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10 Internal Communication Challenges and How to Master Them with an Employee App

Effective organizational communication has always been a challenge. And while methods of exchange have been greatly advanced by technology, the challenges remain. Whether it's email overload, a lack of feedback, or an increased number of remote employees working beyond the reach of internal comms, some problems have even gotten worse. In an era when clear communication has become increasingly important to a company's success, affecting employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and the overall public perception of a company, the inability to see the dangers of poor internal communication looms like an iceberg threatening to sink everyone's corporate Titanic. 

 

This article will describe ten common communication challenges and show you how a branded employee app can help you to safely navigate around these miscommunication icebergs.

 


How Have Other Companies Met Today's Internal Communication Challenges? 

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1. A Lack of Feedback

If communication moves in one direction only, discourse will quickly become ineffective. But feedback is important on many levels. Not only does it help you determine how well your employees have met their goals, but it also shows how well they collaborate with their teams, their co-workers, and their managers.

 

Feedback also shows how well employees handle stress and adversity. A lack of feedback can lead to demotivation and slack work attitudes, whereas positive feedback can make work more fun, engaging people and pushing positive development. But no matter whether feedback is good or bad, it is a necessity.


For management, it's important to not only to receive feedback but to act on it. Surveys are useless if their results are ignored. The aim of collecting feedback should be to use it as a difference-maker. To quote Psychology Today:

 

“Acting on the feedback we gather—adjusting our behaviors, attitudes, and approaches to improve our perceptions in the workplaceis the primary differentiator between those who rise quickly through an organization and those who seem to be stuck.”


Since we've now established the importance of feedback, let's talk about the best ways to send and receive it. The key point is to make it easy. Think of Facebook and how natural it feels to leave comments. That same easy flow should be embedded into your company's communication platform. Using a simple platform will make providing feedback second-nature to your employees.

 

Also consider that just because you use SurveyMonkey doesn't mean that your workforce always finds it easy to use. With an employee app, you create one main channel that requires little to no training to use but nonetheless provides feedback opportunities via likes, comments, and sharing.

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2. Email Overload

In addition to phone calls, text messages, group chats, social networks, and internal meetings, an average person can receive as many as 120 emails every day. This communication overload often results in important information being lost, deleted, forgotten, or ignored. Employees are easily frustrated by overloaded inboxes. Reading through emails on a Monday morning shouldn't feel like a climb up Mount Everest in December. 

 

Combining your existing channels into one in order to cut down on email overload is an easy way to streamline work. An employee app like Staffbase gives companies a way to avoid having to send mass emails and instigating confusing or irrelevant "CC" conversations.


The emails you do send should be clear of jargon and shouldn't invite too many people into a dialogue. Try to follow this one easy rule: Three messages and then we talk.

 

3. Overall Lack of Communication

Some of the biggest reasons why employees are dissatisfied with their jobs relate to communication: Managers who don't provide enough information; constant changes that aren't sufficiently communicated to employees; or people in different roles who focus solely on their own objectives, ignoring overall priorities.

 

It is critically important that managers don't talk down to their employees. Being aloof creates barriers and a social hierarchy within the company that discourages open communication. On the other hand, when employees feel heard, they become more invested and employee engagement rises. At one point or another, everyone has probably had the kind of boss who gets dropped at the office by a chauffeur-driven Mercedes and never leaves his glass office unless it's to torture his underlings. Sorry to break it to you, Sir, but no one enjoys working for you.

 

Ideally, a direct line should be in place in which employees can make suggestions, share their problems, and talk about their day. The Staffbase app enables all of these tasks. Secondly, clear aims and priorities should be communicated through broad channels that can serve to prevent communication silos from forming and support feelings of teamwork and common goals.


Think of your company the same way you'd think of a football team. If the receiver doesn't know where the quarterback is throwing the ball, there is no chance of a completion, never mind a touchdown. 

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4. Device Chaos

People tend to avoid communication if it's happening on a device they don't feel comfortable using. Gone are the days when we only worked on desktop computers. We now use tablets, smartphones, laptops, notepads, ultrabooks, smartwatches, and paper (remember that?).

 

People have an average of five email addresses, three phones, two laptops, and four telephone numbers, making it hard to cut through the noise. To ensure that information gets to your employees on the right channels, why not let them work on a device with they're comfortable using. 


