What is internal communication and why is it important for your business

It isn’t just what you say to the outside world that is important to the success of your business. What goes on between the teams is equally important too. Internal communication is a phrase used to describe the process of sending and receiving information between the various internal stakeholders in the organization. This article is helpful to businesses of every size. In this article, we will talk about what internal communication is and why it is essential. We’ll also touch on the different types of internal comms and provide a step-by-step guide on creating your internal comms strategy.

published: June 14, 2023
updated: July 24, 2023

What is internal communication?

To understand internal communication meaning, think of it like this. Employees need to be informed about the company to perform their jobs effectively. Internal communication is there to provide information about an organization. Regularly sharing information between departments, units, and team members is internal comms, whether top-down or bottom-up. This is to provide everyone with the correct information and messaging to communicate externally. Internal communications can also be described as employee engagement, employee relations, internal marketing, company communications, and staff communications.

Done properly, internal communication strengthens company culture and engages employees.

To comprehend what is internal communication in business, a more in-depth internal communication definition from Wikipedia is provided:

Internal communications is the function responsible for effective communications among participants within an organization. The function's scope varies by organization and practitioner, from producing and delivering messages and campaigns on behalf of management to facilitating two-way dialogue and developing the communication skills of the organization's participants.””

Types of internal communication

Now let's look at all the different ways of doing this. In 2023 internal communication is dictated by team composition, organizational dynamics, technology, and the pace of change. It’s essential to make the best use of what you have and be wary of which methods work for different types of communication. Also important is to think about where they fit into your organization’s broader strategy. Companies can use various internal communication methods to keep employees informed. Some of the types include:

1

Top-down

When they hear internal communication, many people first think of top-down communication. Communication from top management to the rest of the organization is vital for sharing important company news and updates. Top-down internal communication dispenses goals and business strategy and how the work is organized, which decides how overall objectives are met.

2

Change

Periods of change can cause tremendous upheaval within an organization if not handled correctly. Effective internal communication that informs, enlightens, and fosters enthusiasm for change is part of successfully managing any transformation. You need your people to be on board for the next stage in your company’s evolution. And internal change communication is how you’d do this. Organizations can then break down complicated changes using clear, relatable language and appealing visuals.

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3

Crisis communication

Internal crisis communication is crucial to organizations during tough times. The advantages are twofold. Firstly, it can inform employees of the situation, any actions they must undertake, and how to handle clients. Second, it helps prevent the spread of misinformation and rumors. Accurate and transparent internal communication can help to combat this.

4

Crisis management

Like the above, crisis management communication refers to planning when things go wrong. This involves having a strategy and processes for various scenarios to manage the company and its staff during a potentially damaging period. Part of this also covers how to reposition the company after the crisis has passed to ensure it doesn’t happen again and predict future challenging events.

5

Employee engagement campaigns

Any activity that aims to improve employee engagement, such as feedback surveys, wellness activities, or inviting external speakers on a specific topic, can be considered an internal comms campaign. These aim to generate interest in a particular area, improve health, or improve employer/employee relationships.

6

Bottom-up feedback

Bottom-up or two-way communication describes the upward flow of information from employees to management. This type of communication is used to gather suggestions to improve management systems and the employee experience. This is sometimes called employee satisfaction or ESat. The Employee Satisfaction Index (ESat) measures employees' happiness at work. Factors tracked by this metric include; Satisfaction with day-to-day tasks, alignment, purposefulness, the possibility of professional development, an attitude toward the length and pattern of shifts, benefits, and pay opinions. Increasing employee retention and improving efficiency is one of the benefits of aligning with the business's goals.

7

Cultural comms

This form of internal communication strengthens the culture within an organization. Strong company cultures are essential to a thriving organization. An organization's culture is determined by its values, communication styles, company structure, beliefs, and the behaviors encouraged. Culture determines how people work, feel, and interact with their environment. These all impact their motivation. Cultural communication can create a sense of belonging and a sense of shared values.

8

Peer to Peer comms

In a lot of organizations, communication takes place from the top down. This can result in poor employee engagement and a sense of us vs. them. Peer communication is communication that occurs between colleagues at any level. We create a stronger workplace when we collaborate and help colleagues. Through casual peer communication, members can find peers with shared interests, enriching their work experience and making them more fulfilled employees.

