The workforce has never been more disparate. Flexible schedules and remote working were already becoming important to employees before spring 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic supercharged the move towards them becoming the norm.
Many workers will never return to the office full-time and, whilst that might make them happier in their employment, it leaves companies with the tricky task of keeping them engaged, informed and focused. If you are looking for effective ways to reach your remote workers, the types of internal communication and examples in this article will help you cultivate a winning strategy.
There are many perils of poor internal communication. For example:
- 74% of employees feel they miss out on company news and information, according to Gallup.
- 72% of employees say they do not fully understand their company’s strategy, claims an IBM report.
When employees disengage from the business, it can affect their productivity and, if they do not really grasp the strategy, they might not work toward the correct goals.
Simply by communicating more effectively, you can ensure all employees are focused on the right targets, that they feel part of the business and that they understand why management makes the decisions that it does. This cuts suspicion and rumour and adds a level of transparency that breeds mutual respect between employee and employer.
The 6 essential types of internal communication (with examples)
Employers must implement a number of different types of internal communication in order to create a rounded strategy that cultivates the maximum benefit for the business. Here are the essential types of communication you need:
1. Leadership-down communication
This is the very basis of much of your internal communication efforts. As seen in the statistics above, if there is no communication from leadership down the chain, employees will simply not know what is happening in the organisation or what the strategy is for meeting company goals.
Information should flow from leaders to employees to keep everyone in the loop. Writing about a time when he was developing a new product with a small team, Jason Fried, CEO of project management platform Basecamp, explains that many workers not involved in the project were confused about the snippets of information that they had gleaned. He said,
“It’s easy to forget, as a leader, that when employees don’t get the wide view, not only does the point of their work escape them, but it can also lead to real frustration. It’s hard to feel pride and ownership when you don’t understand where things are going.”
Examples of leadership-down communication:
A progress report is a regular update on the tasks ongoing in the company so everyone understands where they are, what is holding them up, where there have been successes and what the next stage will be. This aligns staff, whether they are part of the task or not, allowing everyone to see an overview. As well as being used for information, they can generate input from employees on other tasks who might have an innovative solution.
The business update is more of an overview of the company as a whole and the issues affecting it. You can use it to celebrate successes as well as to identify challenges, and it is key to improving transparency between the leadership and the workforce.
2. Employee-up communication
Just as it is important that employees receive the latest information from top-level managers, leaders also need to hear feedback from employees. Whether it is listening to challenges with the current systems or the results of collaborative efforts of departments, bottom-up communication, or upward communication, can help find solutions and develop new processes that benefit the business.
The experiences of those who work “on the ground” are valuable to the company, because they are best placed to understand what is working and what needs improving. They deal with these systems on a day-to-day basis in a way that leadership might not. This is why management should encourage a culture of employee-up communication.
Examples of employee-up communication:
Having discussion forums as part of your company intranet allows you to ask direct questions and receive answers from your workforce. Employees can flag concerns and issues as well as tell you what is successful. This is an important method for helping leaders understand what is happening within the company.
Polls and votes
You can use polls and votes to establish everything from employee satisfaction to views on company strategy. These tools help engage employees and allow you to understand the issues that they face. With Company Webcast, you can add polls and votes to internal communications webinars. This enables you to harvest real-time opinions and to gain a better sense of the employees’ viewpoints whilst a large proportion of your workforce is in one (virtual) space.
3. Peer-to-peer communication
Encouraging discussion between colleagues is an excellent way to enable collaboration. If there are open lines of dialogue across the company, often called lateral communication, then issues can be discussed and solved more quickly. This type of communication pools the resources and accumulated experience of your workforce for the good of the organisation.
This fosters a camaraderie and team mentality that is beneficial for morale. In turn, it can lead to an increase in productivity and improved job satisfaction. Moreover, when departments talk freely, it is easier to keep projects on track, as everyone understands where the others are in the process; there are fewer stumbling blocks and unwelcome surprises along the road.
Examples of peer-to-peer communication:
Having a communication hub, such as a chat platform, that employees can access remotely, helps to facilitate peer-to-peer communication. It should feature the necessary tools, updates and communication channels for them to be able to collaborate with colleagues wherever they are based.
