You can have the best, most disruptive ideas for your comms. But without the right vehicle to broadcast your them, you don’t stand much of a chance at achieving success. So how do you choose the best internal communications tool for your employees?
When you’re broadcasting your internal communications, what is your medium? And how effective is it in not just reaching your workforce – but actively engaging them?
As a process for facilitating two-way dialogue and developing communication skills, internal communications is an art that continues to be redefined as your workforce evolves or ways of working change. It’s something that needs to be checked in on frequently to make sure it’s doing its job and being as effective as possible.
In your organization, you may be relying on a single internal communications tool, which you perceive as reliable and far-reaching. Similarly, you may have a broad range of tools that helps you to disperse your message far and wide.
But how effective are these? If you analyze your current operations, can you improve on the internal communication tools that you already have? When was the last time you checked on the efficacy of your comms tools?
In this blog, we’re going to look at the array of platforms, services, tools, and applications you can use to make sure your internal comms do their optimal best. The essential components of an internal communications tool that helps you reach your entire audience to engage them, inform them, and inspire them.
Internal communications – more than just news
When people think of internal comms, they automatically think of company news and updates: top-down information regarding holiday allowance or how to maintain office security over the weekend. It’s normally formal in tone and written from a senior level. However, in reality, internal communication is a lot more than memos from the top. It is more inclusive – and relies as much on the employee as it does the employer.
When we break down what internal comms stand for within a business, it’s the interactions between employers and employees and their peers. It’s the two-way dialogue that the most successful companies strive to maintain. It’s the focus on developing better ways of communication. It’s the constant monitoring of new digital tools, the engagement of hard to reach workers, and the influence of attitudes and behaviors. It’s a nuanced blend of exchanges, some of the aspects of internal communications that we might not immediately consider include:
Rewards and recognition – whether it’s an established feature in your workplace, or just a casual shout out to an MVP, rewarding and recognizing your fellow colleague is a powerful way to single someone out for good work. Putting a system in place that does this is a very effective way of making your workforce feel valued and showing gratitude.
Employee feedback – internal communications should always be a two-way street, and seeking opinions and thoughts from the workforce is essential. Carrying out surveys, providing forms, and allowing your employees to get involved in the discussion are important for engagement, satisfaction, and shaping your comms.
Customer feedback – always an essential guide in how the company is doing, customer feedback is an important staple of colleague discussion, and can help fashion decisions on how the organization goes forward. This type of information, whether it’s good or bad, should be open to all, to allow workers to understand the value of their product, and the impact it has on the end-user.
Conversations – the comments, banter, and questions that make up a casual chat between colleagues. They are the exchanges on the instant messaging platforms, or the funny note pinned up in the kitchen. People are programmed to interact with each other, and a successful workplace encourages this. These conversations can be work-related or not but can often spur good ideas, collaboration, and contribute to a resilient, open workplace culture.
There are other aspects to internal communications depending on the type of organization. But when it comes to the medium you use as an internal comms professional – the tools you use to get your message out there – no one size fits all. The quest to find the ultimate way to speak to your workforce will always be an ongoing project.
So, what should we consider when picking our internal communication tools?
As organizations morph, your ways of connecting to your employees should adapt. Technology develops, workforces expand and contract, new avenues of business are explored. But amid all these variations, there are some constants that you need to consider when picking your internal communication tool.
Access across a range of devices
An organization has many employees in different roles. While there are some desk-based workers, there are others who are customer-facing or who work in warehouses, production lines, or spend a lot of time on the road. Your internal communication tool needs to be able to serve all these different types of work, and so access on tablets, shared computers, and cellphones is a necessary and fundamental part of using the system.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, you need to find a way to personalize news, so all information is unique to that user. Tailoring your employees’ homepage or feed by customizing the content displayed for different employee groups gives a personalized user experience. This enables workers to receive relevant information that encourages engagement.
When your business is undergoing change or facing a crisis, reaching staff out-of-hours, providing regular updates, and ensuring a single source of credible truth for essential information are all on the must-have list. Your internal communication strategy needs to be able to plan for every eventuality and have a simple, easily searchable, and centralized access to all policies, procedures, and protocols to support you and your organization if a scenario should arise.
Communication across traditional boundaries
One of the biggest problems that organizations face is siloing. The restriction of communication or the sharing of information across departments, offices, and countries can create significant issues further down the line. Your internal comms tool needs to be able to connect staff to each other regardless of where they work. It should aid collaboration and encourage workers to look to other areas of their business for help, inspiration, and discovery. It should de-silo people and skills and open them up across the board, through a combination of visibility, conversation, and easy connection.
One source of truth
The digital workplace of many organizations can be a confusing, neglected file depository. With staff leaving, no governance or accountability, policies, regulations, data, and other essential items of company information can be duplicated, replaced, altered. With no management of these critical items, businesses are exposing themselves to risk. For the employees themselves, the journey to acquiring the correct information can be confusing and problematic which can often lead to mistakes. Therefore, whatever you use to position your communications needs to be well managed, with an easy-to-use interface and excellent search. Ensuring your platform is one source of truth is essential in making in employee adoption.
