“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place,” George Bernard Shaw once noted.
This sentiment seems to be particularly true when it comes to internal communication in the workplace. For example, 46% of employees say they leave meetings without having a clear understanding of what to do next, and 74% of employees feel they are missing out on internal company news.
Unfortunately, poor employee communication creates or contributes to:
- Personal conflicts
- Missed deadlines
- Incorrect goal assumptions
- Employee turnover
- Redoing misaligned work
What is Internal Communications?
Internal communication is far more than just casual socialization among employees. Instead, it’s about facilitating effective conversations between all the people within an organization to allow for the successful flow of information between teams and individual employees. In addition, this constant conversation builds social capital.
A characteristic of good employee communication is that it isn’t just top-down but also bottom-up. A study published in the Journal of Communication Management showed that communication had to be symmetrical in order to enable good employee communication behaviors. The study indicates that symmetrical information required two things:
- Complete and fair information to employees, and
- Internal communication practices that listen to employees and invite their participation.
The goal of internal communications is to inform, influence, and engage. The purpose is to build trust in the workplace, improve knowledge sharing, empower employees, and create a synergy that gets everyone on board with the company’s overall goals.
8 Benefits of Internal Communications
Want to really understand the importance of communication in the workplace? Let’s review some of the benefits you can expect when you get staff communication to work smoothly.
1. Improve Employee Alignment
It sounds simple enough — if you aren’t familiar with the company’s strategy, it’s hard to know how you can contribute to it. But, unfortunately, that’s the case for most employees. A study by Robert S Kaplan and David P Norton shows that an average of 95% of all employees are unaware of the company’s strategy.
Let’s make sure that the remaining five percent work with you. The right internal communications strategy helps communicate your strategy, vision, and goals in a consistent, attractive way that involves employees.
The better they know the goals, the easier they can align their work to help reach the targets.
2. Build Trust
By increasing transparency and improving internal communications, you increase the trust employees feel for the company and its leaders.
A Ph.D. thesis at Brunel University London shows internal communication initiatives such as constant feedback, information sharing, and open communication channels contribute to higher co-worker trust and higher employee engagement.
While employee communication is often shared only within the company, there are benefits to keeping parts of it public. For example, a study on hospitality workers showed increased trust when certain information aimed at employees was shared through social media.
Increased trust can also lead to increased engagement, which leads to a slew of other benefits:
3. Increase Engagement
Employee engagement is a key to lower turnover, increased work performance, and improved job satisfaction. Studies link symmetrical internal communications to positive employee engagement. No wonder — when employees feel heard, they are more likely to be active and engaged in the workplace.
4. Improve Employee Performance
Studies show that internal communications have a direct impact on employee performance. In order to contribute to a positive environment, studies suggest that the conversation needs to be frequent, transparent, and honest.
5. Improve Brand Image
For customer-facing companies, frontline employees are the face of the organization. Their actions reflect directly on the customers’ brand experience.
Through improved staff communication, customer-facing employees improve their ability to communicate brand-specific information, meaning that you get a better, more brand-consistent performance.
6. Better Crisis Management
A good internal communications strategy helps you reach employees — both with the message and its contents. This matter is crucial in times of urgent company news.
Do you have difficult news to share? A history of honest communication helps manage the negative impact and discuss ways forward.
7. Decrease Security Risks
It may come as no surprise that employees are considered a company’s largest cybersecurity risk. Changes in IT policies, security breaches, and mandatory updates are just a few of the things employees need to be familiar with to keep security high.
However, technical information can occasionally be cumbersome or difficult to grasp. By thinking through the message and the channels, you can improve communications and overall security.
8. Increase Feedback and Whistleblowing
Good employee communication is a two-way street. However, 37% of employees feel that the company lacks systems for recommending problem fixes. Employees that feel heard are more likely to report any wrongdoings or company issues.
Challenges in Internal Communications
Common internal communications challenges include:
- Outdated communication ways. For example, maybe an employee insists on sharing important information on an old intranet that no one else reads.
- Unequal communication. For example, a company may forget to take remote workers into account. Differences in what’s shared in the office and what’s shared to off-site or remote workers can cause rifts. As a result, employees don’t feel included or may feel like the information doesn’t apply to them.
- Information or knowledge silos. It becomes difficult to share and benefit from information if it is stored in an inaccessible way.
- Information overload. As always, you’ve got to adapt the message to the receiver. By just dumping information, you risk that it isn’t read at all.
Before we jump into how you can avoid these issues, let’s take a look at some of the most popular internal communications tools:
The Top 7 Tools for Supercharging Your Internal Communications
For effective internal communication, you’ll need a platform. While it’s tempting to use one tool like a Swiss Army knife, successful employee communications most likely require a multi-tool approach.