Social media apps
As most people have access to social media accounts, using apps for peer-to-peer communication makes sense. Using WhatsApp, a private Facebook group or another similar platform for collaboration keeps people in the loop in the way they are used to in normal life.
Using a project collaboration tool like Asana creates a more structured way of hosting internal communication between peers. You can set up different channels for different projects and even add due dates and other features that help projects stay on track.
4. Information communication
Information communication is the distribution of documents that an employee might need to access during their working life. There should be a repository for these important company policies and practices that employees can utilise whether they work from the office or dial in remotely.
Examples of information communication:
An employee might need to check the company’s brand positioning guidelines when working on a project. This information should be easily available in order to ensure everything the business eventually makes public remains consistent with its aims and image.
It is essential that your HR policies are accessible to all employees so they can check everything from holiday entitlement to sickness procedures and grievance procedures.
5. Culture communication
Peter Ashworth, chief marketing officer of Humanity One, says “a strong organisational culture can clearly differentiate a business from its competitors in the mind of its stakeholders”. The way to instil this culture is to ensure that it is communicated freely throughout the business.
Research shows there is a clear connection between company culture and financial performance, so make sure that all employees have access to all relevant information.
Examples of culture communication:
Mission and value statements
Mission and value statements can be communicated on documents, email signatures, poster boards, computer login screens or anywhere else they will be seen by employees. This visibility keeps everyone focused on the company’s mission.
Communicating the company culture throughout the onboarding process ensures new starters understand expectations before they begin work. They begin their role fully versed in the way the business works internally.
6. Crisis communication
The other types of internal communication revolve around collating information to provide an update or providing a space to find existing resources. Crisis communication relies on informing as many colleagues as possible as soon as possible, and it is a crucial part of your internal communications strategy. You must have processes, strategies and systems in place to allow you to communicate effectively during a crisis and make sure everyone knows how to react and what to do next.
Agility in responding to critical events can be the difference between being able to navigate the situation with minimal damage and struggling to compete.
Examples of crisis communication:
Communicating health and safety procedures to employees
When the first COVID-19 restrictions came into place, companies with good crisis communication were able to mobilise teams to work from home effectively, minimising health issues and stress.
Building an internal communication strategy
- Review your old strategy and understand what works and what needs improvement.
- Keep the working elements and consider how to make them even more effective. For example, you might hold company town hall meetings in person, but you could also increase attendance and engagement by webcasting them.
- Identify which key metrics you want to measure and monitor them to understand whether your strategy is a success. You might want to increase employee engagement or employee satisfaction, for example. These are measurable and will tell you whether your strategy is moving in the right direction.
- Provide your team with the tools they need to succeed. This might be a project management tool, such as Monday, or it could be access to a professional platform for internal webinars, such as Company Webcast.
- Evaluate and improve. This will lead to increasingly effective communication.
What makes great internal communication?
Great internal communication features initiatives and platforms that enable the company to reach and engage as many employees as possible. It makes them feel involved in and valued by the company, knowing that they are in the loop with all the information they need.
Who should own internal communications?
You may have an internal communications team to organise the logistics of your strategy, but managers hold a key role, too. Managers have the most direct impact on your workforce of any figure in the company, and that means that filtering your internal comms strategy through to your employees should be their responsibility.
However, everyone in the organisation has a role to play, as both downward communication and upward communication are important to making the whole system work. Employee engagement works in both directions.
What are the best internal communication channels?
It’s difficult to pick just a few, but video has a lot of unrealised potential, as it is hugely effective for internal communications. Studies show that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed much more quickly than the written word in an email, for example. It is also more engaging, with viewers retaining 95% of the information relayed by a video.
With no likelihood of ever having 100% of your staff on site at any one time, we have to embrace remote and hybrid working. Although this provides challenges in communicating the same message to all employees at the same time, it is possible to achieve. We hope the above types of internal communication and the examples help you get a better idea of what you can implement in your organisation.
Technology allows us to send messages instantly, dial into servers remotely and communicate via video, too. This requires an upgrade to previous methods of internal communication, but the companies that embrace this remote and hybrid approach to business communication will reap the benefits.
One way to increase the impact of your internal communication in a world of remote and hybrid work is to employ webcasts and webinars.
As a market leader with more than 10,000 webinars and webcasts organised every year, Company Webcast can help you provide next-level experiences for your employees. Get a free demo of Company Webcast.