What internal comms tools and tech should I be using?
Updates on COVID-19, monthly business performance reports, redundancies – internal communication experts are swimming against a tide of developing news, crisis comms, and dwindling company morale. In this turbulent age, is your current comms toolkit up to par?
The landscape of internal communications is continuously changing – not just because of the changing nature of news, but also the evolving digital workplace and a constant conveyor belt of new tech. To be on top of their game, comms experts need to regularly review the tools they are using and assess whether there is anything out there that does aspects of their job better, more quickly, or more efficiently.
With emerging tech and high demand, there is a dizzying array of internal comms tools already available. With so much choice, deciding what you need can be overwhelming. The best starting place is to outline your objectives and see what tech is required to get you to the finishing line of your goals. This could be anything from communicating with dispersed employees to improving your crisis communications. What do you need to improve your craft, and what tech is the best fit?
For internal communications, the foundation of every strategy is a company intranet. It’s here where you can build your plan and take stock of the software and services available. An intranet, and its many features, is central to your comms toolkit, primarily because it evolves with your workforce. There is also the added bonus of integrating third-party software into your intranet to broaden your scope. However, in order for your comms to work, everything needs to align with your objectives, and with a budget to adhere to, these choices must be smart.
With countless customers in various industries, we’re always interested in the different comms obstacles they face. Often, the challenges are the same, despite the scenarios being very different. We all need to connect with our peers; we all need to keep engagement levels up; we’re all looking for slicker ways of sharing knowledge and ideas. And internal comms has a common goal no matter what organization you apply it to: ultimately effective communications give us all a sense of purpose.
With this in mind, we present the five main comms tools and tech you need to keep to your comms strategy, buoy your employees, and inform your workforce.
Remote working comms
While the future appears a little uncertain right now, what is clear is that remote working is going to be a lot more mainstream and acceptable than it has ever been before. More employees will be able to embrace ways of working, which will combine coming to the office and being at home. With this in mind, it’s essential to make sure you enjoy the same ease of communication as sharing a bank of desks with your colleagues.
Fortunately, comms tools are evolving thick and fast, and there is now a range of employee-focused platforms that allow a variety of different communications. And in a typical workplace, there is a need for all manner of interactions – from casual chats with peers to project management among teams. Your digital workplace should reflect the myriad ways of conversation, knowledge sharing, and exchanging of ideas that occur daily in your organization.
This use of video, audio, and quick-fire messaging helps preserve the human side of the now increasingly virtual world. These communication tools should also help sustain the individual groups, communities, and teams that make up office life.
When to use: The need for employee communications channels is constant. Ensure all employees are using approved apps that provide everything they need.
It is possible to broadcast messages directly from your intranet, allowing you to reach your employees during an emergency or in the middle of a crisis. This is the epicenter of your crisis comms strategy and will help you to notify your employees when urgent communication is required.
A crisis could be extreme weather conditions, an unexpected office closure, or a serious incident. Any situation – prompted or otherwise – that demands that you get critical information out in a time-sensitive way. Broadcasts can be used to send messages out through various channels, including SMS and email, in those instances when you need instant contact. This service allows your users to be notified on their cell phones, without any need to login to the usual company comms channels.
When to use this: Specifically in crisis communications, when you have urgent news to send out to your dispersed employees.
Personas can help you effectively communicate with each type of group, whatever they are in the organizational hierarchy. Personas are a semi-fictional representation of the people you are attempting to connect with. These snapshots allow you to develop a more sophisticated style of communication. With these personas, you can understand your user’s needs, behaviors, and experience and create strategies that will help your audience respond better to your message. Personas are usually divided into three main categories:
However, depending on what (or who) you’re focusing on, you could have personas based on a whole different set of criteria. Those employees who commute via public transport, for example, or those with dependents living at home – or even those whose base salary are supplemented by commission pay or bonuses. Separating groups of people in your organization through a common theme allows you to communicate tailored information to them alone.
The main benefit of this is clearly the delivery of targeted, personalized comms to the appropriate parties. But it also allows your organization to have an overview of the distinct personalities that make up your workforce. Just having this broad composition of your organization alone improves your comms.
When to use this feature: When you’re creating a new internal comms strategy, and you’re defining who you actually need to be speaking to.
