Time marches on in the business world, and people improve upon what worked in the past. Sometimes these improvements are small, but sometimes—as is the case with internal communications planning—big changes make entire strategies and systems obsolete. Right now, we are all living through a transformative period in comms. Organizations are taking a long look at the benefits of internal communications and coming to the conclusion that they have to invest more into it if they want to stay competitive.
The big challenge that these organizations are facing is that the technologies and strategies that have worked for them in the past are no longer sufficient. Legacy comms solutions like email, desktop message boards, and basic intranet systems can’t keep up when there has been a huge shift in how people consume and distribute information along with major changes in how (and where) people work.
Maybe you’re wondering what is driving internal communications planning now that the old tools have outlived their usefulness. The answer is employee engagement. Companies investing in internal communication ideas, tools, and tech need to be sure they are doing more than just conveying information. Modern internal communications planning is all about reinforcing the company culture, relieving worker frustrations, empowering everyone to do a great job, and making sure employees feel they have a place and a voice in a company.
This new iteration of internal communications planning isn’t a set it and forget it kind of deal. Successful companies aren’t just investing in mobile intranet systems or apps and calling it a day. They’re tracking use, analyzing how employees are engaging with those systems, and refining their internal communications strategies over and over again.
What Is Internal Communication?
Given how much we know about the value of internal comms, it’s shocking how many people are still asking, ‘What is internal communication?’ The simplest answer is that internal communication is any transmission of information between members of an organization, from company-wide announcements to inter-team collaboration. A lot of companies make broad assumptions about employee communication: if no one has complained, it’s probably okay. That fact is, however, that internal comms is a critical part of an organization’s operations.
Businesses with strong internal communications tend to have more engaged, more productive, and happier employees. They also have less employee turnover and make more money. How? Here’s one example: Studies by IDC, the Working Council of CIOs, and Reuters have shown that employees spend 20% of their time looking for the information they need to do their jobs. Simply making that information easier to access can increase revenue per employee significantly.
Clearly, communication matters when it comes to a company’s bottom line. It also has a big impact on the employee experience — which in turn has an effect on turnover rates and productivity. A report by EmployeeChannel found that office, remote, and deskless employees all ranked “communicates frequently and effectively with employees” as one of the top behaviors that creates a positive experience at work. And Gallup found that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their competitors by 147% in earnings.
What Hasn’t Changed in Internal Communication
Internal comms is still about the transmission of information, and any internal communications planning has to recognize that there are multiple avenues of communication in any company and multiple conversations taking place at any given time. Comms shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of any one individual or even a single team. Everyone in an organization has to buy in to a comms strategy for it to work.
At its heart, internal communications planning is still about creating a culture of cohesion, trust, and transparency. It needs to be timely and targeted, and whatever tools and technology a company adopts need to be easy to use.
James Harter and Amy Adkins of Gallup wrote in the Harvard Business Review that communication is “the basis of any healthy relationship, including the one between an employee and his or her manager. [Consistent communication]—whether it occurs in person, over the phone, or electronically—is connected to higher engagement.”
What’s So Different About Modern Internal Communications Planning
If you’ve read this far and are thinking that everything discussed above can be done with email, meetings, and your old intranet, think again. One of the biggest reasons that the old internal communications ideas don’t work anymore is that comms is playing a different role in organizations. It’s no longer just about disseminating updates, schedules, and HR info. To be truly effective, a comms strategy has to be focused on engagement. Let’s break down what that looks like:
Using Comms Tools that Work for Everyone
This can get complicated. More companies are staffed by both on-site employees and deskless, frontline, remote, and even gig workers. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend has made it even more challenging to find technology everyone can use. The best tools are versatile and mobile, like Blink’s employee engagement app. It can reach employees in the field, doesn’t require sitting down at a computer to use, and can be integrated seamlessly with other apps so employees only have to log into one portal to get up to speed or find files instead of switching between programs (which can be a real time waster).
