Internal Communication | 11 mins read

Internal Communications Definitions, Methods & More

internal communications definitions methods more
Lauren Christiansen

By Lauren Christiansen

What is Internal Communication?

Internal communication refers to the processes and tools that are in charge of functional information flow and cooperation between employees in a company.

Within any organization, there are various types of communication between employees, management, and the leadership team. The purpose of internal communication is to optimize and improve any of these latter forms of relationships.

If there are effective internal communications, employees will fully comprehend the company's mission statement and values. Good internal communication also breaks through organizational silos, or independent business units that use their applications and rarely share data with other units. Internal communication impacts a company in numerous ways, including

  • The flow of daily operations
  • Employee communication between business units
  • Owner and management leadership style
  • Worker engagement and efficiency
  • Customer relationships
  • Growth and innovation
  • Employee expertise and knowledge-sharing
  • Work culture and employee experience
  • Retention and turnover rates
  • Achieving business goals

  • 60% of businesses don't have a long term internal communication strategy
  • Only 13% of workers use the company intranet on a daily basis
  • 74% of workers feel that they are left in the dark about important company news
  • 74% of employees don't understand their company's strategy

The Importance of Good Internal Communications

Good internal communications are essential for optimizing employee engagement and ensuring everyone is focused on meeting key objectives. Because communication is the glue that holds an organization together, ineffective information flow can negatively impact every single aspect of the company.

Though optimizing internal communications is typically the responsibility of HR and the marketing department, different departments can seek to improve the way they interact with others. In doing so, the organization will derive several benefits, which include -

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1. Keeps Everyone Informed

Many companies have a high retention rate because of poor communication between management and employees. It's difficult to perform a job and know what resources are required when there aren't a set of clear instructions given by leadership.

The best internal communication ensures that everyone is informed of any future events, changes in policy, new initiatives, and performance objectives. Ensuring transparency can optimize employee engagement and improve the quality of their work.

2. Provides a Holistic View of the Company

Internal communication is not about capturing an uninvolved audience by employing top-down messaging but making sure that everyone has a voice. Workers feel discouraged when they have suggestions or feedback and the leadership team doesn't seem to listen.

Internal communication promotes a holistic view by ensuring everyone communicates what their departments' goals and values are. Employees will gain a better understanding of how each business unit works and what its purpose is. By giving everyone a voice and informing employees of how each unit works, staffers will recognize key business objectives and know how to achieve them.

3. Optimizes the Work Culture

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The fundamental purpose of internal communications is to assist in optimizing the entire company culture. Every single email, company update, or policy change impacts what the company's mission is, how it treats workers, and how strongly transparency is valued.

Thus, at the core of each IC strategy is the goal of improving the work culture and optimizing employee engagement. If the leadership team prioritizes transparency, they will achieve these objectives.

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4. Improves Employee Engagement

Top-down messaging does not enhance employee engagement because it provides no mechanism for feedback. Organizations that incorporate two-way messaging within their IC strategy will have happier employees and a better retention rate.

This can be accomplished by asking for feedback, interacting with subordinates, letting everyone know what each team is working on, or introducing the company to a new employee. These small actions assist in making everyone feel valued and respected, which assists in improving employee satisfaction and productivity.

5. Ensures People are Calm in Case of a Disruption

If 2020 has taught the business world anything, it is that life and job security can change in an instant. Disruptions, layoffs, pandemics, or other crises can quickly restructure an entire organization and cause mass panic. If a company isn't transparent about the reality of a crisis, everything will be that much more chaotic when the truth is finally out.

Though the leadership team is not required to tell employees about every single detail that may cause harm, transparency can go a long way in gaining employee trust. When an IC strategy prioritizes transparency and mutual respect, employees are willing to go above and beyond to assist in handling a crisis.

Methods of Internal Communication

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It's important to understand the different types of effective IC before creating a communication strategy. These include

  • Top-Down Communications- Leadership will often have to make announcements that inform the workforce of a change. This type of communication can impact the entire company.
  • Crisis Communication- This type of communication is used to keep workers safe from harm and also to minimize risk. Examples of crisis communication may include a warning of a fire or supply chain disaster.
  • Bottom-Up Communication- Workers use a variety of mediums to communicate with the leadership team, including anonymous feedback or surveys.
  • Peer-To-Peer Communication- Successful organizations provide opportunities for workers in different business units to communicate and collaborate on projects.
To optimize each of these types of communications, companies can employ several best practices, which include-

1. In-Person Communication

Certain circumstances warrant face-to-face interactions to ensure the employee clearly understands a message. This is particularly effective when the company is implementing a different policy or incorporating a new application.

Management can optimize this process by remaining positive and clear in their delivery. Meeting with workers regularly to provide feedback on employee performance can also assist in holding workers accountable and improving morale.

2. Company Intranet Communication

The company intranet refers to a private and secure network that is accessible only to staff and management. In recent years, this medium has become popular to convey news and upload company documents to ensure full transparency and improve the efficiency of communication.

Some businesses use one section of the intranet for employee socializing. Content may include humorous or inspirational stories, a blog on the employee of the month, or wellness-related initiatives. Management should make certain that everyone knows how to access and navigate the intranet to ensure everyone views important updates.

3. Email Communication

Email is the most common communication method used in an organization. Most email systems can integrate with mobile devices so workers can check messages when off-site. Another benefit to emails is that users can reference or find information whenever they want, as long as they systemize and organize their inbox.

A busy workday can make it difficult to always know which emails are critical and which aren't, which is why it's imperative to write an appropriate subject line. Making messages as urgent is another helpful strategy unless the sender overuses this method, which defeats the entire purpose.

