Internal Communication and How it Affects Engagement

by Daniel Hannig - March 6, 2020

Many companies with an open and value-oriented culture often have one thing in common: internal communication as a driver for employee motivation. Strong internal communication is not only important for obvious reasons, such as sharing information effectively, it also strengthens inter-departmental relationships, relationships between employees, as well as the relationships between employees & management.

But what is internal communication exactly? Out of the many definitions we have come across, the most common one is by businessdictionary.com:

The sharing of information within an organization for business purposes.

This definition tells us one thing: internal communication is a versatile tool that can be used in many different ways. Be it as an instrument for communicating and implementing change processes, or simply as an operational instrument to transfer information, solid internal communication can help your business in more ways than one. What we would like to focus on today, therefore, is the various tools and methods of successful internal communication. Moreover, we would like to show how internal communication can have a direct and positive effect on your employee engagement.

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How is Internal Communication Structured?

Successful internal communication is built on four pillars:

1. Information

First and foremost, communication is a means of transferring information that is relevant to your target group, in this case, your colleagues. This pillar is also the centre of the internal communications structure. Without relevant information, the other pillars cannot stand on their own. This is why it is important to make sure that the information you pass on to your colleagues is useful to them and not, for example, just a repetition of something they already know.

2. Dialogue

Once the information is successfully passed on to your colleagues and they respond to it verbally, via e-mail or chat, you have started a dialogue, the second pillar of successful internal communication. Dialogue is an important component of internal communication because it allows the people involved to see the matter at hand from a new perspective and also allows them to possibly come up with more ideas or a different solution.

3. Clarity and Motivation

Everyone values transparency and efficiency, which is also why these factors should be a part of how we communicate at work. Transparent and efficient communication shows trust and enbales higher productivity, while unclear language or unnecessary rambling will not only reduce the retention level of your employees, it will also curb their motivation in the long run.

4. Knowledge

The effective transfer of knowledge is the fourth pillar of internal communication and refers to sensitive information and knowledge of your business. Especially during turnover, it can happen that a lot of valuable information is lost due to employees not communicating this knowledge properly, which is why, again, clear language and using the proper channels or instruments is crucial.

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Internal Communication Tools

Fifteen years ago, circulars and information letters, employee magazines, staff meetings and, of course, the good old notice board were popular and effective instruments of internal communication. In the past ten years, however, much has changed in the field of company communication.

Here is a list of today’s favorite internal communication tools:

Intranet

An intranet is a computer network for sharing information, collaboration tools, operational systems, and other computing services within an organization, thereby excluding anyone outside of the organization. While social intranet software used to have a bad reputation, mainly due to lacking functionality and restricted options, they are now virtual communities that drive productivity, allowing staff to exchange information and manage projects with ease. Especially in large corporations, the intranet is an important element of internal communication. With it, employees are able to find relevant information and contacts from the comfort of their desk and almost directly, saving them a lot of time and energy. This is just one aspect that proves that the intranet, as an internal communication tool, has a direct impact on employee productivity.

Internal Newsletter

Like the intranet, an internal newsletter can only be viewed by people from a specific organisation and is sent only to them as an internal information circular.

Wiki

No, we don’t mean the the website which we used to copy-paste our homework from as teenagers, although the concept is the same. A Wiki is a website whose contents can be read, but also updated, substituted or amended, by a certain group of people. In the context of internal communication, a Wiki is only available to the employees of the company in question. These employees can use it as an information source and continuously expand its database with learnings and information.

Internal Blog

A blog is a regular record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you put on the internet for other people to read. In terms of internal communication, the company blog can, as an example, be part of the intranet. Employees of a company can use it to share their thoughts on current events as well as information and knowledge in a conversational style or by adding screenshots and videos.

Chat or Instant Messaging Tools

Chatting or instant messaging services are perfect for conversational communication in real time via text messages and short messages. The main benefit of this is that it significantly reduces the volume of e-mails and the time spent communicating, especially when members of a team are on the road or need to clarify something quickly during a meeting. One of the most frequently used instant messaging tools, especially in smaller companies, is Slack, although other companies such as Skype also offer similar services.

Social Media

In terms of internal communication tools, social media channels can be used in the same way as the above-mentioned messaging services. Companies can, for example, create closed Facebook or LinkedIn groups and make them available to their employees for communication. The advantage is that it incurs no extra (financial) costs. However, the obvious disadvantage is that employees may be more easily distracted by their private social media and will find it harder to focus on their work.