Most of the time that means their smartphone. It's the device we pick up more than 85 times a day, and it's generally the first and last thing we look at in our waking hours. In addition, the Pew Research Center has found that 90% of our text messages are read within the first three minutes of receipt, compared to only 22% of our emails.


Solutions like the Staffbase employee app are therefore not only innovative but they're also beloved by employees around the world. You give your workforce the opportunity to engage and communicate on a channel that they're already using in their daily lives, therefore communication doesn't seem like extra work for them. 

 

5. New Employees

While it's always exciting to onboard new employees, the process is often cumbersome. Teaching new hires about important communication techniques is sometimes an afterthought. Your aim should be to create guidelines for the onboarding process that on the one hand are clear and easy to follow, and on the other introduce your new employees to the communication methods used within your company. This way, your rookies will soon feel like they're part of the team and their onboarding processes will be part of the communication flow.

 

Additionally, having a clearly written manual designed to guide new employees through the onboarding process will save time and ensure that everybody is getting the same introduction, and is easily distributed. The Staffbase app can feature manuals, including those targeted to new employees that will automatically open as soon as they are granted limited access during their pre-boarding and onboarding phases.

 

6. Language Barriers

While having a diverse and global workforce is something many companies actively seek and take pride in having, the resulting language barriers can be challenging, both within teams, as well as between different corporate locations. Multi-language can be slow, ineffective, and sometimes nonexistent. That's why it's important to try and avoid misunderstandings by displaying news in multiple languages, offering easy translation options, and encouraging intercultural training. 

 

This might sound like a lot of extra work and expense, but if you ask around, you're likely to find people within your company who are willing to help. Language classes can be made available to your workforce, and even if you have to pay for it, it's well worth the price. Don't try to save money when it comes to enriching your employees ability to communicate.


In addition to language barriers, cultural differences can also cause communication difficulties. Especially within international companies, even simple things like meetings can prove to be a challenge. Consider a scenario in which an American employee has a meeting with an Indian art director. For the American, being on time will be a sign of politeness, while for the Indian, time might be more flexible—he might be half an hour late without even thinking about it. Did you know, for example, that in China it's polite to decline gifts three times before taking them; that in the Netherlands you have to congratulate the whole family if it's somebody's birthday; or that business meetings in Finland are held in saunas? Beware my friends, cultural differences abound!


An employee app can make content available in different languages and automatically change the language setting to that of the device on which it is used. In addition, employees can decide on which locational news they wish to subscribe, and they can even change these settings while traveling.

 

7. Communicate Internal and External News

In order for your employees to feel engaged and to fully identify with their organization, it is crucial that it be the main source of all company-related information. God forbid you were to go bankrupt and your employees learned the news on Twitter. This is no less true for smaller-scale issues. Your employees should hear market- or economy related news from your side first, before they hear it from anywhere else.


Many companies still use a printed newsletter to keep their employees informed, but this practice is expensive and requires a relatively large amount of work. The Staffbase app provides an easy answer here, too, since it allows for the creation of articles which can be published with just one click for everyone in your company to read on their smartphones. Sharing news in this way is mobile and immediate fast—and people are far more likely to actually read company news.

 

8. An Overload of Irrelevant Information 

To communicate or not to communicate, that is the question. Similar to the email situation, it's important to know which information actually needs to be shared—as well as when and where it needs to go—and to filter it accordingly. It's therefore useful to create different groups, closed as well as open ones, and to communicate specific information on specific channels. An employee app will allow you to define specific user groups based on an array of criteria (location; project; team, etc.) and to target your content accordingly. 


9. A Lack of Respect

Ideally, groups of people working together consist of individuals from diverse backgrounds with unique experiences. On the downside, this can sometimes lead to misunderstandings if employees don't fully respect one another or they fail to consider the range of experience outside their own from which they could profit.


Sharing is caring. When employees are encouraged to share their experiences, respect for one another grows, work environments improve, and communication automatically becomes more beneficial.

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10. Budget Constraints

Many companies and HR departments either don't have the necessary resources for developing their own internal communication system, or they feel the perceived results aren't worth the costs. But with recent improvements in technology and software, third-party providers like Staffbase are able to provide affordable opportunities to make communication effective. 

 

 

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Written by Sina Kaye Lockley

Sina is a communication specialist at Staffbase. She wants to help companies engage their employees and find ways to make work more fun. She writes about internal communication, mobile employee engagement and how to use an app in today's evolving workforce. In her free time she fights for gender neutral toilets and LGBTQ rights.