourages a consistent and employee-centric organizational culture. However, many organizations struggle to implement effective internal communication strategies.
According to McKinsey & Company’s The State of Organizations 2023 survey, 43% of employees say leadership lacks purpose in its internal communications. Close to a third (32%) find insufficient support for them to fulfill their personal ambitions in their organizations.
The survey report identifies 10 significant shifts that are facing organizations today. While communication isn’t a standalone factor, it plays an incredibly important role, particularly in the hybrid workplace and when focusing on the “new rules of attraction, retention, and attrition.”
The evolution of internal communications is complex and challenging, but critically important to organizations to ensure that they thrive in the modern workplace.
“Purposeful communication is a skill and an art. To achieve it, leaders, managers, and influencers will need to be prepared to craft and deliver authentic messages that show vulnerability and empathy.”The State of Organizations 2023
Our comprehensive guide examines the intricate world of internal communications. Whether you are a seasoned internal communicator or just getting started, it will provide you with a wealth of knowledge, insights, and information about best practices to help you navigate and master the complex field of internal communications that lies ahead.
- Internal Communications is the process of sharing information, ideas, and feedback within an organization for collaboration and alignment with company goals.
- Effective internal communication requires transparency, consistency, clarity and an employee-centric approach to foster a connected workforce.
- It’s important to overcome common challenges by leveraging technology tools for virtual team-building activities that engage remote and hybrid employees.
What is Internal Communications?
Internal communication, often abbreviated as internal comms, is the nexus of corporate communication. In essence, it is a process that involves sharing information, ideas, and feedback within an organization. This, in turn, helps to foster collaboration, engagement, and alignment with company goals.
A good internal communications strategy will serve as the backbone for creating and disseminating messages and campaigns on behalf of management, promoting two-way employee communications, and honing the communication abilities of the organization’s members. While traditionally it may have involved company newsletters or meetings, today’s internal communications strategies encompass a broader range of tools and initiatives. Internal communicators now take advantage of project management systems, social media, and instant messaging tools.
When efficiently executed, internal communications plays a vital role by:
- Enlightening, influencing, and involving employees
- Fostering trust and employee advocacy
- Instilling company culture
- Enhancing knowledge sharing
- Empowering employees
Ultimately, it has the ability to generate a synergy that aligns everyone with the company’s overall objectives.
The Importance of Effective Internal Communication
Effective internal communication is pivotal in creating a motivated, informed, and engaged workforce. These are benefits that hold even more substance for remote and hybrid workers — a sizable chunk of the modern economy’s employees.
But Axios HQ’s The 2023 state of essential workplace communications report shows that there’s a lot happening that makes internal communications ineffective. It states very clearly that leaders and employees aren’t aligned, context is missing, data is incomplete because leaders don’t track it, and insights aren’t accessible. As a result, $2-trillion is at stake annually due to ineffective communication in the U.S. alone.
The reality is that when internal communications are inadequate, employees may feel uncertain, inefficient, and isolated from corporate objectives. For this reason, establishing an internal communications strategy that prioritizes trust and the engagement of employees is crucial for any organization.
Implementing internal communications initiatives like regular feedback, sharing of information, and open communication avenues can foster greater co-worker trust, increased employee engagement, and ultimately achieve the organization’s overall business objectives. Ultimately, it’s about facilitating meaningful dialogues.
Key Principles of Internal Communications
A successful internal communications strategy hinges on several key principles, including:
- An employee-centric approach
Transparency and Trust
Transparency in internal communication fosters trust among employees, leading to higher engagement and a more collaborative work environment. Sharing specific information through carefully chosen channels can help instill trust in employees. At the same time, creating an environment that encourages two-way feedback allows employees to feel heard and valued.
Embracing transparency and actively engaging in open communication enables organizations to build strong, trusting relationships that contribute to heightened employee engagement and a thriving company culture.
Consistency and Clarity
Consistency and clarity are essential components of internal communication to ensure that employees fully understand and remember the messages being shared. Maintaining consistency in messaging helps guarantee that information is precise, accurate, and delivered in a timely manner.
It is vital to provide clear instructions and information and eliminate any potential misunderstandings. It is also important to keep jargon to a minimum and focus on plain, easily-understood language to maintain clarity.
Prioritizing consistency and clarity will cultivate a transparent and open communication culture. It will also enable team leaders to create an environment where employees feel informed, understood, and empowered to contribute to the organization’s success.
An employee-centric approach to internal communications literally puts employees at the center of the plan. It emphasizes their needs and perspectives, ensuring that information is relevant and accessible. But it’s important to tailor communications to relevant segments ensuring that you engage your intended audience.
