Internal communication 101: Types of internal comms + best practices
Great internal communication keeps your employees connected and invested in the company’s goals, values, and projects. Here’s how to make it happen.
By Darcy Hogendorn in
No matter the size or scope of your business, communication matters. Ensuring the smooth flow of information between team members, managers, and departments affects every aspect of your organization, from its day-to-day operations to its company culture.
Of course, fostering great internal communication can be easier said than done. This is especially true when you consider that the number of people who work from home has reached record highs: According to a 2022 Pew Research study, 59% of the American workforce works remotely most or all of the time. With fewer teams meeting face-to-face, staying on the same page isn't always easy.
The good news is that there are more communication tools available than ever before. These tools, when combined with a solid internal communication strategy, can help organizations keep remote and hybrid employees engaged and in the loop at all times.
So, what exactly is internal communication and why does it matter for your organization? We'll dive into it in this article, and offer some simple tips for establishing a solid internal communication strategy.
In simplest terms, internal communication (also commonly referred to as IC) is a strategy that enables the flow of information among people within a business or organization. This includes employees, supervisors, management, and anyone else within the company.
Internal communication differs from external communication in the sense that the flow of information with internal communications is restricted to people within the organization. With external communication, information flows back and forth between a company's employees and entities outside of the organization (such as clients or other members of the public). Even more specifically, internal communication can happen in person or virtually (the latter of which is becoming more common as remote work becomes the norm).
When an organization practices good internal communication, its participants (including employees and managers) are on the same page: Everybody has access to the same information, and everybody knows how to get the information they need. When internal comms suffer, different departments may receive conflicting information. Even worse, employees may lack access to the information they need to do their jobs.
Within an organization, there are inherently many different ways to share information. However, internal communication can generally fit into one of the following categories based on the relationships between people within an organization:
This type of internal communications takes place between those in managerial or supervisory roles. It typically consists of information about organizational strategies, goals, milestones, and policies. This type of information is typically discussed between decision-makers and is then shared with team members and others within the organization.
Managers and supervisors are responsible for sharing updates and important information with their team members. This communication takes place during informal daily conversation, whether as a group or in a one-on-one setting. Similarly, team members bring project updates, organizational concerns, and questions to their managers with the goal of gathering information needed to do their jobs.
Often the most frequent communication we have day to day, this type of internal comms occurs between employees who work together on the same team. This typically entails communications that enable team members to work toward a common goal or outcome, but it’s not all work and no play: Occasional non-work-related encounters are a great way to break up monotony and build stronger relationships between team members.
There are a number of effective methods of internal communication for teams working remotely. You can tailor your method based on the immediacy of the issue and whether it warrants a synchronous or asynchronous approach. Let’s dive deeper into some of the most effective means of internal communication.
Face-to-face internal communication can occur between team members or between team members and supervisors or managers. Face-to-face comms are typically synchronous, and include things like live in-person meetings and phone calls — which happen in real time. This type of real-time communication is great for time-sensitive issues that require a speedy resolution.
However, video is also gaining popularity as a method of face-to-face internal communication. Using pre-recorded videos for executive comms, company updates, and culture building is a great way to provide team members with the benefits of synchronous face-to-face communication (specifically, tone and facial expressions) and the convenience of asynchronous communication, allowing employees to watch when their schedules allow.
Rewatch makes it quick and easy to record and store video for internal comms. With Rewatch, you can take advantage of video transcription, timestamped comments and tagging, and even analytics. Book a demo to see how video can elevate your internal comms.
Resource-based internal comms refers to any internal communication that occurs via the organization's existing systems, or resources. While resources can vary widely between organizations, email is perhaps the most commonly used resource-based communication tool. Similarly, chat resources like Slack that allow team members to communicate asynchronously have also gained steam recently. These methods are best saved for more casual discussions where no emergent action is required from any party.
Your organization’s intranet is another resource-based communication tool. These systems, like SharePoint, are great for sharing company information and collaborating, and often double (or triple) as a place to store and share documents.