In environments where colleagues can share their thoughts without judgment, offloading concerns makes for a happy workday.

9

Inter-team comms

When colleagues within specific departments chat, whether it is about projects, personal life, or conveying instructions from the management team, this can all be described as team comms. It denotes communication between people who work together to attain the same end goal. Line managers regularly pass down info they get from management. This could relate to general updates, new processes for doing things, or other information they’d need to know daily. Good news can also be passed on here.

10

Face-to-face

Teams are hugely diverse now, and often, internal communication is according to the ‘group’ people belong to. This is why face-to-face can be a powerful tool for a more personalized connection. It allows people to build genuine rapport and trust with each other and allows for immediate feedback.

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Why is staff comms critical in business?

Internal marketing brings many benefits, including better working relationships, employee satisfaction, and company performance. The stronger the communication, the more aligned employees are with the organization’s goals. This also translates into greater client satisfaction. Businesses can create a culture of value and empowerment by nurturing open communication with employees. Here are further benefits of internal communication:

Efficiency

Everyone must be on the same page for an organization to be effective. Staff comms streamlines all company communication, reducing the chance of misunderstandings and ensuring a steady flow of essential and necessary information at the right time and through the proper channels. It increases productivity.

Aligned internal and external communication

One goal of internal communication is to ensure that what is said inside an organization aligns with what is said outside. This helps to maintain a strong and consistent brand message.

This understanding enables them to convey the same message when interacting with external stakeholders. When the internal and external messages are consistent, it enhances the company's reputation and reinforces the desired perception among stakeholders. Aligning internal and external communication is essential for a cohesive brand identity and clear company-wide messaging.

Horizontal communication

Effective internal comms encourage horizontal communication. Horizontal communication is when people across multiple departments at the same level communicate with one another. The main advantages to this are increased visibility among teams, a better understanding of what different groups do within the organization, and a feeling of unity that reinforces the goals of an organization. It can also reduce interdepartmental conflict and competition. A win-win.

Feedback

Internal communication provides the perfect opportunity for feedback from employees. To build an open work environment, it is essential to gather feedback. Getting honest feedback improves the business in the long run and allows those who work for you to feel heard and valued. Creating a culture of open dialogue is invaluable for improving collaboration and productivity, and an internal feedback loop is the place to start.

Improved crisis management

Internal communication is essential during a crisis, and implementing a strategy is key to protecting your reputation. In addition to building trust and reducing uncertainty, it keeps employees informed and provides accurate and timely information to all stakeholders. Internal communication in a crisis builds a sense of unity, allowing for your crisis management plan to be executed. The benefit of this is the protection of your reputation and profits, as stakeholder confidence remains.

Engaged employees

Employee satisfaction is significantly impacted by effective internal communication. When people believe in and feel on board with the company’s vision and mission, they become more engaged and remain at the company longer. When people are engaged, they are more productive, which shows in their work. They are far more likely to act as brand ambassadors for you this way, sharing your vision with external parties and other potential employees. Don’t underestimate this.

A step-by-step guide to developing an effective internal communication strategy

The way we work has changed since Covid. Workforces are dispersed in different locations, and this shift won’t change anytime soon. The work environments we once took for granted have been permanently altered. Never before has there been a need for pre-planned and timely internal communication. But what should a strategy include? And how do you go about creating one? This guide is here to help you put this plan in motion and guide you through the steps you need to take to develop an IC strategy.

Infographic > A step-by-step guide to developing an effective internal communication strategy
1

Assess your current situation

You cannot reach your destination if you don’t know where you are, and analyzing your current situation is vital for understanding your communication strengths and the areas that need improvement. Some things to consider could be your communication channels - emails, the intranet, or meetings. Evaluate the tools you use and the effectiveness of these to share information.

Think about organizational culture. Do you encourage open dialogue and the sharing of ideas? Look at how teams and individuals communicate and if anything could be improved. What barriers exist currently? Something to also look at would be how management communicates key messages. You can see your IC practices and where you lag by looking at these.

