What is internal communication?
Internal communication generally means any information shared in a company for business purposes. The term is more often used to refer to a person or department responsible for employee communications. They inform and engage with employees, providing updates on company objectives and strategy. In large organizations, the need for a dedicated internal communications department is evident, while in smaller companies, the task often falls to managers or HR.
Reasons to Invest in and Improve Internal Comms
Increased employee engagement
76% of internal communications professionals cite employee engagement as their top priority.
Internal communications departments ensure everyone is on the same page, working towards the same goal. At a broader level, internal comms managers are a driving force behind employee engagement. Aligning everyone around common goals boosts employee connections that are essential to creating an engaged workforce.
Helps Employee Advocacy Efforts
Creating a positive internal dialogue is crucial to promoting positive external dialogue. Employees are a company’s best brand advocates. While employee advocacy might be more beneficial to HR and marketing, it starts with internal comms. Staff can’t be expected to talk about the organization if they don’t know what’s happening. Fortunately, the right internal communication tool and strategy can help.
A more inclusive, connected workforce
When people feel left out of the conversation, they can start to disconnect and leave. Remote workers are especially vulnerable. Traditional internal comms strategies tend to exclude those working from home, leaving them isolated. Now, in a hybrid work world, employees are split between home and the office. Ensuring that everyone has consistent communication is essential to company growth and success.
Employee communications is a far-reaching task, with endless information possibilities. It’s also a very visible role, meaning the pressure is always on!
Want to improve your internal communications strategy and take it to the next level? Here are 13 easy steps.
13 Internal Communications Strategies for Engagement
1. Evaluate available tools
An internal comms strategy often depends on what tools are available. In small businesses, there are limited ways of getting information to people. While in larger companies, the number of tools can be overwhelming.
Here are just some of the employee communication tools available:
Before making any improvements or changes, first, make a list of what channels are used. Does the business rely on email, maybe notice boards, or is there a more sophisticated system in place like an intranet?
2. Analyze the effectiveness of current efforts
Every business has an internal communications process whether it is formalized or not. Even when a proper strategy has been in place for a long time, there’s always room for improvement.
So after making a list of what’s available, analyze how effective the channel is by giving each a score from 1 to 10. If everyone missed the latest email, it probably deserves a low score.
Old habits can be hard to break. Just because comms has been sending a monthly email for the past decade doesn’t mean it’s worth sticking with.
3. Understand what people think of current efforts
Over half of internal communications professionals have a problem gaining employee buy-in. Perhaps it’s because the messaging or the communication channels don’t resonate with them. Maybe employees don’t understand the purpose or benefits for them.
Including employees in an effort to improve internal communications will be important for long-term success. Asking employees whether they got the latest mail will help evaluate channels and engage them in efforts.
4. Engage with employees: how do they want to communicate?
Everyone communicates differently. Some employees only send emails, while others prefer hosting meetings. Often it’s a personal preference, or it can depend on what’s available internally.
Generational differences also play a part. Gen Z and millennials are notorious for hating phone calls.
An effective internal communications strategy will need to use a few channels, but before wasting time sending emails, no one will read, make sure you know your audience.
This discovery stage can be informal, through discussions with colleagues. Or, it can involve a more structured process to have supporting data.
If the company uses Microsoft Teams, why not start a poll or send a survey?
5. Avoid one-way communications
It can be easy to fall into the trap of top-down communication. Too much focus on making sure employees receive information can be problematic. While it means everyone is on the same page, it can quickly create a closed culture where input isn’t valued. The goal should be to engage with employees.
Top-down comms have their place, especially in a crisis. Overall though, encouraging employee participation, allowing input, and generating discussion is a better sustainable strategy.
6. Look at the type of content being shared
Everyone absorbs content in different ways. Some people like to read, others to listen or to watch. Visual content, like infographics and posters, might appeal to certain groups. While others prefer formal emails and written announcements.
The best internal comms strategy will provide a good mix of content shared using different channels.
Internal comms used to be about sending mass emails to all employees. They were long and uninspiring. Lost in crowded mailboxes, the information was sent but often not received.
Today’s generation of employees is used to consuming information in an easily digestible way. Fifteen-second videos, gifs, and emojis are light years away from text-heavy emails or post-its on a notice board.
The type of content shared often depends on the channels used. Some platforms, like the intranet, support both written announcements and visual content like infographics and posters. Microsoft Teams is also great for sharing videos, gifs, and emojis.
7. Leverage user-generated content
Creating content that employees resonate with can be challenging at times, and it’s easy to get stuck looking for inspiration. Let employees be involved in the process. Create a space where staff can share ideas, articles, videos, or links to interesting information.
An employee advocacy platform that lets employees easily suggest content is a great way to start building a more immersive internal comms program.
8. Make information easily available
- After putting lots of effort into creating content, the next step is ensuring everyone can find it. Ideally, content shared should be stored in a central location that is easily accessible to all.
- Some channels make this easier to achieve than others.
- Emails get lost in overflowing inboxes. Printed materials are stuffed in drawers. Notices are taken down.
- An intranet with a secure content management system provides a good solution. The internal comms team can ensure relevant documents are easily accessible on their intranet page.
- Microsoft Teams is also a good place to share documents that people can then work together on or give immediate feedback and start a discussion.
9. Encourage coffee break conversations, even remotely
Information passes most easily when colleagues chat more casually. So another way to improve internal communications is to make sure people have a chance to come together.
Pre-Covid, meeting colleagues at the coffee machine was an everyday occurrence. Now it’s something most people can only dream of. Social interaction with colleagues is the number one thing those working from home miss right now.
Luckily, technology can help bring the chance coffee break to the virtual world and reconnect co-workers.
Powell Teams virtual coffee machine organizes short coffee break meetings on Microsoft Teams. Our algorithm chooses people at random based on their availability. When people can meet and interact, information is more naturally shared.
10. Focus on employees
A successful strategy focuses on employees. One way to improve internal communications is to highlight employee achievements and milestones.
Send shout-outs to people on their birthdays, recognize work anniversaries, and send holiday messages.
11. Include workers from around the world
Managing internal comms for a global team can be challenging. Different time zones and languages require extra effort and navigating these barriers. Here are ten tips for effective communication in a global team.
12. Bring in some fun and creativity
Sometimes internal comms are tasked with sending tough messages, like handling internal crisis communications.
Yet, not every message has to be serious. People are looking for positive moments in their workdays. Something like weekly quizzes could be a great way to provide this.
Check out this idea from Powell Softwares’ internal comms team.
13. Test new strategies & invest in new tools
The only way to know if something will work is to try it. Employees may say they love receiving emails, but it’s time to re-evaluate if a new monthly newsletter isn’t being opened. Testing different content formats and channels will help build a long-term strategy.
At the same time, if the right tools aren’t in place, the comms team will always face an uphill battle.
A notice board in HQ won’t be very effective in sending company-wide updates where there are a few hundred employees. An employee communications platform, like the intranet, will better match the needs of a growing company.