The Ultimate Guide to Internal Communications
Internal communications are essential to a company's growth and success. They impact morale, productivity and revenue. You might be surprised to learn the numbers behind the way businesses are using technology to boost employee engagement and the bottom line.
- Productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees, with potential for increased revenues amounting to $1.3 trillion per year.
- Companies with highly effective communications practices see 47% higher returns to their shareholders.
- And while nearly 80% of senior executives said communication is crucial for growth, only a quarter of them felt their organizations were good at sharing knowledge across the company.
Here's what you need to know to tap in ...
What makes communications effective?
If you ask an internal communications manager WHY they communicate they’ll likely tell you it’s to keep employees and stakeholders “in-the-know” and “motivated.” Both of these things are essential and have a direct impact on any organization’s productivity and, ultimately, the bottom line but if you ask what makes for effective communications you may get a different answer.
Communication serves five major purposes: to inform, to express feelings, to imagine, to influence, and to meet social expectations. (Britannic Kids, Homework Help.)
When it comes to unpacking the mountain of expectations that are placed on what, with whom, how, when, where and why we communicate within our organizations trying to be effective is a massive challenge.
Add to that the fact that many of us are now part of the remote workforce, with 70% of all workers globally now working remotely at least once a week, and 53% working remotely for at least half of the week, with those numbers rapidly growing, and it starts to become clearer why an internal communications strategy to wrangle the many dispersed communications tools are priorities.
Organizations have their work cut out for them when it comes to making sure everyone gets the information they need, when they need it every time.
What do we mean by internal communications?
Internal communications are the central nervous system of an organization’s efforts to collaborate and move toward a set of common goals and is something that every organization (regardless of size) does. They include laying out the endgame, discussing and planning how to get there, sharing and collaborating on resources, checking in along the way to coordinate what needs adding or adjusting and unpacking how it went afterwards in order to make changes to future organizational processes and policies.
Internal communications may require connecting stakeholders in diverse locations, whether that’s on different floors of a building, different campuses in an organization and often different cities, countries and continents.
When done successfully, internal communications can help empower employees to make decisions across a broad range of geographies, time zones and cultures.
Why are internal communications important?
Internal communications are both the social lubricant and glue for developing cohesive corporate cultures where putting people first and the bottom line first are not competing priorities. They impact morale, productivity and employee retention, all which have very direct and immediate impacts on an organization’s bottom line.
There are a number of reasons internal communications are important in an organization. Here are some of the most compelling reasons to improve them:
- Productivity improves by 20-25% in organizations with connected employees, with potential for increased revenues amounting to $1.3 trillion per year. (McKinsey Global Institute | The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies)
- Companies with highly effective communications practices see 47% higher returns to their shareholders. (Towers Watson study)
- Internal communications depend more and more on technology as remote work accounts for an increasing percentage of the global workforce. 64% of employees would opt for a lower paying job if they could work away from the office. (Cisco Systems |The Cisco Connected World Report) Information workers prefer newer communication tools, particularly instant messaging, over more traditional ones like e-mail or team workspaces. (The SocialWorkplace | Social Technology & an Innovative Intranet can Increase Employee Productivity)
These are pretty powerful illustrations of why internal communications matter. They have a huge impact on employee engagement and ROI.
What are the most common internal communication methods and tools?
Traditional face-to-face conversations and meetings are often a challenge in organizations that are not in a single, shared space. Technology provides opportunities to bridge the gaps and boost productivity in some creative ways, with certain methods and tools being recognized as ubiquitous choices across a variety of industries and functions. These are some of the most universal internal communication functions and platforms.
