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What Is Internal Communication?
Simply put, internal communication keeps your employees up-to-date on the latest information and engaged with company initiatives.
Internal communication is not simply a top-down or one-way flow of information. Effective communicators also listen to and engage with employees at every level. To create a successful strategy, you need to understand the types of internal communications found in most business settings.
Types of Internal Communications
There are many different types of internal communications, and each has its audience and purpose. While not all of these fall under the responsibility of HR, you play a part in each.
Executive communication is how leadership shares business updates, vision, strategy, direction, recognition, and culture with the whole company. This type of communication is traditionally one-way, and the channels and tone are established already. Some examples of executive messaging include special-occasion speeches, all-staff emails, company newsletters, video announcements, and annual reports.
When companies provide employees with the information necessary to do their jobs effectively, efficiently, safely, and happily, this is information communication. Relevant, accurate information is critical to business operations, but information changes so quickly it can be messy to manage. Some examples of information communications include policy or procedure updates, steps for new business processes, compliance requirements, product details and promotions, and employee contact information.
All businesses must communicate information about change, whether small or large. Companies inform employees about updates to inventory, new store hours, rebranding, structuring or restructuring, industry-related changes, and compliance news. Some channels for communicating changes within a business include face-to-face meetings, employee training, trickle-down messaging through managers, and company-wide town halls.
Crisis or Emergency Communication
Crisis or emergency communication is presenting important information to the right people at the right time to mitigate or manage a situation. Pre-planning and strategies are necessary for businesses to communicate well during hard times. Some examples of crisis communication include system-wide text alerts during natural disasters, staff briefing on data breaches, information campaigns for product recalls, and internal memos for organizational misconduct.
Not all internal communications are directed at employees. Two-way communication creates opportunities and channels for employees to provide necessary information, feedback, and ideas to the leadership. Discussion forums, staff surveys, Q&As, polls, social sites, and staff blogs are examples of two-way communication.
Peer-to-peer communication is how and what staff communicates to one another within the organization. While this communication happens naturally every day, HR can help facilitate more effective and efficient ways for employees to share important information. Examples of peer-to-peer communication include sharing stories in one-on-one settings, social networking tools, peer recognition, problem-solving and ideation meetings, and project collaboration.
Why Strategic Internal Communication Is So Important
Internal communication happens whether you have a strategy in place or not, but that doesn’t mean that the right information is getting to the right people in the right way. Ultimately, an internal communications strategy supports employees to do their part to achieve business goals. There are several critical reasons to make sure you have a strategy to facilitate communication throughout your organization.
An internal communication strategy:
- Increases the flow of information and resources. When your employees have a clear understanding of their job goals and the necessary tools to get the job done, they are happier and more productive in their role.
- Improves overall employee experience. Bringing employees into the conversation about vision, goals and culture encourages engagement and investment. Helping employees see the benefits of their position within the company inspires commitment.
- Addresses challenges before they happen. Change and unexpected challenges are inevitable in any business, but a strategy provides the necessary framework to handle whatever comes next.
How to Create Your Internal Communication Strategy
Now that you see all of the types of internal communication and understand how important it is to create an internal communication strategy, here are a few simple steps to create a plan that works with your business.
Step 1 – Evaluate Current Communication
Take some time to review the current communication channels and voices in your organization. Identify what works and what doesn’t . During this evaluation, be sure to get feedback from all areas of your business on the various types of communication.
Step 2 – Establish Goals
Consider ways that improving your internal communications can advance your business. Set realistic goals and objectives to give your strategy direction. What works for one company might not work for yours. Be sure that your goals reflect the unique nature and culture of your business.
Step 3 – Organize Messaging
From the evaluation in Step 1, consider which communication types you want to edit, elevate, or eliminate to meet your goals. Create an internal communications calendar to keep messaging consistent and timely.
Step 4 – Evaluate Channels and Tactics
With your goals set and your messaging streamlined, it’s time to assess your organization’s communication channels, tactics, voice, and tone. Take note of your audience demographics to see if new tools would help make communications easier to access and understand (Microsoft Teams, Asana, an internal news feed, intranet site, etc.).
Step 5 – Track Your Results
For each of the realistic, measurable goals in your internal communication strategy, be sure to determine and track metrics for success. Understanding the effectiveness of your plan helps you not only meet new goals but set long-term goals as well.
The ever-changing landscape of business makes it critical that you re-evaluate your internal communication strategy continually. If big changes sweep through your business (like, say, a pandemic), be sure to adjust your strategy to fit new needs and available resources.
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