Of course, most of your content will be read, but there are far more effective media to use when you need to make an impact. Video, infographics, podcasts, PowerPoint presentations, and more should all be hostable formats within your internal comms strategy. They can take your message and make it more digestible, more engaging, and a lot more entertaining than the written word. With this in mind, your internal comms tools need to support these rich formats and provide a great user experience.
We always say that for any internal communications to be truly effective, it needs to be a two-way street. Ensuring your employees can comment and discuss your comms is really important if you want them to be read and engaged with. With this in mind, you should look to ensure your internal comms tool can enable your users to leave comments, ask questions, tag people in, and explore the case in-depth with the peers and senior level.
Commonly used internal communication tools
Several tools can help your internal communications. But not all of them achieve the points above. Let’s look at the key tools that internal communicators use and explore their various benefits and drawbacks.
Most workers use or at least check their work email account every day – so it’s a tool that is in regular use. Using email as a place for your internal comms has obvious benefits. But it has drawbacks too. Email is becoming frequently less vital as a service in the office. Comms are taking place on a variety of chat platforms like Slack and Microsoft Teams. Third parties are using social media to touch base. In a world of spam and a deluge of marketing messages, emails are being abandoned for a place where users can enjoy richer, more meaningful conversations with people they can choose to communicate with. With this in mind, and the high percentage of unsolicited emails that come through, there is a good chance that your internal communications via email could be ignored.
For organization-wide meetings – an all-hands or a town hall – videos are used as a way to capture the speakers in a more intimate way than audio or the written word allows. With the various speakers, the audience can put names to faces and listen more effectively.
In other uses, video can take a complicated message and deliver it in a comprehensive, digestible way. If you’re sending out instructions to staff – on a new piece of legislation or a company restructure, for example – providing a video alongside your other comms is a
Social media posting can act like a broad sweep across Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. While effective at helping to create a brand, it does depend on your userbase and whether your workers are active on the various platforms. It can be an unreliable medium – with so many accounts online, how can you guarantee your users see and interact with your posts?
While it has been found that employees spend up to three hours a day on social platforms, there are many different platforms out there, and these behaviors do not automatically encompass every demographic in your organization. While it’s important for both internal and external communications, social media should be an accessory, not the primary, comms tool in your kit.
How an intranet combines all the winning benefits of other comms tools
The intranet is the center of the digital workplace. This is the launchpad for all comms, the home for all applications, and the touchstone for all employees. As an organization, you should position your intranet as an integral part of your employees’ work as checking emails is. Using an intranet to centralize all your comms has so many benefits.
In that everyone has access to it, and an equal part to play. With an effective intranet, there are no workarounds, no shady third-party apps, no access issues. The intranet is a democratically structured platform where everyone can interact as much as they like. Through the use of social features, blogs, and comments, your colleagues can access it on a desktop, or mobile 24/7, regardless of location, time zone, or language. It’s the online office for in-house staff, remote workers, and customer-facing employees. This abundance of use is the perfect place to center all internal comms.
It’s easy to use
Or, in any case, should be. Intranets have learned from the neglected SharePoint systems and the dusty file depositories and evolved to become intuitive, accessible, and efficient. When you have an excellent UX, you have adoption, engagement, and efficiency. When you have workers logging on to the system as a regular part of their working day, you have an internal comms machine in place. Your messages are getting read, your workers are responding, and information is flowing.
An intranet is designed to connect colleagues – wherever they are. Through its various integrations, it is a powerful instrument for collaboration. A study by the Harvard Business Review reveals the degree to which companies have increased collaboration in recent years. Employees now spend nearly 80% of their time on collaborative activities, which is incredibly beneficial for internal comms. If you’re sending out new policies, promoting an upcoming social event, or revealing important news, an area where colleagues are active, communicating with each other, and receptive to information is the ideal culture for effective comms.
Creating a social experience is a massive strength of a well-designed intranet. Social media has proved to be a powerful way of communicating with each other and sharing information, and intranets have adapted many of the features of these networks to engage their workers. By creating a social environment, you have a platform where it is easy to disperse information, either en masse or singularly – and in a variety of forms: direct message, company updates, push notifications, blogs and multimedia.
A good intranet is agile enough to bend and evolve as the business grows. That means, when it’s time to change the direction of your messages or modify your comms strategy, it’s within your means to amend the tool you use to do this. An example of this was the recent pandemic, which saw an unprecedented move to homeworking. The news was continually changing, and its impact on the lifestyles of the workforce was becoming more and more evident. In this situation, features like Broadcasts were adopted to deliver timely information to inform the entire workforce through cell phones and desktops.
With its host of features and integrations, an intranet brings the best bits of all traditional internal communication tools and brings it home to one platform. With the intranet carrying the load, internal comms professionals are free to send out information in a variety of formats, using analytics to measure, analyze, improve and provide the ideal setting for discourse between senior level and the workforce.