Internal Communications - Why It Matters

Hosted 

By 

Published 

8.17.2022

Hosted 

By 

Lisa Fratzke

Partner & Executive Strategist,

Head of Client Strategy

Published 

8.17.2022

Table of Contents

What is Internal Communication?

Internal communication refers to information that is shared between a company and its employees to ensure they have the information necessary to perform their jobs, act as brand ambassadors and engage in the employment experience. 

More often than not, internal communications is often underfunded and under-appreciated within companies. It is an essential function that is noticed more prominently when it is not working vs. when it is working. The absence of a cohesive internal communication strategy can be felt across the organization in terms of productivity, trust, connectedness and retention. In fact, productivity is likely to increase by five times if employees feel included and engaged in detailed communication from their employer. 

Internal Communications in 2022

Remote and Hybrid Workers Increase

Now, more than ever, getting internal communication right is essential within organizations as they navigate a new work environment that includes an increase in hybrid and remote workers. Nearly half of the U.S. full-time workforce, about 60 million workers - have jobs that can be done remotely working from home. And, after experiencing what that was like during the pandemic, nine in 10 remote-capable employees prefer to continue some form of remote-work flexibility. This includes working fully remotely or in a hybrid  environment. With such a dispersed workforce it will be important to implement internal communication strategies that connects virtual and in-person workers with your company in meaningful ways.

Evolving Employee Expectations 

The dynamics fueling the Great Resignation are another factor underlying the importance of internal communications in today’s workplace. In 2021, nearly 48 million people quit their jobs. Recent survey data suggests nearly half of employees are looking for a new job or plan to find one soon. Drivers fueling these workforce dynamics include high labor demand with 11.3 million job openings as of January of this year and evolving employee expectations. Many people are leaving their jobs for better pay, an increase in growth opportunities and more flexibility. Notably, toxic work cultures were a major driving force, as employees are looking for companies where they feel seen, respected and heard. 

Employees expectations have evolved. They are seeking jobs within healthy company cultures that provide better work-life balance, flexibility and benefits. As a result, companies need to be ready with robust communication strategies to help reinforce positive cultures and communicate the opportunities and benefits available within your organization. 

Everyone is a Content Creator

The rise of social media channels, apps and the ability to create digital content directly from our phones has transformed how we connect with one another in our personal lives and professionally. Many employees have become their own personal content creators and have learned the principles of effective visual and written communication via their own social media platforms. As a result, the expectations for internal communications have never been higher. If your internal communication efforts are impersonal or stale it is simply not going to fly. 

Employees, and consumers for that matter, desire real, authentic, human-centered communication and can sense when a brand is not being transparent and real. 87% of employees want their future company to be transparent. In addition, employee access to external communication channels means that anything that is shared internally will absolutely be shared externally. Companies need to ensure that all internal and external communication efforts are strategically aligned and in sync. 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Questions to Improve your Communications Strategy

Role of Internal Communications

The role of internal communications will vary based on your company's size and industry. Mid-size businesses may task their HR department with internal communications, have a single individual that supports internal communications or have a small and mighty team that handles this function for the entire company. Larger, more complex organizations may have robust internal communications teams that are distributed across business segments and/or regions. Regardless of how this department is structured, 60 percent of companies lack a long-term internal communication strategy and nearly one in four workers are dissatisfied with how communication is shared. 

Although internal communications may often be undervalued or overlooked, it is vital to an organization's health. Communications leaders often function as the connective tissue between diverse teams internally and are key to communicating the culture, employee benefits and inspiring employees to be brand ambassadors of the company’s mission and purpose internally and externally. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into the reasons why internal communications matters.

Why Internal Communications Matters

Internal Communications Helps Fuel Culture

The culture of a workplace is a complex tapestry of language, action and emotion. It is the environment employees live, breathe and work within on a daily basis and includes the shared values, beliefs, behaviors and assumptions of people within your organization. Creating your culture begins with defining your company’s mission, purpose and core values, operationalizing them and reinforcing through shared language, leadership and communication initiatives across an organization. 