The primary tranche of internal comms is one-way, top-down communication. For example, the sending of information to your employees about fire safety procedures, reminding them of new dates for various training sessions or publishing the next all-hands meeting dates. However, a valuable – and often overlooked – aspect of internal comms is enabling two-way conversation. Your employees need to be able to voice their feelings and be able to provide opinions where necessary. Pulse surveys are an essential tool in the comms expert’s toolbox precisely because it allows you to gain the thoughts and feedback of your staff, almost instantly – on a wide range of subjects.
Pulse surveys can measure engagement and track changes very quickly (hence the name: they help you check the ‘pulse’ of the business). They give you the data and metrics needed to chart your progress and provide a great way of getting the go-ahead for new engagement and communication strategies. So, via the intranet, you can send out questions about a new initiative, feelings about the organization, and how they rate the work-life balance in the business.
Workers need to be listened to. Their feedback is valuable in shaping your strategy and the big decisions that are made. But they also need to feel heard. Pulse surveys – and the action taken from feedback – are central to this. You can learn a whole lot more about pulse surveys here, including how frequently you should conduct them, what kind of questions you should ask, and the various response scales available.
When to use this feature: Regularly, to check the ‘pulse’ of the organization – but not too often that they lose their impact. Many organizations push pulse questions out once a month.
The rise in podcasts has been fuelled mainly by their ability to be listened to everywhere. Whether listeners are on a commute, working out, or running errands, they can be informed, entertained, and educated. In a world that is becoming busier, this is a medium that allows the listener to multi-task. In this sense, they save time. Whether you want to find out more about quantum mechanics or listen to pundits talk about soccer, you will find a podcast devoted to the topic. And in a world bursting at the seams with content, podcasts are one of very few platforms on the up.
Business figures have seen how effective this medium is and are now bringing it into their industries to share with employees or customers. Podcasts have many benefits: they’re accessible, adaptable, and flexible. This means you can record one, send it out, and employees can use their cell phones to listen to them on the commute home, at the gym, or while they have lunch.
And they can cover any subject. Focus on business performance at the end of each quarter, and dedicate an episode to mental wellbeing during mental health awareness week. For more comms-centered content, interview a colleague and uncover how your department managed a particularly high-pressured situation like the coronavirus lockdown. These can deliver critical or complex information in a digestible format – perfect for busy employees juggling priorities.
When to use this feature: It’s important to keep the broadcast of podcasts consistent rather than an ad hoc basis. Once a month is a good frequency, and your intranet can be used to promote each release and host them.
If you’ve not already a mobile app to communicate with your employees, now is the time to start planning. Apps are already well used in business, with research showing around 60% of employees using them for work-related activity. A further 71% spend more than two hours accessing company information on mobile devices. It’s clear the appetite for on-demand business information is there – particularly as the workforce becomes more dispersed.
Leadership updates and internal communications teams can use the app to distribute business news, information, events, or policy; colleagues can share blogs or data with one another; social interactions such as liking, sharing, or commenting on content also enable individuals to build connections and instill a sense of belonging.
These mobile apps boost engagement for those working from home, as well as those who remain in the office. And in this age of agile working, it’s more important than ever to build those connections to your business wherever your employees are. An app is fundamental to creating a virtual culture and keeping your workers close via a combination of effective comms and reliable software. Adobe research demonstrates that companies report a 47% improvement in internal communications with the support of an enterprise app; there is also a 23% increase in employee satisfaction. It’s clear that when you’re planning to keep up comms with your employees regardless of location, a mobile app is key to operations.
When to use: To prevent the mobile app falling out of use, treat it as your mobile intranet, with regular features, news, and updates via push notifications and alerts.
The time where communication was top-down is no longer. With the digital advances, messages are going from peer to peer, to leaders, over to customers and back to colleagues. What we need now is closer collaboration, contextualizing content, and the embracing of multimedia. As far as communications are concerned, there are no boundaries or divides. Our people demand transparency and open communication. But with so much information coming our way, we need to cut off the fat and give them what they want and need to know. And thanks to advances in tech, there has been no easier time to meet these challenges head-on.
At the center of all this is the company intranet, which provides the platform to build your strategy. With its wealth of features and single point of access for all employees, the intranet should be the bedrock of every comms strategy. In turn, you’ll be introduced to new features and tech through integrations and updates – and discover the cost and time-cutting benefits of embracing a comms strategy that is open in embracing the new tech evolution.