Making Comms Mobile and More Like Social Media
Smartphones have changed the way we communicate and collaborate at home, and chances are most employees will prefer comms solutions that are similar to the applications they use outside of work. The best internal communications strategies and tools are mobile-friendly, let workers use their own devices, and are as easy to understand and use as social media. You can make internal comms feel more familiar by using an employee communication app like Blink, distilling your messages down, so they are quick to digest, and posting fewer memos and more photos, videos, polls, and links.
Involving Everyone at Every Level
Everyone at your organization should have a role to play in creating a culture of open communication in the workplace. Today’s employees expect communication to be a two-way street. Deskless workers, in particular, want the opportunity to communicate their concerns and to share their ideas with management just like in-office employees can. The company leadership has to participate in comms by sharing information and listening to worker feedback. With an employee intranet app like Blink, you can take advantage of opportunities to solicit ideas from your workers, who may surprise you with their level of insight.
Giving More Frequent Feedback
Millennial employees, in particular, want and expect to receive a lot of feedback from their managers, and so more organizations are moving away from yearly or quarterly reviews. Feedback is now being given in real-time via tools like Blink that provide a platform for showcasing exceptional employees and teams. Feedback is also being received and acted upon by companies more than ever before. Soliciting employee feedback (often in the form of anonymous polls) has become the norm because employers want to know what they can do to engage their workers and enhance the employee experience.
Keeping Lines of Communication Open
Too many large organizations have spent top dollar building custom branded intranets on the company network only to discover that communication was only flowing in one direction—or wasn’t flowing at all. Management might publish news, calendars, procedural manuals, to-do lists, and other formal content that was never seen. Intranets were boring and the very antithesis of engaging. Employee communication apps like Blink, on the other hand, are designed to inspire openness and engagement. Internal communications planning teams can share all kinds of content, not just text memos and documents, so they can make comms more interesting. Workers can post and share, too, which means they have a stake in comms and feel heard and understood.
Having Fewer Meetings
Modern internal communications tools are disruptive in the best possible way because they replace lengthy but unnecessary face-to-face meetings and endless email threads. Emails and chats can both be part of a solid comms strategy, but in many cases, they can be replaced by a quick post or message in the employee app that can be read on the go and won’t interrupt an employee's flow.
Adopting a More Integrated Approach
Companies on the leading edge of internal communication strategies are looking at comms as an integrated system instead of just a way to spread information. After all, a bulletin board can do that. Modern communications solutions have to involve not only sharing information, but also finding it, receiving it, interacting with it, and editing it. The comms tools your company adopts should be able to meet multiple needs, from making it easier for workers to tackle administrative tasks to empowering collaboration between teams. Blink does that by automating communication between the tools and apps your workforce is already using so employees spend less time switching between programs and more time engaging with the work that is important to them.
Using More Productive Comms Technologies
Old school intranets got the job done when it came to centralizing information, but they weren’t enthralling to use, so people didn’t use them all that often. Modern comms technologies like Blink are highly customizable, have robust but also easy-to-use integration and automation features, look and feel more like social media, do a lot to foster collaborative work between teams and departments, and ensure workers don’t waste valuable time on administrative tasks or searching for the information they need to do a great job.
Tracking How Employees Use Comms Tools
Have you ever considered the key metrics you need to be looking at to know if your internal communication strategy is contributing to employee engagement? You should be looking at whether workers are using those tools, as well as how and when they’re using them, which elements of those tools aren’t getting used, which messages aren’t being read, and how communication is flowing. Blink doesn’t just track basic metrics; it also provides stats for every post on every feed so you can easily measure the reach and the impact of your internal communications.
The Key to Enhancing Internal Comms at Your Organization
If your company is still relying on old internal communication ideas, strategies, and tools, it probably won’t be long before your comms-minded competitors outpace you. That means there has never been a better time to invest in an internal comms strategy update. The impact of effective communications on employee engagement cannot be overstated. Implementing just a few of the updates above can lead to improved efficiency, a major productivity boost, increased employee satisfaction, and bigger profits.