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An in-depth look at internal communications and its importance

by | Dec 3, 2020 | Articles

What is internal communication?

There’s a difference between internal communication and internal communications. Internal communication essentially looks at how your business or company communicates, whereas internal communications are the tools, software and channels you communicate through. Having an internal communication plan is essential to make sure all staff are kept updated with relevant company announcements and information.

How to increase employee advocacy

What are the four main types of internal communication?

As we’ve said, internal communication is a broad term that covers all forms of communication within a business. There are several types of internal communication, but we have filtered them into four core areas:

1. Leadership-generated (top-down communication)

This section explores how information from CEO’s, line managers etc reaches employees. This is known as “downward communication”. This type of communication is used to inform and engage employees on a company-wide scale. A cascade model is often used where information is rolled out to managers who then contextualise and share this with their teams.

Examples include:

  • Business-wide updates
  • Formal meetings or announcements
  • Campaign overviews
  • Policy updates

2. Employee-generated (bottom-up communication)

We spoke about downward communication before, now let’s look at upward communication, often referred to as ‘bottom-up’, which specifically relates to internal communication from employees to management. This type of communication focuses on what the employees share with managers and higher-level business leaders. Bottom-up communication is absolutely crucial to make sure your employees are happy, know that their voices are being heard and feel ownership in their role.

Try to include the following in your internal communication and employee engagement plans to encourage feedback:

  • Polls and forums (you can conduct simple ones through Slack)
  • Forums to discuss topics raised by employees
  • Employee feedback presented to management with dialogue encouraged

3. Employee to employee communication

Now a necessity for modern workplaces (especially due to COVID), employees need platforms to communicate, support and share knowledge with each other. Whether it’s social or to collaborate on a work project, having access to internal communication channels is essential for both their personal development, progressing their work and everything in between.

Below are some of the best and most well-known employee communication tools:

  • Slack
  • Whatsapp
  • Google Hangouts
  • Workplace
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Basecamp

User-generated content also plays a huge role in employee-to-employee communication, with a projected 92% of us trusting content that’s created and shared from friends, and this is where the StoryTagger mobile app comes in.

For more information on how our app helps break down silos and communicate ideas effectively through all departments of your business, take a look at our product page.

4. Disruption and crisis communication

Poignant to the current state of the world, businesses must have a crisis structure in place to ensure all staff are informed and can take appropriate action when a crisis occurs. Whether the business has had to make redundancies or a global pandemic has forced staff to work from home, how you manage this information and convey it can be crucial to the survival of the business.

Every business should have a failsafe crisis management process – you should think about:

  • What crisis protocol you need in place
  • Who is responsible for internal crisis communications
  • How you can effectively communicate instructions through all comms channels

On our own crisis management page, we have included a helpful crisis communication template as a reference point for communicating with your business during such a time.

StoryTagger has really helped us empower our colleagues to tell a story in their own way and where they feel comfortable. We’re able to reach people we’ve never been able to before

 

Adriana NevesCity & Guilds Group, Internal Channel Strategy Manager

     

    Did you know?

    Businesses are using StoryTagger to improve internal communications? Find out how.

     

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    Looking to enhance your internal communications? Ask your people in a survey, focus group or through video feedback.

    Here are a few questions to include for an internal communication survey:

    1. How is your information flow? Are you receiving info in a timely way?

    Arguably the most important factor to address is how and when you’re receiving information. You may want to consider setting up ways to ensure you and your employees are getting the right information at the right time. An agreement rating scale is a strong way to determine whether the information they’re receiving is accurate, relevant and arriving when needed.

    2. Do you believe the information you’re receiving is accurate and relevant to your role?

    From emails offering you a discount on products, tips to improving workflow, marketing courses, newsletters, the list on what you do and don’t deem useful is often endless. Of course, now with GDPR, we’re able to unsubscribe from such ‘spam’, but how does this relate to internal comms? Are communications currently personalised?

    3. Are you receiving too much information?

    Being overwhelmed by the same emails from the same department can be tiresome and if this is happening across several channels, your inbox will overflow pretty quickly. There are so many team tools now this should be easy to avoid.

    4. Are you able to easily find what information you’re looking for?

    If you work in a large corporation, it’s likely that not all communication is direct. Essentially, you want to ensure that if you do need to find something that’s relevant, you’re able to, quickly. There are so many programmes that help with this, from Google Drive to Sharepoint.

    5. How is this information being presented?

    Presentation is often overlooked when it comes to receiving information. However, how you present your information is crucial to how others engage with it. For example, if your email or newsletter contains jargon and is presented with a small font, poor copy and generally looks a mess, people aren’t exactly going to be rushing to engage with it. Ask whether the information people receive feels on brand, is easy to read, and presented in a clear and concise format.