4. Video Communication

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Because humans respond much quicker to images and videos than text alone, many companies regularly use videos to convey information. This is helpful for the onboarding process and employee training, as a video can entertainingly clarify important company information.

Videos are also utilized during company meetings to captivate the audience, who may otherwise be bored and not paying attention. They are also effective methods to convey worker safety information, sales strategies, or customer service tips.

5. Business Notice Board

Often used by retailers and restaurants, business notice boards are an effective way to capture an audience's attention. This is particularly true for organizations that use minimal electronic means to communicate but still need a way to provide updates.

Business notice boards can include changes in store hours, schedules, HR policies, or job openings. Posting birthdays, special recognitions, or inspirational quotes can also assist in optimizing employee morale and the company culture.

Internal vs. External Communications

While internal communication refers to the optimization of communication among employees and management, external communication refers to correspondences and campaigns geared towards customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

While all correspondences occur between two parties to send and receive information, the type of participants determines whether a communication is occurring within or outside of the organization.
While making improvements to both is fundamental to ensuring business success, there are similarities and differences between the two, including -

1. Different Purposes

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Internal communications improve company morale and productivity by ensuring everyone knows what the company's goals and needs are. The leadership team may use various mediums to emphasize the organization's mission, performance objectives, and values.

While executives may write occasional emails to customers containing these themes, they are not written with the same purpose in mind. Reiterating these goals to employees assists in improving productivity and work culture, while it assists externally in reputation maintenance and increasing brand loyalty.

2. Marketing vs. Productivity

All external communications are a form of marketing. Whether it is a TV ad, customer email, or website blog, the goal is to increase the number of customers and improve the loyalty of current customers. Press releases, social media posts, or promotions are also types of external marketing communications.

Marketing service providers or sales teams are usually employed to tailor certain messages to target audiences. Internally, communication is not used as a marketing ploy but rather to inform and motivate workers.

3. Value of Transparency

Though internal and external communication has different purposes, they both value transparency. Customers and suppliers prefer to know what is going on when a problem arises, rather than be lied to or kept in the dark.

Workers also need to have as much information as possible to meet performance objectives and feel engaged. Though the leadership team may try to tailor messages depending on the audience, companies that prioritize transparency will improve trust and achieve business success.

How to Improve Internal Communications

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Many companies view worker communication as a costly and timely endeavor, rather than an opportunity for profit and operational effectiveness. Others prefer to separate the leadership team from employees and minimize the importance of transparency.

Regardless of the reason, companies that don't prioritize effective internal communications are making a huge mistake. Poor communication hurts the bottom line, decreases employee morale, and negatively impacts productivity. Making improvements and prioritizing internal communication is essential for business success. Communication best practices include -

1. Look Within

Many complain about how others fail to communicate, but few are humble enough to look within.
Everyone should do their part to optimize information sharing, email writing, and verbal directives. Those who struggle with anxiety or communication problems may invest in communications training, particularly those in leadership positions.

2. Ask Questions

The leadership team should ask for employee feedback before implementing a new communication system, particularly if remote workers are involved. It is also imperative to have a certain level of emotional intelligence to recognize which mediums won't work for certain people.

For example, an older employee may prefer to be called on the phone rather than message on Slack. While it's impossible to make accommodations for everyone, asking for feedback and being flexible are essential qualities of good leadership.

3. Invest in Communication Tools

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Management should take inventory of how team members tend to communicate and which information is frequently shared before investing in any communication tools. Once a consensus is formed, executives can research different mediums to help optimize collaboration and knowledge-sharing.

For example, Slack is a messaging system that can help remote employees upload documents and chat back and forth. Interviews, infographics, videos, or press releases may be other effective mediums to communicate internally.

4. Create an Open-Door Policy

Though it's important to be professional and set boundaries with subordinates, creating an open-door policy is essential for effective internal communication. Employees should feel comfortable asking questions, providing feedback, or requesting tips to improve performance.

Employees who are afraid of their managers and feel uncomfortable asking questions are more prone to make mistakes, seek employment elsewhere, and become less engaged. Creating an open-door policy can mitigate many of these hindrances that impact productivity and morale.

5. Emphasize Water-Cooler Talk

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Frequent chatting and slacking off is not helpful to maintain profitability and operational effectiveness. However, allowing workers to interact during scheduled breaks in a relaxed and fun environment can be an effective way to build relationships.

The company can also host happy hours, coffee breaks, or company-sponsored lunches to encourage internal communication. Though employees may not be talking about work during these water-cooler moments, they will get to connect with management and people from other business units. This can make it easier to collaborate on projects or ask for assistance when it is time for work.

  • Provide caffeine and snacks
  • Create a space where people can converse
  • Make the enviornment relaxing
  • Make the space separate from the rest of the office
  • Offer activities like a ping pong or pool table
  • Encourage actual breaks

Key Takeaways

In conclusion, here are the key takeaways to remember about internal communications

  • Internal communications impact everything from the flow of information to work culture to productivity to knowledge-sharing. Optimizing communication is the primary way to achieve business success and profitability.
  • Employing internal communications best practices keeps everyone informed, provides a holistic view of the company, optimizes the work culture, improves employee engagement, and keeps workers calm in case of an emergency.
  • Different internal communication tools include in-person meetings, the company intranet, email, videos, or a business board.
  • To improve internal communications, companies should look within, ask questions, create an open-door policy, invest in communication tools, and emphasize water-cooler talk.

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