By prioritizing the employee experience and tailoring internal communication strategies to meet their unique needs you will increase autonomy, innovation, collaboration, and overall employee satisfaction.
This approach builds stronger connections among team members and fosters a sense of belonging and commitment to the organization. Ultimately, it leads to greater employee retention and productivity.
The Role of an Internal Communicator
Internal communicators play a vital role in managing and facilitating communication within an organization. They help to define internal communications, bridging gaps between the management and employees. Communicators are key to fostering a company culture of transparency, and ensuring clear and consistent messages across various communication channels. They also lead internal communications initiatives and manage the workforce communications platform.
Ultimately, internal communicators are leaders, and their most important tool is communication. A Forbes article about effective communication by leadership coach, Alain Hunkins, quotes a study by Hart Research Associates. This found that 93% of employers consider communication skills to be more important than a graduate’s major. While this sounds like good news, they also point out that unfortunately, it isn’t common practice for leaders to have these important skills.
With that in mind, let’s look at the responsibilities, duties, skills, and qualities internal communicators require for success in this role.
Responsibilities and Duties
The primary responsibilities and duties of an internal communicator involve managing communication channels, creating messages, and assessing the efficacy of communication initiatives. This may include refining messages crafted by participants in the organization or formulating new material on their behalf, ensuring that the messaging is clear, consistent, and engaging for its intended audience.
Skills and Qualities of a Successful Internal Communicator
A successful internal communicator should possess a diverse skill set, including empathy, listening, leadership, flexibility, influence, relationship building, storytelling, and strategic communication management. They need to demonstrate essential qualities including the:
- courage to disagree and challenge ideas
- confidence to build effective relationships
- consistency in their approach to an internal communications strategy
Types of Internal Communication
Internal communications can take many forms, including formal and informal methods of communication, as well as top-down, bottom-up, and lateral communication channels. Understanding these different types of communication and selecting the most appropriate channels for specific messages ensures that information is effectively shared and understood by employees at all levels.
Formal vs. Informal Communication
Formal communication adheres to a specified structure, while informal communication is more relaxed and impromptu. Both forms of communication play an important role in an organization. Formal communication is used to establish an efficient flow of information. Informal communication fosters a sense of camaraderie and trust.
Striking a balance between formal and informal communication enables organizations to create a more effective and engaging communication environment for their employees.
Top-down, Bottom-up, and Lateral Communication
These three communication channels each play a unique role in promoting effective internal communications within a company organization. Top-down communication originates from management and flows down to employees. Bottom-up communication, on the other hand, enables employees to offer feedback and suggestions to their superiors, promoting a sense of ownership and engagement. Lateral communication allows colleagues to collaborate and share information with each other, further enhancing teamwork and collaboration.
Leveraging these different communication channels helps organizations create a more cohesive and engaged workforce. But if there’s a lack of alignment between the sender, the message, and the people receiving the communication, it’s all going to fall apart.
Internal Communications Must Be Perfectly Aligned
In his Forbes article, Alain Hunkins compares communication to a game of horseshoes. The aim of the game is to get three ringers around a metal stake. Getting one might take some work, but getting all three on the stake is considerably more difficult. He suggests that “effective communication is the equivalent of landing three ringers in a row.” The three rings represent what you mean, what you say, and what the person receiving the message hears. They must align with each other.
For communication to be successful, communicators need to be sure that what they say is exactly what they mean and exactly what their audience hears and understands.
But unfortunately, this seldom happens because too many communicators assume that the meaning of their messages is obvious. Hunkins reckons it’s the #1 obstacle to effective communication.
Internal Communication Strategies
Developing a successful internal communication strategy is a multifaceted process that involves crafting a plan, establishing goals and objectives, and measuring the effectiveness of communication efforts. Taking a strategic approach to internal communication ensures that information is shared in a timely, consistent, and engaging manner, ultimately engaging employees and contributing to overall organizational success.
Craft a Communication Plan
A well-crafted communication plan serves as the foundation for a convincing internal communications strategy, outlining the tools, channels, and messaging to be used in reaching and engaging employees.
Creating the plan involves defining the goals, identifying key messages, selecting communication channels, and establishing an approval process. A good communication plan also includes provisions for regular updates, revisions, and feedback systems to track progress and improve the effectiveness of internal communications.
Establish Communication Goals and Objectives
Setting clear, realistic goals and objectives is crucial to the success of any internal communication strategy. Adopting the SMART logic is an excellent approach. By being Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound ensures that communication goals are focused, actionable, and aligned with the overall business objectives.