    Internal communication problems within big corporations

    In most cases, the smaller the company, the easier it is to access and send information to relevant departments. In larger, corporate businesses, however, sharing information is not so simple. Below are some of the most common pitfalls associated with big corporations:

    1. “I didn’t get the memo”

    When management and senior employees make non-confidential decisions, it’s important that these changes are communicated to all employees as soon as possible. Failure to communicate these changes effectively may lead to staff feeling as though they’ve been left out of decisions that may affect their ability to work efficiently.

    There are a variety of programmes and software options (Microsoft Teams, Slack, Basecamp and even Whatsapp) to make sure this doesn’t happen to ensure all employees are kept in the loop, even with minor changes to the business, and given a right to reply.

    2. Neglecting remote employees

    Arguably one of the most relevant challenges given the current pandemic. Neglecting remote-working employees is something that happens too often and several companies are guilty of it. Being able to communicate with, support and manage employees away from their central place of work is crucial to collaboration, their development and even their mental health.

    One study claimed that “remote team members reported a number of barriers to effective working, including over-reliance on email, inadequate or unclear communication and a lack of shared identity and focus”.

    3. Lack of clarity or directness from higher-level staff

    More specifically, whenever managers of departments raise a question or pitch an idea for change, the question must be direct and also backed by their own research. For example, take a look at these questions:

    “Our customers aren’t happy regarding their recent reports, should we change the reports?

    “Our customers aren’t happy with their recent reports, because of X, what are three changes we should consider to make them better for the client?”

    The first question is vague and probably won’t demand much of a response, let alone a good response. The second question offers the employees an access point to answer the question and is far more specific. Make your questions or suggested changes direct to ensure your employees are able to communicate and answer the query properly.

     

    Brilliant internal communication in an organisation is paramount to support employee engagement and performance

    Internal communication is a wide concept in the business world and it will need constant tweaking and improvement to ensure your employees are responding positively to the structures in place.

    Culture and a technology platform are two of the most important factors to address, from there, you can start implementing accessible, relevant and timely communications throughout the company. It’s also equally important to make sure the platform you select is appropriate for your employees’ work and they receive time and accessible training, should they need it.

    Want to know how to keep your employees engaged through internal comms? Take a look at our article on employee engagement.

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    FAQs

    What is formal internal communication?

    As the name suggests, formal internal communication encapsulates the same communication processes and tools but sticks to a more formal approach. So, formal internal communication takes place through channels set in place by CEOs and campaign managers (top leadership levels), with the information being sent to appropriate departments who then inform all employees. This is also known as corporate communication.

    What is informal communication?

    On the other end of the spectrum lies informal communication. This is where no predetermined channels have been set in place by top-level managers. Instead, information is passed around when and where necessary, with the key goal being to retain a strong relationship and communication channel between employees, managers and CEOs.

    What is the role of internal communications?

    In most cases, HR will front internal communications (and systems), especially in larger corporations. HR is usually responsible for making sure messages are delivered to the correct departments as well as recruiting new employees and implementing employee advocacy programmes. However, although HR may manage and oversee internal comms, it’s up to the rest of the company to ensure communication channels are maximised.

    What are internal and external communications?

    By definition, internal communication is the exchange of information within a company. So, from employees to managers, to CEOs, directors all the way to the top. It’s internal and specific to the company. External communication is the exchange of information both inside and outside the company.

    What are the core reasons for internal communication?

    As you might have already guessed, there are a wealth of reasons why internal comms are so important. From making employees feel heard and their opinions respected, to exchanging crucial information and announcements regarding big decisions in the company. Below are some of the core reasons why internal communication is essential in any business:

    • It allows employees’ voices to be heard and actioned
    • Goals, aims, risks and change are better understood through clear communication
    • It empowers middle management
    • In crises, internal communication can help a business survive
    • Internal comms can retain their best employees through transparent communication

    What are the internal functions of business communication?

    The internal functions of any business communication can be summarised in four clear points:

    • Sharing and access to information
    • The company culture
    • Keeping employees engaged
    • Allow them to voice their opinions and feedback on company-wide changes

    These four simple principles will make sure that your internal business comms are clear, concise and every staff member has a voice.

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    Improve your business communication with our mobile video storytelling app

    If you’re looking to create engaging video content that puts your employees at the heart of the story, why not try our mobile app? StoryTagger offers a cost-effective, flexible and structured way of creating selfie videos through:

    • Prompts so you never lose your train of thought
    • Topics are split into bitesize sections to help users offer a compelling response within the narrative framework
    • Time limits to help keep you on track and on target
    • No editing skills required as our app does it all for you
    • It’s also fully GDPR compliant

    Tap into the influence of peer-created video content. Research shows it to inspire more trust and impact than direct business or brand communications.

    Why not download our app and try the mobile app for yourself?

    Download the StoryTagger app via:

    For a full breakdown of our how app works, watch our intro video guide below:

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