Feedback Tools

In addition to all these services and tools, there is of course one essential component of internal communication that cannot be overlooked: anonymous feedback. Giving your employees the opportunity to express their opinions on an anonymous platform has several benefits. For one, it allows you to quickly uncover possible sources of dissatisfaction and take appropriate countermeasures. Secondly, you can see what is already going well in the company and what should be further promoted in order to satisfy your employees and retain your top talent. Thirdly, regular feedback communicates to your employees that you care about their well-being and that they have a voice in matters of how the company is run. Surely, you have to act on negative feedback and implement countermeasures to remain credible. But the fact alone that you have installed a feedback mechanism signalizes that you want to listen to the opinion of your employees, which automatically raises engagement and motivation. While feedback can, and should, be given in a lot of ways, a very practical and easy way is to do so with a digital feedback solution like ours. Click here if you think your company could benefit from this.

Linking Internal Communication to Employee Engagement

Employee engagement has many drivers and internal communication may be the most effective one yet. All employee engagement elements such as culture, vision, motivation or commitment are carried and upheld by successful internal communication. This is why it is extremely important that the channels of internal communication are accessible and transparent at all times, a responsibility that falls into the hands of the management. You should also consider internal communication as a work in progress, rather than something you can check off your to-do-list once you have installed a messaging service or an intranet. Constant review and assessing your company’s communication challenges will help you develop a solid internal communication which you will benefit from in the long run.

Internal Communication – What to Avoid

As with every form of communication, there is a lot of room for misinterpretation. Here are some tips on how to avoid the most common mistakes.

1. Late, Incomplete or Intransparent Communication of Information

This does not only apply to fundamental events or new innovation taking place within your company. Also an e-mail regarding the schedule of a meeting should live up to above-mentioned standards. It should be written on time, so that the other person can prepare accordingly, it should cover all the necessary info, so that no surprises arise in the meeting itself, and it should be written in clear language, so that there is no room for misunderstanding.

2. Lack of Appreciation

Employee engagement is built on mutual appreciation and respect. A lack thereof, in whatever form, leads to loss of motivation, productivity and to missing trust towards the superiors. It is therefore not enough to provide the means for internal communication, it is also essential to communicate appreciation and respect through the channels you have built.

3. Competition Between Teams

Competitive thinking between departments or teams may stem from the above-mentioned issue of incomplete communication. A lack of a sense of unity throughout the company can also lead to departments or teams seeing each other as competitors, even though they should be working towards the same goal. Competitive thinking in between teams can be avoided by transparent internal communication on a management level and equally appreciated recognition of achievements by all departments and teams.

4. Unrecognized Employee Feedback

Similar to a lack of acknowledgement regarding work performance, a lack of recognition in regard to employee opinion and feedback can lead to problems of internal communication and company culture. Employee feedback is the first element with which managers can recognize arising problems early on. As a result, these can also be resolved quickly. Not recognizing employee feedback, on the other hand, renders the whole point of installing an internal communications mechanism obsolete and also communicates to the employees that their voice is not important enough to be taken into account.

5. Incorrect Use of Channels

Using the wrong channels or instruments for certain info can also lead to problems in the company atmosphere and to a loss of motivation among employees. As soon as employees have the feeling that not all information is shared transparently and in a simple accessible way, misunderstandings in communication can arise. It is therefore very important that the same type of information and knowledge is always communicated through the tools and channels originally defined for this purpose. To put it more simply: consistency is key in internal communication.

Internal Communication in a Nutshell

With transparent and targeted internal communication, a company can successfully develop an open and value-oriented culture. The proper use of instruments and channels plays a central role in this process. The channels should be actively and correctly used by managers, as they serve as a role model for all the employees that will use those channels in the future. At the same time, employees are motivated by transparent and appreciative internal communication, they perform better in their jobs and are more committed to the company for a longer period of time.

So, does it pay off to invest in internal communication? Yes, absolutely.

Internal communication thrives on an active exchange between employees and the management team. This is indispensable for the continued existence and success of companies. It also enables you to build a strong bond with your employees and colleagues and to gain a clear advantage over your competitors by binding your employees to your company through a positive company culture.

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