Measure the Effectiveness of Internal Communication
Evaluating the effectiveness of internal communication efforts is essential for identifying what works, what needs improvement, and how to make informed adjustments to the communication strategy. Tracking key metrics, such as employee engagement, response rates, and feedback, provides valuable insights into the success of communication initiatives and supports data-driven decisions to enhance strategies moving forward.
The methodology might involve surveys to gather employee feedback, tracking metrics like open, click-through, and read rates of digital internal communications, and tracking participation in company initiatives, and more.
Despite its vital importance, Axios HQ assesses that only 47% of communicators say their organization measures how effective their essential internal communications are.
Tools and Technologies for Internal Communication
There are various tools and technologies available in the modern work environment to support and enhance internal communication efforts. They include:
- intranet platform
- employee engagement software
- messaging systems
- social media
These options allow organizations to ensure that information is effectively shared and understood by employees at all levels. But there’s a caveat as Tommy Gibby, co-founder and CMO of The Bot Platform points out in a Forbes article, Most Companies’ Internal Comms Are Broken. Here’s How To Fix It. He warns that many big companies believe that because they’re paying for communication tools they work. But the truth is that many of their internal communications processes are failing. Many haven’t chosen the right tools and others aren’t using them to their full potential. Unfortunately, the result may manifest as a negative effect on productivity and employee satisfaction.
Nevertheless, let’s explore some of the most popular and effective internal communications tools used in internal communication today.
Intranet platform is a powerful tool for internal communication, providing a centralized, accessible space for employees to access important company information, news, and resources. The platform can help improve collaboration, streamline communication, and keep employees informed and engaged. This can make them an essential component of any internal communications strategy.
Some popular intranet platforms include Happeo, Jive, Microsoft SharePoint, and Workplace. When selecting an intranet platform, consider factors like business goals, strategic vision, hosting options, features and functionality, scalability, data storage, budget, user experience, integration capabilities, and support and training.
Employee Engagement Software
- communication tools
- feedback mechanisms
- recognition programs
- performance management systems
Utilizing these platforms improves internal communication, fosters a stronger sense of connection and belonging among team members, and ultimately increases employee satisfaction and productivity.
Email and Messaging Systems
Email and messaging systems are widely used in internal communication, providing a fast and efficient means of sharing information, documents, and files with colleagues. While these tools can be highly effective, they also come with certain limitations and challenges. These include the potential for miscommunication, information overload, and decreased productivity due to excessive use.
To overcome these challenges it makes sense to consider combining email and instant messaging with video conferencing and collaboration tools. This will optimize communication and ensure that employees receive the information they need in a timely and efficient manner.
Social Media and Collaboration Tools
Social media and collaboration tools can play a valuable role in internal communication. They offer an accessible platform for employees to connect, share information, and collaborate on projects and initiatives. These tools can also help increase a sense of community, promote knowledge sharing, and improve communication across teams and departments.
Incorporating social media and collaboration tools into internal communication strategies creates a more connected, engaged, and productive workforce.
Best Practices for Internal Communication
To ensure internal communications are effective, organizations should follow best practices, such as writing effective messages, managing crisis communications internally, and encouraging two-way feedback from employees.
Writing Effective Internal Messages
A clear and concise message is the secret to good internal communications. The content should be relevant, timely, and in a conversational tone to promote engagement. Moreover, the use of a company newsletter to share such information makes the message unified, ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Managing Crisis Communication Internally
Internal communications play a critical role in crisis management, helping organizations respond effectively and efficiently to unexpected events and challenges. Having a well-defined internal communications strategy in place during times of crisis minimizes the negative impact, provides guidance on how to move forward, and maintains trust with employees.
Effective crisis communication involves being transparent, timely, and empathetic, ensuring that employees receive accurate information and feel supported throughout the crisis.
Encouraging Two-Way Feedback
Two-way feedback is essential for maintaining a positive employee experience. Internal communications create an opportunity for employees to voice their ideas, concerns, or suggestions. Communication channels like surveys, town halls, or suggestion boxes can facilitate such exchange, supporting a culture of transparency and openness.
Challenges and Solutions
Despite the best efforts of organizations and internal communicators, challenges and obstacles can arise in the pursuit of effective internal communication. By recognizing these challenges and exploring successful solutions to address them, organizations can continually refine their communication strategies, adapt to changing circumstances, and ensure the ongoing success of their internal communication efforts.
Whether they’re working in-office or remotely, ensuring employees feel heard, informed, and part of the company initiative is vital for success.
Overcoming Common Internal Communication Challenges
Some common internal communication challenges include information overload, lack of clarity in messaging, inconsistent communication, and difficulty in reaching remote or distributed employees. Another major issue is that only 50% of employees read internal communications thoroughly. But as The 2023 state of essential workplace communications study clearly shows, when employees are engaged and interested in reading the comms sent to them, they become more closely aligned with the broader goals of the organization.