Although internal communications doesn’t create culture without systems and leaders to support it - it does play a key role in reinforcing it. Every touchpoint an employee has with your company, whether that is your office space, employee intranet, or an interaction with a leader, is an opportunity for you to communicate what it means to be part of your company, and establish expectations that fuel a healthy culture. 

Ensure Brand Alignment Across the Company

When it comes to thinking about brand strategy, new products and announcements, the focus is often placed externally on marketing and public relation efforts designed to engage with consumers and the public. However, any product launch or company initiative needs to begin and end with a cohesive internal communication plan that is designed to educate and engage employees so they can understand why the company is making this decision and proactively communicate it to each other and customers they come into contact with. 

We’ve all experienced when brand alignment breaks down. For example, you see an ad online for an exciting new promotion or event from your favorite clothing brand. You go into the store and ask a sales representative and they know nothing about it. Or, perhaps, you go to return a product from a store that has a reputation for customer service. Instead of being greeted by a friendly team member, they barely greet you and you end up feeling like an inconvenience. These are interactions that happen every day and they showcase a lack of brand alignment. 

Whether it is understanding new brand initiatives or embodying what it means to represent your brand with customers, it is important to have a cohesive internal communications strategy to ensure your employees not only know what is going on, but are inspired to be champions of it. 

Gain Employee Buy-In and Advocacy

So, how exactly do you inspire your employees to be brand champions? As Simon Sinek would say, a key aspect of gaining buy-in is to “start with why.” It’s not enough for employees to understand what is happening and what they are expected to do. They also need to understand why it is important to the organization, and more personally, to them. 

Employees are increasingly seeking out companies that align with their core values and have a very clear “why” behind their brand. These purpose-driven brands often see 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher levels of employee retention than their competitors. Communicating the purpose behind your company allows employees to understand if they are personally invested in what you do, and if they are, they will be excited to speak out about their experience with your brand and share the latest news with their network. 

Secondarily, it’s important to communicate the “why” behind brand initiatives, new product rollouts, company policies, process updates and more to ensure that your employees are buying in and can act as advocates for your messaging every step of the way. 

Fuel Employee Engagement + Retention 

Connection and belonging is a fundamental human need that doesn’t stop when we enter the workplace. Gallup found that employees who say they have a best friend at work increase in engagement and performance. In today’s world of hybrid and remote work, finding new and creative ways to fuel connection in the workplace is crucial. 91% of workers are hoping to feel closer to their work colleagues and 85% want to feel more connected to their remote team members. That’s where an intentional internal communications strategy can help. 

Introducing platforms that are more collaborative, such as Slack or Workplace from Meta, can help create a sense of connection at work, provide opportunities for dialogue between diverse teams and introduce the opportunity for employees to collaborate digitally. But, it shouldn’t stop there. It’s important to have a comprehensive plan to communicate company events, employee recognition, unique benefits and more so that employees understand the opportunity available to form valuable connections at work. 

Internal Communication Audience Types

Internal communication refers to communication that is distributed from a company to its employees, and there are many different communication subtypes and strategies within internal communication that vary based on your message and audience. It is important to have a defined internal communications strategy for each audience which often includes general employees, leaders and executives. 

Let’s take a deeper look at each audience. 

Employee Communication 

Employee communication is messaging that goes out to all employees at the company, and often includes general corporate communication, company announcements, employee events and opportunities, corporate citizenship efforts, and more. It’s important to understand how you will reach each employee. Whether you have a remote workforce, a number of locations or a single office, you should have a communication strategy in place with communication channels that are targeted to reach each audience. 

Leader Communication 

Internal communication is only as effective as leadership buy-in to your messaging. It’s important for leaders to understand they play a key role in helping to distribute applicable employee communication and championing key communication initiatives. With that being said, it’s important to have a leader communication strategy that seeks to educate leaders on their role as communication champions and empowers them with the tools and talking points needed to communicate to their teams. 