|Method/Process||Common Internal Communication Tools / Communication Channels|
|News||email, blogs, newsletters, forums, social media streams|
|Document and resource sharing||collaborative creation and editing apps like Google's G Suite, file sharing utilities like DropBox|
|Live text chat||SMS text messaging, Slack, WhatsApp, Yammer|
|Video conferencing||Google Hangouts, Zoom, GoToMeeting, Amazon Chime, Appear.In, Slack, FaceTime, Gruveo, Bluejeans, Rabbit, Pexip, Join.me, Cisco WebEx|
|Project management||Trello, Basecamp, TeamWork, Asana, Teamweek, Zoho Reports, Wrike, Paymo, Clickup|
|Team Spaces and Social intranets||often integrate many of these communication processes as native functions and/or integration of other popular tools in a single hub|
While many of these tool sets have now moved to "the cloud," not all play equally across all devices. Where desktop computers once reigned, mobile platforms have been growing as the tool of choice and are in many cases dominating the way people access internal communications.
- With 50% of employees able to access corporate channels via their personal mobile phone, 73% of organisations are planning to increase their investment in mobile communications. (2018 Gatehouse State of the Sector report)
While the preference for mobile devices is not consistent across continents there is an increasing lean toward them globally.
- More internal communicators are using mobile channels to communicate in North America than in other nations. And although only 23% of North American companies use mobile apps, almost three times as many (67%) plan to increase their use of apps during the next 12 months. (2018 State of the Sector on Internal Communication)
One of the more difficult parts of planning a successful communications strategy is the conversation around where internal communications should sit. A trend that's taken foothold in the last decade is the use of social media in corporate communications, and this presents some interesting challenges. While it's often thought of as a marketing tool it's broadly used by employees to keep in touch. In the wake of the security scandals plaguing both Facebook and, most recently, Google, this is becoming an increasingly difficult part of corporate communications to manage.
- Executives report that the business use of social tools is nearly universal. 93% say their companies use at least one social technology. (McKinsey Global Institute | How Social Tools Can Reshape the Organization)
- 77% of employees are using social media at work (Pew Research Center | Social Media and the Workplace) and more than two-thirds (68%) of them connect with co-workers that way. (Igloo | The State of Social Media in the Workplace) Only 16% of workers whose companies regulate social media at work say they use social media while working to get information that’s helpful to their job, compared with 25% of those whose workplaces have no such regulations. (Smartphone use survey conducted by CareerBuilder.)
This is leading more organizations to look to private social intranets as a means of managing and integrating communications in a secure and consistent way. The biggest use for these platforms isn't surprising.
- 75% of people use their intranet solely for HR purposes. (Prescient Digital | The Social Intranet Study Report | State of the Social Intranet | Results of 2012 Social Intranet Survey)
One thing is for certain: an internal communications strategy will need to find a way to meet the diverse and scattered communications needs in a device-agnostic way.
What are the most common barriers to successful internal communications?
While most organizations agree that cultivating healthy internal communications practices are critical to their success, getting there can be fraught with perils.
- Nearly 80% of senior executives said communication is crucial for growth, yet only a quarter of them felt their organizations were good at sharing knowledge across the company. (McKinsey Global Institute | How Social Tools Can Reshape the Organization)
- While 81% of organizations have had intranets for five or more years, most employees visit their intranet only about once a month. (Prescient Digital | The Social Intranet Study Report | State of the Social Intranet | Results of 2012 Social Intranet Survey)
Measuring an organization's internal communications "state of health" is determined by two things: 1) use, and 2) satisfaction. There are a number of pain points expressed by both workers/stakeholders and those responsible for communication when it comes to each. Many of these stem from the tools deployed to manage internal communications and a lack of planning to meet their complexity.
- 61% of companies may say technology makes internal communication more difficult but three quarters of companies want to increase their use of of it. The real issue is many organisations invest in new technologies without an adequate implementation strategy. (2018 Gatehouse State of the Sector report)
- 72% of employees rate their internal social tools as fair to poor. (Prescient Digital | The Social Intranet Study Report | State of the Social Intranet | Results of 2012 Social Intranet Survey)
- Employees see most intranets as hard to use, lacking the social technology to make connections, and used mostly for top-down communication of benefits and vacation days. (Prescient Digital | The Social Intranet Study Report | State of the Social Intranet | Results of 2012 Social Intranet Survey)
The number one productivity breaking point in workplace communications? Communications fatigue. Employees are bombarded by a flood of email, notifications and communications from scattered sources. Are ability to communicate is outpacing our ability to manage it. Communications are scattered, and trying to organize them so people can easily access what they need when they need it can be frustrating.