Implementing best practices, such as clear and concise messaging, using appropriate communication channels, and leveraging technology tools, effectively overcomes these challenges and creates a more cohesive and engaged workforce.
Case Studies and Success Stories
Learning from companies with successful internal communication strategies can offer valuable insights. Case studies provide real-world examples of how businesses use their internal communication tools and strategies to improve employee engagement, meet business goals, and foster a positive company culture. These stories can serve as inspiration and best practice guidelines for others.
Paycor Inc.’s case study is impressive. The HR software company had all its employees working remotely, from home, soon after COVID-19 hit. It was a challenge they embraced, and the result was that they expanded and transitioned into the first fully virtual-first national technology company. Key to their success was the Cerkl Broadcast platform that enabled them to reorganize their communications strategy using their existing Intranet. Open rates, click-thru rates and employee satisfaction and engagement improved. The rest is history.
Internal Communication in a Remote Work Environment
The remote work era has brought new challenges and opportunities for internal communication, making it more important than ever for organizations to adapt their strategies to meet the needs of remote and hybrid workforces. With a focus on virtual team building and engaging employees, organizations can ensure that their employees remain connected, informed, and aligned with company goals, no matter where they are located.
In a post-pandemic Gallup Workplace article, Jennifer Robison explains why it’s important to communicate better with employees, regardless of where they work. She quotes Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) stats that say after the pandemic 52% of employees wanted to stay working 100% remote. A smaller percentage (35%) said they would accept a pay cut if they could carry on working from home.
“The pandemic created the world’s biggest unplanned experiment in remote work, and the lab results are in.”Jennifer Robison
However, hybrid work isn’t new, she says. Instead, in many ways it’s become the norm. But effective communication isn’t the norm — but it could be. Ultimately, it’s not where your employees are that matters, it’s what they hear.
Adapting to Remote and Hybrid Workforces
Adapting internal communication strategies for remote and hybrid workforces involves addressing the unique challenges and needs of employees working outside of traditional office environments. This may include:
- Leveraging technology tools to facilitate communication and collaboration
- Ensuring that information is accessible and engaging for remote employees
- Fostering a sense of connection and belonging among distributed team members
Embracing these strategies creates a more inclusive and effective internal communication environment for all employees, regardless of their location.
Virtual Team Building and Employee Engagement
Virtual team building and employee engagement play a crucial role in maintaining a strong and cohesive remote workforce. Implementing activities and strategies that foster a sense of connection, collaboration, and engagement among team members combats feelings of isolation and disconnection that can arise in remote work settings.
Examples of virtual team building activities include online games, video conference “coffee breaks,” and virtual workshops or training sessions. By prioritizing virtual team building and employee engagement, organizations can ensure the continued success of their remote and hybrid workforces.
What Can You Do to Improve Internal Communications in Your Organization?
Effective internal communication is vital for organizations to foster employee engagement, enhance productivity, and achieve overall success. By understanding the key principles of internal communication, the role of internal communicators, and the various types of communication channels, you can develop and implement successful strategies that meet the needs of your workforce.
As the remote work era continues to evolve, organizations must adapt their internal communication strategies to ensure that employees remain connected, informed, and aligned with company goals, regardless of their location. By embracing best practices and leveraging the latest tools and technologies, organizations can create a more cohesive, engaged, and high-performing workforce.
Cerkl Broadcast recognizes the need for a holistic approach to employee engagement and internal communications. The Broadcast platform is structured for you to align employees with organizational goals. For example, it delivers personalized emails and intranet content to engage and inform employees. It also enables you to create unique newsletter templates and garner feedback from communications.
If you’d like to know more about Cerkl Broadcast and how we can help your organization you can access our free demo right now.
Internal communication is the process of sharing information within an organization, using various channels like staff newsletters, emails, intranet, and suitable apps. It helps organizations effectively share important information with their employees when and where it’s needed. Compelling internal communications are essential for any organization.
The 8 most cited types of internal communication include top-down communication, change communication, crisis communication, information communication, bottom-up communication, peer communication, campaign communication, and culture communication.
Transparency, consistency, clarity, and an employee-centric approach are considered to be the key principles of effective internal communication.
Organizations can successfully adapt their internal communication strategies for remote and hybrid workforces by leveraging technology tools, ensuring information accessibility, and fostering a sense of connection and belonging.
Intranet platforms, employee engagement software, email, messaging systems, and social media are all effective tools and technologies for internal communication. They all allow teams to collaborate effectively and efficiently and should be used together for ultimate effectiveness.