2

Identify your audience

To develop a plan, it's essential to segment your audience to ensure communication is appropriately targeted. Different groups may require different communication styles and teams have different goals, dynamics, and working methods. Different skill sets need different information. For teams based internationally, there may be language or cultural considerations to be aware of in internal communication. Once you segment people, you can tailor your messages accordingly.

3

Create an internal communication calendar

Don’t make internal communication a last-minute thing for emergencies only. Plan in advance to make better decisions about when and what you communicate. Creating a calendar is invaluable for organizing your communication activities. It acts as the blueprint for sharing consistent and relevant information. If it's more consistent and timely, you can get more people on board with your words. Create mini-campaigns to get stronger results and higher engagement. Be sure to include details like frequency and situations requiring IC and identify the channels you will utilize to deliver your messages.

4

Decide on key messages

Outline the core messages you wish to deliver. Keep these straightforward and simple so people understand them. Key messages should reflect the goals and values of your organization. Highlight the type of culture you want to foster and identify current priorities and focus areas. Key messages should also reinforce your brand identity, your commitment to customers, and how you differ to your competitors. Other things to include could be KPIs, where to find useful information and any health and safety info. You should regularly review these messages.

5

Select channels

Once you have outlined your core messages and identified your audience segments, the next step is determining the communication channels. Knowing the best way to reach your audience is key to picking the right channel. For example, messages about restructuring or job losses may best be shared via a meeting or presentation or news of a charity event via email. Consider varying the channel. Relying on the same channel may create an apathetic response from your audience.

By carefully specifying your tactics and communication channels, you can optimize the delivery of your messages and enhance audience engagement. Internal communication platforms can streamline the flow of information and keep everyone connected, offering employees the chance to respond and to ask questions. Timing is also crucial. You should deliver essential messages during working hours and avoid giving too much information simultaneously. Don’t overwhelm your audience.

6

Understanding and respect

Make this a priority. The best way to ensure understanding and respect is to be conscious and aware of other individuals and teams. Listen to others during meetings and discussions. When people feel heard, they are more likely to be collaborative. Also, be conscious of the cultural differences between colleagues and language sensitivities. Avoid using language that may be exclusionary to some. Inclusive language fosters a sense of belonging for all employees. Where possible, seek collaborative decision-making on issues that impact people directly. This builds trust and shows respect for the views of others.

7

Be honest

You should be transparent and open in your communication when an organization values honesty, people feel able to share ideas and concerns. This fosters a work culture that isn’t afraid to tackle problems head-on. Share good news and bad, even if it means having those difficult conversations. This builds trust and shows everyone is equal and on the same page. Establish a culture where people give feedback. Welcome this, regardless if it is not always positive Encourage feedback and questions, and be responsive to employee concerns and suggestions.

8

Track results

If you want to solve a problem within a company or make improvements, you’d want and need to measure the results somehow. Internal communication is designed to get employees to act and behave a certain way. Measurement should therefore focus on the differences after its implementation. By using pre-defined key performance indicators (KPIs), you can assess which channels perform well and which need tweaking. This leads to better IC and decision-making. You can adapt your communication style to reach employees more effectively by learning their preferences, managing your communication resources, and planning better. By measuring the results, you drive accountability for change.

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Internal communication in 2023

As internal communication changes due to tech, team dispersion, and working from home, we will see an increase in its importance as part of an overall company strategy. Several trends will dictate internal communication in 2023.

From collaborative platforms, automation, and AI, to analytics, increased interdepartmental working, and a stronger focus on well-being, these will all carry the workplace through 2023 and beyond.

Staying current on internal communication trends as the workplace evolves is crucial. Remember, effective internal communication is an ongoing process that requires constant evaluation and refinement, so be sure to measure results, monitor changes, and be open and receptive to change

Conclusion

Hopefully, you have a clear idea of what internal communication means by now. Developing and implementing an effective internal communication strategy is vital today. In this article, we've discussed why it's so important and its role in your organization and provided a step-by-step guide on creating an internal comms strategy.

Internal communication is increasingly seen as a reason for a more engaged and productive workforce as companies increasingly look to adopt an IC campaign.

By approaching internal communication strategically, you can bridge gaps within your organization, cultivate a positive workplace culture, and empower your employees to reach their potential. It has never been more necessary for a company to hire an internal communications agency to help get them on their way.

June 14, 2023
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