Executive Communication 

Executives are the highest level of leadership within your company and have an important role in setting the strategic vision and inspiring your workforce. Because executives can often feel out of reach or out of touch with employees, it’s important to have an executive communication strategy in place to raise awareness of company leadership and communicate their vision. In addition, executives play an important role in championing company communication initiatives with their leadership team and holding their teams accountable. You should have specific communication channels and messaging in place to empower executives and amplify their message. 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Questions to Improve your Communications Strategy

Internal Communications Strategy Best Practices

Having a holistic internal communications strategy that clearly prioritizes your messaging and defines the purpose and audience for each communication channel is essential for your organization. In addition to understanding the bigger picture, you should also be creating communication strategies for distinct initiatives, employee benefits, announcements and more. 

So, what exactly is an internal communications strategy? An internal communications strategy includes the goals for a specific internal communications initiative and the audience, messaging, communication channel, timeline and creative collateral necessary to achieve your goals.

When communicating to your employees, there are a few best practices that you could keep in mind that apply to most every internal communication strategy that you create. 

1. Speak like a human - not a corporation

The need for an authentic and real voice behind any corporate communication has never been more important - or more difficult to achieve. When it comes to distributing company information, most companies opt into “playing it safe” which means that any information that is distributed can feel boring, stale and impersonal.

Just as it’s important to create your brand voice externally, you should also have an internal brand voice that feels authentic to the culture you desire to create. This brand voice should have a clear tone, style and look and feel across your website and collateral. 

Based on the size and scope of your organization, your tone of voice may vary based on your audience, communication vehicle or the type of messaging you are distributing. But, there you should have a core internal brand voice that acts as your guiding light. That voice should feel human, real and avoid impersonal corporate jargon at all costs. 

2. Tell you employees before you tell the world

Your first and most important audience for any company announcement should be your employees. They have the power to be your greatest champions and also your greatest liability if they are not fully informed of what is going on. One of the key mistakes company leaders often make when announcing sensitive, confidential or exciting news externally is not prioritizing how and when that message is shared internally. 

It’s important to have a clear plan for how announcements are going to be shared internally to ensure that employees are fully aware of company news before the public. If it is a confidential initiative and you are concerned of information leaking, you may choose to release the information simultaneously internally and externally. 

If you are releasing information simultaneously internally and externally, there should be a robust plan in place to ensure that information is distributed quickly to those who need it internally to ensure employee buy-in and prepare the appropriate teams to address customer questions. 

3. Don’t just inform, you need to inspire

Not all of your internal communication will be designed to inspire. If you have an operational update or an exclusive event that employees should attend, you don’t need to inspire. When it comes to encouraging your employees to go above and beyond in their roles to fulfill the mission and purpose of your company, you will need to inspire them.

The best way to inspire employees is not through sharing information. It is by telling compelling stories. Stories that move them - that make them feel connected to each other and the people you serve. Some tangible ways to inspire include telling stories about individual employees and why they do what they do, recognizing employees who went above and beyond and sharing customer stories about how your product or service made a tangible difference in their lives. 

Communication that inspires is often least prioritized and most important when it comes to using your internal communication efforts as a tool that reinforces your company culture. 

4. Leverage new and innovative storytelling channels

There have never been more new and interesting ways to communicate and motivate a workforce than there are today, between the employee intranet, internal apps, and collaborative applications like Workplace from Meta and Slack. In addition, a growing number of companies are also leveraging social media to connect with employees. An example of this is Disney Parks. They recently created a unique hashtag for Cast Members to post about their employment experience across social platforms: #disneycastlife. On TikTok, this company-championed hashtag recently hit over $100 million views. 

Finding company-approved ways for employees to proactively share about their employment experience on social media, whether that is approved templates, messaging, photo opportunities or hashtags, can empower employees to be advocates of your brand. 