Why should you measure internal communications?
As mentioned in the previous section, measuring the "state of health" of an organization's internal communications is determined by two things: 1) use, and 2) satisfaction. But how do we know if these things are being met?
- 60% of communicators are not measuring internal communication. ( Internal Association of Business Communicators | Click through for the reasons.)
- Only two thirds of organisations measure intranet hits. Nearly 70% rely on annual employee engagement surveys for feedback, rather than measuring by campaign or channel. 12% don’t measure at all. (2018 Gatehouse State of the Sector report)
Why is this a problem? You can’t manage or improve what you don’t measure. Not convinced that this is a problem? Here are the top 3 reasons your internal communications strategy needs to include the ability to measure state of health.
1. Email is overwhelming your employees.
Email fatigue is real and has a tangible effect on the morale of your team:
- 74 percent of Americans feel overwhelmed by the number and frequency of emails they receive.
- Nearly half (44%) are worried about missing an important email due to message overload.
- Nearly all U.S. adults (87 percent) have taken steps to manage this problem with almost half (44 percent) admitting they have spent hours deleting emails they don’t want.
- 32 percent of respondents said they receive up to 100 emails per day
- 33 percent say they feel stressed when they receive too many messages.
- The person they are most concerned about missing an email from is a co-worker or professional contact, and their boss. (2017 "Edison Software" survey of 1,068 U.S. adults )
How does this affect your staff's work day?
- Each week, the “typical’’ knowledge worker spends 11.7 hours processing email at work and an added 5.3 hours from home for a total of 17 hours or a third of their work week.
- Each day, they send/receive 86 work-related emails at work and 25 from home. (2017 Carleton University study, Canada)
2. Email is costing your company money
Email is the #1 time-waster at work, with people receiving an average of 304 business emails each week. Worse?
- The average employee checks their email 36 times in an hour,
- requiring 16 minutes just to refocus after handling an incoming email, and
- losing 10 IQ points when dealing with constant email, which is the same as missing an entire night's sleep!
That bottom line? The annual productivity costs per employee:
- $1,250 managing spam and another
- $1,800 dealing with unnecessary emails.
There are also hidden costs to your company in not addressing the stress caused by email fatigue. Author Jeffrey Pfeffer's got a thing or two to say about this in his new book: "Dying For A Paycheck: How Modern Management Harms Employee Health And Company Performance And What We Can Do About It" (HarperCollins, March 2018):
- “Workplace environments in the United States ….account for about $180 billion additional health-care expenditures, approximately 8 percent of the total health-care spending.” The biggest contributor to that cost? Stress.
- “One survey reported that 81 percent of respondents said they checked e-mail on the weekends, 55 percent said they logged in after 11 p.m., and 59 percent said they looked at e-mail while on vacation.” (Forbes - "How Stress Is The Business World's Silent Killer")
- More than half of employees surveyed in the Carleton study reported high levels of work overload and stress, much of it associated with spending so much time reading and replying to emails. (2017 Carleton University study, Canada)
3. Email overload is making you dumber. (Yes, really. )
- Professor Gloria Mark, Department of Informatics at the University of California, found it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to a task after an interruption such as an email. Her research shows these interruptions are directly related to an increase in stress. (Fast Company - Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching)
- “The distraction of an interruption, combined with the brain drain of preparing for that interruption, made our test takers 20 percent dumber.” Carnegie Mellon University’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab study commissioned by the New York Times to measure the brain power lost by interruptions)
How can you improve internal communications?