Intranets are traditionally used for sharing company news and information. However, social intranets gain popularity as they are more engaging for employees. Intranets are especially good for company news and updates.
- Setting up a simple intranet is generally straightforward — you can even use Google Sites.
- Collecting information in one location makes it easier to find and review.
- Sharing with a large number of people is easy.
2. Knowledge Bases
A knowledge base lets you store, work on and share information. There are internal and external knowledge bases. You can use the internal knowledge base not just for internal communications, but for all types of knowledge sharing, such as document collaboration.
- Storing, updating, and sharing information is simple.
- Commenting and other interactive features encourage two-way communication.
- Collaborating on documents in your every-day workflow makes it easier to notice company news.
- Measuring usage is easy with built-in analytics.
- Integrating the knowledge base with other internal communications tools is generally easy.
As an internal communications tool, email is most effective for newsletter-style emails with updates and links to further information on a website or knowledge base.
- Tracking open rates and click-through rates is generally straightforward.
- Using email for communications is generally a relatively cheap communication option.
- Reaching the right recipient becomes painless with the use of mailing lists.
4. Project Management Systems
You’re probably already using some type of project management system to manage everyday workflow. Depending on the system, it tends to work best for project-related announcements, updates, and team communications.
- Keeping employee communications for current projects and work status in the same place as the work makes it easier to have informed conversations.
- Interacting with team members becomes easy thanks to commenting features.
- Tagging employees when mentioning them ensures they see the message.
An internal community forum is dedicated to engagement. Just make sure you choose an option with easy-to-use interactive features, so it doesn’t create a hurdle and becomes a ghost town.
- Encouraging symmetrical communication doesn’t become much more transparent than this, as all users can see the information shared.
- Crowd-sourcing content, information, and feedback become convenient.
6. Messaging Systems
Many businesses already use messaging systems like Slack for informal IC within and between teams.
- Learning and using the tool is generally an intuitive experience
- Integrating messaging with other tools is often accessible with built-in integrations.
- Communicating informally within teams or company-wide encourages interaction.
7. Social Media
Is the company CEO active on Twitter? Do you have a private Instagram account for pictures from the kickoff? Some information aimed at employees may be suitable for sharing publicly, especially for large, multinational companies.
- Sharing and accessing information is easy.
- Posting messages publicly contributes to the company’s employer branding.
How to Create an Internal Communications Strategy
Good employee communications don’t happen spontaneously. To avoid the challenges that companies face in internal communications, you need to develop a strategy.
Step 1: Determine Your Internal Communications Objectives
Let’s start by assessing your current situation. Review questions such as:
- How is your current solution working? What works well and what doesn’t?
- What would you like your internal communications to look like?
- What are your goals? Develop both short-term objectives and long-term goals.
- What key metrics related to employee communications do you want to track?
Step 2: Identify the Requirements
Once you have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve, it’s time to look at your requirements.
What do your needs look like? Review needs such as:
- Inclusiveness, including for remote workers
- Accessibility across devices
- User-access management
- Urgency and timeliness
- Segmentation of your internal audience
Also, note when you have apparent contradictions, as they may need extra consideration. For example, you may note that information needs to flow freely but reach only the right people to avoid information overload.
Step 3: Create Your Internal Communications Strategy
Now, it’s time to create a process that helps you reach your internal communications objectives and goals. Once you’ve completed this step, you’ll have a standardized process that allows you to repeat high-quality communications practices again and again.
You want your strategy to outline:
- What to share
- When and how often to share it
- Where and how to share it
- Who you’ll share it with
Here are some of the information types to consider in your strategy:
This type of information includes company announcements, news, and event updates. How will you ensure that all employees access important company news?
Common tool choices: knowledge bases, intranets, email newsletters
Rewards and Recognitions
Consider both recognitions that are company-wide and those within departments or teams. How will you recognize and encourage employees?
Common tool choices: intranet, email newsletter, instant messaging tools.
Company and Team-Related Information
Don’t let policy documents, codes of conduct, and process documents gather dust How will you ensure that employees have access to the necessary company documents?
Common tool choices: knowledge bases, cloud-based document storage solutions.
Feedback and Suggestions
We’ve already seen that businesses need communication to be symmetrical in order to benefit. How will you add two-way communication?
Common tool choices: email newsletter, forums, Kanban boards.
Informal Discussions and Conversations
Both information exchange and employee bonding are worth considering. How will you manage day-to-day chat?
Common tool choices: project management systems, instant-messaging tools.
You need ways to reach all or a specific subset of employees. For example, how will you quickly inform employees in case of an emergency?
Common tool choices: knowledge base, intranet or newsletter for longer content, instant messaging tools, or email for shorter notifications.
For each type of information, you need to share, complete a process document that shows exactly how you’ll share the information. Having a roadmap allows you to stay consistent, no matter who sends out the information.
