How to Create a Simple, Concise Internal Communications Strategy
Think of a company in which staff seem to enjoy coming to work and are proud of what they do. They understand what the company does and why and how they contribute to its success. They know when the company is doing well and when it isn’t, and they feel like they can make a difference. None of this happens by accident, and in fact, it can’t happen without intentionally excellent internal communications. In this article, we give you specific internal communications examples and explain how to create a simple, concise internal communications strategy that you can use no matter what industry you’re in.
Internal Communications Definition
The term internal communications describes the practice of transmitting messages and information within an organization. It refers to both the specific messaging being shared, as well as the processes and tools for sharing them. Internal communications are all about how your staff are receiving and sending information among each other. It applies at and between all levels of your organization.
Types of Internal Communication
Let’s take a look at different ways — including specific examples — of how people communicate internally within an organization.
TOP-DOWN COMMUNICATION OR DOWNWARD COMMUNICATION is when management distributes information to subordinate employees.
- Big Picture and Company Performance — All staff should understand company values, objectives, and market positioning. Telling everyone about how the organization is really doing helps employees feel a sense of ownership of and appreciation for corporate strategies.
- Change Management — Successful organizations are always evolving and changing policies, directions or leadership, and if everyone understands why, they’ll be more likely to rally together in support.
BOTTOM-UP OR UPWARD COMMUNICATION happens when employees pass information, opinions, or feedback up to their managers and others up the ranks.
- Reports — An employee shares reports about their or their team’s work with higher-ups.
- Suggestions — A staff member tells his or her manager about a money- or time-saving idea, such as how to improve a process or switch to more capable software.
SENIOR LEADER COMMUNICATION is all about company leadership interacting with each other and sharing progress on key initiatives.
- Meetings — Routine meetings keep senior leaders informed about what’s happening across the business.
- Chats — Ongoing manager group chats make it easy to exchange timely information.
MANAGER COMMUNICATION occurs when managers interact with their direct reports to keep them engaged and informed.
- Team Meetings — Weekly meetings help managers disseminate important information while taking a pulse of their team.
- One-On-One Meetings — Regular face-to-face meetings between a manager and a direct report creates opportunities to uncover challenges and monitor progress toward individual goals.
PEER-TO-PEER COMMUNICATION occurs when staff communicate with each other, regardless of rank.
- Official Work Sessions — Team members work together in-person or virtually at the same time on an assignment.
- Casual Conversations — Informal conversations around the water cooler or coffee bar bring employees together.
- Classifieds — A real or virtual bulletin board gives opportunities to share news about a car for sale or spare room for rent.
Why Internal Communications Are Important
Having a strategic plan that applies internal communications best practices will positively affect the overall health of your organization and thus also its bottom line. Here’s how.
When employees are well informed about company information and culture, they understand how they fit in. They’re motivated and feel a sense of connection with fellow employees, even those from different generations or in different roles. That means less turnover and greater retention, which in turn means a better educated, more productive, and more motivated workforce better serving customers who will end up buying more.
When times get tough, having already proactively implemented an internal communications plan really pays off. It will help your organization deal with uncertainty, navigate changes, and weather crises.
Internal Communications Strategy
Creating an internal communications strategy doesn’t have to be hard or take long. We suggest these simple steps.
- Assess current practices and audience needs. Convene key stakeholders and get a sense of who is communicating and how. What are their demographics, preferred languages and favorite communications devices and platforms? What and when are and aren’t they currently communicating and under what circumstances? What’s working, and what isn’t?
- Define goals. Determine what internal communications should be happening, who should do them, and when. Be as specific as possible.
- Define budget and schedule. How much money and time is there to spend on internal communications? This influences the rest of the steps.
- Create channels and choose platforms. Define processes for facilitating all types of communications and modify existing or implement new platforms as needed. Be sure to phase out old or outdated platforms to keep communications focused and simple.
- Appoint facilitators and implement training. Pick a few key people to lead the implementation of the internal communications plan and any training required. Decide who will handle any necessary, ongoing moderation across all platforms.
- Measure success. Determine metrics for evaluating your internal communications strategy, such as numbers of views, likes, comments or people initiating posts, then periodically review. To what extent is engagement in all platforms and processes happening?
- Revise. Don’t be too attached to any particular process or platform. Revisit the strategy whenever metrics indicate something isn’t working; people and technology are always changing.
Internal Communication Channels and Systems
Traditionally, companies used non-digital methods for internal communications, including noticeboards, in-person staff meetings or town halls, suggestion boxes, mailers, and company newsletters. These types of internal communication can still sometimes be useful, but newer, digital strategies are likely to be more effective because they better facilitate real-time interaction and engagement, such as getting feedback or questions. You can also better measure their impact.
Some examples of digital tools are intranets, apps, internal social media (Workplace and Yammer!), collaboration hubs (Slack), employee engagement platforms (Staffbase), and digital signs. Many of these include elements like news feeds, instant messaging/chats, emails, video conferencing, push notifications, search, surveys, and polls.
When choosing an internal communications platform, make sure everyone on staff truly has access, and consider factors like ease of use, working across different (and especially mobile) devices, support for multiple languages, integration with existing tools, and scalability.
Ready, Set, Create Your Internal Communications Strategy
Now that you know more about internal communications, how they work, and why they’re important, it’s time to get started. It’s simple to develop a simple, concise internal communications strategy, or contact Cobalt Communications for expert help creating one.