If you utilize video as part of your internal comms strategy, they can be leveraged as another excellent form of resource-based communication. Your organization may choose to use video to streamline onboarding processes, create product demos, or even simply to record important meetings for later reference. Videos can then be shared internally via email, chat, message board, or intranet.
Now that we've introduced the concept of internal communication and the various types of internal communications, let's focus on why it matters. When internal comms are strong within your organization, there are many ways you (and your employees) can benefit.
When team members get the information they need in the appropriate context, they tend to be better engaged and more productive overall. This is because great internal communication helps employees feel that their opinions and feedback are valued. When employee communication within your organization is strong, employees are more confident in their ability to find the information they need to do their jobs well.
On the other hand, weak internal communication can have the opposite effect: preventing team members from getting the information they need to do their jobs. This, in turn, can result in poor engagement and a lack of productivity.
These days, it’s harder than ever for companies to retain employees. This is due to a few factors, like the unprecedented number of job openings across the country (11.4 million as of April 2022, up from 9.27 million in April 2021), and the "gig" economy making it easier for unsatisfied workers to quit their traditional jobs. With this in mind, effective communication is more important than ever.
Good internal communication can improve the overall employee experience by sending out the important message that workers are valued. Managers can do this by making sure employees are aware of certain benefits (such as appreciation events or other initiatives) that boost morale and improve retention.
Strong internal communication can also serve the vital function of keeping team members on the same page. When everybody has the information they need (or knows where they can find it), there is less chance for conflict and other issues that can divide teams and hinder productivity.
Likewise, great internal communications within an organization can cut back on rumors and gossip that can otherwise tarnish reputations and contribute to a toxic (or hostile) work environment. And of course, when team members can unite under shared business goals and outcomes, everybody works better together and the business stands to benefit. It's a win-win for all involved!
No matter what industry your business operates in, competition is fierce. You and your team need to stay on top of your game in order to remain competitive — and much of this is dependent on a foundation of strong internal communication. A sound internal comms strategy equips businesses with the skills they need to respond to industry challenges swiftly and confidently. In many ways, internal business communication can mean the difference between barely scraping by and truly thriving in your industry.
With so much to gain from a strong internal communication plan, what are some actionable steps you can take right now to start improving internal comms within your organization? Let's dive in with some internal communications best practices for businesses.
Start by figuring out where your organization stands with its current internal communication. This is often harder than it sounds, because it forces you to step back and look at things as objectively as possible. As you evaluate your current situation, consider how well you understand your own employees' needs and the specific tools you use to communicate with your team(s).
You can also get a better feel for your current internal communications success by simply surveying your employees. Asking for direct employee feedback on your internal communications can open your eyes to some specific areas of communication that could use improvement. Likewise, this feedback can provide you with information on the things you're already doing right, which can be equally helpful.
In addition to direct employee feedback, if any of your internal comms provide analytics, now is the time to check them out:
- Video software that allows you to see how employees engage with your videos
- Chat app analytics that give insight into how your teams are using messaging
- A quick survey of your company calendars to see how much time is spent in meetings
Just as you'd set goals and outcomes for any other business-related project, the same should be done with your internal comms strategy. Without measurable metrics and KPIs, how will you know if your communication plan is successful? Part of this also means defining some basic internal communication guidelines for others within your organization. You'll need to determine which communication channels to use to deliver different types of messages. By making sure everybody is on board and on the same page here, you increase your chances for success.
Choosing the right metrics to track makes all the difference. If you struggle with analytics, you’re not alone: 27% of managers cite lack of analytics as one of their biggest challenges this year. However, no (or poor) analytics can result in a lot of wasted time and resources, as you won’t know how to focus your efforts. Some examples of IC-specific metrics to measure include open rates for newsletters and other communications and employee engagement.