Step 4: Create Your Ideal Mix of Internal Communications Tools
Which internal communications tools are right for you? You’ll want to tailor a solution that is easy to use and helps you reach your objectives.
For many companies, a multi-platform approach works the best. By considering your requirements from step 2 and the strategy from step 3, you can create your ideal mix. For example, here’s what a simple setup may look like:
- Single source of truth. A place for sharing and sourcing information such as reports, policy documents, and company news. Choice: a knowledge base.
- Project work status updates: a project management system with commenting features
- Informal discussion and urgent messages: an instant messaging app such as Slack.
When choosing a tool, you’ll want to look for:
- Integrations with other tools — how well does it work with your other internal communications tools?
- Ease of use — how steep is the learning curve?
- Scalability — can it scale with your company?
- Multi-purpose use — can it cover more than one type of information?
Step 5: Implement
Implement the strategy as well as any new communications tools. Make sure that you’
Expect any significant changes to take a while to implement, at least if the old tools still are available for other purposes. For example, you may previously have used your project management tools for storing related documents but now want all documents stored in a knowledge base for easier access.
Step 6: Evaluate
Gather feedback consistently during the implementation as well as after its completion. Measure and track progress — how well do you reach the objectives you set?
You’ll also want to complete regular reviews to see that your internal communications tools and processes still are a good fit for your needs.
How a Knowledge Base Can Improve Internal Communications
Employees need one clear, easily accessible place that works as a “single source of truth.” The knowledge base is one of the most popular options for this, as you can use it for other things than just communications. It also works as an information storage and collaboration platform.
Now, we’ll take a look at internal communications best practices when using a knowledge base for internal communications and review the common issues they help to solve.
Make the Communications Platform an Integral Part of the Workflow
Who remembers to log in to a dedicated intranet or forum just to check company news? In order to reach employees as well as possible, you want them to really use the tool where the information is shared.
As a knowledge base becomes an integral part of the everyday workflow, you increase the chances of employees checking the latest information.
Manage First Impressions
A common issue is that crucial information gets lost in a sea of text. That is why you want to consider the recipient and make it both approachable and easy to find. By organizing the dashboard, you can highlight recent company information.
Decide What to Share
Employees don’t want a deluge of information, but they don’t like to be kept in the dark, either. Spending time trying to find news, reports, or other information causes stress and feelings of exclusion.
By determining what to upload to the knowledge base and where to add it, you make sure that employees get the requested information and find it easily.
Create a Workflow for Internal Communication
If the company’s communication changes considerably depending on who creates it, then it may be time to standardize it. Tone, style, and frequency impact the employer brand.
Solve any inconsistencies by establishing a workflow in your knowledge base:
- Create a template each for the common communication needs
- Craft a process for how you communicate this particular type of information
- Create a new communications draft
- Add everyone who will contribute
- Add everyone who will edit, comment, or approve the draft
- Publish and share through the selected channels
Consider the Storytelling
Employees dislike being preached at — who doesn’t? Gone are the days when internal communications consisted of giving the CEO a megaphone.
At its core, internal communications are all about telling the story of your company. How do you show that the employee is an integral part of the story?
Another thing to consider is how you can tell the story in a way that engages. For example, you can use more than one type of media: text, photos or illustrations, videos, audio clips, and gifs.
Organize the Information
Struggling to find that crucial bit of information in an old status update from another team in a wealth of information… no, it’s neither fun nor efficient. However, by collecting critical information in one place, you can organize it easier. For example, you can use categories, tags, and a knowledge base with powerful search functions so information becomes easier to find.
Increase and Encourage Interaction
If information is seen as something to consume rather than interact with, engagement becomes tricky.
Solve this issue by crowd-sourcing parts of the internal communications. For example, you can encourage employees to contribute to updates and use interactive features such as commenting.
Track and Measure Employee Engagement
Who saw the important product update? By using a knowledge base with analytics, you can track and measure engagement. You can measure engagement in different ways — how much are they using the tool, or how much do they engage?
Successful internal communication is strategic, easy to access, and user-friendly. For most companies, a multi-tool approach will work best. However, the key to its success is letting communications be a natural part of the everyday workflow. After all, you can use as many internal communications tactics as you want. If a tool is seldomly used, information still won’t reach the intended recipients.
While instant messaging tools such as Slack have become integral for many businesses, they have their limitations for longer bits of information.
The solution is to use a single source of truth — not just for company updates but also for collecting, collaborating on, and storing information. And while we’ve reviewed many tools above, only the knowledge base has that type of powerful capabilities.
We’re not asking you to give up Slack. Instead, you’ll add a knowledge base that you can link to for more information. And, speaking of Slack — did you know that Helpjuice offers a convenient integration? That way, you can easily connect the two and let them be part of your powerful internal communications toolbox. Try Helpjuice out for free for 14 days now.