Internal Communication Tools

Internal Communications Tools — A Deep Look at Your 8 Best Channels

In order to be successful, internal communication needs to do a better job of reaching all employees at the right time with the right message and content. We've identified eight of the most common channels for employee communication and evaluated eight characteristics that make them successful in order to help you decide which are the best for you and your organization. Have a look!

The Top 8 Channels for Employee Communication 

1. Email: Once the go-to means of employee communication, email use is declining. As workers become increasingly remote, not all of them will have a corporate email address. And even for those who do, email's reach will depend upon a recipient's ability to slog thorough their swamped mailboxes—assuming they even still bother check regularly. 

2. Print Newspapers: Long valued for their reach, branding, and storytelling strengths, traditional company newsletters nonetheless have many downsides: they're expensive to produce, they lack immediacy, and their effects are difficult to quantify. Alternatives to printed corporate magazines are therefore being sought by many companies. Check out our video about how Germany's Paulaner Brewery replaced their print magazine with an employee app

 

3. Staff Meetings: While indispensable for the delivery of crucial messages and the benefits of face-to-face interaction, the associated travel expenses can make it costly to get everyone in the room. This is a top-down communication channel in which reach will be limited to attendees. Meetings simply don't work in terms of involving remote workers with any regularity.

 

4. Written Letters: This is a good option for those exceptional occasions when a personal touch will make your message more sincere, such as a Christmas greeting from management to employees. But letters offer no real benefit for day-to-day internal communications because they lack speed, mobility, and measurable reach. 

 

5. Terminal Displays: This is a possible option if you have a lot of picture and video content and workers concentrated on the factory floor. However, it's not a mobile solution and is very limited in many ways. Displays will therefore often only be used as a supplementary channel.

 

6. Bulletin Boards: They're cheap and they're local, but they're even more limited than terminal displays in terms of speed, interaction, and analytics. Nor are they of any use to workers on the road. Furthermore, there's no way to measure the actual reception of messages or to communicate information in crisis situations

 

7. Information Cascade: While this may the backbone of information distribution within many companies, it greatly depends on the individual communication skills of the managers involved. Reach is also a challenge here—especially with field- and shift workers.

 

8. Employee App: An internal communications app is a powerful option for corporate communications. And communication on such a tool is just one of many possibilities. Apps support all of your employee touch points, such as HR processes, knowledge management, or employee self-services.

 


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You may notice that we've excluded intranets from this evaluation because they lack the necessary reach. They're often only available behind corporate firewalls or require time-consuming authentication processes in order to access them. Don’t confuse "accessible" (a term often used by IT to mean that there is a way to access a tool, though it might be hopelessly complicated) with "reach" (think about how people on the bus can immediately see updates on their smartphones without even logging in, etc.). "Accessible" does not necessarily mean ease of access; "reach" is what you're after, especially since it can be measured!

What Makes a Great Internal Communications Channel

Reach: 70% of today's employees work remotely (and with freelancers and the expanding gig-economy, these numbers are rising), making it particularly important to be able to reach personnel who not only sit at desks, but who are on the factory floor or behind the counter. The length of your reach is a clear measure of effective communication.

 

Real-Time: We've become more and more accustomed to the advantages of real-time information and communication. Amazon offers same-day delivery; Netflix gives us instant access to movies; and our smartphones enable us to be online no matter where we are. Is your channel able to deliver important company updates in a matter of minutes rather than hours or days? 

 

Interaction: Does your information flow just one way, or is there a way back? Social interactions such as likes, comments, and shares have become more and more important, and they are features of communication that today's employees expect. They also serve to support bottom-up conversations and enhance horizontal communication, both of which are extremely important for promoting productivity. 

 Infographic Communication Channels

Analytics: How many employees are actually receiving the messages you're sending? Too many communication channels fail to address this basic question. 

 

Storytelling: Stories are a powerful way to get messages across. But telling stories is a lot easier with some channels than others. Creating new content on a regular basis and putting that task into the hands of your employees should be easy, not impossible. 

 

Rich media: Visuals—pictures and especially videos—provide a great way to tell powerful stories. A picture is worth 1,000 words. If your video shoots thirty frames per second, then every moment of video is worth 30,000 words. Multiply 30,000 by 60 seconds—a common length for an informational video—and you get 1.8 million words! Not bad. 

 

Local Focus: Corporate strategy discussions will tend to get fewer comments on your internal blog than a conversation about the construction of a new cafeteria. That’s not an invitation to skip out on strategic communications, but rather a reminder that putting value into local content is a great way to establish a vibrant, relevant communications channel.

 

Low Costs: The effect of internal communication on the bottom line of a company is hard to measure, but new tools have made it increasingly possible, which is exactly why it's important to start analyzing your communications for they're cost-effectiveness as soon as possible.

 

8 internal communications channels are rated based on 8 criteria.

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If you'd like to learn more about the employee experience, mobile internal communication, and the digital workplace, don’t hesitate to contact us or to leave a comment below.

 

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And don't forget to check out these other articles which might interest you:

Written by Frank Wolf

Frank is the CMO and co-founder of Staffbase. He is an intranet and communication expert with more than a decade of experience in helping companies connecting to their employees. He is passionate about internal communication and digital technologies that create enjoyable places to work.