In addition, over 54% of global website traffic is on mobile phones. If you are not finding a way to reach employees in a meaningful way on their mobile devices, you are missing out on opportunities to reach them where they are at. 

5. Empower leaders to be communication champions

One of the biggest communication challenges companies often face is leaders who don’t recognize the importance of their role in sharing and amplifying your message. 

Whether you like it or not, there is only so much an internal communication department can do to distribute communication internally within your company. It is up to your internal communicators to strategically craft your message and distribute it within the appropriate channels. Beyond that, you need to empower leaders and even every day employees to act as communication champions who amplify your message. 

As part of any leader training within your company, you should emphasize their role as communicators and educate them on the best way to retrieve company updates and amplify that information to their teams. In addition, not every leader is a born communicator. It’s important to share best practices for how to communicate well in one-on-one settings and to larger groups, especially if they are sharing sensitive or confidential messaging. 

6. Create a sense of community and belonging

Creating a sense of connection and belonging at work is a growing factor in retention. People are no longer looking to work for just a paycheck. Employees want to be part of a larger purpose and a community where they can belong. According to McKinsey, more than half of employees left their jobs at the end of 2021 because they lacked a sense of belonging. Creating that sense of belonging needs to be a key priority - and it needs to be intentionally defined and operationalized within your organization.

Internal communications can help by sharing your employee stories, helping to communicate employee events that help fuel connection and championing employee voices. Part of this includes making diversity and inclusion a key priority and ensuring your internal creative collateral and messaging honors, reflects and celebrates diversity within  your company. 

7. Create a space for feedback and dialogue

If you distribute internal communications to your employees and never hear what they think or feel about it - is it a success? There is no true way of knowing. Obviously, you can track metrics, but they will often only tell you part of the story. That’s why it is so important to ask for employee feedback on your internal communication efforts. This can be done through a formal survey, feedback form on your website, focus groups and more. 

In addition, it’s important to provide forums for dialogue internally. Whether that is town halls where employees can ask leaders questions directly, implementing a collaborative tool like Slack, Workplace from Meta or enabling comments on your digital content. Employees desire to have their voices heard and it’s important to create natural pathways for that dialogue to take place. 

8. Strategically target your messaging

Not every message you create is well-suited for every internal audience and platform. As a result, you should strategically target your internal communication messaging to ensure the right message is making it to the right audience through the right channels. When building an internal employee intranet, it is important to build in the ability to target specific audiences based on job type, function and level. In addition, employees are used to custom content being served to them externally - and that expectation also applies to internal communication. Providing your employees with opportunities to share the type of information they are interested in seeing on a regular basis will help increase their engagement.

In addition, when it comes to email marketing, make sure to segment your list appropriately so that you can strategically send messages to the appropriate audiences. 

9. Use data to measure success

When crafting a communication strategy, it is important to define how you will be measuring success and have hard and fast metrics you can use to assess your efforts. Any key performance indicators you identify should be timely, measurable and directly connected to goals of your communication initiative. For example, if your goal is to raise awareness about a new product offering, you could measure success based on how many views your company post received on your employee intranet, along with open and click throughs of your company email. If you are communicating a company event opportunity, you may measure success based on the number of attendees. 

Lastly, identify ongoing employment engagement metrics that you will follow on a monthly and annual basis to measure the effectiveness of your overall internal communication efforts in generating awareness, engagement and actions. This will allow you to identify channels and messaging that worked well, those that didn’t, and calibrate and optimize your strategies quickly to reach your audience.

In Conclusion

When it comes to why internal communications matters in today's digital-first world, the data is clear. Employees who feel included in detailed communication are nearly five times more likely to report increased productivity. Unfortunately, 74% of employees feel they’re missing out on important information from their company. 

Brands that recognize the value of internal communications and engaging their employees in transparent, purpose-driven communication will be able to activate and inspire one of their most powerful resources: their people.

If you are looking for a partner you can trust to help you transform your communications and culture, we can help. Let’s talk.

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