Higher levels of engagement improve morale, boost productivity and lead to a better working environment in general. Effective communications ensure that employees fully understand the company, its values and purposes, what is expected of them to achieve the company goals and how to fully engage with their own roles. (The importance of internal communication. | HRZone)
While there are a variety of ways to improve internal communications in the workplace from a corporate culture point of view, technology can be a real boon in solving many of them. Healthy communications can improve performance, both at the individual and organizational levels. Shared, virtual team spaces can help bridge the gaps when certain things are in place.
What do businesses and organizations look for in a private social intranet?
- Social features like commenting, liking, Q&A and @mentions.
- Integration with the software and apps your business already uses.
- Ability to create and share multimedia content, including video.
- Powerful tagging and search capability.
- Transparency in terms of who is posting, updating, and commenting.
- Private and public spaces, as well as different access levels.
- An attractive and easy-to-use mobile app to support work at any time, from any place.
- The ability to track, measure and report on internal communications.
One of our own favourite game-changers? Video!
You are desperate to keep your employees "in the know" but the reality is that with increasing dispersed channels it's not easy. Nothing is worse then one of your employees discovering an important company announcement from an outside channel. Video is a game changer and we've shared some ideas on how you can leverage this great tool for your organization's internal communications over here:
While technology can help boost engagement, nurturing the relationships in corporate culture is essential.
If you're looking for a handful of practical tips to help you improve employee communications from a human resources and relationships point of view, here are a couple of places to start:
What is a private social network or social intranet?
A private social network with intranet capabilities offers your organization a secure place that combines the power of social features with the benefits of functional business features. Creating a space where your teams with common interests can come together and share information in a productive highly collaborative environment can help your communication become incredibly effective.
For example, you could send an email blast out to an entire group of people and then spend the next day sorting through the dreaded reply-all responses as they fill everyone's inbox. A far more effective solution would be to create a post in a specific channel or category where your team can easily like the post, leave comments, reply to one another, or share with others.
The idea of a Social Intranet is not new. Back in 2010, the idea of a Social Intranet or "Intranet 2.0" was first introduced. Since the first introduction organizations of all types have experimented and today 72% of companies are expected to deploy at least one social tool or platform. (Frost & Sullivan 2018)
What are the benefits of a private social network and intranet?
They boost productivity and engagement. A digital workplace study conducted by Deloitte demonstrated this in dramatic ways.
- Organizations that installed social media tools internally found a median 20% increase in employee satisfaction.
- They also found that when employee engagement increases, there is a corresponding increase in employee retention by up to 87%.
Why do Enterprise Social Networks fail?
Private Social Networks and Social Intranets can be a game-changer for your organization but success has much to do with implementation as it does the tool. Whether you are implementing the IHUBApp or any other tool you will want to take into consideration the following reasons why many implementations fail:
- Too much too soon. Any enterprise solution will have numerous features and ways that it can be implemented. We've found the best implementations focus on fixing one specific problem and no more than three. It allows your employees the comfort of getting to know your new tool and becoming comfortable with how it works before introducing more features and functions.
- Too complicated. When you're selecting a tool you will want to make sure that it is EASY to use for even the most non-technical people on your team. An overly complicated platform that is not intuitive to use will create frustration and will ultimately be abandoned by your people for something that actually works.
- Too much noise. Not every piece of communications is important to every single person. When you're selecting a social network, ensure that the power of notifications is placed firmly in the hands of your team. The ability to focus on the conversations that are important to their role and needs without having to cut through the noise of all the other conversations is absolutely necessary.
- Too little control. It's important that you have the ability to manage, curate, customize, and moderate in a way that makes sense for your organization. In some organizations, there is very little hierarchy and a flat security system works but in highly regulated industries this can prove disastrous. Your social network should provide robust security that allows you to setup permission levels and access right down to the individual level so that it matches your security needs.
Let us help you take control of your internal communications!
Let us show you just how much we can help you save in time and money while increasing your employee engagement. Our proprietary ROI calculator will help you understand the impact to your organization. so you can see exactly what these statistics actually mean in hard dollars in your OWN company.