An in-depth look at internal communications and its importance

by | Dec 3, 2020 | Articles

Brilliant internal communication is paramount to support employee engagement and performance.

Your internal communications need to cut through and make an impact. It’s such a wide concept that covers all areas of the business. This means systems and processes need constant evaluation to make sure your employees are responding positively to the structures in place and are getting the information they need.

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re looking to improve the internal communications in your organisation. There are many factors to consider, but it can be hard to know where do you start. How can you identify problems to make improvements? How do you know what tools will work for you?

Two of the most important elements to get right are culture and technology platforms. From there, you can start implementing accessible, relevant and timely communications throughout the company. If you’re still not sure what to address first, take a step back and reassess what’s already in place by going back to basics…

Internal Communications

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.

 

What’s the best method of internal communication?

As we’ve said, internal communication is a broad term that covers all forms of comms within a business and different messages will need different methods. There many types of internal communication, but for ease, we’ve filtered them into four core areas:

 

1. Leadership-generated (top-down communication)

This explores how information from CEO’s, line managers etc reaches employees, 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)

From downward communication to upward communication, often referred to as ‘bottom-up’. This specifically relates to internal communication from employees to management. Communication like this 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 during 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, watch our StoryTagger masterclass: Employee-generated video for internal communication that-sticks.

 

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 – 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 been a god-send in this crisis with trying to get non-tech leaders to film videos to get back to us quickly, so happy to shout from the rooftops about it.”

 

Adriana NevesCity & Guilds Group, Internal Channel Strategy Manager

 

Find out how your internal communications are looking right now

Are key messages getting through? Do employees feel informed? Ask your people in a survey, focus group or through video feedback.

Here are a few questions to get your internal communication survey started:

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. But 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.

Did you know?

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

 

What internal communication problems is your business having?

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 (although they can still be relevant for smaller organisations too):

 

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

Neglecting remote-working employees is something that happens often.  Although hybrid working is becoming the norm, this is now arguably one of the most relevant challenges right now given the pandemic. 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.

 

How can you improve your business communication?

If you’re looking to create engaging content that puts your employees at the heart of the story, why not try guided video storytelling to create impactful internal communications? StoryTagger offers a cost-effective, flexible and structured way to convey key messages and unlock insights from across the whole business:

      • Galvanise your people around shared goals and common purpose
      • Reconnect leaders and employees to realise your company vision
      • Increase employee engagement by creating a culture of trust and transparency
      • Motivate action with concise, relatable internal video communications

Tap into the influence of peer-created video content. Research shows it to inspire more trust and impact than direct business or brand communications. To see for yourself how our app works, watch our introductory video guide below.

Alternatively, start your 7 day free trial to find out how StoryTagger can help your organisation.

 

If you need more information about internal comms, take a look at our frequently asked questions below. You can also find out about keeping your employees engaged.

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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