Once you assess your current internal communications strategy and identify your organization's short- and long-term goals, it's time to build your new and improved strategy. While your organization's plan should vary based on its needs, values, and company culture, there are some basic steps you can follow to build a promising internal comms strategy. This includes:
- Regularly requesting feedback from employees on communication preferences
- Setting a budget for implementing your new internal communications plan
- Ensuring that information is flowing between all departments, rather than from the top down
- Defining and outlining your organization's core messages
- Having a plan to review progress towards goals or outcomes on a regular basis through scheduled audits
Having a plan in place for an internal communication strategy is great, but having access to the right tools can make implementing and sticking with a new strategy much easier company wide. The best tools are easy to incorporate into your everyday work while also helping business leaders deliver messages quickly and effectively. Great internal comms software should also free up the time and hassle that goes into managing and coordinating internal communications.
Not sure where to start when it comes to choosing the right internal communication tools for your organization? Rewatch allows businesses to securely save, manage, and search video content to improve collaboration and communication. Book a demo today to get started!
Some other communication tools your team may want to consider (if you don't use them already) include:
- Employee social media networks
- Video sharing platforms
- Intranets and forums
- Workplace chat
Many businesses also use specific communication software, such as Slack, to improve the flow of information between departments and teams. Platforms such as Slack are designed to integrate with other software so that organizations can get the most out of every available feature.
One of the best practices to keep in mind when it comes to your internal communication strategy is to have an actual communication calendar in place. Specifically, an internal communications calendar is a spreadsheet or similar document that outlines exactly what content you plan to send out, the platform you'll use to send it, and when you'll send it. Having an internal comms calendar is an effective way to visualize your entire content process, improve consistency, and streamline your overall workflow.
When creating a content calendar, there are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Mark down important dates (such as conferences, annual company events, and holidays) that are set in stone. From there, you can create and schedule content around these events.
- Add recurring events (like newsletters) and product or campaign launches to the calendar. From there, you can get a better feel for what kind of content needs to go out and when.
- Review your calendar regularly to ensure that there isn't too much (or too little) internal communications going out at any given point; this can help your teams avoid information overload.
According to a Gallup poll, just 27% of surveyed employees report that they believe in their company's values. Unfortunately, when employees lack a connection to a company's core values (or a company lacks defined values altogether), it can lead to feelings of apathy among team members. And, of course, this can have a negative impact on morale, productivity, and overall quality of work. Encourage a positive workplace environment with the following steps:
- Get everyone’s input regarding company values: Many people are unfamiliar with their company goals, so it’s good to reintroduce company values and gather input from team members. Would they add or remove any to the list? Why, or why not?
- Establish goals and objectives surrounding company values: Once everyone is aligned on company values and you have an idea of what team members feel is important, build goals surrounding them. This ensures that everyone can stay focused on the values established in step one as you move forward.
- Incorporate trust-building strategies within the team: Building trust goes beyond honesty and holding regular one-on-ones. Incorporating the pillars of trust into your daily communication strategies can set a great example for your team members — it helps them trust you, you trust them, and them trust each other.
- Have fun as a team: No healthy workplace is all business all the time. Intentionally letting your hair down from time to time fosters better relationships among teams. This, in turn, helps employees feel more connected to their work environment, boosts morale, and improves retention.
Another way to foster better communication and stronger relationships with employees is through regular check-ins. Supervisors, managers, and other "higher-ups" should meet with team members across departments to invite feedback, identify pain points, and simply stay in touch.
These meetings can happen in person or even using internal communication tools, such as message boards or real-time instant messaging. The key is to encourage conversation and take feedback seriously. When employees feel that their voices are heard, they feel valued and connect more strongly with their employers.
If you don't already have an open-door communication policy in place, now is the time to implement one. Open-door policies encourage employees to reach out and communicate with higher-ups at any time without having to take issues to their immediate supervisors. By having an open-door policy in place, you can encourage more open and honest communication while gathering useful feedback from your frontline workers. Meanwhile, open-door policies increase accessibility, boost morale, and even improve working relationships between team members and those in supervisory positions.
A carefully crafted internal communication strategy can make all the difference in your organization's productivity, engagement, and overall retention. Even though more employees are working remotely, refined internal communication remains vital to your company's long-term success.
Ready to optimize your internal communication through the use of video? Rewatch is here to help with features like automatic video transcription, easy searching, and detailed engagement analytics. Reach out to our team to learn more or get started today!
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